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REMEMBER THIS: Yearbooks highlight Newmarket High's evolution

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod explores the history of Newmarket High School's yearbook, commencement, and student council

I have written a series of columns on the history of Newmarket High School, from its humble beginning as a grammar school to a series of buildings of higher learning that were prone to fire.

The moniker ‘the Phoenix’ is well placed regarding this educational institution given its ability to rise from its ashes time and time again.

This weekend, I shall again return to the history of Newmarket High, this time focusing on the history of its yearbook, commencement, and student council.

In 1979, I was asked by my uncle, George Luesby, to assist with some of the research on the school’s history in preparation for his commemorative yearbook in celebration of the school’s anniversary in 1980. The information presented below is the result of that research, and for those who purchased his commemorative yearbook, this is information you already have. For those who did not, welcome to another chapter in my ongoing history of my high school.

The student body of Newmarket High has always been energetic, dating back to the 1920s. Many of the activities that were commenced in that era continued to flourish up to my graduation.

One of the more significant activities that originated during that era was the publication of a school magazine initiated on Oct. 29, 1920, and titled The Purple and Gold, with the motto, ‘labor omnia vincit (work conquers all).’

It was published once a term and would contain essays, school events, alumni records, satire and humour. The early issues had very few photos, but in the intervening years, that changed. By the 1970s, photos made up the main content, with photographs of every student, sports team, and club activity.

By 1926, The Purple and Gold evolved from a small leaflet to a book of 100 pages or more. How did the publication acquire its name?

The original name, The Purple and Gold, was derived from the school colours. In the 1924 issue, a euphemistic rendition is quoted under the title: ‘What’s in a Name.”

This is the epitaph that followed:

Think of Purple — honoured of kings, the favourite tint of autumn days, the outward sign wrath, the symbol of mourning.

And Gold — the most coveted of treasures, the reward of labour, a blessing to both age and youth, a symbol of plenty — What a wealth of ideas in these words.

“Does our ‘Purple and Gold’ stand for all the name signifies?

“As the mouthpiece of the Literary Society it should be clothed with the dignity of kings, it should glow with beauty of thought and should frown on anything not in keeping with the best interests of the Society.

“And finally, to this golden treasury might be added a few of the bright sayings from the gilded domes of our brilliant youths.

“With such an ideal before us, towards which we must strive — I challenge anyone in the school to suggest a more fitting name than ‘The Purple and Gold.’” — author: anonymous

The school yearbook has become an annual tradition. There have been a couple of exceptions. The yearbooks were paused in 1936 due to the Depression, and this continued throughout the war years. They resumed in 1951 and have been compiled annually except during the 1956-57 school year, when the addition was made to the north wing, and in 1962-63 at the formation of Huron Heights Secondary School.

In 1933, the annual yearbook was renamed The Phoenix. The reasons given were stated in the editorial column of that year — a shortage of suitable cover materials in purple and gold, and the fact the symbolic phoenix seemed appropriate given the school’s history of destructive fire and rebirth.

From its birth in 1920, right through to 1935, the editors in chief of the publication consisted of executive members of the literary society, and they, in turn, would form a sub-committee to publish the magazine. After its return in 1950, commencing with the 1951 yearbook, an independent executive was formed to manage the publication with the backing of the student council.

Below, I have listed the editors in chief from its inauguration in 1920 to 1974, when I graduated. I am hopeful some of you can update this list for me.

