As I watched the 2020 graduates of Edward Milne Community School walk in front of the building wearing their gowns and mortarboards last week, practicing social distancing, I thought of the ongoing sense of pride of the graduating students, but also of the enormous changes that have taken place over the last 73 years since our first graduation.
The class of 1947, at Milne’s Landing High School, was the first high school class to graduate west of Victoria. Back then, there was no Belmont High School, it came a bit later.
MLHS opened its doors in 1946, using the old army camp buildings constructed on the Milne farm during the Second World War.
The smiling group of graduates you see here were posed in the living room of the first principal of the school, John B. Wilkinson. This structure, originally the guardhouse for the army camp, was converted into living quarters for the principal’s family.
At left is Joan Rumsby, sister to the well-known brother electricians, Larry and Bill Rumsby. Joan became Mrs. Zipp and made a home in Seattle, coming back to Sooke later. Next to Joan is Gwen Jenner, whose mother became the home economics teacher at the school. Gwen became Mrs. Farmer and the couple made their home in Esquimalt.
Next in line is Audrey Sullivan, who married John Wilson, raised a large family and went on to teach in Sooke schools. Audrey’s siblings, Rodney Sullivan and Lynda Fisk still live in Sooke, while sister Yvonne Reibin lives in Langford. Merle Forrest is on the right; Merle became Mrs. Proteau and made her home in Nanaimo. Merle’s older brother Pat Forrest, a well-known local fisherman, graduated a couple of years earlier from Victoria High School.
Seated in the centre of this group of belles is Laurie Wilson. Son of Albert Wilson, who initiated Sooke Lockers & Cold Storage, Laurie went on to spend his career as a teacher in Victoria, where he and his wife Norma made their home.
By the 1960s, the school’s name changed to Edward Milne Secondary School, and the size of graduating classes had begun to expand; when it became Edward Milne Community School in 1987, the graduates numbered 10 times our first five grads.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating if we could somehow look decades ahead and see what interesting lives the graduates of 2020 will be contributing to their world?
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.