Yearbook Flip: Festive School Spirit

Ho ho ho, Santa Claus is coming to….high school! As the holidays season gets into full swing and St. Catharines decks its halls, it’s always fun to look back and reminisce on holidays past – including the festive spirit that filled the halls of St. Catharines’ high schools in our youth. This time on Yearbook Flip, we’ll look back to the 1960s and consider how the baby boomer generation got into the holiday spirit in their high schools.

Still from the 2003 holiday movie, Elf, where Will Ferrell's character yells for Santa in enthusiasm.
A classic moment from Elf (2003), starring Will Ferrell.

As a beloved Elf once said, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” From the images published in various 1960s yearbooks from high schools across the City, students took the spreading of holiday cheer quite seriously. Most yearbooks, like Merritton High School in 1967, feature collages of photos showcasing all sorts of holiday fun – including assemblies of Christmas carol sing-alongs, concerts, dances, and visits from Santa Claus himself (a role, in many cases, assumed by a student). If not dressed as elves, angels, or the ghosts of Christmases past, students were dressed in their holiday best for the occasions.

Collage of photos from Merritton High School Christmas 1967 festivities.
Candid shots from various Christmas celebrations at Merrittion High School in 1967. STCM 1999.121.8
Collage of photos from Sir Winston Churchill High School Christmas 1963 festivities.
The 1963 Christmas Caper Dance presented by the Sir Winston Churchill High School’s Annual Club. A big highlight of this year’s dance was an appearance from Santa Claus, who handed out gifts. STCM 1975.171.13
Collage of photos from Grantham High School Christmas 1969 festivities.
Christmas carol sing-alongs and a visit from Santa Claus at Grantham High School in 1969. STCM 1997.102.15

For their 1963 Christmas Assembly, the Drama Club of Sir Winston Churchill High School presented a production of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”. It was reported in the yearbook that student Dave Barlow played the role of Mr. Scrooge while Gordon Crumpler played the various ghosts of Christmases past. The school’s Glee Club accompanied the production. The school’s Actors’ Guild also sold Christmas Cards around the community to raise money for the Drama Club.

Sir Winston Churchill High School Drama Club, 1963. Students are posing for a group photo.
Collage of images from the 1963/1964 drama club season at Sir Winston Churchill High School.
The Drama Club featured in the 1963/1964 Sir Winston Churchill High School yearbook, including images from their Christmas-time production of “A Christmas Carol”. STCM 1975.171.13

Beyond entertainment and light-hearted fun at school, St. Catharines teenagers also spread holiday cheer among the community as well. The 1963/64 Sir Winston Churchill High School Glee Club, for example, collected donations for gifts for seniors at the St. Catharines General Hospital. Many yearbooks reported the charitable activities of school clubs across the city during the holidays, including collecting donations or volunteering their time at hospitals, charities, and churches.  

Sir Winston Churchill High School Glee Club, 1963/1964.
The Sir Winston Churchill High School Glee Club of 1963/1964. STCM 1975.171.13

When flipping through the holiday pages of the 1960s yearbooks of St. Catharines’ high schools, you can’t help but feel your holiday spirit lift. What are your memories of the holidays during your high school days? Were you part of the school play or the Christmas parade? Did you dress as an elf, an angel, or the big guy in red? We’d love to hear, leave a comment below!

Happy Holidays from the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre!

Sara Nixon is a public historian and Public Programmer at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre.

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