Showcasing JO’s Legacy
Frank Perrett and the JO WWII Scrapbook : November 1, 2021
During WWII, the JO Library staff started a scrapbook for JO Grads and Teachers that enlisted in the Armed Forces, including those who were killed in action or died because of their injuries. This scrapbook with short write ups from the Sun or Province included where the servicemen/women attended school. Going to High School in the 30s and 40s was an accomplishment to be proud of.
One of these grads was Frank Perrett, who wrote the JO school song in 1937, which is still sung today—84 years later. He joined the Seaforth Highlanders and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1942. After serving in Sicily and Italy where he was wounded in the Battle of Ortona in 1943, Frank was stationed in Holland where he was killed in action in 1945.
Another grad was Bill Milne, who wrote a short memoir of the war for his niece. In the memoir he writes about himself and his high school buddies deciding to join up while enjoying a day at White Rock Beach. Some of the buddies are on the JO casualty list.
Special thanks to the unknown person(s) who kept the scrapbook and memoir and donated it to the JO Archives. One hundred and six JO Grads lost their lives in WWII.
The John Oliver Legacy Society has displayed the scrapbook and some memorabilia at the school to honour the service men and women from JO. We will remember them.
Hugh Marshall : November 21
Our JO Legacy display case features Hugh Marshall, Grad of ‘47 and teacher/mentor/coach from 1954 to 1987. His sport of choice is basketball. Thanks to long time teacher Pat Lee, who is the present Head of the PE department, for the loan of the vintage basketball gear. We have so many great memories in our archives.
Memories of a Band Student & “PJ” : January 2022
“As a band student, what is synonymous with ‘PJ’ (Mr. Pajala) is a baton (he broke so many when he got mad at us), a music stand (I couldn’t count the number of times he wanted to throw it at us), a pair of his glasses (he always lifted them and glared at us) and sheet music—lots of sheet music. Back then, we didn’t use music books except the odd small one for Marching Band. I vividly remember the Marching Band pants with the red stripe. “
~ Credit LW
Ron Pajala graduated from John Oliver in 1955 and from UBC in Education in 1959.
In the early 1960’s, Instrumental Music became an accredited course in public schools in BC. Bands then started to form in high schools all over Greater Vancouver. As his first teaching assignment, Ron Pajala was hired for John Oliver High School, starting the band program in 1962.
Ron Pajala retired from teaching in 1991, after teaching for 32 years. He celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday in June 2021. He now resides in a retirement home in Vancouver.
One of JO’s remarkable teachers and influencers.
Black History Month : February 22
In honour of Black History Month, we have changed the display at JO to feature Wally Alexander and Barbara Howard.
June 8, 1929 – May 6, 2021
Wally was born June 8, 1929, in Vancouver, the only child of Caroline McGeorge and Wallace Chester Alexander, a sleeping car porter for the railway. His early years were shaped by the Depression, and from a young age Wally learned the lessons of self-reliance, persistence and hard work that carried him through life.
Wally attended John Oliver Secondary School in Vancouver, and his experiences and strong friendships forged in those formative high school years led to a lifelong dedication to his alma mater, including involvement with the school’s reunion committees in his later years.
It was in high school when Wally’s prowess in track and field emerged, with blazingly fast times winning medals and setting benchmarks for B.C. athletics. With a time of 9.9 seconds for the 100-yard dash, Wally was one of the fastest Canadian sprinters of the day, and it earned him a trip to Montreal to try and qualify for a spot on the Canadian team for the 1948 Olympics.
Wally experienced racial intolerance throughout his life. He did not dwell on it. He chose to lead by example and be the best he could be.
We had the pleasure of being on the John Oliver Historical Society committee with Wally. He was a kind, intelligent, thoughtful, and modest gentleman. Wally was a JO legend and continued to contribute to the school throughout his life, as did his high school sweetheart and wife, Bernice. A shining example to all.
May 8, 1920 – January 26, 2017
Born and raised in Vancouver at 10th and Nanaimo. Educated at Laura Secord Elementary School, Britannia High School and Senior Matric at John Oliver before going on to UBC. After graduating from UBC with a B.Ed, she became the first person from a visual minority to be hired as a teacher by the Vancouver School Board. She taught at Hastings, Henry Hudson, Strathcona and Trafalgar during her 40-year career.
World Class Runner
During the late 1930s, the Vancouver-born Howard was one of the fastest female sprinters in the British Empire. She represented Canada at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney, Australia. She became the first black woman athlete to represent Canada in an International competition. In 2010, Barbara received a Remarkable Woman Award from the Vancouver Park Board for “her passionate dedication to inspire others to make a positive difference in their community”. She was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award in 2013, and was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Both Wally and Barbara embodied the John Oliver Motto, “Virtus Vincit”.
