West Side School would celebrate 100 years if still standing

John Brannen
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NEW GLASGOW – Dave Bernas of New Glasgow fondly remembers his school days back in the 1950s. It was a simpler time at the West Side School.

A view of the West Side School back in 1937 with students lined up in front of the building. The school, formerly located on Willow Avenue, was closed in 1990 and burned in 2006. SUBMITTED

The impressive brick and stone building that stood on Willow Avenue only exists in photographs and Bernas’s memories. It was destroyed by fire on April 6, 2006.

But he remembers the year on the cornerstone, 1914, and noted this would have been the school’s centenary.

“I went there and my mom and a few uncles went too,” he said. “A few notable people went there too I believe.”

From 1952 to 1958, Bernas attended the school. Because he lived just outside the limits of the school, his Grade 1 studies were completed through homeschooling.

“After Grade 7, I went across the river,” he said.

The school routine wouldn’t resemble a typical day for most school in Pictou County. Boys and girls were segregated and even had separate entrances. At recess time, however, both could mingle.

“We’d all head to the corner store for candy, chips and chocolate. That is, if we had any money,” said Bernas.

In 1990, the West Side School closed, with the students moving to a remodelled and renovated A.G. Baillie. A suspicious fire destroyed the vacant building in 2006. While there were plans to build a condominium on the site of the former school, nothing came to fruition.

“I was sad to see it go,” said Bernas. “It was a landmark and the teachers in it influenced a lot of people.”

He sees an opportunity on this 100th anniversary of the laying of the school’s cornerstone for something to be done to commemorate the school’s legacy on the West Side.

“Even if there could be a plaque set up or a piece of the school at the community centre, that would be great. There are lots of great memories from that building and it’s a shame it ended the way it did.”

Bernas hopes the Town of New Glasgow and other community groups come together to create a plaque or monument dedicated to the story of the West Side School.

 

john.brannen@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn 

Organizations: West Side School

Geographic location: Willow Avenue, Pictou County, New Glasgow

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