Special to KT from Leslie Bricker –
Broadview Ave. P.S. has welcomed students through its doors for 100 years, a century of learning and connections. Former staff and students are invited to celebrate Broadview’s centennial on April 28 from 12:30 – 2 p.m. Tour the school, visit a historical display, and experience the vibrant arts scene at Broadview.
Broadview Avenue Public School (or Broadway, as it was originally called), first opened its doors in 1914, but was soon destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in 1916, and again in 1927, after a second fire. Additions to the school were built in 1948, 1951 and 1957.
Huge elm trees divided the schoolyard in earlier days. “So many recesses were spent playing around those trees,” recalls Christopher Sharpe, a 1950’s alumnus. Returning to Ottawa as an adult, Christopher spoke of “the nostalgia that washed over me when I’d sit down on the exposed roots … and wonder where all those years had gone.”
Until the early 1980’s, girls and boys used different entrances and had separate classes for Physical Education. That didn’t stop a pre-teen Elizabeth Harris and her friends from scratching at the painted windows by the gym during recess, for a glimpse into the boys’ change room. Elizabeth Liberty (née Peddie) – an alumna from the 1950’s – remembers the exciting times when “the boys were proficient enough to join us for square dancing.”
Separate classes for many subjects didn’t stop Peter Charbonneau from meeting his future wife at Broadview, in grade 7, in 1958. “Seated behind me,” recounts Peter, “was Mary Weeks. One day, Mrs. Armstrong asked us what we would like to be when we grew up… I wanted to be a veterinarian. Mary was crestfallen as that was going to be her answer… we subsequently dated all through High School at Nepean. We were married in 1969 and have remained so for 46 years.” Their three children attended Broadview – common, in this close-knit community.
Bill Luxton, actor and local television personality, and his wife Toots, saw three generations through the doors of Broadview– children, grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. Treasured as volunteers during the 1980’s, Bill read to primary classes, often arriving in costume, while Toots sewed costumes for Broadview’s musicals.
Connections between school and community deepened in the 1990’s, with increasing roles for volunteers in the classroom. Jean Abra – “Grandma Jean” to everyone at Broadview – was a “Grandparent in the classroom,” reading with students, baking bread, and sharing anecdotes about Westboro’s history. Her father-in-law, Francis Abra, was the architect for the 1927 addition to Broadview.
Now 93, she still meets people in the neighbourhood who call her Grandma Jean, and remember when she brought her dog to visit, to the delight of the children. “I would sneak in the door beside the gym, hurry down the stairs with the dog,” recalls Abra. “On the way out, the kids would check that the coast was clear.”
A strong teaching staff is part of Broadview’s history. Alumni spoke of Miss Whelan, who not only taught English, but was the school’s “Secretary” in the 1950’s. Her classroom was next to the office, in case she had to answer the telephone. Elizabeth Harris remembers Miss McKenzie’s Art class. “If you missed the field trip to the National Gallery, you had to make it up on your own time, during the weekend.”
Much has changed in the last hundred years. In the 1950’s and early ‘60’s, safety drills at Broadview were “duck and cover” practice, in preparation for a nuclear attack. Today, Broadview students practice safety drills for fire and the presence of intruders.
Despite these changes, there is a constant thread of community, of high standards, and of caring at Broadview Avenue Public School, that has endured for a century. Follow us on Facebook for details of our centennial celebrations.
Leslie Bricker is a Primary/Junior Music specialist and choral director at Broadview Avenue Public School, where she coordinates and directs cultural events ranging from musical theatre to arts exhibitions. She is one of the co-chairs of the Broadview Centennial Committee.