Lyman C. Smith

Mr. Smith had earned for himself the title of “Stinger” by this time and he somewhat merited the name. A good clout of the strap helped him to keep things under control. Although he was gruff and had a furious temper he could be quite jovial on occasions and he certainly was kind. Most of the students liked him and realized his worth. He was among the best of the teachers of classics and English in the province. He always insisted, in the Latin classes, that the language should pronounce in English as it was spelled. He said if a Roman could have come back, then, he would laugh to hear some of the pronunciations that were being used with his language. No one living today had any idea of how it was originally pronounced. He was an excellent reading teacher as well and often read passages or poems to the class, himself. One could realize his love of literature when he did so.

He occupied himself around his home as well; it was situated on the corner of Elgin Street and Simcoe Street.[1] He had a fine team of carriage horses; there was a barn and workshop on his property. When cars first came out he said it looked like a hearse.

He left the school in 1911 to take a position in the customs office. Shortly afterwards the government changed and being on the wrong side of politics he was soon let out of there. However, he went to Cornwall and was head of the classics department in that town for a few years. When he retired he returned to Oshawa and spent his last days in his old home.

As mentioned before Lyman C. Smith took over as headmaster at Centre Street School, after Mr. Tamblyn. He received a salary of $1200 per year at first. This was later increased to $1300.

His home[town] was near Hamilton. He was a very clever person and a gold medallist in the University of Toronto. He could read in three languages which was an accomplishment in those days. He wrote poetry of some merit; a few people in the city now, have copies of his poems.

He was a stern disciplinarian and his pupils soon found out there was to be no nonsense. It was a brave person who did not obey or do the work that was assigned by him.

Mr. Smith found that secondary education was lagging in Oshawa and only a few, according to the size of the place, were taking it up. He proceeded to remedy that situation if he could.

In the year 1883 he was appointed Headmaster of all the schools in town. Mary Street and Albert Street had their own principals up to that time. He then put the Normal School system of study in force in the public schools. It was greeted with opposition of course, by some who did not like “them new-fangled ideas.” Nevertheless the high school began to receive a larger share of the students. By the early 1900s, the high school occupied one half of the space in Centre Street School and there were five teachers. Those teachers managed the best they could in cramped quarters. The first and second forms of matriculation and commercial students were together, occupying two years duration at that time. The third and fourth forms, matriculation were together in one room, not many had gone that far in school. A small room on the second floor was used for typing and the science room was a larger one on the main floor.

Mr. Smith conducted assembly for the secondary students every morning while they were in the Centre Street school building. The staff and all the students crammed into one room at 9 a.m. for prayers. Benches took care of the extra seating. A pupil who could play the piano led in the singing of a hymn. Verses were read from the Bible and suitable prayers for schools followed. After devotions were over, if Mr. Smith had anything to lecture the school about, he took that opportunity to do so.

Prayers were said in the public schools at 9 a.m. Verses were read from the Bible that were assigned by the Department of Education and the Lord’s Prayer was repeated. Some of the teachers conducted a short devotional period just before dismissal at 4 p.m. This was optional.

Another escapade took place in Centre Street Public School in 1888 or 1889; this one was not serious but it emptied one of the rooms for a half of a day. One of the pupils, Maisie, aged ten years, whose father kept bees, thought she would see what could be done about a half holiday on a one nice day in the spring. She had no fear of bees whatever and could go out among the bee hives at her home and pick out the drones and the other bees did not attack her. It is believed that those insects are aware of it, when anyone is afraid of them. Drones are male bees and do not sting. At lunch time that day, she put a few drones in her pocket before she left to go back to school. After the bell rang and things got settled down in her room, she let the bees go. There was a near panic of course; no one else knew that the bees were drones. There was no need to dismiss the room; the room dismissed itself, teacher and all. How she ever dared to do a thing like that when Mr. Smith was principal was a question. She must have been brave. No doubt she was punished at school; the teachers wouldn’t have seen any joke about it like her father did. She happened to be my cousin, he was C.S. French.[2]

The period 1895 – 1910 saw Centre Street School in difficulty once more with overcrowding and again more classroom space had to be found. The Sons’ Hall was being pressed into service to take care of the junior classes. There was a small white clapboard building, the “old Christian church,” situated in Memorial Park about opposite the front door of the present E.A. Lovell School. The school trustees obtained permission to use it for classroom purposes. In 1906, it was bought by them and moved to Centre Street school ground. It could be said to be the first annex to a school building in Oshawa.

Mr. Smith continued to be the principal of the Oshawa schools until 1910, and besides this he taught Latin, Greek and English in the Secondary school. He received a small salary considering the work he was expected to do. During the years 1895 – 1900 quite a number of students won scholarships in the Toronto University in various departments. It spoke well for the Oshawa schools.

By the year 1909, the population of the town had increased rapidly and four room additions were built on both Albert Street and Mary Street schools.

King Street School was also built in 1909, it was of modern construction. It had eight rooms and was the first one to be erected with all the modern improvements, lighting, fire proofing, play room capacity and equipment. It could accommodate three hundred pupils.

Also in the year 1908, it had become very evident that a separate building for secondary students was a must. More and better equipment was needed as well as more classroom space. Further interest was being taken in secondary education, but the numbers were limited, people were very cautious. Some of the best of the scholars were being encouraged to take up various professions. More students were entering the commercial department; there was a growing demand for office personnel. By this time also more pupils were coming in to Centre street high school from the rural areas. They paid non-resident fees if their parents were not property owners in the corporation. Some of the pupils walked two or three miles, each way, to school every day.

Mr. Smith said that the pupils who came from the ungraded schools in the rural parts were as well prepared for high school work as the ones from the graded schools in town. When the classes were all in one room, like they were in the country, children in the junior grades heard the lessons being taught to the seniors. They of course could remember a certain amount of it.

After years of discussion, about thirty in all, the new High school building on Simcoe Street North was finally ready for classes in the fall of 1910. The five secondary teachers, then in Centre Street School and about 150 students moved into the building. Miss Flossie J. Armstrong joined the staff at that time. Centre Street School was then a public school only, after having been a Union school since 1864. Mr. Smith continued to be principal in the High school, the public schools had their own principals. To be principal of a school in the earlier years did not mean much to a teacher. The salary was not increased by any appreciable amount.

The following is a list of the principals who followed Mr. Smith in Centre Street School.

                        Mr. James W. Milne – 1911

                        Miss Mary E. Luke    – 1912 – 1915

                        Miss Minnie Hay       – 1916 – 1917

                        Miss Mary E. Luke    – 1917 – 1918

                        Miss Elise Matheson – 1918 – 1919

                        Miss Etta Homes       – 1919 – 2925

                        Mr. Graham                 – 1924 – 1925 (filled in part of the year)

                        Mr. A. Jacklin              – 1925 – 1952

                        Mr. R.H. Broadbent   – 1952 – 1967

[1] Just south of St. Gregory Church and Catholic School

[2] Most likely Carpus French, a machinist and Olive’s cousin Mable, who would have been 12 or 13 years old at the time.


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