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School History

Our thanks go out to Mr. Ross Hepburn who has graciously given permission for us to share his "History of Burnaby South" on our website. Please enjoy.



1922  TO  1992




Burnaby South High School opened  the doors of its main building for the very first  time in 1922. C.G. Brown, principal, and G.P. Black, vice-principal, plus five staff members and 171 pupils, assisted in establishing tradition and expectations. Mr. Brown had previously been principal at Kingsway West Elementary School. The main building of the new high school, facing west on the campus, was adjacent to Kingsway, once called Westminster Road. The additional building on the grounds served as Kingsway East Elementary, which was to close as an elementary in 1925 and become the high school centre for its Business students. South’s playing area was in the form of a field of stumps. A small stream flowed through this part of the campus.

The school hosted mainly an academic program called matriculation in which the core subjects included :English, History, Math, Sciences, French and Latin. However, students also enjoyed their extra-curricular activities: Theatre, Radio, Music, Choir, Needlecraft, and Hiking , as well as Sports: Field hockey, Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, and Track.

South Burnaby as a municipality was continuing to develop its five main urban population centres: Edmonds, Royal Oak, Jubilee, McKay and Central Park/Kingsway.

Edmonds, named after a local family of developers, was alongside the streetcar tracks. Royal Oak, named after the Royal Oak Hotel on Westminster Road, was an important link to the interurban tram line. Jubilee had dated from 1897, the year of jubilee in the sixty year reign of Queen Victoria. The Mckay centre had been named after a local property owner.

Of the forty Burnaby South students writing graduating matric exams in 1926, all passed.

That year the first yearbook was published. Dr. Sedgwick from U.B.C. addressed the matriculation class. 

In the six years after its opening, South had more than doubled in enrolment. The variety concert in the form of dancing, singing, on-act plays, fashion shows, or the production of an operetta became an important part of school activity. These were held at St. Alban’s Hall at Edmonds or Phillip’s Hall at McKay.

The decade of the twenties at Burnaby South High School ended with a word from Dr. Soward from U.B.C .which he delivered at the South graduation: 

That same year the school participants hiked to Hollyburn Mountain, and the Year Book published two exam howlers of the time:

    “Lloyd George was the wartime prime mixture of England.”

    “Julius Caesar was famous for his strength; he threw a bridge across the Rhine.”


“The Thirties”


In 1929 Canada began to suffer from the business depression that struck most of the world. However, in two years the school thrift committee had amassed over one thousand dollars to assist in funding school activities and projects. 

The school Yearbook was assisted in financing its costs by a host of 36 advertisers which included: Gilley Brothers, Home Gasoline, McKay Dry Goods, Pitman’s Business College, Sparling Sporting Goods, and West Burnaby Pharmacy, to name a few. The 1931 Yearbook was dedicated to the graduating class in Senior Commercial which was comprised of only eight students.

Local speed traps on Kingsway often were spoiled by helpful students who warned the motorists. School life went on and the track athletes did very well at the Inter-High Sports Day at Hastings Park.

The school  Yearbook published some more howlers:

“An angle is a triangle with only two sides.”

“Latin is the language of those who don’t live any more.”


The year 1934 witnessed eighty students graduating from South, a new record. C.G. Brown, the principal, entered and won the oratorical contest of the Speakers Club at the Hotel Vancouver. His topic was ”The British Commonwealth of Nations”. That same year, the Intermediate Rugby Team defeated West Vancouver 3-0 to bring the cup to South for a second time in two years. 

After one postponement, and numerous requests, the school hike was held in March to North Van.

In the community, “The Perils of Pauline” serial was playing at the Central Park Theatre. Admission for adults was fifteen cents. By 1936 plans were underway for the  $40.000  “Oak” theatre to be built at the corner of Kingsway and Marlborough; at the same site as the present London Drugs. 

