In some ways, GL Roberts CVI in Oshawa has changed immensely since the doors first opened 50 years ago in 1972.
The city around it is bigger, busier and more diverse. It’s no longer the case that many students have parents who work at General Motors and you won’t find carpeting or typewriters in the classrooms.
In other ways, it hasn’t changed at all.
Students still hang around in “The Pit” between classes, the school community is as tight-knit as ever and today’s staff care about the students just as much as their predecessors did 50 years ago.
Chuck Powers was the principal at GL Roberts when it opened in 1972.
“At any assembly or whatever, I always referred to the students as ‘my kids.’ And I still do that. We’ve had a very close relationship with the students,” Powers says.
GL Roberts is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of events the weekend of Oct. 21 to 23
Events include a Saturday night reunion social at the Tribute Communities Center on Oct. 22 from 7 p.m. to midnight; at an open house at the school on Saturday, Oct. 22 from 10 am to 5 pm; a staff brunch on Oct. 23 at 10 am and friendly games of basketball and volleyball in the school gym and a golf tournament at Kedron Dells.
A GL Roberts Legacy Fund has been established to support school initiatives such as nutrition programs and scholarships for graduating students.
Organizers are expecting hundreds—possibly thousands — to come out for the 50th anniversary events.
GL Roberts has a strong alumni community with a large presence on social media. One Facebook group for students and staff from the 1970s and 1980s has more than 1,000 members.
Paul Brown, a student at the school from 1978 to 1983 and a member of the 50th anniversary planning committee, says favorite memories include playing Euchre in The Pit and skateboarding at Lake Vista Plaza.
“The teachers I had as a student here were just absolutely phenomenal,” Brown says. “I would say I became a teacher and later a principal, largely because of the influence of the teachers here at GL Roberts.”
Doug Boyd remembers being just 13 when he started Grade 9, as one of the original students at GL Roberts.
“I lived in the neighborhood so I had the pleasure of watching this building grow from an empty field to the building that now stands. Walking into that building was a scary, exciting time for me,” Boyd says. “Everything was new, the row on row of brightly colored lockers, making our way past “The Pit” to the auditorium for the opening speeches.”
Fifty years layer Boyd is still in touch with friends from high school and reconnects with former staff and students at monthly breakfasts in the school’s neighborhood.
Herschel Rosen is often at those breakfasts. He was one of the original teachers and remembers the school opening with only Grades 9, 10 and 11 — about 600 students, which made it easier to get to know everyone.
Rosen describes how GL Roberts looked in his early days — lockers in all different bright colours, carpeting in the classrooms, large “double and triple” classrooms for group teaching.
He was involved with the theater arts program and fondly thinks back on the many productions that were staged.
“What I think was unique was that we invited staff, parents, local residents, to take part in the productions, both on stage and behind the scenes,” Rosen says. “Most years we presented three full-length plays and musicals, plus some one-acters including an entry in the annual Sears Drama Festival.”
Whether staff and students were at GL Roberts in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s or more recently — everyone agrees that it’s a special place.
“There’s a lot of heart here,” says current principal Dawn White.
“The best eight years of my educational career were spent right here in this school,” Powers adds.
Visit glrobertscvi.ddsb.ca for more information on 50th anniversary events including tickets to the Saturday Social and donations to the Legacy Fund.