THEN AND NOW: 'I remember our desks in the higher grades had ink wells on the right-hand side, which does not show in the picture, and I am left handed so it was not convenient once we started writing with ink,' says Ann Dow of the photo taken of her in class at Duke of Connaught Public School in 1946. Dow, 73, attended the 100th Anniversary Homecoming of the school on Oct. 20 with her older sister, who graduated from Connaught in 1949.

Generations of students wish Duke of Connaught P.S. happy 100

Homecoming and digital archive a chance to share and preserve memories

Sixty years have passed since Ann (Hayward) Dow was a student at Duke of Connaught Public School.

But her personal connection to the east-Toronto school didn’t end when the final bell rang in 1952.

“My father went to the school as well, and all my siblings and most of my aunts and uncles too,” Dow said Oct. 20 at the school’s 100th Anniversary Homecoming.

My father went to the school as well, and all my siblings and most of my aunts and uncles too.

—Ann Dow

Prior to the school’s homecoming, thousands of photographs from the past 100 years were collected to help commemorate the history of the school and its surrounding community.

”I sent in pictures and my first-year report card to the archival website for the school’s anniversary,” Dow said. “Our cousin, who will be 88 this year, [their] graduation photo ended up in the 30-page memory book.”

The anniversary brought in over 800 guests, including Dow, 73, who attended the junior and senior public school between 1944 and 1952.

The homecoming attendees were treated to a snapshot of the digital archive of the collected photos, which included a slide show and copies of a keepsake memory book that were sold ahead of time.

Preparation for the digital archive began 18 months ago and is still an ongoing project, said Keith Gould, a member of the 100th Anniversary organizing committee.

“We scanned over 2,500 photographs from the archives, the school, and from staff and students from the past and present,” he said. “We still have a backlog of over 7,000 photos we would like to add to the digital archive.”

The archive is currently housed on Dropbox, a file-sharing website, but has yet to be made public.

“We also had a number of archive nights to collect photographs and memorabilia for the 100th Anniversary Homecoming and for our digital archive so that we could have a permanent digital history of the school and the community,” Gould said.

For Dow, the homecoming and the run-up to it offered a chance to reminisce and to get in touch with other former students.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences,” she said.

Dow recalled playing a game called Ledgers, where she and her classmates would bounce an rubber ball off a three-foot ledge at the front of the school.

“We’d do twirls and jumps while we played,” Dow said. “I also liked home economics with my Grade 4 teacher Ms. Kitto. We cooked, sowed and made aprons, blouses and even a pot holder that I still have.”

It’s like going down memory lane.

—Frank Hamilton

Frank Hamilton, 63, went to the school for grades 6, 7 and 8. He still has fond memories of his woodwork shop classes, he said.

“They also had a swimming pool and an experimental swim team where we learned all types of life-saving techniques, which ended up being filmed for a program on CBC,” he said. “The teachers were encouraging, which initiated my goal of wanting to become a teacher too.”

Upon graduation, Hamilton received one of 10 school letters that only a select number of students were given, he said. He asked organizers if they would like to include it in the digital archive alongside the photographs.

The letter, which is more than 50 years old but still looks new, according to Hamilton, will be photographed and included in the digital archive.

“I’m happy organizers got into contact with former students for this project,” Hamilton said. “It’s like going down memory lane and bringing back childhood memories.”