School History

Kitimat Schools – The First Decade by Fred Taylor


With the decision by the Aluminum Company of Canada to build a smelter at Kitimat, came the need for a school. Mr. Frank Bower, on September 15, 1952, started the school with two support staff and 26 pupils. The Smeltersite School was officially opened on September 26, 1952, by Mr. G.W. Graham, the Prince Rupert School Inspector. Terry Coghlin was your Student Council President that year. Did you know that Mr. Bower was born in Chicago? The Christmas concert was held on December 18, 1952, complete with the “Christmas Story”. June 13 saw a beach party at the cove south of the wharf. The name “Tamitik” was chosen for the school paper. The annex for high school students was added by Easter of 1953. The year ended with 87 pupils – and the first annual, the “Alpha,” was printed.


Mr. Frank Bower was still Principal, along with five support staff. 12 students in senior high, 9 in junior high. Miss Donna Sparks became the first graduate at year’s end. The school was visited by the Right Honourable Vincent Massey on May 20, 1954. Sharon Carlson operated the school store for the Students’ Council – remember the basketball trip to Prince Rupert? John Cruzelle was Sports Rep. Leigh Spicer was in Gr. 9 and Terry Shupe was in Gr. 6.


Mr. Ken Armstrong became Principal and students are in Nechako Centre anxiously awaiting completion of Nechako School. Movies were in the Smeltersite School basement and bus rides were free. Seven students in Grade 11 that year. Students and teachers moved into Nechako School in April 1955.


Mr. John Calum took over duties as Principal and his staff had grown to 14! Mike Kinnear became President of the Students’ Council. Pat Hanna is one of the most popular girls in school. Ray Chenosky was voted most likely to marry in the Leap Year. Basketball was in full swing with competitions against Prince Rupert and Terrace. 10 students in the graduating class that year.


Mr. Calum Principal. We now have 23 teachers, 400 students awaiting completion of high school. We move in every time a classroom is finished. Elvis is coming on strong, giving Bill Haley & the Comets competition. There are now senior and junior basketball teams. The literary field is captured by Faye Tourner, Diane Lumley, Susan Selbie, Beth Jones, Pat Wright and Martin Fossum to name a few. 16 Grads this year.


Mr. Calum Principal. He must like it here! This is the year of the beard contest and some of the 34 support staff sure looked furry by year’s end. Beverly Nelson is valedictorian this year and Gerry Burbidge promises his drums to Ron Burnett. This is the first year for Grade 13. There were “The Snow Shuffle” and “Sadie Hawkins” dances. That year Mr. Gregson taught us how to play blackjack.


John Calum is still your Principal and the Mount Elizabeth High School is finished! Ron Burnett is Student Council President. We now have inter-house sports – soccer, volleyball and, yes, even cheerleaders. That year we had a Hardtimes Dance, a Hearty Hop, The Slush Ball Serenade and even a Jailhouse Rock Dance. The academic award winners for 58/59 wer Susan Selbie, Peter Ehlers and Arvid Hardin.


Mr. Roy Berry is the Principal. With 28 support staff. The beatnik look is in, but we’re still having sock hops. Academic awards for Grade 12 were Dorothy Anne Dodsworth, Benno Przybylski and Gordon Stockman. You had a modern dance club that year and a philatelic club. Some literary giants for the year were Karin Oeverman, Sharon Sestrap, Ian Berry, Vina Starr and Carolyn Kerr. Roger Williams won the mile in 6.6 – 25 grads that year and the valedictorian was Ian Berry.


Mr. Roy Berry in command and Ulrich Schaffer is Prime Minister of Student Government. Grade 13 is now senior matriculation and has 9 students. We now have a junior curling club! John Fortier’s rink to the “A” in the first half-season and Jimmy Mitchell’s rink captured the “A” for the second half. The “Chieftains” are still having trouble with Prince Rupert this year. 43 grads that year and your valedictorian was Mike Fletcher.


