By Chris Marchand
Staff and students of the former Wabigoon Public School gathered for a special night of reminiscing, Sept. 23 at the Wabigoon Hall.
It’s been nearly a decade since the elementary school was closed, a deep wound for the small, close community that has taken many years to stanch.
Lining the outer edges of the hall were archives, photo albums, even student artwork that’s been squirrelled away for decades.
At the peak of the evening, some rare footage of a visit to the school from Santa Claus in a helicopter, circa 1981, was screened for the merry crowd.
Several longtime staff members were among the group. For many, Wabigoon was their first experiences in teaching.
Velma Neill began her teaching career at Wabigoon Public School in 1953 and spent most of her 34-year career teaching there.
“I was 18 years old,” said Neill. “I’m just very excited to see so many people coming together. Wabigoon is still a real community. Teaching was a very rewarding career and now in retirement I am still being rewarded. Having seen so many students develop physically, intellectually, socially and become responsible, successful adults is a priceless gift to me. I enjoy hearing about the paths their lives have taken. I am really proud of them especially some who have taken on leadership roles.”
French teacher Lorraine Marston remembers her time in Wabigoon School in the early 1970s.
“It was my first teaching job ever,” said Marston. “It was a wonderful time of my time. It was my initiation to small towns where everybody knew everybody — that was a big deal. You tell they are still a close community by how many of them are here tonight. I was surprised some of my students remembered me as Miss LaVarre. Some of these students I taught again in high school.”
The evening’s organizer, and former pupil Cheryl Parenteau says she was happy with the turnout and the many happy faces who enjoyed a walk down memory lane. She says for those who remain in the community the feelings are still bittersweet.
“We miss it everyday,” said Parenteau. “Everybody in town drives by the school on a daily basis, sees how it is, and remembers.”