Memories of Rolph Street Public School

Rolph Street Public School in Tillsonburg celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 with an open house and tours of the school. jpg, SR

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No longer needed by Thames Valley District School Board after the 2014-15 school year, historic Rolph Street Public School in Tillsonburg was sold.

The Grade 6 students of 2015 were its final graduates, but unlike previous years the entire body of 320 students transitioned to new schools.

“Everyone’s really nice, the teachers are really nice… I’ll miss this place,” said Grade 6 tour guide Keeva Ramers during a May 2015 open house.

“I feel like I’ve made history,” said Grade 6 student Amy Meharg, “but we would have moved out anyways because this is our last year.”

“It’s been a long process,” said teacher Joy White, a former Rolph Street student and organizer of the school’s 100th anniversary in 2012. “I think it’s one of those things that really doesn’t hit home until it actually happens. Most of the kids are excited, on the one hand, because they’re looking forward to the great big playground we’ll have – with grass – and that’s going to be wonderful. But on the other hand, they know they’re not going to be with exactly the same classmates.”

As they got closer to the school’s final days, White said students were starting to feel nostalgic.

“You can feel it in the halls a little. The kids have been stopping a lot to look at the old pictures we put up. There’s definitely a little bit of an air of nostalgia throughout the school, but excitement as well.”

Nostalgia was a feeling shared by visitors at the school’s final 2015 open house, at the 100th anniversary in 2012, and the 75th anniversary in 1987.

“A lot of memories, a lot of memories,” said Linda Zilic in 2015. “They’ve done some renovations, but it’s pretty much the same as it was. It’s just a really important part of Tillsonburg. I’ve been here 43 years – I taught here for about 15 years and my kids went here too. It’s part of our family.

“It’s a beautiful building. The beautiful hardwood doors (and floors), the large hallways, you don’t see that any more. There’s a lot of natural light,” she said, praising the windows that were designed to make bright, cheery schoolrooms.

“It was built with original Tillson brick, they told us.”

At the age of 90, Bert Newman (1897-1992) was the oldest former student to attend the 75th anniversary. One of the school’s originals in 1913, he recalled drinking fountains in the new school, electric lights, and even flushing toilets.

“And boy did we have fun flushing those toilets whether we needed them or not,” he said at the anniversary.

The school’s 2015 farewell plaque reads, “It is only natural that we feel nostalgic as we say goodbye to this building. But schools are much more than buildings and we can look forward to continuing the tradition of excellence that is a part of all Tillsonburg schools.”