By 1937 Mr. Norm MacDonald was enjoying his second year as principal, having replaced Mr. Brown, who was now the new Inspector of Burnaby Schools.

On September 10th., 1939, Canada declared war on Germany, the first time that Canada had declared war independently.  It was hoped that the war would be a short one.




During the 1939/40 term the record attendance at South had included 117 graduates. A survey conducted by the yearbook club resulted in the following information about the students .

    Walking was the most popular means of transportation to school.

    More than 70% of the students were born in B.C.

    Out of the 600 students, 400 admitted that they listened to the radio more than they read.

    In reading, students averaged one book a month.

    Dance music, radio plays, and  radio comedy shows had a following of about 200.

    News broadcasts, symphonic music, and political discussions gained fewer followers.

    In addition to “going to movies”, students enjoyed school dances, and skating parties.

    More than half of the males worked part-time; the most prevalent job being “delivering papers.”

    Male work income averaged  nine dollars a month, while the female average was two dollars.


The questionnaire showed that students had other things to do besides  homework . Hobbies and school activities played a strong role in their lives. In 1940/41 the school orchestra was re-established , making its debut at the 11th. annual Public Speaking contest. 

Drawing heavily on prairie talent the school ice hockey team won the Cup of the Westminster League.

Many unofficial hockey practices seemed to take place at Deer Lake during the day, if and when it froze over. A Canadian football team was organized for the very first time.

The  following two years  marked some major changes at Burnaby South:

    Thirty-seven teachers were on staff  with an enrollment of 1000 students.

    The Cadet Corps was introduced which involved ninety percent of the males.

    The addition of a new building also brought a change of school name which was to

    be “ Hugh M. Fraser”.

    The Hugh M. Fraser annual in 1942 was dedicated to the students who had left the school halls

    and the peace of their homes to serve  in the war effort. The past year. had seen the school

    activities centered around  the war effort: Cadet Corps, the Red Cross, Navy  League, War Saving

    Stamps, and additional fund-raising.

School activity had seen the Occupational  Club expanded to a Vocational Conference bringing to the school leaders in the professional and business world to discuss the work requirements.    

The year 1943 witnessed the return of the school name to that of Burnaby South due to a school board policy of not naming schools after people.

The mid-forties were years of school growth; the newly-formed MacMillan Club endeavored to develo the cultural outlook of the school, and the school’ s  co- curricular activities included the yearly production of an operetta.

The year 1945 saw an end to the War.. A number of South’s war veterans  re-registered at the school to upgrade their studies and go on to university.

Night School  had been introduced to the school in 1945: the two courses were; Horticulture and Current Affairs. That same year, the Senior Girls’ Basketball team won the Lower Mainland Championship.

South’s twenty-fifth year Anniversary was celebrated in 1948. The school chose its permanent grad pin. School fund-raising was to go toward the construction of the War Memorial Tennis Courts, which were dedicated on November 10th./ ‘48 to the fifty-one ex-students who had been killed in the War.

Nineteen forty-eight was also the year of the great Fraser River flood The decade ended with plans for an addition to the school, and a promise that new sidewalks were planned for Kingsway.  And two grads from South helped Eilers Senior Women’s Basketball team win the National title.The Burnaby  Teachers’ Association introduced their Bursary to Burnaby South. At the provincial energy level, natural gas and oil were discovered near Fort St. John. However, the decade of the forties was really dedicated to those from South who served, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.




In 1951 Burnaby’s population  reached 58,000 and witnessed the opening of McPherson Junior High which was to relieve South of some of its large enrolment. That same year , Burnaby welcomed Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

In 1952 , because of a large senior class, Grade 8 classes had been dropped from the enrolment with Grade 9 to follow. The year had been highlighted by the victory of the Senior Girls’ Basketball team at the Provincial Championships. In 1952 Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth.

The Commercial Department of the school was also commended for placing all their graduates in the working world. The following year the boys repeated what the basketball girls had accomplished by winning the Provincial title. 

