Pen High plans for celebration of a century

Next year, Penticton Secondary School is going to be joining a very select club when the 2012 graduating class walks out the doors.

Penticton Secondary principal Bill Bidlake marshals some members of the 2012 grad class in front of the century-old Ellis Building for the kick-off of the drive to Pen High’s centennial celebrations on May 18

Next year, Penticton Secondary School is going to be joining a very select club when the 2012 graduating class walks out the doors.

Those students, now doing their Grade 11 year, will be the 100th class to graduate from Pen High, a rare achievement for any school and a major milestone in the history of Penticton’s first high school.

To celebrate the school’s centennial, plans are being made for a major celebration on May 18 to 20, 2012.

“It sounds like a heck of a lot of fun,” said Pen High principal Bill Bidlake, who is co-chairing the centennial committee with architect and Pen High grad Cal Meiklejohn.

He’s hoping that upwards of 1,000 people will turn out for the event, which will cover the three days of the 2012 May long weekend. Those people, he said, will probably come from all over the world, as the school’s grads will have spread out considerably.

And he hopes to see not only former students coming back to celebrate, but former teachers as well.

“Those of us that are still alive,” joked Bidlake, who started his teaching career at Pen High with a practicum in 1977.

A series of special events are being planned for the weekend, including tours of the school and the Shatford Centre, receptions, sporting events, decade rooms and a dance on the Friday evening with entertainment from local musicians, along with a breakfast event on Sunday to wrap up the weekend.

“We’re staying away form the concept of sitting down at a single event, we want people to mingle,” said Bidlake.

And there will be much for returning students and teachers to see — the school underwent a major reconstruction in 2008, with only the 1912 Ellis and 1922 Shatford building remaining from the original structure.

“I am sure glad they did not tear down these two school buildings,” said Jim Beasom, recalling that when he attended Pen High in the early 1940s, the school had wooden floors, which had to be oiled regularly.

“Those two buildings are dear to my heart,” said Connie Denesiuk, a 1976 Pen High grad and member of the centennial committee. She was chair of the school board when word came that funding was available to reconstruct the school and remembers that the cheapest reconstruction plans called for demolishing the Shatford and the Ellis along with the rest of the school buildings.

“I went to the secretary-treasurer and told him ‘over my dead body,’” said Denesiuk.

Organizers say they are preparing a website as well as ticket information and a weekend calendar for the event. They will also be looking for public input — memories and ideas for events — to make the celebration as comprehensive as possible.

Proceeds from the weekend will be split between scholarships for current students and support for the Shatford Centre.