By Steve Hubrecht
The past year was the final one that the old David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) building stood sentinel at the entrance to Invermere.
The building was opened in 1957 and was actively used as a school until the current David Thompson Secondary School building was opened in 1994. Parts of the old school still remain in use as a firehall, school district office and a day care, but the main part of the school was demolished in late November 2014, to make room for the new multi-use community centre.
When I first saw it I was dazzled by it. It was full of light. It was a little jewel and I thought it quite a beautiful building, said retired DTSS teacher Anne Jardine, who began working at the old high school in 1969.
The classrooms that constituted the first and main part of the school (many additions came in later years) had a long bank of windows facing out across Invermeres main street in the direction of what is now the Windermere Valley Museum.
There was so much light coming in that they eventually plywooded off every other window and put in insulation, rather than replacing the glass, said former DTSS teacher Ray Picton, who began working at the school in 1967.
So we lost half the light. It made the building warm and snug, but it was a sad day, said Ms. Jardine, recalling the incident as happening in the early 1980s. It was a well-designed school, especially the additions, added Mr. Picton.
The old school had many additions throughout the years, each of which had a slightly different design, remembers DTSS teacher Greg Constable, who began teaching at the old school in 1982 and still teaches at the current high school.
Youd get to a division in the school and the colours would change, said Mr. Constable. I had one student who would always joke youve now entered the green zone or youve now entered the purple zone each time she went into a different part of the school.
Mr. Constable, who teaches music, recalls the addition in 1987 that created a new band room with particular fondness.
That was the best band room Ive ever taught in. It was designed so acoustically perfect and you had such a brilliant sound when you recorded there. There was no echo, no reverb, he said. The building as a whole evidenced a lot of adding on later, and I dont think you could call it an architectural work of art, but it was a nice place to work.
As it became clear that the old school would be abandoned, upkeep and maintenance fell away a bit, which is not a reflection of maintenance staff they did a great job but more a reflection of funding resources. So it got a little shabbier each year. And oddly so did student deportment, said Ms. Jardine. But wonderfully when we moved into the new (DTSS) building all that kind of bad behaviour disappeared. The whole atmosphere changed. I think buildings and how you feel about them, how you treat them, makes a big difference in how you feel about your work.
Former teacher and principal Bob Campsall began his career in the valley working at the old DTSS building in 1962, when the building was still new, before going on to work at local elementary schools. He then finished his career by moving back to DTSS as vice-principal for the final year in the old building before the move to the new school happened.
Starting a new career in a new building, and decades later coming back to finish a career in that building when it was just about finished strikes Mr. Campsall as a funny coincidence, and he remembers the building as one that served the community well.
It was a building to be quite proud of as a small town. It served its purpose and it served it well, said Mr. Campsall. When I drove by and saw the machine sitting there (for demolition) I knew what was happening, which was a bit sad, but Im practical enough to realize everything has its time. Its too bad, but thats progress.
It was a shock when I drove by one day (this past November) and it just wasnt there. I did have these pangs of sorrow to see such a familiar part of the landscape simply gone. My hope is whatever rises there will be as beautiful and as well-loved, said Ms. Jardine. The site, with those gorgeous old Lombardy poplars, is fabulous, its perfect. Its a welcoming spot saying hello to people coming into town.
Construction on the new multi-use centre could potentially start this fall.