Girls’ field hockey placed first in the Vancouver & District Zone , and second in the Provincial  Championships.

In the community, Simpsons-Sears was under construction.

By 1954 the entire graduation class numbered 200 students and was told that the old virtues of punctuality, hard work, and perseverance were still in vogue. 

Among the many clubs that operated, the Judo Club was added. New school construction at South was to include an additional wing, an auxiliary gym, and new bleachers in the main gym.

The grad class in 1955  numbering 240 set a new record for total numbers. The total enrolment was over 1100 with 47 staff members. The main building had been completely renovated including the office area.

Even the front driveway had been blacktopped. One of the most active clubs in the school was “Future Teachers.”

The following year the school was honored by a visit from the Honorable Mr. Paul Martin, Federal Minister for Health. His inspiring speech reinforced Canada’s role in promoting understanding and tolerance.

1956 also featured the student presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, a smash at the box office.

The school newspaper, The Argus, published the following humour:

    “Some people sleep at home,

      Some people sleep at sea,

     But a good front seat in English

      Is good enough for me!”

In 1957 the Drama Club was re-born in the form of a group of students who took on the difficult task of producing "The Curious Savage" in partial arena style. Completely independent of the "Acting" course which had been added to the curriculum, the club was to continue to grow and take on greater challenges. The existance of this group was to be the basis of the great musicalsof the 60's when combined with the talent of the MacMillan Club which at the time was in its seventeenth year of existance.

1959, B.C's Centennial Year, opened with an enrolment of 1400 pupils and a staff of 58 teachers.The period of growth had been reflected in many ways, particularly in the interest by students and staff in school clubs, musicals , and sports. The fifties had also experienced a period of great growth across Canada.

 In 1959 Queen Elizabeth II, and U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, dedicated the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The fifties were to end on a note of still further growth and change  in the community , and , of course, at Burnaby South.




The 1961 yearbook was dedicated to Mr. C.G. Brown, South’s first principal, who had made a major impact  on  Burnaby’s school system as an administrator and as an Inspector of Schools. 

The beginning of the sixties was to predict a decade of changing times: the tempo of life was increasing, specialization was becoming widespread, and there was a need for more education. "Ben Hur" had been voted the top movie of the year. Physical Education as a compulsory subject in Grade 12 had been dropped from the curriculum. The Student Council went on record as hiring its first "live " dance band to play at a school dance.

The skill of the bagpipes came to Burnaby South in "61 in the form of the Broadway musical, "Brigadoon" ,opening on an unprecedented four night run. This successful challenge was to set a precedent which was to last over twenty years.The musicals produced at South in the sixties included: Finian's Rainbow, The Red Mill, Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, Brigadoon repeated, and Lil Abner. The sixties were also to bring flower children, hippies, Cuba, Vietnam, and travel to the Moon, civil rights, and the Grey Cup in Vancouver.

In B.C. itself, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway built a branch line from Summit Lake to Fort St. James in the interior, opening up unused land to logging and mining.

The Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States received final approval calling for the Peace River hydro dam as a major project.


1963 was to mark the final year of Grade Thirteen as South after twenty-eight years.

The growth of the music program included 85 choir members, and  65 band members.


1964 witnessed South's badminton seniors and juniors winning the Vancouver & District Aggregate Trophy; and the wrestlers taking first 

place honors at the B.C. Novice Championships.


In 1965, Parliament passed the National Pension Plan as well as adopting a new Canadian flag, the 11 point red maple leaf.That same year South's boys earned Vancouver and District Championships in both senior soccer and wrestling. Burnaby was enjoying the opening of Simon Fraser University while an 18 hole Pitch & Putt was taking shape at Central Park.

The Grade Ten students were to be the first to take part in the new curriculum changes, which included the addition of courses such as: Graphic Arts, Electronics, Automotive, Carpentry, and Chef Training. 

