Kitsilano Secondary celebrates 100 years

Community, Schools & Students

By Craig Brumwell, teacher, Kitsilano Secondary 

Kitsilano’s Centennial Celebration - the school’s 100-year anniversary reunion - took place on May 12. Over 1,500 alumni and guests were treated to an impressive array of events, performances and displays. 

The day began with a pancake breakfast hosted by the Kitsilano Community Centre and White Spot Broadway. The Vancouver Police Pipe Band kicked off the opening ceremonies in the school’s new triple gymnasium. That was followed by an official welcoming of guests to the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples by Musqueam councillor Morgan Guerin. Constable Gordon Stokes sang “O Canada”’ followed by speeches from MP Joyce Murray, MLA David Eby, VSB chairperson Janet Fraser, VPD deputy chief Steve Rai (Class of ’84) and principal Ranjit Bains. 

The crowd was also treated to performances by the Coast Wolf Pack and a student dance group in classic Kits High School sweaters. The ceremony ended on an emotional note when the crowd joined together to sing “Hail Kitsilano,” led by Vivian Parfitt, daughter of Ivor Parfitt who wrote the iconic school song in 1936. 

Following the ceremonies, visitors explored the impressive new building housed within the familiar outer walls. Rooms for each decade on the third floor were filled with period photographs, film footage, class composites, toys, objects, music and ads that defined each era. These rooms became gathering spaces for many of the guests. 

On the second floor, the Sports Hall of Fame celebrated 36 Kitsilano athletes who represented national, professional and university accomplishments dating all the way back to the 1920s. Photographic displays arranged by sport surrounded uniforms, trophies, programs and crests from Kits teams over the past century. Further along the corridor, the Musqueam First Nation Heritage Room showcased museum artifacts from their cultural centre museum with weaving demonstrations by band members. 

The Learning Commons off the central atrium held objects and materials from the school’s extensive archives, including items like Kits Life newspapers and yearbooks from the 40s and 50s, a sterling silver tea set engraved with the school logo and the painting of August Jack Khatsahlano by artist Charles Scott. Visitors could listen to alumnus Bill Savage describe how in the early fifties he and his friends were able to arrange noon-hour concerts by jazz legend Louis Armstrong. 

Current students were involved everywhere. Seaforth cadets guided viewers through an interactive display at the War Memorial in the Heritage Hallway. Social studies classes had researched and created a display featuring the names of Kitsilano’s fallen Second World War soldiers using digital story maps. 

French Immersion students translated stories submitted by alumni and displayed them through video and colourful posters in the “Humans of Kitsilano” exhibit. Drama students performed other alumni stories in the auditorium and highlighted video shorts from current projects. TV production editors created a looping video of alumni interviews in the studio, and the school’s impressive fine arts program featured student work across two floors of the sky-lit, three-story open south wing. 

Link Crew served home baked refreshments at the second-floor cafe while food carts kept everyone hydrated and energized. Marketing students were kept busy all day selling vintage swag and contemporary Kits merchandise to the many proud alumni who wanted to wear the gold and blue again. 

In the afternoon, the gymnasium was the site of the alumni basketball tournament. Athletes from Kitsilano’s many successful past teams tried out the new floor to the delight of a watching crowd. 

Outside there was a festival atmosphere, with music on the plaza by student bands and a special performance by The Rain City Six. Trafalgar Street was closed to make way for the classic car show, the BC Transit traveling museum bus from the 1940s, and of course the food trucks. 

It was all over by 4 pm but it was clear that the conversations and stories would continue at surrounding venues well into the evening. 

Kitsilano’s Centennial Celebration was an overwhelming success. It was a fitting event for a school that is known for its fierce pride, enduring connections and overwhelming spirit over the past 100 years. Many thanks go out to the organizing committee, students, staff, volunteers, PAC, Alumni Association and community organizations for their help, genuine interest and involvement in the event. 

Go to https://www.kits100.org/ to see more great photos, videos and interviews.

Kitsilano Centennial