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Letter to the Editor: Port Perry High School Memory

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Remember the huge snowstorm in Toronto, when Mayor Mel Lastman, much to the amusement of many, called for the Canadian Armed Forces, under the federal government's jurisdiction, to come and dig them out? The army came as a civic duty, a part of the community.

Such an event occurred in Port Perry, one late sunny September day, in 1950.

I was at Port Perry High School (PPHS), when an announcement came over the P.A. at the end of the period, at about eleven o’clock. It asked for us to return to our home rooms, and form up in our positions in the cadet corps, on the campus. The campus had a mowed grass playing field, including a ball diamond backstop and bases to the south of the original school building.

We stretched out north to south, facing east where the Reviewing Platform space was, under the trees which lined Rosa Street.

Everybody was a cadet. The boys were official cadets, associated with the Oshawa regiment, in official khaki uniforms, black beret, proper insignia for rank: Officers, Non Commissioned Officers (NCO)s.

The girls were in uniform: black tunics, long sleeved white blouses, white socks and saddle shoes, a red beanie/skull cap, to which Officers added a small peak insignia for rank: Officers, NCOs, all of which we made for ourselves in Home Ec. Archives will have pictures.

That day we were not in uniform, but in a short time we were lined up on the campus. The Commanding Officer called orders to face north, now three cadets abreast; each platoon complete with lieutenants in front and sergeants behind.

The Commanding Officer marched to the front of the corps and called, “By the left, quick march.”

The band drums rolled, and the bugles played.

The Commanding Officer called “Right Wheel, " which took us off the school property, followed by another “Right Wheel, " which took us out onto Rosa Street heading for Queen Street.

At Queen Street, The Commanding Officer called “Left Wheel” and we headed down Queen.

There seemed to be no traffic; yet, the cadet bugle band and the sound of the corps marching certainly sent signals. I’m guessing, some of the town fathers in the know, regarding this exercise, were supervising the streets. I don’t know. Cadets kept their eyes front.

However, when we approached the library, since we were not in uniform, we could not salute our War Memorial. The Commanding Officer called “Eyes Left”.

When we had passed he called “Eyes Front”.

I’m sure others besides me wondered what this was all about but we kept marching.

The Commanding Officer called “Left Wheel,” at the corner of Queen and Water Streets. We passed the hotel, where CIBC now stands, and on to the newly finished Port Perry Memorial Gardens Arena. At a driveway, on the north side, the command came, “Left Wheel.” We marched along the north side of the new arena. Then, where the driveway turned to the back door of the arena, the Commanding Officer called “Left Wheel.” At the open back door of the arena, the Commanding Officer called “Left Wheel” again, and we marched into the new arena, onto the ice surface area.

At our first step we were shin/ankle deep in loose sand! They had ordered truck loads of sand to be dumped over the whole arena surface area. After seeing all the loose sand; and, when the few steps they had taken in it had hardly taken any effect, they knew they had a problem.

The big drum kept up the steady pace, the small drums happily flourished, and we kept in form, marching, full circle, along the side boards, a couple of times. We gradually made narrow ovals, the full length of the surface, to trample down the sand in the centre ice area. It was like the way a Zamboni circles, when resurfacing the ice.

Before installing pipes and fittings, the first step in establishing an ice surface was a solid base of packed sand.

While we were doing our work, what appeared to be a possible group of town fathers and school staff were watching from the arena's east end, gathered behind the glass.

It's interesting, you can find their old notes of progress on

In 1950, there wasn’t mechanical equipment to roll and pack sand. Someone had had an idea. The solution was at work!

The town fathers had word from the builder the arena was being finished.

Due to all this foot traffic, the job was done.

As The Commanding Officer approached the west door he ordered “Right Wheel,” to take us out and ordered the wheels to take us back to Water Street, onto Queen Street, up past the War Memorial Library. He duly ordered “Eyes Right” up to Rosa Street and wheels to take us back onto the campus where we started.

The Commanding Officer ordered: Halt, Left Turn; so we faced east to the Reviewing Platform, Stand At Ease.

I can’t remember exactly, but the Principal spoke to us, and perhaps one of the town fathers spoke to us, of a job well done.

Then, possibly, the teacher in charge of Cadets spoke. He said, “When The Commanding Officer gives the order to Stand Easy, which is usually for dismissal, we ask you to take a few minutes to take off your shoes and socks, to dump out the sand before we go in for lunch.”

The Commanding Officer ordered “Stand Easy,” and we all sat down on the grass and peeled our shoes and socks off, shaking out all the sand.

The Canadian Army was called upon to dig Toronto out of a snowfall which municipal equipment could not handle. The army came as a civic duty, a part of the community.

The Port Perry High School Cadet Corps; not under the jurisdiction of the municipality, but the Oshawa army regiment, responded as a civic duty, a part of the community.

While the army’s help in Toronto was huge, in comparison to the army’s help in Port Perry, they are really both the same. The army came as a civic duty, a part of the community.

Port Perry High School is celebrating its 150th Anniversary, on May 6th, 2023

Port Perry High School Cadet Corps is celebrating its 125th Anniversary

Georgia Brock, Port Perry

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