1966  marked South's forty-fourth year with the school's enrollment at 1260 students with a staff of 52 teachers.

 A new Vocational Wing was under construction to include a cafeteria, and teaching areas for Commerce, Industrial, and Community Services Programs.


1967  was the Centennial Year of Canadian Confederation. Celebrations included: the Confederation Train,  Expo '67 in Montreal, and the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg.


The decade closed in 1969 with an example of change at the national level with the Official Languages Act, passed in a time of serious

 inflation. Canada was to have some economic problems as the decade ended; and we were to look forward to Greenpeace, Environmentalists, an oil crisis, Maggie Trudeau, the Quebec Crisis, and Joe Who? And coming soon was a new Election Act which lowered the minimun voting age from 21 to 18.




In 1970 the school musical “The Sound of Music” opened a new decade of activity at South. Skirts were still on the short side, an inheritance from the sixties; and the boys were letting their hair grow longer. Enrollment at South reached 1400, and the grade levels had settled to a Grade 11/12 system. In 1970, the Curling Team won the Provincial Championship. In the early 70’s the music and theatre performances included: "Wonderful Town", "Dracula Baby", and "The Wizard of Oz." 

The fiftieth anniversary of Burnaby South was celebrated in many ways, one of which was in the dedication of the ‘73 Yearbook to the students and staff who had helped create the traditions of the first half century of the school. Styles had changed, curriculum had broadened, the sports program had widened, but the essential spirit of the school had remained constant. 

    “Can you think of a day when you felt so proud

    As you yelled yourself hoarse in the seething crowd.

    At the inter-school sports when you cheered so loud

    For splendid Burnaby South.


    Can you think of those years you enjoyed so well

    With their ups and downs? Words cannot tell

    Of those wonderful years underneath the spell

    Of good old Burnaby South!

                    E. Smart (published in 1933)


The year 1974 witnessed the Senior Girls' Fieldhockey team as Vancouver and District Champions, and placing third in the Provincials. Boys' Cross Country also brought glory to the school with the team having firsts in the Burnaby New West Zone, and the Pacific Northwest Championships; and third in the Canadian Nationals. That same year the Rugby Team travelled to New Zealand and Australia. The musical of '74 was "Bye Bye Birdie" which looked at the fabulous fifties. The production included 130  students.  1976 turned out to be the last year of competitive football at South, but the first year of Boys' Volleyball. The mid-seventies was shadowed by an economic recession which caused a slow-down of production in Canada.

Boys' hair was still long in 1976, and the musical "Hello Dolly" played to record breaking audiences, while the Golf Team headed south to California during the Spring Break. That same year the N.D.P. government called an unexpected election and lost to the Social Credit Party.

In the Spring of '77 the Band and Choir travelled to England which was experiencing the worst drought in modern history, reducing the Thames to a trickle. Back at South, the first "Gong Show" was organized and played to the largest noon-hour crowd in modern history.

The end of the seventies featured "Oklahoma", and "The Miracle Worker"; both highlights of  the school music and theatre.

The Senior Boys' Basketball team won the Provincial Championship, and featured a player whose father had played on South's 1953 Provincial Championship team. What a miraculous coincidence!  The girls matched the boys by winning the Provincial Field Hockey title. Canada's economy continued to suffer, and the population was reaching 24 million.The entire decade of the seventies ended with a Burnaby South male student establishing a world record for "telephone booth sit-ins", the booth being located at Edmonds and Kingsway. 




The year 1980 was to mark the beginning of a decade at South of probably the greatest change. For old time’s sake, the Theatre Department reached back once more into the past and produced “Arsenic and Old Lace”. Among the school student population,  the boys were cutting their hair shorter. Also, a 1980 survey at the school indicated:

    20% of the students walked to school

    10% cycled

    70% of the students arrived by bus or car

That Spring everyone was excited about the musical, “Dracula Baby”. Among other achievements the following accomplishments were recognized:

    A Duke of  Edinburgh Award

    B.C. Most Promising Film Maker Award

    Two school reps on the Junior National Field Hockey team

1981 was the beginning of a declining enrolment at South which was to have an effect on grade structure by the end of the decade. That same year the Intermediate Boys’ Basketball team won the Vancouver and District Championship., and the rugby team travelled  to Australia and Fiji. Academic honor was brought to South when its high achiever earned the Governor-General Medal.  On the Canadian scene, the federal government boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow.

