H. S. Billings 50th Anniversary : Falcon witnessed many changes

H. S. Billings 50th Anniversary : Falcon witnessed many changes
Charlie Falcon (Photo Andrew Clark)

(Dan Rosenburg) Charlie Falcon taught at Chateauguay High School from 1963-68 before that establishment merged with the new Howard S. Billings High School. At Billings, he served in various capacities (teacher, social studies department head, and a six-month stint as vice-principal) until his retirement in June of 1991.

As such, he witnessed many significant changes. “Implementing schools uniforms was a very divisive thing,” he recalled during an interview at the site of one of the school’s 50th Anniversary events on the evening of May 18. “A lot of people wanted it; but a lot didn’t,” he remembers.

“Another big step was when the Protestant Regional School Board of Chateauguay Valley brought in Natives and Catholic students in the mid-70s. “A lot of Catholic parents didn’t want their kids attending Protestant schools, but I didn’t see a problem with it.” So he went with the flow.

“There was a lot of tension between Natives and non-natives. A lot of Natives didn’t want to come here. They were attending school in Lachine until the change was made.” A few years later Kahnawake built its own high school (the Survival School) and he number of Natives at HSB dwindled accordingly.

What about the Grand March? “Not too many English or French schools had that, and it was not part of Chateauguay High School either,” he said.

“One move I was totally in favour of was when the graduation policy was changed. Previously, people were getting diplomas in the spring when some of them hadn’t graduated from anything and weren’t going to either. The school’s staff was 100% in favour of moving the ceremonies to October” which is still the case to this day.

“The staff also questioned the practice of bringing in politicians and outsiders to be guest speakers at the graduations,” Falcon attested. “We said no, let’s bring back former graduates to speak to the kids. So people such as Ontario Superior Court Judge Cynthia Petersen, TV newsperson Caroline Van Vlaardingen, ironman Tony O’Keeffe and Olympic boxer Rowan Donaldson were recruited to deliver inspirational speeches at graduation.

Falcon also noted a tremendous upswing in the development of live shows at HSB under the direction of John Murray and Dennis Smith. Falcon’s daughter Lori, for example, played one of the children in Sound of Music. His two sons also made their mark at the school. Upon graduation, Larry landed a job in the school’s maintenance department. “Hard to believe, but he (Larry) retires in July at age 55,” Falcon noted. His other son, Loren, works at CMP Advanced Mechanical Solutions in Chateauguay.

“In the late ’60s and ’70s, there were a lot of French students in our school, but the Parti Quebec stopped all that after it were elected in 1976. In those days, if one parent had gone to an English school, so could their children. As a result, our school population dried up. So HSB’s enrollment went from over to 3,000 students to the point where now it’s a struggle to get 1,000,” he winced.

The principal(s) of the thing

Mert Tyler 1968-72

Bob Douglas 1972-76

Donald Watt 1976-83

Walt Steeves 1983-88

Lincoln Springer 1988-95

Garfield Mullins 1995-98

Fred Hutchings 1998-2000

James Jordan 2000-02

Norm Woods 2002-06

Joseph Urovitch 2006-07

Mike Helm 2007-12

Gary Tennant 2012-15

Brian Seltmann 2015-17

Collin Thomas 2017 –

 

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