O’Neill Collegiate Vocational Institute

As a result a new wing was built on the east side of the original building. It had twenty class rooms, three [being] science rooms with the most modern equipment. The assembly hall was capable of seating 1500 [students]. It had a balcony all around which served as a passageway to the classrooms. The gymnasium had the newest lighting; practically a glass roof. The woodwork was chestnut. There were lockers outside the doors of classrooms in the halls for the students. It was described as being fire proof throughout. The Gay Company Limited was the contractors and Messrs. Hutton and Souter of Hamilton were the architects. The total cost was $300 000.

In the spring of 1924, Oshawa became a city and soon the High school became a fully equipped Collegiate Institute with a staff of 20 teachers and an attendance of 500 pupils.

Mr. Adams resigned in 1926 and Albert E. O’Neill took over as principal.

In the Jubilee year, 1927, there were twenty-three teachers on the staff, and the new extension provided ample space for the various departments.

Secondary school work is not confined solely to one group of pupils, those going into professional life. The Commercial Department by that time was one of the strongest in the province. It had developed in response to a growing demand, locally, for provision for students who wish to take position as stenographers and office help in the local places of business. This is what is termed a semi-vocational course. Also in connection with the school, evening technical and vocational classes were held to provide instruction in a variety of subjects.

By the year 1929, industrial expansion and rapid growth of population again brought overcrowding in the high school. After careful study of the entire problem it was decided to build a composite school called “the Oshawa Collegiate and Vocational Institute.” Early in 1929 at the end of the collegiate building, a technical or industrial section was added. The old original building was demolished and replace by a handsome front part and spacious library room.

The formal opening took place on May 1st 1930. An elaborate programme was arranged. The Union Jack was raised on the flag pole by His Worship Mayor Mitchell. A gold key was handed to Sir Joseph Flavelle by Father Bench and he stepped forward and unlocked the door. He then invited the students, who were all present to enter. Afterwards he stepped into the building, followed by the officials, guard of honour and the entire student body and visitors. There is no need of my describing this complete and modern structure. Sir Joseph Flavelle was a wealthy financier living in Toronto at the time. He made large donations to the Universities in Canada. Father Bench was the parish priest of St. Gregory’s Roman Catholic Church at the time.

The O.C.V.I. now had a staff of 30 teachers with three main general departments, the Academic, the Commercial and the Technical. The school was now in the front rank of the schools in Ontario.

Mr. Louis Stevenson was the only teacher present, at the opening of the new wing, who had taught in the old Centre Street School. His thoughts must have gone back to those days and his humble science room in the old school building.

There was a growing demand for trained business personnel and also young men with grounding in various industrial works. Courses in many trades could be given to those who did not wish to continue an academic career after their secondary education was complete. Technical training for young men is carried on in shops in accordance with industry. The shops are located so that noise and vibration will not annoy the academic students. The department is well organized to teach many phases of industry. This was a completely new idea in education, and the public had to be convinced of its value. Mr. O’Neill succeeded in guiding the transition smoothly and the attendance increased to 1000.

The depression years of the thirties saw the enrolment in the Collegiate increase. There was no work for teenage girls and boys, so they stayed in school. Teachers’ salaries had to be cut owing to the financial difficulties of the city. In fact a few times, when the teachers’ salaries were due they had to wait for a few days; there was no money in the treasury to pay them. However, high standards were maintained in the schools.

In the year 1943 or 1945 home economics were taught in the Collegiate for the first time. Miss V. Lidkea instructed the classes in cooking and sewing. Mr. Leonard M. Richer, music director in the Public schools at the time, formed an orchestra at the Collegiate using a group of talented students. It became one of the finest in Ontario. A Glee Club was started in 1927 under the supervision of Mr. L. Unitt.

The O.C.V.I. “Dramatic Club” was a morale builder and groups like the “Arts and Letters Club” and the “Art Sketching” and the “Nature Study Club,” and the guidance of teachers, provided outlets for the energies of those who were interested. Games and sports were high on the list.

The Second World War brought a new challenge to the O.C.V.I. trained workers were needed in the factories of Oshawa for war industry. Under the Ministry of Defence, special classes of training courses for the difficult phases of War effort were organized with special equipment provided. After the War ended the enrolment in the Collegiate grew to 1500. Staggered hours for classes and shifts had to be devised.

Mr. A.E. O’Neill resigned as principal of the O.C.V.I. in 1951, after having completed twenty-five years in the school. His place was taken by Mr. Maurice J. Kirkland who died Oct. 12th 1956. Mr. George Roberts, the first vice principal then took charge of the school. He was later appointed principal of the McLaughlin Collegiate when it was first built. Mr. Roberts was then followed by Mr. A.M. Dixon, who is the principal of the O’Neill Collegiate at present.

The name of the Oshawa Collegiate and Vocational Institute was officially changed to the O’Neill Collegiate (instead of Oshawa) on Sept. 30th 1959.

In 1965, a one story building was erected on the north side of the O’Neill collegiate. It is a complete commercial department. It is very modern in plan, having few windows, artificially lighted and air conditioned. This has been a popular plan for school buildings recently.

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