My Old School – East Pictou Rural High

It’s no secret to those closest to me and several loyal readers that I did not like school at all. A story in my latest book “Let Nothing Go To Waste” touches on my final few days of grade twelve, and my non-attendance at graduation. The majority of my reflections of school now remain positive. It was a building where I discovered and worked at my craft and trade.

Front of building. In the last few years, EPRH was run as a middle school.

My old school is likely headed for demolition. The property did get some interest but apparently that deal fell through. It’s down the hill from my elementary school, Frank H. MacDonald, which is still open and was recently renovated. The schools are located off the highway towards Antigonish, Nova Scotia after New Glasgow. I’ve been researching a story of potential environmental pollution that was allegedly taking place for the entire life of the school in and around the bus garage located behind the property. It is alleged that oil, fuel and many other deleterious substances were dumped into garage and tap drains in and behind the garage.

Looking inside of garage area from outside.

What is left of the school is an eerie sight on a quiet Saturday morning. It’s like an abandoned toxic waste site.

Basketball area at front of school. This was put in long after I graduated in 1997.

Some outside equipment from my days of classes remain. Relics of recreation days and physical education classes of the past. My pics of the soccer field did not turn out good. This pic below, was passable.

Rusted basketball equipment at back of school. Many points were scored through that metal hoop.
Junior High area Doorway. Building portion on he left was deemed unsafe in the school’s final years of operation.
Back entryway, where in the early and mid 90’s cigarettes could be bought from entrepreneurial students at fifty cents each or three for a dollar. Several teachers showed up to purchase when they ran out of their own smoking supplies……

I obtained permission from the municipality to walk the grounds. While none of the doors were open, I still would not have been able to walk in through the building anyways. I was able to get a few pics from the outside looking in.

This was the drafting room as part of Industrial Arts. Having this class as the final one before the day ended was glorious. This was also the room where I witnessed a memorable fistfight that ended in a LOT of blood.

There there is this odd sighting…

This is a balance beam. In a classroom. Thankfully I never had to do gymnastics every time I was in this room for 12th Grade General History. Which I took in Grade 11 for some reason…..

On the days I drove to school, I parked as close to the entryway as possible. That entryway is at the far end of this pic, close to the road. When the final buzzer rang, I ran like hell to get to the car and beat all the buses out to the highway.

Always felt like I was leaving a prison at the end of the day…..
Top left and right windows, 9th Grade English. Where I figured out with some encouragement that I could actually write. Across the hall, I had a safe haven from bullies thanks to the watchful eye of one of the educators. That entryway at far left is where I would “Escape from Jail” and “Run Like Hell”.

All the way through elementary and high school, I was never comfortable drinking the water, and felt sick washing my hands in it. I remember when Frank H. MacDonald School had to deal with water advisory because of fecal contamination. So in addition to the pipes being toxic, there was allegedly a routine of daily pollution happening at the bus maintenance garage. Multiple sources over the years that I cannot name have told much of the same stories about substances being dumped into the drains. Some substances were allegedly taken out back to be dumped directly into Sutherland’s River.

I filed a Freedom of Information Request through Nova Scotia Environment seeking potential records of any reports of pollution. After a few weeks I was advised that no records existed and have not pursued the request further. Looking at the sewage treatment area behind the garage, something seems a bit off. While I appreciate this is water that has settled over the years, this is what I suspect a pond near Chernobyl looked like a few days after the nuclear disaster in 1986. Come to think of it, the appearance reminds me of certain antifreeze brands.

When the buildings are finally torn down, any potential remediation should be addressed. Has the land and water been polluted all of these decades while thousands of people passed the halls of the respective schools? Why do no records of any concerns exist? I figured with so many people telling the same stories, there would be something on paper, somewhere.

The photo does not do this justice. It is a bright neon green. Looks like nuclear waste.

A twenty-minute drive from East Pictou is the now closed Boat Harbour treatment facility. A cursory google search will turn up the detailed history of how the pulp and paper industry was permitted to pollute the air and waterways along the Northumberland Strait area for decades. That same search should educate others on how the determination and hard work of the Pictou Landing First Nation helped move the eventual closure of Boat Harbour forward to a reality.

Sutherland’s River is close to incredible coastline and waterways. If those waterways were compromised on the East Pictou property, remediation must be carried out.

Photos are Copyright 2021 Dann Alexander and Frogsong Productions.

2 thoughts on “My Old School – East Pictou Rural High

  1. Wow that’s crazy! I hadn’t heard about the dumping, but I haven’t really kept up with anyone from school either…I hated school, and I was picked on a lot as well, and couldn’t want to leave either… ironically enough, outside the law class🙄. Funny enough, whenever I drove, I rushed to the truck to get ahead of the busses as well!

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