Glebe Collegiate and the Glebe

Glebe Collegiate enjoys a deep and intricate web of Glebe neighbourhood and business relationships developed over a century of connection. PHOTO: LIZ MCKEEN

By Ivo Krupka

Celebrating Glebe Collegiate’s 100th anniversary in October will be a big deal not only for current and former students, teachers and their families but also for the entire Glebe community.

For a century, Glebe students and the Glebe community have had an unusually close relationship – perhaps unique among high schools in the region. Glebe Collegiate stands a mere two blocks from that stretch of Bank Street between the Queensway and the Rideau Canal that forms the community’s main artery. It’s along this artery and its branches where so many work, eat, drink, shop, play, volunteer and just hang out. And it’s through such activities, over many decades, that Glebe students, teachers, businesses, community organizations and residents have formed close bonds.

This became evident in the anecdotes and memories I received from the Glebe Alumni Facebook Group, the Glebe BIA, community organizations, business owners and the venerable Ian McKercher, a former long-time teacher at Glebe and member of the Glebe Historical Society. The nostalgia was touching, revealing and sometimes hilarious.

This Ottawa Citizen photo from 1963 shows several Glebe Collegiate students who worked part-time at the Olympic Ski Shop, including the author. The ski shop was then located where Anthony’s Pizza is now, and later moved to where Kunstadt Sports is now.

For many Glebe students, their first work experience was babysitting, snow shovelling or doing yard work for neighbours. Later, it was working at businesses and restaurants mainly along Bank Street. At least a couple of generations of students gained invaluable work experience at what is now McKeen Metro. Started in 1955 as an IGA franchise and later as a Loeb, the store established strong relationships with students, some of whom stayed beyond high school to help put themselves through university or college. Metro’s ties of trust and respect with Glebe students are strong. It’s not unusual for Rebecca McKeen, the current owner, to run into parents in the neighbourhood and invite their kids to submit a job application.

And Metro is not alone in offering Glebe students a steppingstone. Lori started working part-time at Davidson’s Jewellers (Glebe’s second oldest business, established in 1939) during the 1975 teachers’ strike and later became a leading member of the staff. In Grade 13, Valerie MacIntosh worked part-time at Tallmire’s, a ladies fashion shop a little south of the canal bridge and now owns The Clothes Secret across the street.

For almost a half century, the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group (GNAG) has provided Glebe students with a broad range of opportunities for recreation, volunteering, employment and leadership development. Some 80 per cent of after-school staff are Glebe students. The intricate intergenerational network of diverse relationships woven by GNAG has made creative use of Glebe students for their benefit and that of Glebe residents of all ages and circumstances. These relationships extend well beyond the Glebe Community Centre that GNAG brought to life and extend to spaces and facilities in churches, schools and retirement residences throughout the Glebe.

Except for the more upscale restaurants, it’s hard to think of Glebe eateries that have not been favoured by GCI students. Some of the old ones: The former Mexicali Rosa’s at Clarey and Bank; The Glebe Café (now Jericho) between Fourth and Fifth; The old Mirror Grill (where exactly was it?); KFC at Bank and First; Mammoth Burger at Bank and Clemow; Grabbajabba at Bank and Fifth; Beavertails at the Ex; The Avenue Restaurant at Bank and Second; The Tea Party on Fourth; “That Chinese place on Bronson across from the football field;” the A&W on Bronson. And dozens more lost to memories that may be hard to recover.

I like the stories of students encountering their teachers at pubs such as The 515 (now the Glebe Central Pub). As Ian McKercher recalls, neither group was comfortable in the other’s company. When the legal drinking age dropped from 21 to 18 in 1971, the growing student presence at nearby pubs induced teachers to decamp west to the Prescott on Preston, then even further west as the barbarians (not Ian’s phrase) invaded the Prescott. In the tamer 1950s, when I was at Glebe, such encounters were unheard of. Too bad!

Glebe students have participated in other aspects of community life. Winterlude brought them out on Dow’s Lake to sculpt and skate, while milder weather saw them in canoe races on the canal – in one case, “pirates” donning scuba gear sank unsuspecting competitors!

Trying to describe the 100-year relationship between GCI and the Glebe is clearly beyond the scope of an article, so I have been selective and personal. Please add your comments and memories through letters to the editor of the Glebe Report (simply email and postings on Glebe Alumni Group’s Facebook page.

Ivo Krupka is a long-time Glebe resident and Glebe Collegiate graduate. He was an avid skier who worked part-time in the 1960s at Olympic Ski Shop, one of many Glebe students who have benefitted from the close ties between their school and Bank Street.

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