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Sandy Hyman (second from left) with her classmates at the St. John's reunion

96-year-old alumnus Harry Walsh passes the torch to student council president Richard Panganiban

101-year-old alumna Katharine Weber joins Walsh and Panganiban in the torch passing ceremony


By Sandy Hyman, June 29, 2010

Well, it is now a week since the St John’s High School 100th reunion ended after four days, June 17 to 20, of meeting, greeting, eating and connecting. I was on the reunion committee and many of the committee members were on for the full five years of organizing.  Although I was on for less than a year it was a very full and fulfilling commitment.  But what I was most proud to do was remove my committee hat and enjoy myself connecting, remembering, and dusting off my memory bank to insure I took advantage of every second I could during the four days of togetherness.

There were several highlights.  When you walked into the school from the parking lot you were greeted by a history wall with  pictures of Salter Drugs, Cooper Mosienko bowling lanes, the cows from the dairy on Selkirk and Salter, Oretzki’s, and Gunn’s Bakery, just to name a few. This  was a great location for taking pictures.  I loved helping with registration and seeing the faces of people go from uncertainty about where to go, to recognition of old classmates, to excitement, talking and the sharing of memories. At the Coffee House on Thursday evening at the school former students munched on red velvet cake, flapper pie and chocolate donuts from Sal’s while trying to talk and hear each other as alumni musical groups competed for their attention.  

The Friday night event was held at the Tiajuana Yacht Club at CanadInn Polo Park with a sold out crowd of 1200.  It was loud,  but the dancing was happening and in spite of the music volume, we made connections and screamed and hugged each other when the recognition bulb lit up. Burton Cummings visited and enjoyed seeing old classmates just like so many of us. 

The Saturday night gala with close to 1700 in attendance was a wonderful event.  Emcee Ken Kostick ensured that the many dignitary speeches followed one another smoothly. We did have some comic relief when  Mayor Sam Katz  called the event the St Paul’s Reunion.  Monty Hall’s speech highlighted the tradition and richness of the school,  and the way in which the connections he made at St John’s have never stopped working for him and have never stopped giving him opportunities to help others.  Sixties grad Colleen Savage, slightly younger than Cummings, entertained us with her mellow jazz tunes, and the alumni choir,  under the direction of  Richard Yaffe, presented some St john’s musical history.  Cummings then wooed the crowd for 90 minutes and many of us danced and sang along with the songs that we had grown up with.  There was lots of time and space to socialize but I’m sure many felt like me - torn between yakking at our table, listening to the entertainment or table hopping to catch some missed opportunities. 

Sunday for me started at 6 am when I left home to get to the school to prepare pancakes for the reunion breakfast.  Earl Barish was there, as Sal’s was a major sponsor, and I had fun taking a picture with a hairnet on.  The Military Remembrance Ceremony of alumni who did not return from World War I and II  was very moving.  The Teachers in the Tent provided  a great opportunity to find former staff, and, in fact, someone spotted one of ours from the 60s, Miss Lavendar.  Russ Gourluck spoke about his book –“The Mosaic Village: A History of Winnipeg’s North End.”  Former Tiger football alumni and coaches served at an outdoor BBQ and cappuccino was available in various locations thanks to some generous sponsors.    But what I loved most on Sunday was visiting the decade rooms with a wealth of memorabilia and newspaper clippings which continued to trigger the words ‘remember when.’  

I was very surprised how emotional I was during the closing ceremonies.  During the Passing the Torch ceremony, 96-year-old Harry Walsh, representing the first 100 years,  recited in Latin and held the crowd in the palm of his hand as he uttered his words of wisdom, before passing the  torch to student council president Richard Panganiban, representing the next 100 years.  Then Katharine Weber, 101 years young and the oldest reunion attendee, cut the cake.  All of the events were successful thanks in large part to the many students who volunteered for so many events, and current and former staff and caretakers who were always available to ensure that everything ran smoothly.
I probably have rambled too long but this reunion meant a lot to a lot of people.  The committee has heard many accolades from participants, and hearing about how great the event was makes all the hard work and high stress times well worth the effort.  There were so many generations in attendance, some from the 30s , more from the 40s and many from the 50s, 60s and 70s and even grads from the 2000s.  And all of these alumni mingled with and spoke with current students from Winnipeg’s  north end.  The reunion gave many a chance to learn about St John’s High School’s legacies of the past and hope and potential for the future.  Usque ad astra!  See you in 2035!

Sandy Hyman, class of 1964
PR and Marketing Chair, St John’s 100th Reunion Committee

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