Tag Archives: Centre Street School

James and Jessie Panton

James Hoyes Panton was born on May 7th, 1847 in Cupar, Fife, Scotland. He was the son of Agnes (nee Wilkie) Panton and James H. Panton. When James was but one year old, he and his five siblings came to Canada with their parents. They sailed across the Atlantic in May of 1848, a voyage that took two months!

Hardship continued to plague the Panton family throughout their lives. Only six years after arriving in Toronto, James Panton Sr. had fallen victim to cholera. He passed away in July of 1854 leaving his wife and children essentially destitute. Soon after the death of their husband and father a friend living east of Toronto extended an invitation for the family to come live with them.

The family arrived at the Oshawa harbour on November 29, 1855 and traveled 9 miles north to the village of Columbus. James got used to living in the country and began assisting local farmers transport cattle and sheep to Toronto; he developed an interest in prayer at a young age and began attending the local school. In his memoir James notes that “nothing of striking interest occurred in school life.”[1] But something must have become clear to James through these years as he spent the remainder of his life teaching and working in education.

Late in 1886 the family moved closer to Oshawa and things began looking up for the family. They lived in their house rent free, had a number of animals that James cared for and the children continued with their studies in the country school. Though they only stayed there for a year, James was promoted to the fourth book. By December of 1887 the family had yet again moved closer to town, with the school only being one mile away. “At this early age [10 years], the writer began to show signs of being a good scholar, and by the time he was twelve he had reached the proud position of the best if not the first student in the school. At twelve he had learned six books of Euclid’s elements and had a good knowledge of all the subjects taught in a rural school.”[2]

James and his younger sister Jessie continued to excel in their studies. He notes that they “usually carried off all the 1st and 2nd prizes”[3] after examinations. By 1864 James Hoyes Panton had “succeeded in getting a First Class A[4] unlimited”[5] teaching certificate. He was only 17 years old.

Mr. Panton took several teaching jobs throughout the surrounding areas during the course of his career. His first job was at S.S. No. 2 Reach, near Manchester. He was paid $220 per year but had the expense of his own board. At the end of one year, he received a raise of $60 per year. James taught at S.S. No. 2 Reach for two years before his family finally moved to Oshawa in 1866. It was at this time that he was hired as a teacher at another S.S. No. 2, this time in the village of Cedardale with an annual salary of $320. James noted that many of his students were of American descent and quite clever. In 1868 his sister Jessie was appointed his assistant teacher. Olive French notes that Jessie Panton acted as a substitute teacher for her brother when he had to be absent and that she was just a young girl then.[6]

Jessie was born in 1850 in Cupar, Fife, Scotland and had a similar upbringing to her brother, James. After her time assisting her brother at S.S. No. 2, Cedardale School, she taught at one of the Ward Schools, Mary Street. Jessie was the principal, but on officially recognized because of a “board ruling that the headmasters of the ward schools should be male teachers. Her salary was $500 per year.”[7]

By 1885, Miss Panton had become the science teacher at the Centre Street School, though she was paid $100 less. In 1890, Miss Panton had been teaching ‘natural science’, similar to her brother, for five years. Although she briefly considered leaving, the Oshawa Board raised her salary by $100 per year to keep her in the position.

Jessie Panton continued on as the science teacher at Centre Street School until 1905 when she retired. Jessie remained active in her church, St. Andrew’s United; she never married or had any children. Jessie lived at 84 Division Street, which is currently occupied by the Durham Region Courthouse.

James Hoyes Panton died in Woolwich, ON, on February 2, 1898. Woolwich is near the University of Guelph where he was a Professor of Chemistry. Jessie Panton died in Newcastle, ON, on September 6, 1932.

[1] Autobiography. James Hoyes Panton. P.7

[2] Ibid. P.12

[3] Ibid. P. 13

[4] According to Olive French, a Class A certificate meant that you could teach anywhere in the country but had to have at least five years experience. Class A standing also meant that you obtained higher marks than someone with a Class B or Class C standing.

[5] Ibid. P. 13

[6] Jessie Panton would have been approximately 18 years old.

