The High School Fire

Dufferin County History

By Mia – Grade 5

One winter Sunday afternoon in 1948, around 6pm, 18 year old Jim was eating dinner. He got a phone call from one of his friends. As Jim picked up his candlestick  phone, one of his friends excitedly told him that their high school was burning down! Jim was stunned! 

Jim promptly put down the phone and left the house to see his school. When Jim got to the school there was a big crowd of students and adults gathered around the school. They could see fire coming out of the school windows and smoke in the air. 

The next day all the students from Orangeville High School met at the movie theatre and the principal told them what was going to happen for their schooling. First, they were going to get a week off of school. When they returned to school, they were going to be relocated to the basement of Westminster United Church. 

The principal also told the students that if anyone cleaned some of the bricks from the school ruins, he would pay them one cent for each brick they cleaned. So Jim and three of his friends, Mel Rennick, David Scott and Hugh Greenis (the only ones who were willing to do this) were paid by the principal everyday to do so. They cleaned the bricks with a hammer. They would hit the side of each brick and try to make the mortar come off. They worked hard because they wanted to make money. They each cleaned about a hundred bricks a day, so they would earn a dollar each. A dollar at that time was about ten dollars now. They would pile the bricks on the ground and the principal would come and pick them up. The principal would sell them for more money than he gave Jim and his friends. 

In the summer of 1948 Jim was going to grade thirteen. They had renovated the First Avenue United Church into classrooms where the students would learn until the new high school was built.