The Purple and Gold

1920 — Ewart Fockler
1921 — Harold Forrester
1922 — Josephine Featherstone
1923 — Marjorie Lewis
1924 —
1925 — Arthur Saunders
1926 — William Cripps
1927 — Dorothy Ramsay
1928 — Shirley Patterson
1929 — Grace Evans
1930 — Gertrude Lister and Margaret Evans
1931 — Ruth Traviss
1932 — Alberta Atkins

The Phoenix

1933 — Kathleen Oldham
1934 — Margaret Mathewson
1935 — Mae Copeland
1936 to 1950 — no publication
1951 — Jean Pickering
1952 — Jerry Hugo
1953 — Alastair Sinclair
1954 — Kenneth McFarquhar
1955 — Gerry Porter
1956 — No publication
1957 — Graham Lightfoot
1958 — Roland Ridler
1959 — Kathleen Richardson
1960 — Bruce Cryderman
1961 — Hugh McMorrow
1964 — Lynn Westlake
1965 — Susan Sproule
1966 — Michael Brodie
1967 — Aina Preiss
1968 — Gayle Johnson
1969 — David Steele
1970 — Steven Lloyd
1971 — Margaret McLaren
1972 — Catherine Boland
1973 — Susan Riggs
1974 — Avril Saunders

Another of the rituals that constitutes the traditions of Newmarket High School is commencement festivities. The annual graduation exercises have been a prominent highlight of each school year since the turn of the beginning of the 20th century. Before 1930, these events would take place at the end of the Easter term, but after 1930, they were held in late October or in November.

I attended four commencements prior to graduation, and they were always well attended by both the parents and the students. Prior to 1926, the town hall was used as there was no place in the school to host such an occasion.

At commencement, the graduation diplomas, proficiency prizes, and scholarships were presented as part of the agenda, which would also include various recitations, vocal and instrumental selections, poetry, and usually a play. At times, a banquet would precede the ceremonies and the festivities would conclude with a formal dance at some point. 

One of the main features of the commencement was the delivery of the valedictory address by an honour student of the graduating class. It is interesting to note that prior to 1970, this address was usually published in the Phoenix of the corresponding year.

So, who were some of these honoured individuals who were chosen to represent their graduating classes? I have provided a short list below of the valedictorians from 1926 to the year of my graduation. Note that prior to 1926, there does not seem to be any list of the valedictorians. Again, if anyone has a list, I would love to add it to the archives.

1926 — Willa Mahoney
1927 — Donald Patterson
1928 — Charles Brodie
1929 — Murrey McBride
1930 — Mary Gilfillan
1931 — Jessie Marshall
1932 — Meeda Willlams
1933 — Oswald Tate
1934 — Irene Patterson
1935 — Nora Penrose
1936 — Alvin Walker
1937 — Alice Fairbarn
1938 — George Johns
1939 — Audrey Geer
1940 — Jean Smith
1941 — Denne Bosworth
1942 — Jean Cunningham
1943 — Robert Brooks
1944 — Hazel McNern
1945 — Reta Horner
1946 — Ruth Lister
1947 — Kathleen Miller
1948 — Shirley Andrews
1949 — Joyce Porter
1950 — David Preston
1951 — Allen Jackson
1952 — William Wilson
1953 — Taylor Gilbert
1954 — Glen Keffer
1955 — Verne Hutchinson
1956 — James Ridler
1957 — Karl McCutcheon
1958 — Judith Carter
1959 — George Robertson
1960 — Barry Buckler
1961 — Carol Burnham
1962 — Elaine Thomson
1963 — Janneke Prins
1964 — Dorothy Whitty
1965 — Sunda Lee
1966 — Jack McCaffrey
1967 — Annette Kohler
1968 — Jan Spersad
1969 — Glen Scorgie
1970 — James Crawford
1971 — Lynne Weller
1972 — William Cooke
1973 — Guy Robson
1974 — Wayne Harrison

The other major part of commencement was the awarding of scholarships and awards. At my commencement, this was of major interest to me as I was the recipient of a few awards and scholarships. I have mentioned in many of my earlier columns that had it not been for the generosity of those who contributed to these scholarships and awards, I would never have been able to attend university. Here is a brief listing of the scholarships and awards available.

