Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The more things change...

As you may have heard, St. Alexander School celebrated its 50th Anniversary this weekend. The event got me thinking about Pelham’s past and present.

The anniversary started with a “pub night” on Friday, and continued with an open house all-day on Saturday. The special weekend concluded with a Mass at St. Alexander Church, celebrated by Bishop Wingle.

As a proud graduate of the school, I was both honoured and privileged to offer congratulations on behalf of Council at the opening ceremony Saturday afternoon.

All the doors were open as hundreds of current and former students and their families wondered throughout the school. The organizing committee, chaired by Debbie Pine, did an amazing job of assembling memorabilia – old yearbooks, photographs, and newspaper articles of students and their accomplishments.

I personally enjoyed catching-up with one of my former classmates. Our discussion allowed me to reflect on not only our joint school experiences, but also on what Pelham was like more than 25 years ago.

The school certainly has had many physical changes over the years. It was just an “L-shaped” building in those days. The small gymnasium and the expansive tarmac (on which we tirelessly played foot-hockey) has been replaced with classrooms, a much-larger gym, and a centre courtyard. The baseball diamond, and homemade hanging bars and sandbox are now a contemporary playground and swings. The very small library (which was always packed with paperbacks) has become a cloakroom for the kindergarten class.

In those early days – the mid-1970s – the Pelham Plaza didn’t exist. I have distinct memories of walking along a footpath from the school through long grass, only to emerge at the Pelham Library in the basement of Town Hall.

The railway tracks were still in use along Station Street and had yet to become the Steve Bauer Trail of today. With the Fonthill Firehall on South Pelham, it wasn’t odd to hear the siren calling the volunteers. Kids who wanted a treat crossed the very busy Highway 20 to get to a convenience store where the Royal Bank now stands. (Imagine how much parents and the school liked that!) And, do you remember our one-and-only traffic light – at Highway 20 and South Pelham?

While much has changed over the years, Pelham is still the most beautiful and vibrant community in Niagara. From breathtaking vistas, to babbling brooks, to rich agricultural lands, Pelham enjoys a rich rural character. And, because of committed volunteers in our service and sports clubs and other associations, Pelham continues to be the community with a small-town feel, where neighbour helps neighbour.