Uncovering history at Bright’s Grove Public School
Patti Blondin-Grant strained to see what was inside the old water heater.
She was one of about 100 people who joined the students of Bright’s Grove Public School as they opened a 50 year old time capsule recently. Bright’s Grove Public School is the oldest continuously running school in Sarnia-Lambton. It began as Bright’s Grove School 150 years ago on the Brigden Side Road but moved to its current location on Hamilton Road in 1873.
There have been several configurations of the building – another addition for kindergarten rooms is planned this year – but it has always remained the community school on the lake.
Blondin-Grant was in Grade 6 when the time capsule was put together as part of the school’s centennial celebrations.
“It was a wonderful time; there was a bicycle decorating contest, we dressed in period costumes, the teachers had a beard-growing contest; the whole community of Bright’s Grove turned out,” she says. “It was the most exciting thing to happen here.”
Blondin-Grant watched as current principal Yvette Gilfoyle and Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley removed old newspapers, textbooks, a baseball, a pencil sharpener and a Bible from the time capsule. That Bible was her cousins and it brought back memories of school days past.
“I remember walking from Waterworks Sideroad along the lake,” she says. The trek along the lakeshore was especially cold in the winter, so Blondin-Grant would put warm potatoes in her pockets to retain heat. “I was just six years old and my mother was having a heart attack.”
But her mother knew the way well; Wilma Blondin had gone to school in Bright’s Grove as a child, too. Back then it was a one-room school house with 40 kids in a room. “Later they put up a petition to make it two rooms,” says the 82 year old.
The women’s memories are only some of those shared during the event. Gilfoyle says in preparation for the opening of the time capsule, she poured through boxes of things which included the first record books of the school board and lots of photos including some which would not be acceptable now such as a classroom of boys in blackface.
And while the school rediscovered its past, it is also making some history of its own. Each class is submitting items to be placed in a new capsule to be opened 50 years from now.
Among the items to be entombed, one penny for each student, hand prints and pictures of some children, an explanation of social media available now, scrapbooks, a picture of Bright’s Grove from space taken by Sarnia-born Chris Hadfield and a red tie, donated by Mayor Bradley. “It is what all the fashionable people now are wearing,” he said as he donated it to the cause.
That time capsule will be sealed at the end of the school year.
– Heather Wright