By Dan Walton
The high school experience has become part of the collective heritage in Oliver, and all of the local alumni were invited to a reunion of rediscovery last weekend.
The old gym still has that same smell, some longtime alumni were still cursing their least-favourite teachers, and debate continues over the effectiveness of “the strap.” “Sure it worked,” said Steve Forty from the class of 1967. “Look at us now, we survived.”
Another graduate of 1967, Richard Thompson, said, “It worked with some people and others it didn’t.”
“No it didn’t,” argued Jamie Hutton, another 1967 grad. “Look at David (last name withheld), he got paddled every day – probably 100 times in a year – and he would just sit there and grin.”
Some punishments have become relics of the past. The graduates of ‘67 recalled the discipline practices of their Grade 6 teacher, who would strike students with a metre stick when he decided the strap wasn’t severe enough, and also “baked” misbehaving students in 40-degree weather as punishment. “He’d whale on us.”
The older alumni especially were impressed by how modern the current high school is. During their tour of Southern Okanagan Secondary School last weekend, it was mentioned that students from Osoyoos Secondary School were nearly amalgamated into Oliver before the province stepped in and saved the school with a big injection of cash.
“Why wouldn’t they want to come to this fabulous school?” asked one alumni, adding that a long time ago, some students commuted to Oliver from as far away as Rock Creek. That led to a brief debate over the balance of higher quality programming and the desire to have a school located in the same community.
While touring the present SOSS, the fire that gutted the school in 2011 was a major theme during the tours. Blueprints for the new building worked off of the previous foundation and design. Where the cafeteria used to be is now a classroom, and when that fact was revealed during the tour, many alumni were surprised, producing some audible “Oooos” and “Awwwws.”
Only a week before the 2011 fire, Henning Mundel, a graduate from 1960, was reminiscing and recording stories about Oliver’s high school with former classmates and members of his family. Mundel was devastated by news that the old school had burned down. But when he returned to Oliver for a smaller high school reunion in 2015, he saw the present version of SOSS.
“It was such a relief,” he said. A phoenix has risen from the ashes in so many ways.”
His wife Bev was very appreciative that the Frank Venables Theatre was used as part of the reunion, as it wasn’t able to be in 2015. She said it was a big extension to the event.
David Amor from the class of 1965, who now lives in the State of Illinois, has also returned to Oliver for reunions in the past, but only with people the same age as him before last weekend.
“I really enjoyed encountering people who were not just from my class but people that I knew from other classes,” Amor said.