Updated: Nov 27, 2020
The History of the School
As with all communities, the need for schools arose almost immediately. Before Central School came Montavista School No. 39, Suthwyn School No. 530, North Springfield School No. 38, and Springfield School No. 1569 also known as South Springfield School or South Transcona School.
Central School itself was built in 1912. A brick building designed by Winnipeg Architect E.D Tuttle, the cornerstone was laid in place during a ceremony by the Minister of Education George R. Coldwell, on April 23, 1913. The school officially opened its doors to students in September 8, 1913. It was originally designed for 150 pupils to be scattered throughout 4 classrooms, however in anticipation for the 5,000 maintenance workers that would be employed by 1912 in the railway shops the town had to provide a space capable of handling some five or six hundred students. So, a second floor was built for an additional $35,000.
The initial enrolment numbers for the school were 307 students, with the majority being transferred in from various buildings about town that served as temporary classrooms. A fun fact, there was only one high school student that was registered at the time. Her name was Mabel Crowe, pictured on the right, and she was in Grade 9, and was taught solely by the principal. She then went on to become a Manitoba teacher. The first ever Transcona graduate to do so! Immigrant children coming in from Europe were indiscriminately placed into Grade 1 regardless of age. The school eventually expanded, hiring more teachers to teach each grade dedicatedly. However before that happened, there were 7 other teachers aside from the principal.
The principal that taught Mabel was Mr. D. Baxter. He was chosen from 23 applicants and was an Ontario-born teacher. He found his way into Manitoba through a Harvesters' Excursion. Thousands of men from Eastern Canada arrived annually to assist with harvesting the grain. Once the harvest was over, Mr. Baxter stayed in Manitoba to teach at Holland, Minnedosa, and Portage la Prairie, eventually finding his way into Transcona. The 7 other teachers were, Ms. E. Baldwin and Mrs. Crossland, who taught "Primary Class," Ms. E. B. Baldwin who taught Grade 1, Ms. Comrie who taught Grade 2, Ms. Webster who taught Grade 3, Ms S. Baldwin who taught Grade 4, and Mr. Charles MacKay who taught both Grade 5 & 6. Mr. Baxter, as said before, taught the higher grades and was principal. These original 8 staff can be seen in the photo below.
Expansion and Becoming Ecole Centrale
Eventually, the school population began to grow and grow as the town grew along with it. A north wing was added in 1925, and a south wing in 1927 accommodate that growing population, until eventually new schools were built in the area. In 1958, renovations on the building were conducted based on plans by local architect Laurie Ward with further work done in the following year. Central School continued to teach all grades and Mr. Baxter heavily lobbied for the school to be recognised as a high school, which it was on August 1919. In an ironic twist, Mr. Baxter was asked to retire so that a principal with the proper qualifications to be a principal to a high school could take his place. In response to public outcries, Mr. Baxter remained in his position until 1938. An example of this outcry is when 500, of the 1,150 student enrolled in Central School, staged a walk out protest with some staying home or leaving school. A dispute with the Transcona School Board eventually led him to quit, after having only missed two days of school during his entire career.
By the mid 1920's schools around Transcona, mainly Christian schools, were starting to implement French instruction in classrooms. French instruction stayed the same for many more years until in 1961-1962, the school division put into effect a program to introduce French in grades 4 to 8. Around the same time, the senior grades were transferred over to Transcona Collegiate Institute, and Central School became an elementary school. The school received another addition to the southeast side of building in 1976 to incorporate the growing need for classrooms dedicated to French learning, this was known as Ecole Centrale with the main building remaining as Central School. Eventually, Central School closed its doors and in 1994, the building was condemned and torn down. Ecole Centrale still stands in the original location. A replica classroom, known as the Baxter School Museum was completed in Westview Elementary School, where it stayed until 2002. The Transcona Museum is now home to some of those artifacts, including memorial bricks taken from when the building was demolished.
This school brings many fond memories as it stood as a pillar and a primary source of education for many members of our community and a stepping stone into their futures. Its 8 decades of educating the community of Transcona is commendable and its memory lives on in those who taught and attended in its hallowed halls.
Manitoba Historical Society. Historic Sites of Manitoba: Transcona Central School (Day Street, Winnipeg). Revised 13 Dec, 2016.
Manitoba Historical Society. Memorable Historians: Duncan Alexander Duncan. Revised 3 March, 2013.
Shipley, Nan. 1983. From Slate to Computer: in the Transcona-Springfield Area 1873-1983. “Transcona Central School - 1913.” 1983.
Shipley, Nan. 1983. From Slate to Computer: in the Transcona-Springfield Area 1873-1983. "Central-Ecole Centrale - 1983."
Transcona Museum Archives
Winnipeg Free Press, 1 June 1938, page 1. “Baxter backers, 500 out of 1,150 join strike of Transcona school pupil."
Winnipeg Free Press, 30 August 1956, page 4.“Teacher absent only two days in 50 years.”