Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 12, 2009
The old Brick School evokes fond memories
Built 100 years ago, this charming building may have been cold at times, but its heart was warm
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT- It was torn down in 1960 but students still have good memories of the Old Brick School.
"It was a building with character," says Ray Pinco, who attended the historical school from Grades 2 to 8. "I found it very attractive."
Pinco was especially fond of the winding staircase, which he describes as "quite elegant."
Attractive or not, The Brick School didn't have running water or toilets and was torn down because it was found unsuitable to be a school.
The Brick School was the first stand-alone school in St. Albert. Although the Roman Catholic Public School District No 3 operated it, the school was interdenominational in nature. The Grey Nuns taught there for many years.
Pinco, 71, is one of about 100 former students who will gather in St. Albert Oct. 14 to mark the 100 anniversary of The Brick School, formally known as Father Merer School.
The celebration will include an ecumenical service at St. Albert Church, a procession and the unveiling of a plaque on the school's original site behind the Catholic school board office.
Pinco, chair of the St. Albert Historical Society, remembers when the furnace would malfunction and students would have to endure the cold, sometimes for what seemed to be hours.
If the maintenance man could not repair it, the school would close for the day and students would be sent home.
If he was able to repair the furnace, students would have to stay in the building wearing mitts and coats until their classrooms warmed up.
Toilets were located outside in those years, but for Pinco it wasn't a big deal.
"I didn't know any other school building (back then), so for me The Brick School was OK."
Pinco, a father of eight, also remembers the fraternity among students.
"Because the school was small, you tended to know students much older than you," he recalled. "We all played together, regardless of age."
Some friendships have lasted until today. Pinco's wife, Germaine, is one of a group of 50 women who went to the school who meet for lunch three times a year.
The two-storey Brick School opened in 1909 with four classrooms. The Grade 1-12 facility was made of brick and featured a walled basement four feet above ground level.
The building was not unusual architecturally, according to a research paper by Gloria Haight of the Musee Heritage Museum in St Albert.
TYPICAL PRAIRIE SCHOOL
"(The school) had a hipped roof with dormer windows. The flagpole was on the roof. It was quite a typical Prairie school, except that it had a brick exterior rather than the more common wood," wrote Haight.
"But its destruction was a loss to the community. Local builders built it when St. Albert and the West were still on the edge of the homesteading era. The building enhanced the time and place for its citizens.
"The design had character and charm compared to the austere, geometric style of many of today's school buildings."
The Brick School was used until 1958 and was torn down in 1960 following a recommendation by a school buildings inspector from the department of education. The inspector reported extensive deterioration in the brick foundation and the walls.
The St. Albert School Board attempted to lease the building but the department of education said the building should be sold or dismantled and removed from the site.
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