This weekend marks an important milestone in the history of Thompson as R.D. Parker Collegiate celebrates with a 50th reunion. Or perhaps make that Thompson High School for the early pioneer graduates between 1962 and 1966.
Also not to be overlooked is the fact école Riverside Elementary School is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this coming weekend. On Friday (Sept. 28) there will be an assembly in the gym at 2:30 p.m. with speakers Phil Chaddock and Dr. Ginette Poulin. On Saturday, there will be an open house and barbecue at the school.
Poulin, who graduated from R.D. Parker in 1996, was a French immersion student in both high school and at école Riverside Elementary School. She is a registered dietician, as well as a physician, and spent the last two years back in Thompson as a general practitioner.
Chaddock, a former regional manager of Employment Manitoba here, posts important early Thompson historical photos and information on the open Facebook group "Pioneers of Thompson Manitoba 1950's and 1960's," which can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/PioneersofThompson/
Interestingly, Chaddock happens to have been a classmate of Volker Beckmann, the co-chair (along with Brenda Redman, Class of 1970) of the R.D. Parker Collegiate 50th Reunion. School District of Mystery Lake trustee Sya Gregovski was also quite involved in the planning.
Redman told the Thompson Chamber of Commerce June 27 that planning for the reunion began around last January. But the seeds for it, she added, were planted a decade ago at the R.D. Parker Collegiate 40th reunion in 2002. She said about 350 people from out of town attended the reunion 10 years ago: "Those were a lot of the people, you know, who grew up in the North and helped make the North what it is today," she said. "It was such a success. Those people came back to us and they said, 'We want another one. You know, we want another one 10 years down the road.' Well, lo and behold, here we are 10 years down the road. And other people were interested, so it has expanded." It has expanded this year, Redman explained, from a reunion for the first decade of students to students who passed through the halls of R.D. Parker anytime over the last five decades.
Beckmann said May 2, "The reunion will be one of the biggest parties Thompson has ever had. Over 300 alumni on Facebook have already indicated they are coming."
He told the June 27 chamber meeting the reunion organizers started with a database of about 1,050 names from the school's first 1962-1972 decade from the 2002 reunion, although he estimated there are probably "10,000 kids out there" who have gone through R.D. Parker or Thompson High School over the last 50 years. "The older you are the more the important they (reunions) become because you want to hang onto those memories," Beckmann added. "We anticipate the older generation will be just coming here on mass for another three day love-in. There's a couple of marriages that came out of the last one."
Beckmann said in June the original hope was to have between 500 and 700 people return to Thompson for this coming weekend's reunion.
Gregovski pointed out at the same June 27 meeting all six elementary schools - Juniper, Deerwood, Westwood, Wapanohk (formerly Eastwood) and Burntwood, in addition to école Riverside - will be open Saturday so former students in town for the reunion can re-visit them and will be having lunchtime barbecues as well from noon to 1:30 p.m. Likewise, on Sunday, she said, many churches from the Thompson Christian Council will be hosting lunches at noon after the morning worship service for weekend visitors to welcome them back to the city.
The reunion committee, Redman said, raised $9,000 for R.D. Parker through the 2002 reunion and the goal this year is to raise $10,000 with 80 per cent going to RDPC and 20 per cent to the Thompson Community Foundation, which has its annual gala Friday night.
You can find a comprehensive schedule for the reunion online at: http://rd50th.mysterynet.mb.ca/images/stories/_50th_Wknd_Itinerary.pdf
Some people love the idea of a high school reunion. Many others loath the very idea. But is there anyone in Thompson or anywhere else, wherever they may have gone to high school, who isn't at least a little bit curious about how the years have passed for them and their classmates? High school is a singular time in our lives - again some remember those four or five years fondly, others not so much.
In an column entitled, "Why do we go to our high school reunions?" earlier this month in the Boston Globe, Scripps Howard Foundation national journalism award staff columnist Farah Stockman, who returns every 10 years to East Lansing High School in Michigan for hers, wrote: "Why do we do it? Why do we go to our high school reunions? It's not as though most of the faces behind the name tags - slightly rounder, slightly grayer - had crossed our minds over the past decade We were divided then, into ever-changing clans and hierarchies. But time becomes the great equalizer."
Thanks to all the volunteers whose hard work has made the R.D. Parker Collegiate 50th reunion possible.
And to all former R.D. Parker Collegiate and Thompson High School students, whether you live here still or have just returned for a weekend visit after a long absence: This one's for you.