Bloor West Villager
Principal Karen Ridley stood outside Swansea Public School’s front door on Tuesday afternoon, camera in hand, trying to set up a class photo.
The students weren’t being very co-operative; and they were being rather chatty.
This group could have been any group of kids under Ridley’s charge. Yet, these students have long since graduated from the elementary school on Windermere Avenue, south of Bloor Street West.
“Times haven’t changed, have they,” asked Ridley rhetorically. “They still argue and they still don’t listen to their teacher.”
Ridley was only speaking in jest because this group was on a special visit to Swansea P.S. on Sept. 25. The day marked 70 years since its members graduated from kindergarten. They are the kindergarten class of 1942 – the first-ever kindergarten class at the school. The group, ‘Friends of Swansea P.S.,’ as they have coined themselves, has been meeting once a month since 1997-’98. The schoolmates began meeting regularly after first reconnecting at Swansea’s 100th anniversary. This year, the approximately 20 former schoolmates turned 75 years old.
“The principal said, ‘you’re not going to recognize the place,’ and she’s right. I haven’t been back here since Grade 6,” revealed Reg Ellerton. “(Swansea P.S.) had a wonderful playground. There was a dump behind the school. Our teachers had trouble keeping us out of it.”
Before reconvening at their alma mater, the friends enjoyed a luncheon at The Old Mill Inn. This year is the elementary school’s 122nd year of learning, pointed out Ridley, who before taking the group on a tour, offered them keepsake pencils and buttons. When she asked if there was any particular area of the school that the group wanted to see, someone piped up: “We’ve got to see the kindergarten.”
“It’s new since you’ve been here,” Ridley said. “We’ll go down to the old one.”
For the most part, their old kindergarten classroom has remained the same. Except, there are no doors on the cloakroom – they’re just coat hooks now, said Grace Thornton.
“On the first day of school everyone was crying,” recalled Thornton. “I wasn’t. Some mothers had to stay our first day. They frowned upon that.”
Thornton remembered having “a great time” at Swansea where she attended until Grade 8.
“It was because of the closeness of the community of Swansea,” she said. “You didn’t have to go anywhere else. The chief of police knew every kid.”
Katharine Worfolk’s father taught at Swansea for 36 years.
“I felt like I really had to behave. I think I was a little shy because he was here, but I have fond memories of him teaching,” said Worfolk, who lived in Swansea from 1938 until 1956. “A lot of the homes have changed from being small bungalows to being two storeys. There was a candy store at the corner of Windermere and Morningside Avenue called Nichol’s – that’s where I got all my cavities.”
Swansea still retains the same village flavour it once had, said Worfolk, who lived in six different houses in the area.
“When I was five, we lived on Ellis Park Road. I used to walk to school. It was a very safe community. We never locked our doors. It was more of a simple life,” she said.