When Clarence Heppel thinks back to his high school years, the former CEO of Save-on-Foods has nothing but fond memories.
“We didn’t have anything, but we had a wonderful life,” said the 82-year-old graduate of Lord Tweedmuir Secondary School’s class of 1946.
Heppel was one of just over 40 graduates that year – 15 of which spent Wednesday afternoon (June 15) at Northview Golf and Country Club reminiscing about childhoods spent in rural Cloverdale.
In the 1940s, students attending Lord Tweedsmuir (it was called Surrey High School then and was located on Highway 10 and 178 Street), came from all over the city, either walking up to five kilometres one way or hopping a ride from as far away as central Surrey with school bus driver Walter Huff.
Graduate John Woodward can still list off all the names of his classmates, teachers and school principals with the ease and cadence of a military roll call.
One thing the group agreed upon was the fun they experienced and the respect they had for their school, their teachers and their community – something they feel is lacking today.
“Our parents were mostly farmers,” said Woodward. “There was no graffiti at the school, no garbage, we had to work hard for everything we got.”
Most worked both before and after school either on the farm or delivering the local newspaper.
Many students left school in Grade 8 as a matter of economics to get into the work force.
“Only a few of us made it to Grade 12,” said Heppel. “To get to Grade 12 was like getting a master’s degree today.”
Heppel remembers the school having lots of sports but very little structure
“No coaches and teams and all that.”
One year, the students had to take dance lessons instead of playing basketball.
“That didn’t sit well with the players, so we went on strike,” Heppel said. “That’s when we had to wash the walls of the gymnasium.”
Classmate Elsie Preedy can’t believe how close-knit the class was back then and she credits that closeness for how Lord Tweedsmuir alumni have kept in touch for so many years.
In 1946, many young men were still overseas following the end of the Second World War, so the grad class that year had few boys. Although most of those left behind were involved in both Air and Army Cadets in school, they luckily just missed the call to war by one year.
Having grown up during the Depression, so many of the grads’ early years were influenced by the war effort.
“it didn’t do us any harm,” said Woodward. “We had to depend on ourselves.”
For fun, Heppel said “we would scrape together enough money for gas and go down to White Rock to watch the girls.”
One memorable trip involved travelling into Vancouver for a high school dance.
“All the boys there had suits on and here we were in sweaters with holes,” Heppel recalls.
“We looked like country bumkins, but I think we had more fun.”