Hundreds of former students and staff turned out Saturday for the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of Aldergrove Community Secondary School (ACSS).
Surrounded in the large double gymnasium by a grand new mural depicting the school’s Totem Pole and its elements — the Thunderbird, Black Bear, Salmon, Owl, Beaver and Frog — the audience was treated to the history of the school in an hour-long presentation.
The school’s mascot, a Totem Pole carved by hereditary carver Ellen Neel of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, is now replicated in the mural over three walls of the gym.
The mural is stunningly beautiful, featuring all of the animals in the Totem Pole in their natural environment, with a wolf added, overlooking the scene, representing the Kwantlen Nation.
Neel has since passed away but was represented at the ceremony by her granddaughter, Lou-ann, who spoke of the family’s love for the Aldergrove community.
The original idea for the school’s Totem Pole came from Mrs. Myers, a teacher at ACSS (then known as Aldergrove High School). She along with other Aldergrove residents housed First Nations children from the Haida Gwaii, Bella Bella and Bella Coola areas at their homes so the children could attend high school here.
Mrs. Myers did significant research into the creation of the Totem Pole before sending the design to Neel. The animals chosen represent three of the four First Nations in this area — the Matsqui, Semiahmoo and Katzie — but Kwantlen’s symbol of the wolf was not included, so it has now been added to the mural.
Cheryl Gabriel of the Kwantlen Nation and Neel of the Kwakwaka’wakw spoke warmly of the importance of the school to their families and expressed the hope that the school will continue to serve all the people here for many years to come.
Betty Granholm, of ACSS’s first graduating class in 1958, told of how excited the students were to come here when it opened, and no longer had to bus to Langley High School for morning and afternoon shifts.
She also presented a photo of the 1958 grad class to the school, received by 2018 grad Taylor Lee.
Lee spoke of the history that the school uncovered in its search for the 60th anniversary open house, and the importance of being involved in the Aldergrove community as a citizen and volunteer for important services to its residents.
“We uncovered some long forgotten history,” said principal Jeremy Lyndon.
Guests then strolled through the “Decade Rooms” which featured exhibits from each of the six decades and enjoyed meeting and talking with old friends.