Mr. Roy Berry is still your Principal – with 34 support staff. Cheerleaders for the year are Jerilyn Hayes, Margie Forward and Joey Mulder. M.E.H.S. tries its first school broadcasting system for lunchtime entertainment. The literary world sees the emergence of Jose Cousineau, Albert Robinson, Ruth Stockman and Vivian Smith as some of the contributors. 15 Post Grads this year and 52 graduates. Sharon Sestrap was the valedictorian.

A decade of school in Kitimat had passed.

We are using the yearbooks as a source and sometimes they are very informative and sometimes not. Often there is simply too much to tell – too many names, too many events – all we can do is pick up the odd tidbit in passing (this is particularly true of all the sports teams).
1962-63 The school library is missing the annual (our source of tidbits) from 62/63, so if anyone can loan us one to copy, your generosity would be much appreciated!  
1963-64 MEHS (Mount Elizabeth High School) becomes MESS (Mount Elizabeth Secondary School). Gayle Hartnell is the Valedictorian and the literary work in the annual contains works on Beatlemania, Unfair Detentions & Homework (a dreaded disease). Chris Theocharis is Prime Minister of student government and a Prefect System was passed by the House of Commons.  
1964-65 Mount Elizabeth student government sees its first woman Prime Minister in Connie Conrad. The prefect system is still in operation. Roy Berry is still the principal and has the pleasure of signing the school’s new constitution. Bruce Mack  is the valedictorian and the Graduation Candlelight Ceremony begins a tradition. The June “Prom” is a big event. Pat Robertson wins a trip to Ottawa complements of Rotary’s, Adventure in Citizenship and the basketball & volleyball teams are severely shaken when their bus overturns on a return trip from Rupert.
1965-66 Roy Berry is replaced by James Smith as principal. Elgien Trabner is the year’s Rotary Public Speaking Contest winner and is off to Ottawa. Eric Harris is Prime Minister and the Prefect system is still in place. The curling team wins the Northwest Zones.
1966-67 The annual has a cartoon of a computer on the inside cover – it wouldn’t fit on a desk or in a classroom for that matter! We see the first mention of the school song:

Hail, Mount Elizabeth! Make the echoes ring. Cheer, Mount Elizabeth, Sing, you rascals, sing!


No prize without labour, Let the tale be told, Hail Mount Elizabeth, Hail the BLACK AND GOLD!

James Smith is the principal and Detlef Beck is the Prime Minister. School supervision is still in the hands of Prefects and school activities are many and varied. The Chieftains take their first tour to the Provincial Basketball Finals and end up in 9th place. Tamikettes Volleyball and Senior Boys’ Volleyball both win the Northwest Zones. The boys went to Vancouver, the girls didn’t (hmmmm). Susan Hamberg is the valedictorian.


Harley Robertson is the principal and the year was one of “innovation” according to his message in the annual. Clive Barber is Prime Minister. Carnival Day was a big event that  was, “so strenuous that Mr. Vanderstaak (Math Department Head) broke his leg watching it …” Margie Blaikie was Carnival Queen.


This years annual is sparse on tidbits, however, there does seem to be some controversy in the air about Principal Robertson’s responsibility programme. The school board has plans for more construction. Grade 13 is still part of the system.


George Neumann is the new principal. Teeny boppers are alive and well, but Grade 13’s are gone! Protest poetry, love and anti-war is in. Kathy Janas writes:


What is love? Do you call it love when you kill your Brother in war? Do you call it love when you rob a man of his life? Do you call it love when you hate your Brother because he is black? What DO you call love?

1970-71 George Neumann is still in the principal’s chair and will remain there for many years. The yearbook contains a “Necking Permit” … sign of the times? … Nobody listens to the announcements – does anything change? The school population is 1051. Grade 12 quotes are great:

Ivana Korotvickova – Just imagine the silence if everyone would say only what he knows (K. Capek)

Kelly Crozier – Those who dance are thought mad by those who don’t hear the music.

