Grade 11

Ten of the originally 18 students who made up the first Grade 11 class in O’Leary gathered for a reunion to celebrate their 65th anniversary at the Knutsford Community Centre on Sept. 15. Melissa Heald photo

It was a time to catch up with old classmates as members of the very first Grade 11 class in O’Leary gathered for their 65th anniversary reunion at the Knutsford Community Centre on Sept. 15.

The 18 students who made up that class were the first Grade 11 pupils west of Summerside.

The class had their first reunion in 1998 for their 40th anniversary. Ten years later they had their 50th anniversary. Now the group tries to gather for reunions every five years, meeting for their 55th, 60th and now 65th anniversary.

“There was just such a bond between us,” said Lillian MacLean of that first Grade 11 class. “This is why we’ve been holding these reunions every once in awhile.”

Ms MacLean said the trustees of the O’Leary school back then felt the area warranted a Grade 11 class.

“I guess they just thought it was time they did this for the community,” she said.

In fact, said Ms MacLean, in order to accommodate the new grade, a new piece had to be built onto the school in O’Leary.

“For the first six weeks or so we had to come in at 8:30 in the morning to 12:30, but we were all very excited,” she said.

Ms MacLean said before a Grade 11 class was established in O’Leary those who finished Grade 10 and wanted to continue their education had to travel to Charlottetown to attend Prince of Wales College.

“It was a special group,” she said. “I think we just loved that this opportunity had opened up for us.”

Ms MacLean said the students’ professor, Charles Read, was excellent.

Elaine MacKendrick and her brother Fenton Shaw use to travel from Bloomfield Corner by horse and wagon or horse and sleigh to attend class.

“If the roads were good, it wasn’t bad, but if there was a lot of snow, we had to get the old horse through the snowbanks,” said Mr Shaw.

Ms MacKendrick said it was important for her and her brother to be part of the Grade 11 class because their parents wanted them to have the opportunity.

“We reminisce about all the fun we had in class,” said Ms MacKendrick about why she likes coming to the reunion.

Ten of the originally students attended the reunion on Sunday, with Ms MacLean explaining some of their former classmates with health or mobility issues were unable to attend, also adding they’ve had one classmate pass away shortly after the 50th anniversary.

But when the former classmates get together it’s a lot of reminiscing of the good old days.

“I can remember we were going down to the biology station in Ellerslie and the professor took us in the back of his truck, which couldn’t happen today,” said Ms MacLean. “Just fun things that happened in the classroom and just remembering each other.”

Ms MacLean said it was an honour to be part of the first Grade 11 class in O’Leary.

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