In the early years of this century, high school was only available in Toronto, and students who lived in Port Credit had to travel all the way to Parkdale Collegiate if they wanted to continue their schooling beyond Grade 8. So Port Credit rate-payers reacted by agreeing to construct a five-room school on three acres of land to be shared by elementary and secondary students. By 1919, the Port Credit Public School Board established its “Continuation School” on Forest Avenue. It consisted of two rooms and boasted two teachers, Mr. Doupe and Miss Leggott. All 22 students paid tuition fees! By 1928 school growth was jumping exponentially, and there were 217 eager students and a dedicated staff of six! In June of 1929, on the eve of the great depression, excavation began on a new building for Port Credit High School. It was to consist of 10 classrooms, physics and chemistry labs, a library and an auditorium which seated 500. Also planned was a new gym, a circular track, and a basement cafeteria (with separate boys’ and girls’ lunch rooms) - All you could desire in a modern high school!
Port Credit High School entered the great depression with a student population of 283 and 9 teachers on staff. By the end of the decade there were over 400 students pursuing academics.
The coming of World War II was understandably accompanied by a sharp decline in enrolment at Port Credit High School. The student population fell as low as 200. By the end of the war, around 1947, there were more than 500 students and over 20 teachers. But not everyone who left returned; 26 people, including students and teachers, lost their lives in active service. At Port Credit today you can see plaques honouring the memories of those who gave their service, and their lives in active duty. Music certainly became more diverse with the addition of a “hillbilly band”, and singing proved more popular than ever when 160 voices joined Mr. Lankin’s choir. On the playing fields and in the gyms, Mr. Nick Volpe and Mr. Frank Munro coached Port Credit to its share of victories, including championships in Girls’ and Boys’ Basketball, Rugby and Tumbling.
Port Credit ushered in the fifties with 675 students and 23 teachers. By the middle of the decade the school population nearly doubled and Port Credit High quickly expanded under a new name: Port Credit Secondary School. The addition included home economics rooms, shops, a real art room and a second gym. Students occupied themselves with the 10-cent basketball games, weekly assemblies, magazine fund-raisers, and spot, tag, conga and “Paul Jones” dances. What seemed to matter most, though, were the changes in the cafeteria. Lunch period was extended to 50 minutes and the traditional taboo forbidding boys and girls to eat at the same table was finally lifted. The most drastic change came on October 18, 1956, when fire engulfed the halls of the school. Although the hands of the school clock are stopped at 3:09 am, fire-fighters set the start of the blaze at least one hour earlier. Damage is incredible, as fire quickly destroys the auditorium, the main office, the guidance rooms and the science labs. More than 100 firemen from Port Credit, Cooksville, Lakeview and New Toronto struggled for 8 hours to bring the flames under control. When it was all over, eleven classrooms were ruined, including all the commercial rooms. The old wing was completely gutted and the new wing suffered smoke and water damages. All current records are lost, along with textbooks and other personal belongings kept in lockers. The library, too, was waterlogged and many books had to be thrown away. The cost of the damage was estimated at over $500,000. Students were back to school the following Monday, though, attending school in different places and in shifts. In a little over a month, things once again approached normal, as students returned to the old timetable in new portables. Rebuilding was swift and by the spring of 1957 PCSS had a new face, both inside and out. With renovations, the building was large enough to accommodate 700 students.
A new PCSS on Mineola Road East opened on May 13, 1963. The expansion of Port Credit to the present 3-story building meant a tripling of the student body and diversity in the school curriculum. The new shop wing offered a rich choice of options including electricity, drafting, auto mechanics, sheet metal, welding, woodworking, building construction and machine shop. The Music Department adds new instrumental courses to its solid vocal program. Complete with a weight room, huge gyms provide a venue large enough to cram in the whole student body for pep rallies. Brand new electric typewriters and calculators creep from room to room along the commercial corridor. Port Credit’s 700 seat auditorium is the only large hall in South Peel and for only a dollar students and the public can enjoy the Drama Society’s yearly play. With eight periods a day, three lunch hours are necessary to accommodate students’ timetables. The Warriors (Port Credit Sports) have their ups and downs, but it is a rare year that at least one of the teams fails to make the finals. School spirit is directed by the Harry Flood Fan Club from its offices on the fourth floor. On occasion, the voice of Harry himself foretells of some shattering school event over the P.A. airwaves. Despite being known as the ‘hippie era’, PCSS retains a strictly conservative dress code, with girls forced to wear dresses or skirts.
Port Credit enters the modern age with the addition of new programs in computer science, film, theatre arts, journalism and marketing. Meanwhile, a freer choice of subjects, individual timetables and more independent study periods leave students with more free time for extra-curricular activities.
Interesting and unusual were the events of the eighties. A few issues of Re:Port Credit, the school paper even managed to enter the realm of “Underground Journalism”. While the Anti-E.T. Club, S.T.A.G.S., the Trenchcoats, the Exile club, Dungeons and Dragons and Children of Glert attract followers, students who dare to be normal sign up for choir, Geotrek, Jazz dancing, Leadership, Buddies, Public Speaking, German Club and French Club. In some ways, however, Credit never seems to change. While almost every other high school in Peel moves to semesters, Port Credit doesn’t at this time.
Although traditions are maintained, Port Credit changes with the times. Before long, the 1200 students at P.C.S.S. begin to act on their beliefs. Chapters of Students Against Drunk Driving and Amnesty International open. The Multicultural Club, and later “United Colours” bring together students from over 25 countries and help new members of the community overcome language barriers. Student reporters can’t compete with professional coverage, however, as the school makes the front pages of the Globe, Star and Sun, and the 6:00 news on CBC, CTV, Global and CITY-TV on January 31, 1994. Prime Minister Jean Chretien comes to visit –his first official trip to any high school in the country — and P.C.S.S. basks in the national spotlight.
Condensed from Port Credit Secondary School: 75 Years in Review © Port Credit S.S. 1999