Original Published on Jun 30, 2022 at 11:45
By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Past students and teachers made their way through the Grande Prairie Composite High School (GPCHS) halls on Sunday to say their last goodbyes before the building is demolished.
The school has been replaced with a new $78.5 million school.
Hundreds of people poured into the school, finding old lockers and classrooms as memories flooded back to them as they stepped into their past.
The gymnasium was full of memorabilia from the school’s almost-60 years of service. Many items were given away or auctioned off with funds going to Grande Prairie Public School Division Education Foundation.
Among the memorabilia were old yearbooks, jerseys, trophies, and the secret recipe to the famous chocolate chip cookies from the cafeteria.
Desiree Lieverse and Ashley Loughead explored their former high school’s halls for the first time since graduating in 2003.
The memories were plentiful as they walked the halls.
“Before I got here, I couldn’t remember anything, which classes I had taken, where I had taken them.
“Now, I can’t believe how many I can remember walking through the building,” said Loughead.
The two friends shared stories of the school’s water balloon fights with St. Joe’s and the many cafeteria meals.
Lieverse had even put a bid on the recipe for the school’s pizza pretzels.
Joanne Sylvester found a previous classmate while wandering the Comp’s halls; she graduated in 1983.
As she walked through the building, she remembered spots like the smoking area where the “cool kids” would be.
“I really miss all the people that I was friends with and hung around with and (wonder) where are they now,” said Sylvester.
“I’m an old heart, so hard to let go of the old times, but I’m glad for the experience.”
Joe LaValley could be found in the mechanic’s lab where he once taught from 2005 to 2014; now he teaches at Charles Spencer High School.
“These old shops, old walls have lots of memories, and to know that they’re likely going to come down here in the next short while is really bittersweet.”
He said he was happy meeting with students from the past and was delighted to see where they were now, with some owning businesses while others were in the trades.
He noted classroom mechanics labs are not built the same anymore.
“The lab space nowadays with new schools is so much smaller than what we had.
“We had (at the GPCHS a) great big 5,000 square foot lab in that main lab there, and now they’re down to like a third of the size.”
“The message to me, I guess, is that people aren’t necessarily putting as much value in what we do here and what we offer, so that’s a little bit tough.”
John Lehners, City of Grande Prairie councillor, could be found recollecting about his time at the GPCHS. He graduated in 1981.
“It’s always nice to kind of come back and reminisce, and it just evokes a lot of memories,” he said.
“It’s going to be with mixed emotions that I see disappear.”
Lehners said his day’s plans included finding his old locker and looking at old class photos while maybe picking up some memorabilia from the gymnasium.
After touring the halls of their previous school, many people stopped at the cafeteria for one last meal of a hamburger and one of the famous chocolate chip cookies.
This item reprinted with permission from Town & Country News, Beaverlodge, Alberta