1982 was to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the school.  In addition, Canada’s Constitution was put into  law.  The giant Homecoming welcomed back grads of many years.

1983  welcomed many new programs to South: the International Baccalaureate, the Hearing Impaired, Adult Business  Education, and Career Preparation Work Experience. The renovation of the upper east side of the Sceneshop produced a small theatre for the future. The addition of computers to school curriculum was also a major change.

The early eighties witnessed the addition of more government exams in the Grade 12 year.

1984 produced some outstanding accomplishments: First in the Vancouver Sun Editorial  Essays, first in Rugby and Badminton, a second in the Provincial Typing competition, and a third out of 77 in the Physics Association Exam. In 1984, Burnaby hosted the B.C. Summer Games.

In May of 1986, the leadership of the Social Credit party changed hands. On the Canadian scene the economy was growing at about four percent.

In Burnaby, plans were underway for the Metro-town centre addition. And Vancouver was to host Expo which was to turn out to be a grand success. Meanwhile, the 1986 grad class was telling us that the top two television shows were: Bill Cosby, and The Young and the Restless.

Two of the top ten movies were:  Back to the Future , and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Among many great memories of the '86 year were the Physics Olympics, the Earth Science field trip to Seattle, and "Barefoot in the Park", the Spring play.

June 1987 was to witness the graduation of the first Grade Twelve International Baccalaureate class. Nineteen students were to win scholarships in the provincial competitions including one who scored a perfect paper on the Chemistry 12 scholarship exam.

1988 saw the community planning for the new public library and the civic square at Metrotown. A year later, the Riverway Sports Complex hosted the Workl Police and Fire Games. That same Autumn, one of  South's alumni, at 6  feet, 10 inches,  was named to the national water polo team.



In March '90, Burnaby South Secondary was hosting for the first time an Immigration and Citizenship Ceremony sponsored through the Federal Government. June 1990 brought the introduction of the Alumni Award with the recipient, a successful Movie and Television writer and producer in Hollywood, flying up for the occasion. The following year, the school recognized the recipient of the second Alumni Award, a graduate who was Dean of  Business Administration at Harvard University.

1991 was to be the beginning of the last full year at the present Kingsway Campus for Burnaby South Secondary. Construction was to start on the new Rumble/McPherson site for the "South" of the future. The Fall Provincial election put the N.D.P. in government.

The June '92  Graduation Class honoured the recipient of South's third Alumni Award, a graduate from the performing arts, recognized nationally as a musician, composer, and arranger in the television and film industry. The Commencement was to mark the final graduation on the Kingsway Campus after seventy years.  The staff and students were moving to the new facility  during the school year, a year that was also to recognize  the city of Burnaby's  Centennial birthday. A special award  recognized Mr. N.D. MacDonald, who had graduated in 1924 as part of the first graduating class. His long association with the school spanned thirty-nine years as student, teacher, and principal. Burnaby South's record on the Kingsway Campus included a whole array of achievements. The many students and staff who passed through its hallways were testimonial to its rich history of achievement and activities, its humility and pride, its tradition and evolution.

South's Homecoming Week-end in May '93 officially marked the formal good-bye to the school's address at 6626 Kingsway. The spirit of the old to the new was demonstrated in the Trek to the new Rumble/MacPherson Campus, as an end to an era was recognized. However , everyone realized that exciting new chapters were soon to be written by  Burnaby South students.on this new campus.

Copyright : Ross Hepburn