EIGHTY YEARS OR MORE
Mr. David M. Walker
Thousands of pupils have passed through the portals of the Niagara Falls Collegiate Institute into the wide fields of science, politics, industry and other walks of life, carving niches in the hall of fame. Many of them received their early training from Mr. D. M. Walker, 780 Ryerson Crescent, who was one of the first teachers on the original staff of the Collegiate when it was opened in 1893.
Born in Wroxeter, Ontario, some eighty-four years ago, Mr. Walker came to Niagara Falls when the Collegiate was opened and he remained on the staff as commercial teacher until he was superannuated in June 1926.
Mr. Walker is a member of the St. Andrew's United Church and is an elder of the church. He has two sons, Dr. Burns Walker of Winnipeg, Man., and Mr. John Walker of Vancouver, B.C.
J. D. Dickson, former principal of the Collegiate Institute, has supplied the following material concerning the institution in which Mr. Walker played such a prominent part during several decades:
"The circumstances leading up to the building are interesting as one looks back. There had been a High School situated on the present site of the Stamford Collegiate Institute. The school has served the whole district for 50 years, and had been an excellent one in its day However, the building was finally condemned and the community was under the necessity of building a new institution. With the bulk of the population situated in Niagara Falls proper, it was natural they should want the school in a more central position, and accordingly suggested that, instead of building on the old site in Stamford, the new school be built on a half way point near the district now called the Center. As one looks back, it is rather amazing that no agreement could be reached on such a simple matter. Stamford refused to consider re-building anywhere except on the old site and the Niagara Falls people refused to contribute to a school as far away from them. The controversy was very bitter. I do not recall many of the details or personalities as they took place before I came. I do recall, however, hearing that the Rev. John Crawford, an ardent advocate for a school in Niagara Falls, at a last meeting of the ratepayers, clinched his argument for an educational institution by telling his audience "we have more representatives in the penitentiary than in the universities."
"The final upshot of the whole affair was, that two High Schools were built, one in Stamford on the old site, and one in the Epworth Circle grounds. It was the latter school that opened its doors, November 1st, 1893, with three teachers, Miss Fitzgerald, Mr. Walker and myself.
"The great problem we had to solve was, how to get students enough to fill this school, Inspector Seath, on his first visit said "you have a nice large school, but where are you going to get students to fill it?" On one side of the river was the United States, all around were High Schools, Stamford two miles away, Thorold 8, Niagara-on-the-Lake 12, Welland 16 and St. Catharines 13. At that time, no secondary school in Ontario had a higher standing than St. Catharines Collegiate Institute. Niagara Falls itself, at that time had a population of only 3,500. It was obvious then, that we had to compete wit our neighbors and draw from outside points. Just then there was great demand for schools that could turn out students with teacher certificates and with matriculation, and this we set ourselves do. We were ready to undertake any work that could be done in Collegiate. The risk might be great but there was no other way out.
Just here let me explain the different grades in schools. First class certificates were equal to honor matriculation. Seconds were equal to pass matriculation, and Third was the lowest teaching certificate issued by the Department. It we afterwards abolished. In our final year's examinations we got 41 third class certificates, no seconds and no firsts. However, the Education Department had established an Art Course, and under Mr. Walker's able direction, 51 students secured Art certificates. This helped us greatly in establishing our reputation. With the opening of our second year five students had registered for first class certificates, and all were successful at the mid-summer examinations. In addition we had 11 seconds and 40 thirds. This rather unusual success at such an early period of our career fairly established us. With the opening of the third year, our senior classes had greatly increased, and at the mid-summer examinations we had the usual number of thirds, 13 seconds and 11 firsts. The Department raised us to the status of a Collegiate Institute.
"In 1896, Miss Misiner, one of our five firsts, took honor matriculation and stood first in two departments, Classics and English. Graduating from Queens, she took the gold medal in Classics, and was appointed a member of the staff in Queen's University.
In 1896, Cassimir Rogers stood first in two departments, Classics and Mathematics. He graduated from Queens with the gold medal in Classics, became an eminent engineer, specializing in building bridges.
About this time, there entered our school a young lad, clever, ready to express a decided opinion on any subject whatever, even to telling his teacher that he would never believe that the earth was round, for any one could see it was flat. He graduated from Toronto University taking the gold medal in Political Science, studied law, practiced in British Columbia, entered politics, became a member of the Legislature, a member of the Cabinet, was appointed Attorney-General, and now Alex Manson is a member of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
"It would be as impossible to enumerate all those who have, in the various professions brought distinction to themselves and honor to the schools as it would be impossible to name all those who have and are bringing equal honor to the good old N.F.C.I. and Vocational School by doing honest, unobtrusive every day work in the various walks of life.
"Were the ratepayers justified in their decision to build a new school? Look at the beautiful buildings, splendid equipment, and efficient staff and let the thousands of graduates answer," Mr. Dickson writes.