Glen Easterbrook says from its very beginning, Brigden Public School had a sense of community.
Easterbrook was the first principal of the elementary school which was one of two built in then Moore Township in 1963. He returned to Brigden Saturday to help the school celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Easterbrook recalls working with the six staff members hired from the one-room schoolhouses dotted about the township before the students arrived. There was “a lot of groundwork to do” to bring everyone together before classes started.
Easterbrook told the crowd gathered in the gym to celebrate the history that once school began, there was a great deal of pride in the sense of community and a gentle kindness to the children who attended. He remembered the first janitor who “recognized some kids didn’t have much to eat” who, along with some students, carefully collected the unused food from lunch and gave the remains away to those in need.
The pride of community at the school grew as the years wore on. Tim Brown, a Petrolia Town Councilor and former student from Brigden, says part of that was due to the schools athletic strength. “All the other schools envied us because we used to dominate, especially in cross country,” he said as he looked around the gymnasium circled with pennants.
And while there was a sense of school community, the village of Bridgen has also been present in the school. Brigden Public School was one of the first schools in the province to have a library in it. Charlie Nesbitt, the chairperson of the board which built the school, says that opportunity came about when the library at the postal outlet had to be moved. It is still housed in the school today.
Nesbitt, who also spoke, says then Education Minister William Davis came to the school’s opening, nearly 50 years to the day of the anniversary celebration. There was concern at that time the province was considering county school boards and Nesbitt approached him about it.
“I recall very clearly what he said, he said ‘Mr. Nesbitt, you’ve got exactly what we want right here.’”