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Demolition of SS #3 Athol makes way for school playground

Michelle Found photo

A piece of Cherry Valley’s history has disappeard following the demolition last week of SS #3 Athol Public School, which stood next to its replacement – now called Athol South Marysburgh Public School.

The County’s Michelle (Fraser) Found spent the better part of two days witnessing the event and recorded a Facebook live video feed of the action.

“It’s a sad day in Athol Township when a piece of the history is disappearing,” she said. “It was the original public school and my first school.”

From the 1830s to the 1960s, there were 76 rural schools and five urban schools in Prince Edward County. The two-storey stone S.S. No. 3 was constructed in 1924.

She watched and hoped as the Al White Excavating crew tried to salvage the S.S. No. 3 Athol sign.

“At the last minute it slipped from the clutches of the hy-hoe’s claw and smashed to the ground. I could’ve cried, but the guy tried his best and that helped to make the whole situation easier to bear knowing they cared.”

The hy-hoe operator did bring her a brick and a block from the outside wall and later, received the bell tower pole from the owner, delivered by his uncle.

“I am truly beyond thrilled with my treasures. After spending almost two days up there watching them, they knew my heart was in that building.”

She recalls that originally the school was for Grades 1-8. Her dad and brothers also attended classes there. She remembers the south classroom was the Junior room for Grades 1-4 and the Senior room was at the north side for Grades 5-8.

“I started school a year earlier than I should have (not because I was exceptionally smart, but rather because they had low enrolment that year). So I started Kindergarten in 1971 with Miss Jessup. The next year, 1972, I moved to Grade 1 with Mrs. Nancy Welsh.”

The Athol Central School next door was built in 1967 after the Prince Edward County Board of Eduction purchased the land from Fraser’s parents Dwain and Jean Fraser. The old school was still being used for primary grades.

She believes the last year there for students was 1975/76 before primary students were bused to South Marysburgh School.

“I recall the school being accidentally left unlocked one weekend in 1976 and my younger sister and me and two other local boys went inside. We didn’t do any damage – just played with puppets and wrote on the chalkboard. I remember my Mom coming to look for us and she was pregnant with my youngest sister. Boy, was she mad that she couldn’t find us, never expecting us to be in that school. The principal later found out, when one of the boys who was in there tried to get the rest of us in trouble, but we were never punished as no harm was done.”

Heather Zantingh, a member of the Athol South School Council says planning is under way for extending the school’s playground on the lot of the old school.

She notes a lot of fundraising will be required and plans will be discussed when the school council meets again in the fall.

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