Pine Street School

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Pine Street School, circa 1994

Pine Street School was a two-storey, three-level elementary school on Pine Street in Thunder Bay, Ontario that opened in 1920. It was expanded in 1945. It closed after the school year ended in June, 1994, and demolished in December 2002. It had about 15 classrooms, a library, a gym, and a cafeteria. It was located on a very large 2.8-hectare plot of land.

About 400 children attended at any given time, for about 25 children per class, and a staff of about 15 teachers, a principal, psychologist (Mrs. Marion Paularinne), secretary, crossing guard at Red River Road, and custodian, plus about two lunch-time volunteer supervisors, for a total of 22 staff. Over its 74 years, it educated about 25,000 person-years worth of students. Assuming the average student stayed for eight years, that means it educated about 3,200 distinct students. Assuming the average teacher tenure was 20 years, it had a total of 80 distinct staff work there over the years.

Until about 1990 the school also hosted mentally disabled children in one special classroom in the basement.

Clown Stairs as seen from the first floor, photographed after the school was closed, in about 1998

Before Christmas, the children would gather on the slopes of "The Clown", to sing Christmas carols. "The Clown" was painted in approximately 1990 on some of the unused stairs in the centre of the first floor.


Pine Street School was built in 1920 as an elementary school, part of the Lakehead Board of Education (known as "English-language Public District School Board No. 6A" until 1999 according to Wikipedia).

It was expanded in 1945.

As of 2019 the Lakehead Board runs 23 elementary schools, of which three offer French Immersion:

  • Ecole Gron Morgan (Pine Street's successor school)
  • Agnew H. Johnson School
  • Claude E. Garton Public School

It was set on a huge plot of land bounded by:

  • Red River Road to the south
  • Martha Street to the west
  • Carrie Street to the north (although the school's property did not extend all way to the street)
  • Pine Street to the east

On the north side of the lot, facing Carrie Street, there are ten private houses bisected in the middle by a small cul-de-sac from Madeline Street.

Approximate floor plan, circa 1994

The lot measured 191 metres East-West by 146 metres North-South: a total of 27,886 square metres, or 2.8 hectares, or about 6.8 acres.


It was shut down in June 1994 for some reason, after 74 years. According to Matt Canning in 2019, Mrs Reid said it "had a lot of problems."

Pine Street School Lot, circa 2018

In 1996 it was sold for redevelopment [1]. "School sold for residential development. Publication: Thunder Bay Post, 24 Dec 1996, p. 2"

There was a controversy about rezoning the land for a seniors' home in 1997 and 1998 and the land was put in the market again in 1999. It was finally approved for redevelopment in early 2002.

After sitting vacant and boarded up for many years, it was torn down in December 2002. Soon afterwards, the following was built on the site:

  • Additional parking lot for the Heritage
  • The Walford (20 Pine Street), opened in 2004
  • Pine Crest Condominiums (620 Red River Road) (two buildings), which is two buildings, each of which is a 32-unit 4-storey condominum.

Benny Birch's Birthday Party

Benny Birch, the mascot of St. Joseph's Foundation, would have his "birthday" on around 8 June each year, on the grounds of Pine Street School. It was a fundraiser run by St. Joseph's Foundation of Thunder Bay. [2]

According to Katrina O'Neill, the executive director at St. Joseph's Foundation, "during the entire 32 years it ran we raised $1,175,454 for Bethammi Nursing Home." [3]

Benny Birch's first birthday celebration was held in June 1982. [4]. This was in fact the same birthday as Michael Currie. But since this was counted as Benny's "first" birthday, he was always billed as a year older than Michael.

Benny Birch was discontinued by St. Joseph's care group, with the last celebration, the 33rd, in June 2014 at Chippewa Park. The celebrations spanned 32 years, for 33 distinct events.



