On Sept. 8, 1922, hundreds of Burnaby citizens gathered at 6626 Kingsway for the official opening of the municipality’s first high school, eager to take a look inside.
B.C. Education Minister John Duncan MacLean was on hand, brandishing a ceremonial key streaming with colourful ribbons, according to a Vancouver Sun article published the next day.
He stuck it in the front door and then – nothing.
The key wouldn’t open it and the crowd had to wait while the contractor was called to let them in.
So began the 100 year history of Burnaby South Secondary School, which is hosting a centennial celebration next month.
The school is now on its third building.
The first was built after school officials in Vancouver and New Westminster told the Burnaby board of education they didn’t have room at their schools to accommodate Burnaby’s high school students anymore.
South opened with about 170 students, all of whom had to pass a high school entrance exam.
The second building, also at 6626 Kingsway, was completed in December 1940 and was initially dubbed Hugh M. Fraser High School, after a businessman who twice helped shepherd the municipality through dire financial crises, first as reeve and then as a commissioner appointed by the province.
Local school officials had hoped to name the school after Winston Churchill, but the wartime British prime minister had declined, saying he didn’t want his name attached to any school he wasn’t actively connected with.
None of that ended up mattering because the name was changed back to Burnaby South High School in 1943, when the school board passed a policy preventing local schools from being named after people.
The current school, at 5455 Rumble St., was completed in 1993 and also houses the B.C. Provincial School for the Deaf.
Burnaby South Secondary centennial
Anyone interested in taking a walk down memory lane is invited to the school on June 3 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
There will be music, hot dogs, birthday cupcakes, food trucks, photo booths and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque.
Three time capsules are also in the works.
Leadership students are busy decorating each wing of the school according to a different decade, and memorabilia of all kinds, including yearbooks, will be on display in the cafeteria.
Just last week, in a box in the “new” school’s basement, organizers found the original building’s commemorative brass plaque, unveiled by the key-wielding Hon. Dr. MacLean himself nearly 100 years ago.
“This particular building itself has been around since 1993, so a lot of people have graduated even from this building,” said Micheline Kamber, a math teacher who’s leading the celebration effort. “We’re hoping alumni will come and have fun walking through the halls, maybe find their old lockers.”
The school has been working on the centennial event for about a year-and-a-half, according to Kamber, and it would have been much bigger if there hadn’t been a lot of uncertainty about COVID restrictions.
Fun facts about Burnaby South Secondary:
- The school’s first French teacher, Miss E.M. Montgomery, was a first cousin of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables
- Burnaby’s C.G. Brown Memorial Pool is named after the school’s first principal, Clifton G. Brown (a.k.a. "Cod Guts")
- Soccer legend Christine Sinclair, the world's all-time leading international goal-scorer of either sex, graduated from the school in 2000
- South’s school colours were originally purple, black and gold
- The school’s original motto was cotidie diligentissime (every day diligently)
- The original 21 Jump Street TV show, starring Johnny Depp, was filmed in and around Burnaby South in the late 1980s
- The entire school watched the OJ Simpson verdict on Oct. 3, 1995 on the new building’s classroom television monitors