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Sackville High School celebrates 50 years of graduates

Sackville High School, in Lr. Sackville, N.S., is celebrating 50 years of graduates in 2023. (Jody Jessome/CTV Atlantic) Sackville High School, in Lr. Sackville, N.S., is celebrating 50 years of graduates in 2023. (Jody Jessome/CTV Atlantic)

Lining the walls of the long, brick hallways of Lower Sackville, N.S.’s Sackville High School are photos of 50 years of graduates - beginning with the class of 1973.

The first grads to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas did so at a time when the Watergate scandal led nightly newscasts, the first cell phone call was made from a Manhattan street, and The Exorcist was topping the box office. 

Now, half a century later, many of those former students are set to return to their alma mater to help the school mark a milestone anniversary.


Lower Sackville was in the midst of a building boom during the 1970s, as the area evolved from a rural community to suburban centre. Located at 1 Kingfisher Way, Sackville High School was built to serve Lower Sackville and its surrounding areas.

Former teacher Bob Harvey, who is also an amateur historian and the author of Historic Sackville, says the school is part of the story of Lower Sackville’s population growth.

Sackville High was almost too small when it opened. It wasn’t long before we had portable classrooms, probably half a dozen of them, to deal with the great increase in student population,” said Harvey.

“Within a few years, besides the portables, we had to go on split shifts with the future Charles P. Allen High School. So we had two schools operating in the building, it went fairly smoothly, but required a lot of cooperation.”

Sackville High School is pictured while under construction in 1971. (Courtesy: Bob Harvey)


Debbie (Mason) Nagle was in Grade 11 when Sackville High school opened, however her first memory as a Kingfisher comes from before the school was completed.

Prior to Sackville High’s opening, students in the area attended Sidney Stephen High School (now Rocky Lake Elementary School) in Bedford, N.S.

Upon learning there would be no lockers at their new school, Nagle says the students at Sidney Stephen decided to take action.

“The whole school walked out,” said Nagle. “We walked all the way up to the new school.”

The protest was successful; when the school opened that fall, the students had lockers.

Prior to the school's opening, future Sackville High students staged a protest to ensure there would be lockers that September.


In the final weeks of the summer of 1972, teachers and staff prepared to welcome students for the first time.

“I remember, we came up and looked at the school in the summer. The first thing that struck us… was the school had three gyms,” recalls Harvey, who taught at Sackville High from the time it opened to his retirement in 1997.

“We had one small gym at Sidney Stephen, but we walked in and there were three gyms with a massive open space.”

Sackville High School's gymnasium is pictured on May 15, 2023.


While many students were excited to walk the halls of Sackville High for the first time in September of 1972, Nagle says some were also hesitant about the school’s location.

“We all thought when we went there that we were in the woods with the bears,” she said.

“Sackville wasn’t settled, it wasn’t like it is today… there were mostly houses, not businesses on the roads, there were still some farm-type houses.”

Harvey says, in the early years, he could see smoke rising from his classroom window as nearby lots were cleared and people burned the trees they cut to make room for new houses.

“At the beginning, I used to call it the school in the forest, we were surrounded by trees,” said Harvey.

“Glendale (Drive) wasn’t paved and the entrance was up on Glendale, where the stadium (Sackville Sports Stadium) is now.”


When asked about the changes he saw during his tenure at SHS, Harvey said one that stood out was the school’s indoor smoking area.

“It’s sort of unbelievable when you think of it now, but down by the cafeteria, for a while, they tried an indoor smoking area there, which of course would not be heard of today,” he said.

Nagle says, after the first year, the smoking area was moved.

“It got too dirty and then they changed that and put everybody outside by the windows right beside the cafeteria,” said Nagle.

“But all the teachers were smoking, you would open the door they’d be smoking in the staff room, the secretary would be smoking at her desk, it was a different time.”

During the 1970s and some of the 1980s, Sackville High students were permitted to smoke on school grounds just outside the cafeteria.


Whether on school apparel, sports jerseys, or graduation gowns, the colours black and orange have long been a symbol of pride for Sackville High students.

Harvey says the student council set up committees in the fall of 1972 to select the school’s motto, mascot, and colours.

“There still seems to be a real attachment to the orange and black colours, from what I read on the Sackville High alumni page.”

Harvey was part of the selection committee that chose the motto “Not To Try Is To Fail.”

“Some people thought it was too negative, and it was changed in the 1990s to “To Try Is To Succeed.”

Sackville High's school mascot is the kingfisher.


Geoff Regan, former Speaker of The House of Commons of Canada, is a class of ‘77 grad. Regan, who grew up in Bedford, says one of his favourite things about his time at Sackville High was the opportunity to get to know students from the many different communities that fed into the school.

“There were people at Sackville High from Hammonds Plains, from the Bedford area, from Waverley, all the way to Enfield, Grand Lake, Wellington, Fall River, Windsor Junction, all those places and as well as out to Middle and Upper Sackville,” recalls Regan.

Regan’s successful campaign to become Sackville High School class president foreshadowed his career in federal politics.

“I had friends help me out. We made up posters and that kind of stuff. I had to make a speech in front of the whole student body. I remember practicing mine about 18 times,” he said.

“It was interesting for me to be the student council president. When decisions are made they are made by the student council and everybody gets a vote and the president only votes if there is a tie. It’s kind of like when you are speaker of the house, which I was much later.”

Geoff Regan, former Speaker of The House of Commons of Canada, graduated from Sackville High in 1977. He is pictured with his high school friends. From left to right, Jim Grant, Geoff Regan, Roger Lindala, Dave Wagner, and Mike “Chunny” Hartlen. (Courtesy: Geoff Regan)


From politicians, to scientists, to sports figures, Sackville High School produced a number of notable graduates, including CTV Atlantic hosts Amanda Debison and Jayson Baxter.

A member of the class of ‘88, Baxter credits former SHS guidance counsellor Bob Price with steering him towards a career in journalism.

“I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have a clue where to go and how to get there. I went to Mr. Price three years after I graduated and he brought me into the office and gave me an honest answer. He said ‘I don’t know where you should go either, but leave it with me,’” recalls Baxter.

“I came back to see him three days later and he was like ‘I think you need to go to Ontario. I think you need to go the community college route in Ontario.’”

Baxter studied journalism at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont. and is grateful for the guidance he received.

“I do remember Mr. Price had a reputation for being approachable. A lot of teenagers don’t feel that way about people in positions of authority, but Mr. Price had that way about him, which is why he was such a good guidance counsellor.”

Regan says he can think of many examples of teachers who took extra time to organize events and activities to provide students with an enriched experience that would make a difference in their lives long after they had left the school. He’s particularly grateful for his high school French teacher who encouraged him to participate in exchanges with schools in Quebec.

“For me, it sparked an interest in learning French,” said Regan.

“I can tell you, that had a big impact when I was a member of parliament and I wouldn’t have been the speaker of the House of Commons without being able to speak French.”


Looking back at his time at Sackville High, there’s one thing Regan says stands out the most and that’s a bit of wisdom shared by his former teacher Kevin Murphy.

“I remember him saying that the most important things you learn in high school are not in the classroom, they are in the hallways.”


Having walked the halls as both a student and a teacher, class of ’85 grad Louise (Moxsom) Mullane has a unique perspective on life at Sackville High.

“You don’t necessarily remember your math class, your English class, but you do remember the events and the things that you did. So that’s why I am so involved with the school,” says Mullane.

“I really enjoyed it when I was a student and I am enjoying it as a teacher. My colleagues are fantastic; they are super fun to work with.”

Mullane, who is the student council advisor, is working with the current student council to organize a 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday, May 27.

“We felt that something needed to be done and we felt that we were the best fit to get it started,” said Mullane.

The event is for all ages and will go from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., beginning with a tree planting ceremony.

“Our quote is ‘Sackville Has Roots.’ A co-president from the first student council in 1973 will be breaking dirt with the co-presidents from 2023,” said Mullane.

“We’re trying to make it full-circle and have as much of the community involved as possible. The school will be open so people can walk through and reminisce, see their pictures still on the wall.”

Sackville High School's student council designed 50th anniversary t-shirts to commemorate the milestone occasion. (Source: Sackville High School Alumni/Facebook)


Janelle Halliday and Idara Akpan are Sackville High’s 2022-2023 co-presidents. The pair says they are excited to be able to host the community at their school.

“Sackville High does have a lot of history, so I think we just wanted to showcase that through this event,” said Halliday.

“It makes us happy that we can bring people back to where they are from and just remind them of how things used to be.”

The students say the event will include inflatables, face painting, and food trucks.

“We’re kind of running it like an open carnival kind of thing. There will be field games, we’ll have cotton candy and snow cones,” said Akpan.

There will also be Sackville High School merchandise for sale.

“On student council, we have what’s called our art rep. So she designed our t-shirts, it’s an original design and we are selling them for $15,” said Mullane. Top Stories

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