ST. JOHN'S High School is about to boldly go where no Winnipeg high school has gone before.
The North End institution is about to become the first high school in the city to celebrate its centennial. And in keeping with an event that's 100 years in the making, St. John's is doing it in style.
The festivities will take place over four days, beginning June 17, highlighted by a gala dinner on the 19th, where alumni Burton Cummings, lead singer of the Guess Who, and jazz singer Colleen Savage, will perform. Brian Burdy, co-chair of the centennial reunion, said St. John's was one of two high schools built shortly after the turn of the 20th century in Winnipeg -- Kelvin High School was erected two years later -- to accommodate the growing number of young people in the burgeoning metropolis.
Its focus over the first few decades was developing the technical skills of its students and that was reflected in its original name, St. John's Technical High School.
As the technical component was eclipsed by a greater desire to promote academics, the school dropped "Technical" from its name about a half-century ago.
In addition to Cummings and Savage, St. John's has more than its fair share of accomplished alumni. They include Monty Hall, 88, the longtime host of Let's Make A Deal, Harry Walsh, 96, selected as one of Manitoba's top 10 lawyers for the 20th century, Brian Postl, dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Manitoba and Ken Kostick, one of Canada's best-known celebrity chefs who will be the master of ceremonies at the gala. Hall, who attended St. John's 75th reunion, said there was no question he would attend the 100th.
"Why wouldn't I? I'm coming back because it's my high school. I still have a great affinity for the school and Winnipeg," he said.
Hall, who graduated in 1935, said one of his most vivid memories is being the second-smallest kid in the school when he arrived at age 13.
"I was about five-foot-three and weighed about 90 pounds. I was very happy to find out that there was another boy who was 14 or 15 who was smaller than me. I wanted to stand next to him when we took pictures. I still remember his name, Sidney Bell," Hall said, noting he "shot up" beyond six feet tall after graduating from St. John's.
Burdy said more than 1,500 former students are expected to attend the centennial reunion. While many are still in Winnipeg, others are flying in from across Canada and the United States and from as far away as the Cayman Islands, England and Israel. "That shows how much meaning (the former students) attach to their high school experience. It's very special for a lot of people," he said. Chief among them will be the school's "poster child," Katherine Weber, who graduated in 1926 and recently turned 101 years old.
She will be tasked with cutting a ceremonial cake at the reunion's closing ceremonies.
Registration information about the reunion is available online (www.stjohnshigh100.mb.ca).