West Hill High School Memories


Bill Falconer (Class of '44) See Virtual Student Council page
Montreal was a large city where most of the people spoke French. I didn't, at least not very well. The English-speaking and French-speaking people lived in different parts of the city . The schools were "public "-paid for with taxes, but seemed like private schools. Students were separated by language and religion. There were different schools for French Catholics and English Catholics. Everyone else, including the Jewish kids went to the Protestant schools. Doesn't that sound crazy! Teachers were sorted out that way too. As most French speaking teachers were Catholic, the French teachers in the Protestant schools were English. Maybe that is why I couldn't speak French very well. Like in private schools, girls wore uniforms-a white blouse and a black jumper. Boys wore ties with a jacket or sweater.
I said I entered West Hill High at the age of 12 .Well, it didn't really turn out to be like high school. We had to go to grade eight in an elementary school, Herbert Symonds, as West Hill was overcrowded. It seemed more like a junior high. I did meet new friends who came from other elementary schools. Some of them were at my 50th McGill University reunion in 1998 !  Then I was off to ninth grade at West Hill.It was very different from high schools now. The building was three stories high. ( Before I forget, guess what it is today? A retirement home. that's what !Some people who went there now live there !!!) I've already mentioned uniforms, shirts and ties . But guess what. Boys and girls were at opposite ends of the school and they used separate entrances. Boys were taught by men,girls by women -except for some special teachers, like for art and music. Teachers wore academic robes which look like black choir gowns . It seems to me that teachers were older then than they are now! You stayed in your home room and the teachers moved from class to class, except when you went to do lab work .Now doesn't that sound like fun !
It was probably five miles from home to West Hill and we all went home for lunch .None of the kids had cars so we walked ,biked or rode the streetcar.The streetcar was especially useful at midday as we didn't have much time for lunch. Student streetcar tickets were seven for twenty -five cents . After school we would go to Julie's, a soda fountain. A sundae or soda cost about fifteen cents and a cone cost five. A movie ticket cost 20 or 25 cents. However when I worked pumping gas I only made 15 cents an hour . Most kids hung out at the YMCA (no malls then )for sports and on Friday nights, dances in the Youth Hall to a jukebox and sometimes in the gym to a band . Later on I played in the band there . The "Y"had an outdoor stage called the "Bonfire Theater" where they put on shows, movies and community singing.
Playing popular music wasn't encouraged at West Hill although I was in a small group that played Benny Goodman music before an assembly-only once! The school put on a musical every year, directed by Mr. Jones and the improbably named Miss Dumbell .I was a spear carrier in the chorus of Gilbert and Sullivan's " Yeomen of the Guard ". We were fortunate to have as consultants Mr. and Mrs. Harry Norris, experts on G&S , who had worked in the famous D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in London. On opening night we got the news that Franklin Roosevelt had died. He had been president of the US since I was in kindergarten ! We opened with "The Star Spangled Banner" (this was in Canada) and I will never forget that night .
Extracted from  Grandpa Bill's Story. Reprinted with the author's permission (Bill now lives in North Carolina)

Donald Morison Smith (November 19 1925 - December 8 1993 )
In 1930 Donald attended Kensington Public School in N.D.G. where he and his peers sang lustily "The Maple Leaf Forever" and not so lustily, "The Ash Grove". It was in November of 1930 that Don contracted scarlet fever which caused some heart damage. In 1938 Don went on to Westhill High School where he encountered an inspired classics teacher, Edgar Davidson. "Davey" had a profound influence on Donald's development both culturally and academically. Don's motto in the 1942 yearbook was a quotation from Thackeray "Vanitas vanitarum, all is vanity saith the preacher."
Extracted from Transcript of Memorial Service

Bruce Barnes
 I remember Hewson at West Hill but not at Monklands.  I think he was a Vice-Principal because a Mr. Unsworth was principal at West Hill.  The  new  West Hill opened around 1952 or 3 so I don't know what the feeling  was.  My  first impression was "Wow", what a place compared to dingy and dim  Westward.  It had so much more in the way of facilities, from auditorium to swimming  pool, to special visual arts rooms.  It was the largest physical plant  high  school in Canada at the time, but not in terms of numbers of students.

Leslie Coppold (attended 1927 through 1929) see Notable Students page
I remember long walks to school through farm fields. It was important to know which farms had dogs and which didn't in order to avoid being chased. In those days the farms stretched to Cote de Liesse and I remember watching the French teacher walk to the school though the snow on snowshoes. The art room was on the west side of the school in the new extension, and it was just a double room that faced north. The inkwells were a problem because I am lefthanded and they were placed on the right side of the desk that caused me to leave a trail of ink, sometimes, across the desk. The school was divided into a girls and boys side with seperate entrances. Of course no student was allowed to use the main entrance. When I arrived from Herbert Symonds School there were still grade 6 and 7 classes being held in the school. I  remember the Hamiltons who were both very interested in airplanes. We once skipped school so that one of them could take a $5 ride in a DeHavilland biplane. It was his first flight ever. He later became a flight instructor and both he and his brother died during WWII. I left West Hill to attend art school, but returned in 1933 to help the students in the classroom. Later, in the 1940s, through Mrs. Moss I was able to use the classroom to work on some of my own projects. (from a visit with Leslie Coppold in May 2003)

Basil Jesshope (Class of '38)
Reading the Classmates page was very interesting, but it did make me feel old.  The earliest message I saw was from a 1943 graduate and she felt old.  I graduated from WHHS in 1938 in grade 11 or class 4BA.  In those days the boys occupied the west half and the girls the east half.  I came there from Westmount High, the logical grade 10 school for us that lived in Pointe Claire (Cedar Park). In 1940, I started on a C.A. program and attended night school at McGill.  In 1941, I joined the RCAF and was in the first batch of the Commonwealth Training program for radio mechanics - later to be known as RADAR - at McGill under Dr. Keys.  in 1940/41, and again in 1945/46, McGill was one of my audits - The Royal Institute for the Advancement of Learning.I discontinued my CA apprenticeship in 1946 when my war-bride wife arrived in Canada (Montreal).  I did not pick up my formal academic education until 1971 when I entered Trent University and achieved a B.A. in Sociology and Economics, which furthered my career with Statistics Canada.I want to thank you for helping me keep in touch with memories of some very early days.  I knew that the current West Hill High School was now on Somerled but I had not been aware of the changes in-between.


William Shatner (attended 1946) see Notable Students page
From  Professionally Speaking, the magazine of the Ontario College of Teachers, (Courtesy of Keith Clark MHS '59) 
"Shatner doesn't recall individual teachers at Willingdon Elementary School and he says his memories of West Hill High School are almost as foggy. What he was most interested in then was football, and he does remember Mr. Chesney, the football coach and physical education teacher. “He put together a good team, and we won all sorts of city championships".
Note: Shatner also points out he grew up on Marcil Ave. 
 
Full article at: http://www.oct.ca/publications/professionally_speaking/june_2007/remarkable.asp


Dorothy Strickland (attended 1923-24)

Dorothy was unique in that she was a student at the school, served as the school secretary from 1927-1940 and married one of the West Hill teachers, George Brown. In 2009 she shared her memories with us. Her story can be seen here and her recollections sent to us in a letter here. Dorothy passed away on May 10 2010 in Montreal at the age of 100.