Anne Wintersgill (née Stegman) was surprised to see a copy of her graduation photo in a recent print edition of the Alberni Valley News.
The photo was taken during the 1964 graduation dance for Smith Memorial School, and featured a photo of 16 youth in formal wear.
Smith Memorial School (“Everyone just called it Smith School,” says Wintersgill) was the Alberni Valley’s first Catholic school and was run as a separate school system to Port Alberni’s public school. It was also paid for by parents and the Roman Catholic Church.
Jan Peterson wrote a small history of the beginnings of Smith School in Twin Cities: Alberni-Port Alberni, one of four books she has written on the history of the area.
While the late Father William Smith spent 20 years saving money to build a school, he never lived to see his dream realized. After his death in 1950 the church negotiated to buy Arrowsmith Lodge, the former site of an army hospital. The hospital was between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, and Maitland and Morton Streets—now the site of Our Home on Eighth shelter and the new low energy housing project currently under construction.
The lodge—which has been used as a boarding house by owners Bloedel, Stewart and Welch—was converted into classrooms by a group of volunteers and opened Sept. 4, 1951 with 151 students from Grades 3–8, according to Peterson. The school was eventually expanded to include every grade up to Grade 12.
To learn more about the history of the Alberni Valley, check out the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com.
Editor’s note: The June 23, 2021 Alberni Valley News print edition that featured this photo contained a misspelling of Anne Stegman’s name in the list of names below the photo.