Sharlene Ewing – What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity (Addison).

Shirley McKay – I am, therefore I think.

Doris Loesener – Everyone smiles in the same language.

Thomas Wilson – I’m RED and I’m PROUD.

Dave Daniels – I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

Gordon Hanford – Although always prepared for martyrdom I prefer that it should be postponed.

Roy Hartmann – Someone once told me truth was a great white bird. Here are some purple feathers I found. SB, BC, DG, DJ, AR, GS, MS, … most of Grad ’71.

Marie Marcos – I never resist temptation because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me.

Sylvia Bors – Seek ye first the good things in life and the rest will either be supplied or its loss shall not be felt (F. Bacon).

Paramjeet Virk – How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

Allyster Norman – In the memorable words of General McArthur as he left the Philippines in 1944 – “I shall return.” – next year.

Carminda Amado – Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.

1971-72 GN still at the helm. The new Superintendent of Schools mandates Bible readings every morning. A nuclear bomb test planned on  Amchitka Island spawns a student protest – students walk out – the test happens. Vending machines are introduced to the school.  
1972-73 The Skipper’s Association is alive and well and publishes a list of 35 excuses to give parents. Mount Elizabeth uses its FIRST COMPUTER.
1973-74 Mount Elizabeth gets a new library! (Yes, George Neumann is still principal.). Mark Zielinski (you know, the firefighter) has LONG hair and seems to spend a lot of time “borrowing” food from Mrs. Keller’s home economics room. Mr. Krickan looks to be about 15 years old. All is alive and well at MESS.
1974-75 The Tamitik Staffers struggle with each other (and prove that even in the good old days students spelled “a lot”, “alot”).  Student council, led by Debbie Van Ek,  is negotiating dance regulations with the staff and a raft race is lost (we’re not certain if they ever found it). The Rotary Exchange introduces Kerry Ennis from New Zealand.
1975-76 The principal? George Neumann. Curling is big this year and sponsors a 20 team Bonspiel. The Bowling Club has 150 members! Grade 8’s are Munchkins and dances are big with C-Fun (the 70’s Much Music – but better). We also see the first sign of the MESS Crest in this year’s annual. Exchange student (Rotary) – Caroline Ford from Australia.
1976-77 The MESSCrest makes the cover of the annual. George Neumann is still principal and this is the year of Rudy Schmidt – a real myth. We quote,

As the dense fog rolls in from Douglas Channel, and the drizzling rain falls down upon an uncivilized earth, a small figure is making his way toward a heavenly glow situated in the shadow of the great Mount Elizabeth.

This unpretentious figure goes by the name of Rudy Schmidt! With such an unseemly name and murky background, Rudy is loved by no one and is as low and uncool as they come. He has been sickened by the total absence of culture, knowledge and overall barbarianism of the world and has finally, after many years of traveling, come to the only centre of civilized people on Earth … MESS.

The people welcomed Rudy.

Rudy was very thankful, so he studied hard for five long years, much to the boss’s pleasure and delight. Often he wanted to drop his courses but his counsellors were always ready at his elbow to urge him on. Often he “wandered the halls” and “haunted the cafeteria”, but Mrs. Cook and Mr. Rutherford, “wandering the halls” and “haunting the cafeteria” themselves, always put Rudy back on the right track.

When they failed in their task though, there was still the council for Defense to help him. In many ways, Rudy was a typical inmate of M.E.S.S. Grade 8 was a cinch for him, but Initiation Day was a killer. (The costumes they had to wear!)

Grade 9 went smoothly but his still uncivilized manners brought groans to his teachers’ lips.

Grade 10 found him trying to be better and he held himself aloof from the 8 and 9 rabble.

Grade 11 saw him taking life seriously and really working to be cool.

And after four years of hard labour, he saw himself realizing his goals. He was cool, he was tuff, he was the star of the volleyball team and the M.E.S.S. cheerleaders loved him.

