Balmoral School, 1968
Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0571
While chatting with some friends at the Historic Calgary Week volunteer recognition event, I was reminded that Balmoral School was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Actually, the school had planned its celebrations for June 21, but we all know what happened on that day, so it was postponed until the new school year. On Friday September 13 the celebration was held and the new clock faces unveiled. There is a great deal of history in that clock tower.
Built in 1913, Balmoral school was the last and most expensive of the nineteen sandstone schools built by the school board between 1892 and 1914. The sandstone building boom ended with the onset of World War I. After the war many of the artisans who worked the stone had returned to their homes in Scotland. Other materials were available at a reasonable cost, so no more sandstone schools were built.
When it opened, Balmoral was an elementary school, with the Crescent Heights Collegiate sharing the building. William Aberhart was principle of Crescent Heights. The High School moved to its own building in 1929.
The defining characteristic of Balmoral School is its clock tower. It has stood blank-faced since the school was completed. Stories about the clock-that-never-was abound. A favourite is that the works for the clock were shipped to Canada on the Titanic. It’s a good story, except the Titanic was sunk in 1912, a year before the school was built. The true story is that, as war approached and the boom ended, there was no money for a clock for the school. Over the years different groups have tried to remedy the situation, but fundraising is a difficult thing and there was never enough money raised. There was even a song written about it:
Old clock tower overhead,
Still no clock when we go to bed
No clock wakes us in the morn
No clock since our school was born
Finally, a corporate donor, BP Energy, offered money to pay for a clock for the tower. Sadly, the years had taken their toll on the tower and to bring it up to a state where it could hold the clock would cost over 100,000 dollars. As a compromise, clock faces, without working mechanisms, were installed to fill in the painted wood faces. They indicate 4:05, which was the time of the end-of-school bell when the school first opened.
Balmoral School taken during a snowstorm, 1966
Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 91-02