[7] Ross, Douglas. Education in Oshawa. Alger Press. Oshawa. P.64


Leave a comment

Filed under Teachers and Administrators

Physical, Health and Safety, and Religious Education

Physical, Health and Safety Education

Before the year 1929, physical training was taught in a room or in a whole school if the teacher had the space or the time to teach it. Many of them did teach it in the early years.

In September 1929, Mr. E.G. Nichol was employed as teacher of calisthenics. This class was dropped in 1932 because of the depression.

In September 1946, Mr. T.W. Cotie was appointed Vice Principal of Centre Street School with duties half-time as itinerant teacher of Physical Education. In 1947, he was appointed Supervisor of Physical Education. He is still carrying on with that work. In 1952, Mr. J.B. Henderson was appointed Physical Education Supervisor

Religious Instruction

In the year 1943 in September, the ministerial Association began their classes in grade VI and VII, one half-hour period each week.

Leave a comment

Filed under Subjects, Teachers and Administrators

Arts and Crafts and Opportunity Classes

Arts and Crafts


Art was taught by Miss Maude Squires, first in 1919. She was an itinerant teacher until she retired in 1925. No teacher has replaced her. Interest is kept alive through an annual prize which she left in her will on her death in 1936. The arts and crafts supervisor in the year 1947 was Miss F. Hart. She conducted classes in the different schools.


Opportunity Classes


These classes were started first in Centre Street School in 1930 with Mr. Robertson as teacher, followed by Miss Rose Capel. In September 1944 a second class was conducted in Simcoe Street South School with Miss F. McLeod as teacher. It was transferred to Albert Street in 1949.

In September 1949, Miss Madeline Kelly was appointed speech correction teacher, to be followed in 1950 as Primary Supervisor in charge of primary reading as well as the speech training.

In September 1966, the first class for the neurologically impaired [was established] in a total of fourteen Opportunity classes in the city which included Primary, Junior, Senior and intermediate.

Miss Rose Capel’s class was moved to Albert Street School in 1942 to make room for Home Economics in Centre Street School. She remained in Albert Street until the time of her retirement. With the closing of Albert Street School in 1967, that class was sent back to Centre Street.

These classes are entirely financed by the Board of Education.

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools, Subjects, Teachers and Administrators


When Centre Street (E.A. Lovell) School was erected in 1923 a room was especially equipped for a kindergarten. It was a new thing then and was branded by some as “nonsense” and a “waste of money.”

Some of the doctors in the 1860s and 1870s were noticed to have said that small children, even up to the age of seven or eight, should not attend school. They should be home and allowed the freedom of play in the fresh air and sun. This would build up stronger constitutions and also relieve the overcrowding in the schools.

However these ideas have changed with the modern times, children enter kindergarten at the age of five[1]. The attendance is not compulsory but is strongly recommended to the parents.

Kindergarten supplements home training and aids the transition period from home to school life. It teaches the child to work and play with those of his own age, to respect the rights of others and to wait his turn in selecting materials or when playing games.

The late Miss Maude Power was the first teacher who introduced kindergarten. It did not receive a very warm reception at the time.

Miss Greta Ellis, residing at present on the corner of Centre Street and Athol Street West, had been conducting kindergarten classes in her own home in the years 1918 – 1920. She had a room especially equipped for the purpose. Children entered at the age of [five] and the classes were of two hour duration. They were quite popular and were well attended.

When the kindergarten room was ready for the work, the Board of Education hired Miss Greta Ellis as teacher in 1924. At first the classes were small and Miss Ellis taught and played the piano, as well. The first helper, who was hired when the attendance increased, played the piano while Miss Ellis taught. Later the assistants who were engaged as helpers held teacher’s certificates and were required also to be able to play the piano. Miss Ellis was strict and had the work well in hand.

The kindergarten in Centre Street School was the only one for twenty-four years. Children were brought there from all over the city in taxis.