  • The Bogart Memorial Scholarship awarded in the areas of English and history: This award was donated in 1928 by Mr. E.A. Bogart, a graduate and member of the board of trustees of the school, in memory of his mother, an early pioneer and the first student enrolled in the school in 1877.
  • The E.D. Manning Memorial Award for Mathematics
  • The Hon. E. J. Davis Scholarship also awarded in mathematics
  • The A.N. Belugin Scholarship for physics and chemistry
  • The L.G. Jackson Scholarship (editor of the Newmarket Era)
  • The P.W. Pearson Scholarship (early settler and board member)
  • The George D. Wark Scholarship
  • The Stanley Brock Memorial Scholarship
  • The Marion Forrest Memorial Scholarship in French
  • The Dyle Thomson Memorial Scholarship in chemistry (I had the honour of having Mr. Thomson as a teacher)
  • The Allan Jackson Memorial Bursary
  • The Allan Berbeck Trophy and Scholarship in mathematics
  • The Michelle McCaffrey Memorial Award (honour roll)
  • The Walston Ainsley Memorial Award (assistance to higher education)
  • The Barbara Holborn Memorial Award for leadership
  • The Elsie Roberts Memorial Award in Latin
  • The Warren Hunt Memorial Award in music
  • The Ferenc Teleki Memorial Award for journalism
  • The Harold Cook Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship
  • The Beatrice Lyons Award for school life and sports
  • The Milton Wesley Royal Canadian Legion Branch 426 Award, providing assistance to higher learning
  • The Newmarket Women’s Club Award for Canadian literature
  • The Beta Sigma Phi Award for character and citizenship
  • The Newmarket Optimist Club Award for community contribution
  • The Newmarket Kinette Club Award for community contribution
  • The Newmarket Historical Society Award for history
  • York County Board of Education Proficiency Prize
  • The Newmarket Town Council Proficiency Prize
  • The East Gwillimbury Township Council Proficiency Prize
  • Whitchurch-Stouffville Council Proficiency Prize
  • The NHS Purple and Gold Letter

Not all these scholarships and awards have been available from the earliest days. If you were a recipient of an award, I would love it if you left me a comment, and congratulations.

Finally, let us look at the student council initially organized by the students in 1947 with the executive elected by the student body, each class is represented on the council by an elected member. As an advisory group, its purpose is to unite and assist the various organizations which sponsor dances, skating parties, school plays, yearbook preparation and the formation of the many clubs which are part of the school activity.

I had the honour of representing my class twice and held the position of treasurer one year.  When I served on the executive, our president was Howard Breen, who would go on to make a huge difference in the world.

I have attempted to list the various presidents of the student council each year up to my graduation.  Again, it would be nice to complete this list through your contributions.

1947 — Kenneth Ball/Pat. Duncan (co-chairs)
1948 — Kenneth Budd (our first president)
1949 — Reid Bell
1950 — Harvey Evans
1951 — Jerry Hugo
1952 — Donald Budd
1953 — Glen Keffer
1954 — Verne Hutchinson
1955 — Donald Lewis (would return to teach science at NHS)
1956 — Karl McCutcheon
1957 — Judith Morton
1958 — George Robertson
1959 — Robert McTavish
1960 — Roland Ridler
1960 — Larry Bone
1961 — Jill Vale
1962 — no executive
1963 — Mary King
1964 — Lauren Marshall
1965 — William Bosworth
1966 — Stephen Robinson
1967 — Dianne Evans
1968 — Jack Hurst
1969 — Barry Nesbitt
1970 — William Cooke
1971 — Aeneas Lane
1972 — Howard Breen
1973 — Wayne Harrison
1974 — Gregory Currie

I trust you have enjoyed this look at the history of Newmarket High School and that it has brought back some memories for you. I will be looking back at the history of the sports scene at Newmarket High in a future column. If you have information to contribute that will update my information, I encourage you to send it to me at [email protected].

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod, the History Hound, has been a local historian for more than 40 years. He writes a weekly feature about our town's history in partnership with NewmarketToday, conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, and leads local oral history interviews.