The Girls’ Gym : March 2022
A gymnasium, which came to be known as the Girls’ Gym, was erected in 1940 and mercifully replaced the drafty, cramped Horticultural Hall on Fraser Street near 43rd, which had been commandeered for P.E. classes. The Girls’ Gym was later renamed in honour of J.O.’s three longest serving female PE teachers: Mary Campbell, Mary Macdonald and Pat Spencer.
Mary Campbell started at JO in 1938 and retired in 1961, Mary MacDonald taught from 1962-1989 and Pat Spencer, (a JO Grad) taught from 1975 to 2010. Also featured in our display is Nora McDermott, a JO Grad and teacher/coach.
JO has a long history of outstanding Girl’s PE teachers, namely:
Mary Campbell: She “was the architect of the strong girls’ athletic program at John Oliver” (JO Archives). In 2006, she was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, the Basketball BC Hall of Fame and the BC Sports Hall of Fame with her UBC teammates for winning the 1929 International Women’s Games in Prague.
Ruth Wilson: In January 1943, transferred from Richmond School District. Wilson had been one of the best all–round female athletes ever produced in British Columbia, earning five large blocks at the University of BC for golf, basketball, softball, tennis, and volleyball. Wilson was described in 1939 as “the best woman athlete ever developed on the campus” (Internet Source: Wilson). In 1942 and 1944, Wilson played for Canada’s entry in the World Softball Championships. She was also the player–coach of the Canadian Women’s Basketball Champion Eilers Diamonds of 1950 (Doug Henderson, 1995). With both Wilson and Campbell on staff, John Oliver had the nucleus of a very talented girls’ PE staff which by the late 1940s would lead to dominance in inter–school competition throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Nora McDermott (2005) BC Sports Hall of Fame credit
JO Grad of 1945, coached by Ruth Wilson.
- Played for UBC from 1945-1949 leading the team to Vancouver Senior ‘B’ Championships in 1947 and 1948
- Played 14 years with Vancouver Eilers basketball teams, winning the Canadian Championship 9 times
- Played for Canada’s team at Pan Am Games and World Championships in 1955, 1959, and 1963
- Won a bronze medal at the 1967 Pan Am Games
- She was the first women inducted into the Basketball Canada Hall of Fame as an individual player
Mary MacDonald:(2004) BC Sports Hall of Fame credit
- Played at the University of Toronto in 1951-1953
- Competed for the Blues in Archery (1951-53) and Basketball (championship teams in 1951 and 1953).
- Competed in 10 national Basketball finals, played on six national champion club championship teams and was a member of the Canadian Basketball team at three Pan-American Games.
- Within a two-week period in 1965, she was named Most Valuable Player at the national championship tournaments in both Basketball and Volleyball.
Pat Spencer: Pat being a John Oliver graduate fit in like she’d been there all of her life because she practically had, and I’d have to say still has the most marvelous rapport with the kids. She’s able to be a teacher, a coach, a mother, a friend to the kids, so there’s the distance that you need, but also the closeness. She also has a very good insight into the students that need something special and who should be with that particular group because they are on the fringe of the popular ones, or this sport would be good for her because….I think that’s one of the best things that happened to John Oliver in the history of the school. Mary MacDonald
Mearnie Summers was one of twenty–five new teachers added to the staff for the 1950–1951 school year to accommodate the addition of the grades seven and eight. Under the tutelage of Miss Summers, who was an excellent dance instructor, the school’s waltz team won many prestigious awards and the school square dancing program for both boys and girls was initiated.
She ran the “Square Dancing in the Park” at the tennis courts at the entrance to Stanley Park for many years and was also a prominent athlete in the local sports scene, playing basketball for UBC and the Canadian Champion Eiler’s Jewellers as well as softball for the Canadian Champion Western Mutual professional softball for for the Chicago Bluebirds.
There were several other female physical education teachers, including Miss McLennan, Audrey Proctor, Marg Leswick, Sheila McColl, Joyce Hibbert, and Linda Wright. Although Marg Leswick only taught for one year at the school, she made an impact.
JO Souvenir and Year Books : June 2022
Jayo Souvenir and Year Books through the decades showcase the students that attended JO from the time it was the first high school in South Vancouver with well over 3500 students until present day with just under 1000. The school is being spiffed up inside and out and is looking good. Visit jolegacy.ca to see what we have posted so far. So much history.
Truth and Reconciliation Day – Peter Nyce : September 2022
For Truth and Reconciliation Day, JO Literacy Society is honouring Peter Nyce, JO Grad of 1973, who is also featured on our collage. A remarkable life that was far too short.
The Story of Peter Nyce, Nisga’a Hereditary Chief, JO Grad UBC Grad’s Passion for Learning Passed On.