"Who didn't see that coming worst thing they did was move it to Chippewa." - Mike Boyechko

"It kept getting smaller and smaller. And more expensive. Then the long drive out to Chippewa. Too bad. It was fun, once upon a time." - Tasha Bee


Anyone have pictures of Benny Birch's Birthday? Or remember the year where we collected all the pellets from the air guns and put them in our desks? The teachers were probably stunned and confused as to why our desks were filled with little, dirty, metal balls... I'm not really sure why we collected them either... I'm sure it all started with Zan Lod.
— Tyler K. Rauman, in 2012, commenting on the events of circa June 1993 [8]

French Immersion Class of 1996 Cohort

A cohort of 40 children went through the French Immersion program together from 1986 to 1994, and then on to Gron Morgan until 1996, and then on to various High Schools.

Class of 1996 Cohort. This picture contains 51 people. It includes 31 of the cohort of 40, including Amber Peterson, who left French Immersion after Junior or Senior Kindergarten. Missing are: Adam Moreau, Erin Altree, Nick Marszowski, Caitlin Dacey, Dana Doran, Erin Paske, Richard Graham Poster, Krys Mychasiw, Spaghetti Boy. It also includes 20 other children, who, like Amber, were not in the French Immersion program in 1996, but were still at Ecole Gron Morgan. They were taught by Mr. Clouthier, (Catherine's father).

Their teachers were generally francophone women.

Language of instruction by grade
Grade Start End Age School Main Teacher Auxiliary Teacher English Teacher
Junior Kindergarden (JK) Sep 1986 June 1987 4 Pine Street School Mrs. Samis n/a n/a
Senior Kindergarden (SK) Sep 1987 June 1988 5 Pine Street School  ? n/a n/a
Grade 1 Sep 1988 June 1989 6 Pine Street School Mme. Stafford n/a n/a
Grade 2 Sep 1989 June 1990 7 Pine Street School Mme. Celine n/a n/a
Grade 3 Sep 1990 June 1991 8 Pine Street School Mme. Georgette Bray n/a n/a
Grade 4 Sep 1991 June 1992 9 Pine Street School Mme. Celine Mr. Olibris Mrs. Chivers-Wilson (1947 - 2012) [9]
Grade 5 Sep 1992 June 1993 10 Pine Street School Mme. James n/a n/a
Grade 6 Sep 1993 June 1994 11 Pine Street School Mme. Parent n/a n/a
Grade 7 Sep 1994 June 1995 12 Ecole Gron Morgan Mme. Ruberto n/a Mrs. Carolyn Carlson
Grade 8 Sep 1995 June 1996 13 Ecole Gron Morgan Mme. Scotia, Jack Masters' daughter n/a Mrs. Carolyn Carlson

Michael Currie missed SK because he and his family were in France. Derek Noyes missed Grade 4 because he and his parents were in France.

Grade 1 was split into two classes: Madame Stafford's and a male teacher.

For grade 3 to grade 6, because the size of the class was larger than one class but smaller than two, an arrangement was made for a random group of about ten students each year to sit in class with the younger year before. This rotation started in about grade 3 and lasted until grade 6 was over. The only student not to be in the smaller special group was Michael Currie, for reasons that were never explained to him, and might just have been coincidence.

