by Ralph Pyle.
What was it like at MDHS in ’54? The question was posed
to me by the reunion committee. I have a staff perspective and
a fifty-year-old memory, as that was the year I came to MDHS
to teach mathematics. I was hired, over the lunch hour at the
home of Mr. Frank Burkholder, chairman of the Board. Mr. B. J.
Newell, principal and Mr. John Bayes, secretary treasurer, were
also present. A far cry from the formal interview of today.
MDHS in 1954 was surrounded by farmland on the outskirts of
Markham Village. Many residents questioned its location and failed
to foresee the future growth of the district. Students from the
village walked to school and rural students (living over a mile
away) were bussed in.
The building itself was brand new and a real step forward compared
to the old Markham High School at Joseph and Albert Streets.
There was one room each for typing, industrial arts, home economics,
and one gymnasium for boys and girls, one cafeteria (half of
the hot caf.), two science labs, a library (where the present
general office is), a staff room (where the present general office
is) and four general classrooms.
There were 11 staff including the principal, and approximately
235 students. It was usual for a staff member to teach a student
more than one subject and in successive years (there were no
departments or heads). This arrangement meant that staff and
students knew each other well and as most staff lived in the
village they knew the students families also.
The curriculum was fixed with very few choices or options. The
grade 9 students took English, math, science, history, geography,
French, industrial arts or home economics and physical education.
The day consisted of eight 40-minute periods with a lunch period.
Some subjects were taught every day, others two or three times
a week. Latin and special commercial were choices after grade
9. Students who earned it received a certificate after grade
10, grade 12 and grade 13. The number of students graduating
from grade 13 was small.
Student activities were run by the students’ council,
the boys and girls’ athletic societies and various clubs
(Drama, Glee Club, I.S.C.F., etc.). Dances were a big hit (invitation,
Sadie Hawkins, commencement, Valentines, athletic, May Queen).
Skating parties at Cedarena were well attended. The girls’ trumpet
band play an important part in the events like Markham Fairs,
the Santa Claus parade and band competitions. Assemblies were
put on by the students under staff direction, each grade taking
a turn (plays, musical numbers, etc.).
All in all school life in 1954 was at a much slower pace than
today, however, it was very satisfying for both students and
staff. I hope you have caught a glimpse of what it was like.