My School ‘Westgate Collegiate'

By: Karli Williamson
Westgate CVI
Thunder Bay, ON

As New Year's comes and goes, most people look back over the past year and recollect on what they have accomplished and what has happened. This year being the end of a century, many people will be looking at what has been accomplished in the 20th century. I, as someone who is always interested in useless little tid bits of information decided to take a look at what occurred her at Westgate in the 1900's.

First off, on February 17, 1959, the ground was broken at the corner of Walsh and James Streets which would eventually be Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute. More than a year and four months and $1,600,00 later the school was ready to be opened. After all this time and all this money, the school had no name. Mountview, Kinloch, Westgate, Westwood, Mount McKay, James Street, William McGillvary, Greysolon - all these names were considered before Westgate was chosen. Although the school was built to accommodate 900 students, (interesting, considering Westgate now has approximately 1200 students)Westgate opened its doors for the first time to 200 Grade 9 students. With all that wasted space, the upstairs classrooms were rented out to the teachers college and to an over filled Westmount public school.

After a year of students illegally crossing the CNR train tracks, (remember, this was before James Street ran all the way through to Mary Street) the CNR decided to make a pedestrian crosswalk at the request of students.

Now that we are into the year 2000, all 296 graduating students are looking forward to Grad Dinner and Grad ceremonies. Westgate's first graduation was held in 1963 with 38 graduating students.

Although we have only had the privilege of a school newspaper for two years here at Westgate, Westgate's journalism goes back many years. Westgate's first school newspaper, The Kaleidoscope made its debut in 1967.

Fort William and Port Arthur amalgamated to make Thunder Bay in 1969 which meant the first annual Miss Thunder Bay competition. The young woman who was honoured with this title was Westgate's own 18-year-old Caroline Commisso. On November 10, 1970, Thunder Bay mayor announced that Caroline Commisso went on to receive the title of Miss Canada.

We've all been in our school library at least once during our high school career (whether we wanted to or not) and we would not have been blessed with such a great resource area if, in 1975, Westgate's school library had not been rated Ontario's worst and rebuilt.

Of all the teachers in Ontario Westgate had three great teachers who also were award winning Olympians, almost. George Saunders, one of our tech teachers, went to the 1972 Olympics for wrestling in Munich, Steve Daniar, another one of our tech teachers and our present Vice- principal, also went to the Olympics for wrestling, in Montreal in 1976, and Suzanne Kwasny, one of our science teachers was scheduled to go to the 1980 Olympics for swimming in Moscow. Unfortunately she never made it because Canada boycotted the 1980 Olympics. Although Ms. Kwasny never made it to the Olympics, on October 1, 1995, Ms. Kwasny was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Now to the present. Westgate has a very well known presence of strong hockey players and many have been lucky enough to be drafted to the NHL. In 1998, Jeff Hereema was a first round pick for the NHL draft. In 1999, Thunder Bay had a record of 6 young hockey players drafted to the NHL, 4 of which came from Westgate. Taylor Pyatt, Jason Jaspers, Alex Auld, and Mike Jacobson all were in demand for the NHL.

We all know that the world has changed over the last century, but who knew Westgate did. All this information came directly out of our school library's scrap books.