Hereditary Nisga’a chief Peter Nyce was helping people learn long before he enrolled in UBC’s Faculty of Education. It started in 1987 when his twin daughters, Samantha and Shannon, were in Grade 4 and he was invited to the school to give a cultural show and tell. That’s when Nyce, who was then working as a commercial fisherman, got hooked on education.
When he picked up his Master of Education degree during Spring Congregation May 26 to June 2, Nyce joined more than 5,500 students receiving degrees in 23 separate ceremonies taking place at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. Nyce called his cultural presentation kit of family treasures the Tail of the Beaver, a translation of one of his Nisga’a names.”I use functional art to teach,” says Nyce, one of 14 siblings born on the reserve at Canyon City in the Nass River area of northwestern B.C. “I believe in the art of teaching with cultural artifacts using a hands-on approach.” He and his wife Hazel used items such as a deerskin drum, a 145-year-old bentwood box, feast bowl, button blankets and a cedar cradle to help children learn about First Nations culture. They also included videos, slides and traditional Nisga’a food, such as oolichan fish and sundried herring eggs on kelp.
Nyce gave the two-hour presentation to more than 100 elementary schools in Surrey and Vancouver from 1989 to 1991 while still working as a fisherman, his occupation of more than 20 years. The satisfaction of teaching the Tail of the Beaver reinforced Nyce’s belief in the value of cultural education and inspired him to enrol in UBC’s Native Indian Teacher Education Program in 1990. He had already obtained a Fine Arts diploma from Kwantlen College in 1986.
He started his Master of Education degree in 1997 and developed curriculum materials to teach First Nations culture, particularly the art of the Nisga’a, as his graduate project. “I think it’s important to have First Nations teachers in public schools and in reserve schools,” says Nyce, one of 6,500 Nisga’a in B.C. “I’m able to tell my story of successes and failures that got me where I am today. That helps young people see that we can make it—it’s possible.
“Nyce has served as an elected education co-ordinator for the Nisga’a Tribal Council for two years. As a Lower Mainland representative, Nyce helps to develop curriculum and also chairs education conventions in the Nass River area. Currently teaching a native studies course at Earl Marriott Secondary School in Surrey, Nyce feels he is preparing for an opportunity to return to the Nass River area to teach. “Another of my Nisga’a names, Tiiowkx, describes where I’m at right now,” he says. “The name means where the salmon rests before going up river. I’m not resting but I do see that another journey lies ahead of me.”
Author: Hilary Thomas
Peter and Hazel married in 1976 in Prince Rupert and had four children: twin daughters Samantha and Shannon, son Peter Jr, and daughter Nikki, eight grandchildren (six boys and two girls). Peter went to UBC and received his Bachelor of Education degree then pursued his master’s degree in education. After receiving his degrees, the family moved to the Nass Valley specifically New Aiyansh (Gitlaxtaamiks) where he was a teacher at Nisga’a Elementary Secondary School from 1999-2007 as well as a professor for Wilp Wilooskwhl Nisga’s Institute/University of Northern British Columbia for eight years. Peter passed away in 2007 from cancer. John Oliver Grad of ‘73
We Will Remember : November 2022
We remember JO grads and teachers who served in the Second World War. During the war, the Librarian kept a scrapbook of JO teachers and grads that served in WWII, with newspaper clippings documenting their postings, leaves, injuries and deaths. The newspaper articles also included their parents’ names, addresses, where they went to elementary and high school and if they had been carriers for the Sun or Province. Quite different from today’s reporting.
Our top shelf display features Bill Milner, who was born 100 years ago in 1922, graduated in 1942 and joined up to become an RCAF Flying Officer. He was in love with a girl named Sue, nicknamed “Mouse” and asked his parents to buy her an engagement ring as she had promised to marry him after the war. This was not to be as he died in 1944 when his plane went down in England returning from his 16th mission. Bill was one of 106 JO Grads that died in the line of duty.
The other feature story is the “Girl War Workers”. Up to 700 girls at JO helped with the war effort under the leadership of Miss Adams and including Misses Townsend, Montgomery, Clandenin, Cousins, Clemens, DeLong, Murray, Ensor, Green, Taylor, Gladwin, and Wilson.
The girls fundraised, prepared packages to send overseas, knit, sewed, sorted bolts for Boeings, and wrote letters, among other tasks. One hundred and fifty were enrolled in cadets as well. Numerous articles in the Pepmaster published in the 40s report the tremendous efforts from both teachers and girls to do their part to provide for the men (boys) serving overseas.
Celebrating 110 Years : December 2022
Celebrating 110 years for John Oliver in 2022! So much history for our school and South Vancouver is filed in our cabinets. Here’s a glimpse of a few photos and memorabilia, most of which we acquired during our 100th Anniversary and since – 10 years have passed! Thank you to all the JO Grads who donated memorabilia so far. We are working towards digitizing our collection with the help of students, teachers and alumni.
Honouring the past to build for the future.