Joe Lott chuckles as he recalls the teen girls who would walk to Claremont secondary school in pants and change into skirts before commerce class.
It’s funny what a few decades of perspective will do.
“Can you imagine?” said Lott, the school’s first principal. “But (teachers) were preparing girls for office work and there was no way they would allow them to be what they thought was improperly dressed in those days. Long hair on boys was a real problem for us, too.
“It was a different era.”
The 89-year-old will be among those returning to the Wesley Road campus on June 2 to commemorate Claremont’s 50th anniversary. In 1962 Lott helped open Claremont, a “bare bones” building in the beginning, he said, in terms of the few extra funds spent on school grounds and building design.
The lack of resources didn’t affect extracurricular student achievement. Some of Lott’s finest memories of the time hinge on the school’s world-travelling choir and a girls’ basketball team that seized the provincial title in 1967.
“Those were quite different days, but we had a happy time,” he said. “There were lots of other remarkable things.”
Claremont’s strong track and field program also springs to mind for Lott, who spent 12 years as a principal before his school involvement evolved into a position on the Saanich school board. There, he worked alongside one of his former Claremont students, Sidney Coun. Marilyn Loveless.
While Loveless is technically a member of Claremont’s first graduating class, like her classmates, she completed her Grade 12 year in afternoon shifts at Royal Oak secondary school while Claremont was still under construction. She attended the new school for B.C.’s no-longer-existent Grade 13.
“It really cut into our after-school activities, but we all worked hard and the school was built,” Loveless said.
Part of her school volunteer work included a foray into community leadership as a member of sports and student councils.
“Claremont has always been strong academically and strong athletically and over the years it’s developed a strong arts program,” said Loveless, who pursued a commercial art course by correspondence as a part of her graduation requirements.
“When I see what my own children were able to do while at Claremont in (visual) arts – it’s an amazing progression. … I hope that in 10 years my grandchildren go there because I’m sure it will be even more outstanding.”
Though Loveless knows the merits of Claremont well, few, if any, have quite the same relationship with the school as Lorna Lundeen.
Lundeen was one of seven siblings to attend the school, where she would later teach, coach, meet her husband Ken, also a longtime Claremont teacher, and enrol her own two children – one of whom also carried on the family tradition of teaching at the school. Since her retirement in 2009, she has continued to officiate sporting events at Claremont.
Lundeen’s time at Claremont began during the hippie days of the 1970s. Aside from the long hair and beads, she recalls fundraising for school sporting events in a donated Pinto.
As a grad of 1971, she also participated in B.C.’s Centennial Project, in which students began clearing trails around Elk and Beaver Lake.
“It was always a school we took a lot of pride it,” Lundeen said. “It had a good reputation academically and athletically.”
She attributes the continued success to teacher involvement and their willingness to volunteer over the years.
“When you’re involved in things the atmosphere is always good,” she added.
And Claremont’s second-storey view of Mount Baker only intensifies her fondness for the school.
“It’s so much more of what a secondary school should be; it’s a school that I feel real pride in,” Loveless said. “When you stay involved and see the growth and the change – it’s a great school.”
Past students from any era are invited back to Claremont’s 50th anniversary open house on Saturday (June 2) from 3 to 7 p.m. at 4980 Wesley Rd.