Name Married Name Birthday Gender JK SK 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 High School Occupation Residence in 2019 Link
Reese Little Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y PACI Lawyer Thunder Bay
Matt Steele 2 Feb 1982 Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y PACI Teacher Thunder Bay [10]
Tyler Meadows Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y PACI Heavy Equipment Operator Leamington, ON [11]
Charles "Charlie" Saddington Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y PACI Data Solutions Manager Ottawa [12]
Jarrett Blackburn Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y PACI Salesperson [13]
Michael Venn 11 Jan 1982 Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y PACI Banker Thunder Bay [14]
Peter Labine Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y PACI
Matt Wilson Male N N N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm Security Thunder Bay
Neil Bagdon Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [15]
Dylan Gerow Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [16]
Derek Noyes Male Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Hamm Lawyer Thunder Bay
Adam Middleton Male N N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm PhD Biology Researcher New Zealand [17]
Michael Currie 8 Jun 1982 Male Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm Programmer Bangkok [18]
Matt Canning 21 Dec 1981 Male N N N N Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm Blogger Thunder Bay [19]
Adam Moreau Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario [20]
Andrew Murtomaki 15 Oct 1982 Male Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Sailor [21]
Krys Mychasiw Male N N N N N N N Y N N Sports Agent Montreal [22]
Nick Marszowski Male N N N N N Y Y Y N N [23]
Richard Graham Poster Male N N N N N Y Y Y N N [24]
Ryan Hazel Male N N N N N N N Y Y Y [25]
Spaghetti Boy Male N N N N Y N N N N N
Katie Dojack Mehoff Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm Lawyer Winnipeg [26]
Katherine Clouthier Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Teacher South Korea [27]
Amber Peterson Spero Female Y N N N N N N N N N PACI Athlete Grand Prairie, AB [28]
Erica Henderson Female N N N N N Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [29]
Caitlin Dacey Female N N Y Y Y Y Y Y N N High School Teacher, Musician Toronto [30]
Kelsey Perry Endrigo Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [31]
Beverly Kelly Speer Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [32]
Rachel Bryan Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [33]
Heather Wilson Wdowiak 8 Jun 1982 Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y [34]
Carleigh Nelson Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Erin Altree Rose Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [35]
Leanne Ruberry Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm Asset Management Specialist, Bell Canada Montréal [36] [37]
Claire Powell Female Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Photographer London, UK [38]
Erin Paske Madon Female N N N N N N Y N N N St. Ignatius [39]
Calla Barnett Female N N N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [40]
Nicole Martin 11 Jan 1982 Female N N N N N Y Y Y Y Y Hamm [41]
Laura Hutt Female N N N N Y Y Y Y Y Y
Leah Viklen Female N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y St. Ignatius, Hamm Barista [42]
Dana Doran Female N Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N [43]

Teachers and Staff


JK Mrs Samis

SK ??

1 Mme Stafford

2 Mme Celine

5 Mme James

4 Mme Celine

3 Mme Georgette Bray (1937 - 2007)

6 Mme Parent

7 Mrs Carlson and Mme Ruberto

8 Mrs Carlson and Mme Jack Masters

Mrs Chivers-Wilson

Mr Clouthier taught grade 8 English



  • Mr. R. Turner
  • Mme. James
  • Mme Lise Haman (1994) [44]

Other staff:

  • Custodian Gary Moneau (or Mono?) (circa at least 1988 - 1994)
  • Custodian Elfrieda Putter (1974 - 1988)
  • Secretary (name unknown)
  • Lunch staff, such as Mrs. Stout (circa 1990)
  • Irma, the crossing guard circa 1988.

Notable Students


A poem on Pine Street School, circa fall 1994, by Alix Holtby. The poem makes the mistake of assuming the school's age is 50 years (likely using the stone dated 1945 from the addition). In fact the school was 74 at the time of its closing.
Man, I miss that school. Remember the awesome basement with the cool space under the stairs? And climbing the pipes in the boys' washroom? We used to make a game of sneaking inside during recess when the teachers weren't watching so we could play down there.
— Tyler K. Rauman, who attended circa 1988 - 1994. Comment made in 2012 [45]
Gary mauno is a hero. Best janitor ever. Mike and matt c - do you guys recall when we got into his office in grade 5 or 6 and he showed us where the pipes go? Sounds dirty but it was totally legit because he was a great guy. It was just some narrow passageway from his office to some other area.
— Derek, 15 July 2019
Pine Street School Mug, still in use circa 2019, by Dylan Gerow


Clown Stairs, another view. Taken by Tyler K. Rauman after breaking in circa 1998.