Brownsville school reunion celebrates 100th anniversary

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When you walked into the Brownsville Community Centre last Wednesday afternoon, you knew right away it was going to be a special occasion.

A '100 Years' banner greeted the Brownsville School Reunion participants, just over 100 in total, in the lobby.

"More than 100, we found more people since we last talked," said co-organizer Florence Baldwin.

Tillsonburg’s George Beard, one of the school’s two surviving teachers, was the only teacher at Wednesday’s reunion. The 82-year-old taught in Brownsville starting in 1956.

“We were just like one big family,” said Beard. “I knew all the parents and they knew me. We spent time out in the yard playing ball and soccer.

"Going down the chute, outside, the escape pipe," he smiled, "which is against the law today.”

Some of his former students recognized Beard, and he, of course, recognized some of them.

“I taught quite a few of them,” he nodded.

“I went from ’59 to ’67,” said Marion Honsberger, a contact person for the 2014 reunion, who went on to attend Grade 9 at Glendale High School in Tillsonburg. “This is my second reunion. I love seeing people I haven’t seen in 40 years or so.”

Brownsville’s first school was built in 1914, and over the years it evolved and changed locations, eventually closing in the late 1969. The rural students, although many have moved away, have been coming back the school for several years now.

“One of my brothers was two years behind me, and he graduated from Brownsville. Another one, another year back, he had to go to Maple Lane (Tillsonburg).”

“The farthest away, today, would be the Brown girls, Helen and Eileen,” said Baldwin. “They are from… Pickering."

Five of them, including Helen Brown, attended the school in the same grade, four of them started together in 1936 (Grade 1) until their Continuation School Grade 12 graduation in 1948.

"I came later," Brown smiled, "but I can't remember when."

As part of Wednesday's 100th reunion celebration, participants enjoyed a pot luck lunch, and later released 100 blue and gold balloons in the school colours.

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