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Students, teachers, families and friends reunite

Visitors to the Queen Elizabeth and Pinecrest schools reunion reminisce looking at memory boards created by the Quinte Education Museum and Archives.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
As memories were rekindled and acquaintances re-established, the years melted away in moments at the Pinecrest and Queen Elizabeth schools reunion Saturday.

The event, sponsored by Quinte Educational Museum and Archives (QEMA), was held at the Prince Edward Community Centre.

Linda Sommers, QEMA board president, said the goal in organizing the event was to provide the students, teachers and staff who were involved or went to these two schools, an opportunity to meet up, reminisce with classmates, teachers and the families from the community.

Pinecrest Memorial Elementary School opened in 1967 and closed in 2017; Queen Elizabeth Public School opened its doors in 1954 and closed in 2018.

Prince Edward County mayor Steve Ferguson made reference to how people at these types of events often look quizzically across the room at each other wondering is that so and so? while others often say ‘you haven’t changed a bit!’

Ferguson was joined by PEC councillors Ernie Margetson, Phil St. Jean and Bill McMahon who attended various schools in the County, where Ferguson noted they were probably ‘perfect angels’.

“School plays a pivotal role in establishing friendships and building individual character,” said Ferguson. “All schools, whether rural or urban, educate our kids, and teachers are so influential in the way kids grow up. I don’t think they get enough praise for what they do.”

He said he and his best friends go back to Grade 7, and they meet regularly and swap stories.

“For many years, Pinecrest and Queen Elizabeth were truly community hubs serving to connect the young and the older alike in ways that extended well beyond the classroom. Schools were part of the glue that held and holds communities together and that’s why everybody is gathered in this room today.”

School sports, drama, plays, music and other social activities are a major part of school and community life and “those experiences contribute to the shared history of this community, so those memories, the friendships and those bonds continue to live on in the community to this day, even though the schools don’t exist, and that in itself is worth celebrating.”

The stories were many; the glances, the ‘you look familiar’ enquiry and exchanges unfolded as reunion attendees took a nostalgic look back at two local schools that made their mark.

Photos and year books were perused as was archival material on display to nudge memories and reignite milestones. Also on display were some private collections of photographs and memorabilia donated by past teachers and students.

Summer student at Ameliasburgh Heritage Village, Rosemary Woods, in her role as school teacher.

Summer student Rosemary Woods, also a school teacher at Ameliasburgh Heritage Village, dressed the part and was on hand to answer questions about the displays.

QEMA’s Kathy Reed noted the memorabilia displays from Queen Elizabeth and Pinecrest schools were scanned, labelled and displayed by archive volunteers Beverly Marr and Margaret Trumpour along with QEMA board member Peggy Ritchie.

Joan Taylor

Joan Taylor was neither a student nor a teacher at the two schools, but she was a parent to six children who went through Pinecrest, and two of her daughters made it to the reunion.

“We lived on the outskirts of Picton and the bus that scooped people up from Bloomfield went right by our door, so we switched from where everything was fine, but the other one was finer,” said Taylor. “We had many years of association with Bloomfield and Pinecrest, and Dan Rainey [long-time principal] was very good, although he is gone now.”

This is fun, said Taylor as she flipped through an old year book and noting good memories.

She noted her husband, Dr. Blyth Taylor, a respected County doctor who passed away several months ago at age 89 “would have loved this reunion.”

Steve Wilson

Reed noted one attendee had driven five hours from Brantford to attend the reunion after seeing it advertised on the Food Network. Steve Wilson was a pupil at Queen Elizabeth from 1954-1958.

“I just don’t remember anybody and I don’t remember any teacher’s names,” said Wilson, who added he has pretty good memories of his school days. “Not many people get to go to a 65-year anniversary or reunion, so I was curious. It was worth the trip and I haven’t been back in 61 years, so it’s changed a bit. It’s a busy little town now and it was sleepy in the ‘50s, but Main Street is awful busy now.”

Bill Mitchell, left, and Jim Lindle met up with Bill’s teacher Herb Cooper, right, at the reunion.

Jim Lindle, of Picton, has a good friend in Bill Mitchell who drove from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to ensure Lindle attended the reunion.

“I said I am not going and he said ‘yes you are’ and I am going down to get you,” said Lindle who remarked that he and Mitchell have been friends since ’67.

Lindle was a pupil at Pinecrest and has a lot of good memories and was pleased to make it to the reunion.

“I have met a lot of people I went to school with and it was nice to reminisce, but I am also at a loss here because you look at faces and you don’t recognize people.”

Bill Mitchell went to Pinecrest and was glad he came even though it was a long way to come for a reunion.

“It was one of the things that I was looking forward to,” he said, also noting how Picton has changed a lot. “I just wanted to see what all my old classmates looked like, if there are any here. I went to school with Jim [Lindle] all through school, but it will be interesting to see,” he said.

Mitchell says he remains friends with a couple of people from ‘the old days’ and has kept in touch with them. He later met up with his physical education teacher, Wellington’s Herb Cooper, who Lindle also remembered.

The Prince Edward County Women’s Institute dished up lunch, and a silent auction consisting of about 40 items ran through the day, where proceeds went back to QEMA. With a craft show and classic car show, plus mini putt contests and wine tours, the full day wrapped up with about 250 people enjoying music and dancing to The Reasons and The Reasonettes and DJ Leo Phillips.

“I am delighted with all the people who have shown up. It’s amazing that they wanted to be here, right when we opened at 11 o’clock,” said Reed. “Look at the people here looking at the displays and archives and finding themselves.”

“This has been a joy to host and it was QEMA’s passion to celebrate these two schools and bring people together for one last hurrah.”

(Not in order) Lynda Sommer is QEMA President, Board Members are Evelyn Peck, Sherry Newcombe, Bev Sprague, Gloria Jowett, Arlene Wright, Peggy Ritchie, Sheila VanSoelen, Kathy Reed.

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  1. Rob #2 says:

    First I will say I did not attend the reunion and I did not attend either of those schools.

    However having been involved in an attempt at a reunion at one of my old elementary schools I think it needs to be said that getting people to attend is a challenge, more than with a high school.

    Reading stories here and in other media it appears that this was a very successful event and the people who organized it deserve lots of credit for the marketing (which I think is key, particularly when done months in advance as it was in this case) as well as the execution and set-up of the event.

    However I was a little bit disappointed that the current owners of Pinecrest (which I believe is our own municipal government) couldn’t have been bothered to do more than the most minimal yard maintenance at the Pinecrest site. The school is still there awaiting it’s next use as public housing. The yard was a disaster Saturday evening and the waist-high grass all around will soon (if it hasn’t already) send the sign that no one is really looking after things here (or cares to), and then the vandalism sets in.

    Fair enough, we may not have the resources to look after this properly, but for a much advertised reunion with people coming from out of town I am sure more than a few passed by, maybe pulled into the driveway to have a look, or even take a photo or two…would it not have been possible to make the front of the place look a little better than they did? Sure the inside is off limits, I get that, but a few guys with a lawnmower and some string trimmers would have made a big difference for that one weekend.

    One thing we know for sure is that the school board looks after landscaping a heck of a lot better than our municipality does.

    Also a shame that Queen E is now getting graffiti on it. Thankfully the school board is still in charge of looking after the lawn. Last thing we want is waste high weeds on that property.

    Anyway, congratulations again to the organizers of this reunion that seems have gone over very well in our community.

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