As time went on the attendance became so large other classes had to be started. They were as follows:

            September 1948 – Ritson School, a second kindergarten class

            September 1950 – South Simcoe School – a third kindergarten class

            September 1952 – a fourth kindergarten class was started in Simcoe Street North (now Dr. S.J. Phillips)

In September 1953 – College Hill, Coronation, Duke of Edinburgh and Woodcrest schools opened, each having a kindergarten class. With the passing of years, practically all opposition to kindergarten, for small children, has disappeared.

[1] Today children as young as three years old are enrolled in Junior Kindgerten.

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools

More Recent Public Schools

These have been erected in recent years and are all built of modern design and have the best in equipment.  The Dr. S.J. Phillips School has had two additions built on in 1956 and 1957.  There are now nineteen rooms.  It was originally called Simcoe Street North School.

Adelaide McLaughlin School

Beau Valley School

College Hill School

Conant School

Coronation School

Dr. C.J. Cannon School

Duke of Edinburgh School

Gertrude Colpus School

Grandview School

Hillsdale Public School

Queen Elizabeth School

Sunset Heights School

Vincent Massey School

Woodcrest School

School Namesakes

Dr. C.F. Cannon

Dr. Cannon was the supervising principal of the schools in Oshawa, a number of years ago. Then later when the city became an independent inspectorate he was the first inspector. When he left Oshawa he was appointed Superintendent of Education in Ontario.

Dr. S.J. Phillips

Dr. Phillips was a dentist in Oshawa for a number of years and was a veteran of World War I. When dental inspection was first introduced in the health program in the schools, he was one of the first dentists appointed. He was an ardent worker on the school board for many years.

Gertrude Colpus

Mr. And Mrs. Colpus emigrated from Surrey, England between fifty five and sixty years ago.  Mr Colpus operated a printing business here in the city on Bagot Street. Mrs. Colpus was one of the first women members of the school board and was also a good friend to the Home and School club. She was one who helped to get music instruments started in the schools. Also, a new school [will be named after her] Her daughter, Miss Constance, taught in the public school in Oshawa for some time.

T.R. McEwen

Mr. McEwen was the inspector of the Public Schools in Oshawa for a number of years. Hr was described as having been a “good inspector.”

E.A. Lovell

The name of Centre Street School was changed to “E.A. Lovell” in 1955. Mr. Lovell was a druggist in town for a number of years. He was on the Board of Education and was an ardent worker. However my opinion is that Centre Street School should have kept its original name. Who can say that it is not the ancestor of all the protestant schools in Oshawa today?

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools

General Vanier Secondary School

The biggest project in Secondary education, this year is the building of this Special Vocational School, which will accommodate the students who graduate from the Opportunity classes and other students of limited academic objectives. It is situated on Gibb Street just west of Centre Street. Construction is now being carried on and it will have 16 classrooms, a library, 24 shops and a combination gymnasium auditorium. This school is scheduled to open in 1968. It is officially named the “General Vanier Secondary School.” Mr. C. Pickary is to be the principal.

The total attendance in the secondary schools in Oshawa in the year 1967 was: 12 330.

I am closing this portion of the history with two short poems written by Lyman C. Smith who was principal of Centre Street School – 1882 to 1910. Then when the first Secondary school in Oshawa was completed in 1910, he was principal until 1911.

In The Sunny Land of Youth

In the sunny land of youth

Gather gems thy form to grace

While their path through Womanhood

Thy advancing feet must trace –

Purity, thy brow to light;

Modesty, to grace thy neck;

Truth to sparkle on thy breast;

Charity, thy hand to desk.

Cheek may pale and eyes grow dim,

Burning lip of youth grow cold,

But these gems will keep thee fair

Though by years thou mayst be old.

No Tasks Thy God Hath Given Thee

No tasks thy God hath given thee

Can I to thee unfold;

And did I know, perchance ‘twere best

To leave them still untold.

For, knowing what those tasks would be,

Thy hands might listless fall,

And thou the moments fret away

And leave unfinished, all.

But thinking each to be the last

Thou’lt finish one by one,

And calmly fold thy hands to rest

And know thy work is done.

By Lyman C. Smith.

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools