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Burnaby school stories sought for history book

Retired teacher Janet White is part of a group putting together a history of Burnaby schools. They
Retired teacher Janet White is part of a group putting together a history of Burnaby schools. They're looking for people's stories and already have submissions from celebrity chef Rob Feenie and Premier Christy Clark.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

It started as a little history project, but now it's set to get bigger and better, with a call for stories.

Several years ago, retired Burnaby teacher and history buff Janet White came up with an idea to write a book about the history of Burnaby school buildings. She was told that a group of teachers had done just that, in the 1980s, but it never received school district funding so was never published.

By 2005, White had discovered that decades-old manuscript in an old filing cabinet at Schou Education Centre and set about updating it. Now after a few years of stops and starts, the project has funding from the school district to publish it (after the district decided not to complete the project itself) and Burnaby city hall has agreed to offer graphics and layout services.

White, 69, also got some help. She's now joined on the project by fellow retired Burnaby teachers Harry Pride, Dave Carter and Rosemary Cooke, as well as local resident and historian Gail Yip.

They've been researching Burnaby schools past and present—the book will include 69 schools—and now are collecting stories from the people that studied and worked there. Already they've got submissions from the likes of celebrity chef Rob Feenie and Premier Christy Clark.

"We just laugh so much at our meetings," White said. "The great stories are the ones you can't print."

As a former Burnaby student, then a Burnaby teacher, White herself has a treasure trove of material in her own head.

She recalled the days when women teachers weren't allowed to wear pants until a group of them banded together in the 1970s.

"Five of us wore pantsuits to school one day. The principal said he wouldn't open doors for us or hold the backs of our chairs when we were sitting down. But from that moment on, we wore our pants."

White stressed that while not all submissions will be published in the book due to space limitations, all the material collected will be presented to the City of Burnaby Archives where it will be preserved for future generations.

Former Burnaby students, teachers and staff with stories (200 words or less) and photos to share are asked to email them to burnabyheritageschools@gmail.com.

For more information, contact Janet White at 604-433-4373 or janetwhiteue@gmail.com.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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