It was a sad, sad, sad day when Rudy left to do his life’s work, making the world a better place in which to live. Everyone knew he had to go, but they also knew they would miss him a lot.

There were slave days, kangaroo court, initiation day, dress-up day and literary works galore. Rotary Exchange student is Brian Day from Australia.
1977-78 Principal? George Neumann. The “Necking Permit” is back in the yearbook. Our Mr. Striker is in Grade 10 and is probably making good use of the Permit. Lots of pictures in the annual but few captions. Rotary Exchange brings us, Bela Araujo, from Brazil.
1978-79 Sr. Boys’ Basketball (Chieftans are something else – 3rd in Burnaby Central Tournament & 3rd in Dutchess Park Condor Classic). Mr. Stiker is on that team. The Junior Boys’ place 6th in the Provincials and the Jr. Girls’ Orca Basketball win 8 tournaments throughout the province (teams traveled in those days) and 3rd in the Provincials. Mr. MacAulay was coach! Band is huge! Rotary Exchange? Mike Morris from South Africa.
1979-80 GN is principal. Marinda Matthews is a Rotary exchange student from New Zealand.
1980-81 George Neumann is still principal. Athletics are strong and Gunter Staub is a Rotary Exchange student from Wolfhagen, Germany; Tammie Guise leaves MESS for Japan. The music programme is strong and students are going to Russia & France. Initiation day is wild, and Kangaroo Court Judges all.
1981-82 It’s the year of theatre, with Conscious of a Dream winning the N.W. Zone Drama Festival; Jorge Rocha Art, Fred Wilson photography; and a crew that builds a trail to the summit of Mount Elizabeth. Initiation Day is alive and well. The Candle Light Ceremony is still in the Big Gym and the Social Studies curriculum takes a bunch to Barkerville. Rotary Exchange is Gavin Mcvean from Australia’s New South Wales.
1982-83 George Neumann is Chief Dealer (Yearbook theme is Royal House). Dress-up day, Kangaroo Court, Initiation Day, and Spirit Week are big. Kim Graham & Karen Sommer head to Victoria to join Youth Parliament. We see the first mention of Education cutbacks in the annual – hitting Sr. Boys’ Soccer.
1983-84 George Neumann is a 5 Star General this year. The school has 15 Apple II Plus microcomputers! The student council constitution is revised to encourage more involvement. Yola Dravik attends Forum 84 in Ottawa and Sherrie Howard & Karen Sommor head for Youth Parliament. Two Rotary Exchange Students: Haruko Akiba from Takasaki, Japan and Amanda Paddon from Invercargill, New Zealand. We have Careers Week, Science Fair. The Outdoor Club heads for the Queen Charlotte’s & Mount Cronen (in the 7 Sisters). 1984-85 Big change … Pat Meehan is now the principal. Photography, Poetry and First Nations’ Design play a prominent role. Elisa Sguazzin, Michelle Levesque, Regine LeDevhat, Laura Gonzale & Sherri-Anne Wade produce Between Thorns (a film). Education Canada brings 3 students from Hudson Heights, Quebec to visit and MESS students went to Ontario and Newfoundland.
1985-86 Pat Meehan is still principal. The yearbook theme is “MESS Dictionary”, “School life is a challenge just like a game of Scrabble.” The Senior Boys’ Basketball Team (Rebels), coached by Tony McCrory, made it to the provincial finals in Vancouver. Dungeons & Dragons was “in”. The music programme included six different bands, including Concert Bands, a Stage Band and a Cabaret band. As usual drama productions were big and successful, with MESS hosting the Skeena Zone Drama Festival.
1986-87 Pat Meehan’s third and final year at the helm. The yearbook theme is “MESS Olympics”. Big social events are the Halloween Dance, Moga Madness & a Toga Dance. Junior Girls’ Volleyball wins the Zone Title and our Girls’ Soccer team wins Gold at the Northern B.C. Winter Games. Other wins include the Jr. Boys’ Soccer team – zone champions for the second year in a row, and Jr. Girls’ Basketball who win their zone championships. The Orange Door Theatre Company is created. Things loosen up with Teddy Bear Day, Spirit Week & Hawaiian Day. MESS Corner school store begins.
