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Catching up with old friends


Normal College Class of 1961 graduates, from left, Ruth Phillips, Eleanor Norrie and Karen Byers recently looked at an old yearbook. They are excited for this weekend's Normal College and Nova Scotia Teachers College alumni reunion in Truro. Monique Chiasson - Truro Daily News

TRURO - A small group of Normal College alumni gazed up at the building this week and within minutes memories and giggles erupted.

"I remember we weren't allowed to come in the front door; it was used for special occasions," said Valley's Ruth Phillips, a Class of 1961 graduate.

Phillips went on to teach Grade 5 for five years, in addition to 14 years of preschool.

She is excited to meet fellow Normal College graduates this weekend when a special reunion is held. The Normal College and Nova Scotia Teachers College alumni reunion takes place Friday to Sunday, featuring numerous events. Special attention will be paid to the Class of 1961 (50th anniversary graduates) and all classes ending in 1.

The Class of 1961 was the last class at the Normal College before the Nova Scotia Teachers College opened. Almost 490 students graduated that year and about 130 of them will attend the reunion. An estimated 250 alumni from the Normal College and teachers college combined are expected to attend the reunion.

No doubt many stories will be shared this weekend. North River's Eleanor Norrie recalls boys and girls being separated not only in classes but how they entered the building.

"We walked in straight lines and the boys and girls walked in different doors," said Norrie, who taught elementary school for three years.

Great Village's Karen Byers, who in addition to teaching Grades 5, 6 and 8 for a dozen years also became a speech and language pathologist, said presentation was very important.

"You were very careful how you walked. You were not allowed to run because teachers do not run because they are professionals," said Byers, adding students were fearful of their strict principal, J.P. McCarthy.

"We didn't look at him," Byers said.

One memory that stands out for Truro's Jackie Ferdinand is that dating town boys was prohibited, unless they attended the Normal College or Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

"You could have been suspended if you did," said Ferdinand, who was a teacher for 14 years, mostly in Grades Primary and 1.

Ferdinand doesn't take her education for granted. She said Normal College graduates were well prepared for their profession.

"Within months we had jobs and sometimes we had choices ... when we went into a school we knew how to teach."

Belmont's Paul Sulis taught junior high for 33 years and is excited to attend the reunion.

"I have happy memories of the assemblies held on the third floor of the main building," Sulis said.

Bible Hill's Joan Cameron said she can't wait to reunite with old friends.

"There's a certain pride about being a part of the Normal College and it's a chance to meet with people I haven't seen in years and hear their stories," said Cameron, who was a teacher for 29 years in elementary and junior high.

Reunion committee members wish to thank all the merchants, agencies, town, county and others who donated gifts, prizes and helped with the memory book.


HL: Teachers turned politicians

Sub: Many educators went on to be successful in politics

By Monique Chiasson


TRURO – The old Normal College did not only produce teachers, but well-known politicians as well.

North River’s Eleanor Norrie represented the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1993 to 1998 as a Liberal member. She also served as minister of human resources and minister of housing and consumer affairs.

“I learned if you can stand in front of a classroom, you can stand in front of a podium,” said Norrie, adding there are a lot of qualities politicians and teachers share.

“They both know the needs of the community and have a desire to serve in the community. The skills from teaching that helped me get into politics were self-confidence, belief in myself and communication.”

Other MLAs who studied at the Normal College included John “Archie” MacKenzie, a Liberal MLA who served in Cape Breton in the 1970s and 1980s, and George Moody, a Conservative MLA and cabinet minister representing Kings County during John Buchanan’s leadership.

Helen MacDonald was another politician who first studied education at the Normal College. As an NDP, she represented Cape Breton-The Lakes in the late 1990s and was chosen as the party’s leader in 2000 following the resignation of Robert Chisholm.

A few authors also started their studies at the Normal College, including Amherst-born Mary Jane Losier and Thomas Bray, who wrote mostly about Cape Breton, and Cameron Jess.


There are a number of events to celebrate this weekend's Normal College and Nova Scotia Teachers College alumni reunion. The following is a list of activities:


4 to 7 p.m. - Class of 1961 reception at the Royal Canadian Legion lounge

6 to 8 p.m. - Reunion registration at the community college's cafeteria lobby

7:30 p.m. - Official reunion opening with guest speaker Helen MacDonald, Class of 1961 graduate

8 p.m. - Faculty and staff tribute and pub night at NSCC


7 to 8:30 a.m. - Breakfast at the NSCC cafeteria

9:30 a.m. - Annual meeting in the cafeteria

10:30 a.m. - Executive meeting in the cafeteria

11:30 a.m. - Class photo at the NSCC gym

12:30 p.m. - Lunch in the cafeteria

2 to 4 p.m. - Class of 1961 will gather at the old Normal College for festivities

6 p.m. - Reception an social at the Best Western Glengarry

6:30 p.m. - Dinner and awards at the Glengarry

8:30 p.m. - Institute night/coffee house/tunes


10 a.m. - Church service at St. Andrew's United


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