Chet Greason, Gazette Staff
In 1988, a time capsule was buried under a commemorative stone in Stratford Northwestern’s outdoor common area in recognition of the high school’s 25th anniversary.
On Saturday, to celebrate its 50th, the time capsule was dug up in front of a crowd of current students and graduates.
Assisted by Grade 10 student Wade Niezen, Grade 9 student Matthew Vandewiel, and 1977 graduate Jane Marie Mitchell, teacher Steven Fischer turned aside the stone and dug down approximately one foot before hitting a length of white PVC piping emblazoned with the school’s 25th anniversary insigne.
As Niezen sawed open the capsule, the crowd was abuzz with what might be inside. One young girl thought there might be a T-shirt; her four-year-old sister suggested frogs may have taken up residence inside.
They weren’t far off – the capsule did indeed contain a Huskie T-shirt, and was damp enough to accommodate any number of amphibians.
The capsule, despite being seemingly sealed up tight, had leaked, soaking a large amount of paper – what might have been newspapers or textbooks – within. They were set aside to dry.
Also in the capsule were a Van Halen button commemorating the band’s 1986 album 5150, a staff photograph, which was luckily encased in plastic, a Northwestern 25th anniversary pin, an Ocean Pacific button, an IBM typewriter piece, and a calculator.
“This was probably someone’s extremely high-tech calculator from 25 years ago,” Fischer joked.
Also on Saturday, the school unveiled a new commemorative stone located at the building’s front entrance, this one marking its 50th year.
And the school plans to bury another time capsule beneath it, consisting of an autographed program from this year’s production of the Sear’s Drama Festival (hosted by Northwestern), a second calculator, a Tim Horton’s coffee cup, a Canadian $5 bill and penny, the Husky mascot’s furry paws, and a number of gadgets and handheld devices. Numerous letters, videos, and music compilations will be encased inside as well.
Reunion over weekend
The festivities on Saturday weren’t the only recognition of the school’s 50th anniversary. The party began on Friday night with five area restaurants holding theme nights, each hosting music and trivia from the different decades the school has been open. A sixth pub held a staff-only party.
Saturday’s open house at the school also featured a breakfast and a performance by the Royal Canadian Musical Ride, who, horses held up in transit, were forced to ride their grandmothers instead, (in actuality, the riders were former staff members Ed Fleuter and Peter James and current staff Martin Ritsma and Rob James dressed in mountie costumes tailored to look as thought they were riding little stuffed ladies).
Saturday closed with a dinner and dance at the Rotary Complex and Sunday featured a scramble golf tournament at the Stratford Country Club.
The open house saw grads and staff of all ages in attendance, each with their own unique memories of their time at Northwestern.
Principal Martin Ritsma graduated from the school in 1982, and even married his high-school sweetheart, Katherine.
“I first came into this building as a kid at 14,” he smiled. “The rest is history.”
Joan Franks and her husband Dave were among the first students at the school when it opened in 1963.
“I remember when the city bus would come out here, and the road wasn’t paved,” Joan recalled. “Occasionally it would get stuck, and the students would have to push it out.”
Nancy McCallum, Linda Quinn, and Janet Simpson also attended the school during the ’60s. Saturday found the three huddled together outside sharing a laugh while reminiscing about their many lunch hours spent eating in a car before the school had a cafeteria.
“It’s changed a lot since then,” Quinn said. “The only thing that looks the same now is the entrance.”