1987-88 Sharon Beedle is the new principal of MESS. The yearbook theme is “MESS Notes” & MESS Corner is in its 2nd year. Sports are big with Sr. Boys’ Volleyball winning Zones and Junior Boys’ Soccer taking their 3rd consecutive zone championship. Sr. Girls’ Soccer wins at winter games! First EVER combined Mr. & Mrs. Irresistable Day – the couple on stage, Jason Howell & Rachel Slanina. Car wash money goes to the Aluminum City Telethon, and Shades Day darkens the hallways.
1988-89 Sharon Beedle is back in the principal role. Travel is the “thing” this year – goes along with the theme … “Off the Wall”. The Student Adventure Club heads out to Greece & Italy and 8 students and 2 teachers travel to China to compare Alcan Smelters in Kitimat with one built in the Chinese city, Shenzhen. There are trike races and a big Halloween Dance. Mess hosts the Skeena Zond High School Drama Festival.
1989-90 Sharon Beedle is the principal. There is a big Halloween Dance and an “Air Band” competition (funds donated to the Christmas Hamper & Heart Foundation. Sr. Boys Volleyball wins the zone championship as does Jr. Girl’s Volleyball (5th time in 6 years). Other teams also do well with Grade 8 Boys & Girls, Sr. Boy’s & Girl’s all taking Zone Championships (Boys winning “AA”). 30 hour Famine – students raise $3700 for World Vision.
1990-91 New Principal – John Gaiptman. This year 30 Hour Famine has over 100 students participating and raises over $5000 for famine relief (March 1 & 2). Another big Halloween Dance. Caps & Gowns for the first time at MESS Grad … first “Dry Grad” as well. Students protest at School Board Office … anybody remember why? Jr. Boys’ Basketball wins Gold at the Northern BC Winter Games. The Girls’ Orca’s take zones. Peer Helpers wins an award from the BC School Trustees’ Association. KUTE begins a programme of environmental awareness.
1991-92 John Gaiptman is the Principal for the second year. “Battle of the Sexes” is big and the Girls win! Trike races are won by the “Cable Car Connection Team.” Dana Hand and Tina Bradley win “Best Costume” at the Halloween Dance. Dec. 6th saw the Winter Wonderland Ball sponsored by the Grad Club “… door prizes, good tunes, and loads of people.” More fun with the Senior Leg Auction, the Gong Show & the Dating Game. Dance Club begins.
1992-93 3rd year for John Gaiptman in Principal role. Over 60 teams participate in the “fun filled week” of the Battle of the Sexes – females win for the 2nd year in a row … winning team is the “Jelly Bellies”. Events include: trike races, slothes line, relays, scavenger hunt & pumpkin carving contest. Christmas Hamper Drive is very successful and Mr. Dryvynsyde’s class wins the Classroom Decorating Contest. SAVE collects money to buy plots of rainforest. Cross Country team goes to the provincial’s in Abbotsford. 14 students spend Spring Break in London & Paris, illustrating the yearbook theme, “Best of All Worlds”!
1993-94 New Principal – Randy Smalbrugge takes the helm. Yearbook theme, “Picture This …”. Silly sports week early in the year … Head Bowling (really?), Balloon Relay, Bat Relay, Grapefruit Challenge, & Pumpkin Carving Contest! Kids “… sweat to the oldies” at the Greaser Dance. 23% of new Grade 8’s admit to being lost at least once in the first week of classes. Grade 12 “Car Wash” is … wet! Good teacher quotes for the year: Mr. Dryvynsyde, “Quickly as a herd of pregnant turtles.” Mrs. Fulsom, “I won’t talk that long today.”
1994-95 Randy Smalbrugge back for the second year as principal.