Memories of St. Michael’s Academy

Memories of St. Michael’s Academy
by Joan Cripps with reunion notes from Anne Kane

Class of 59 and grade 2 classmates

As a child of six starting to school at St. Michaels’s Academy I remember being awed by the “big place” and those people dressed in black with a white band across their forehead. I soon learned to call them Sister.In those days discipline wasn’t a big problem, as we knew who was in charge—Sister and the strap. The Sisters were kind but didn’t put up with any display of naughtiness. You were on time for school, lined up to go to class, and didn’t talk in class unless spoken to. You quietly stood when the bell rang and left class in an orderly fashion.The school was an impressive size with a basement and three flights of stairs. The basement was the gym, play area, lunchroom and also washrooms. It was here the Sisters always had a nice shrine set up to honour the Saints on their Feast Day.

Marie Reading
In the spring the May Pole would be set up, and it was so pretty when we would dance with the long coloured ribbons. In the fall we had the Fair. This was a very exciting time, as various booths were set up. The booths would be trimmed with evergreen boughs, and the aroma permeated the school. I think the fishpond was our favourite. The library, lunchroom and also basketball room were off the main floor in the basement. The toilets were in large rooms on either end of the gym, one room for girls and one for boys. First floor contained the Principal’s office, the auditorium and music rooms. The Sisters taught music, and our Choir Director Miss Moir was also on this floor. We had a nice auditorium where concerts and closings were held. Our closings were exciting times as we all wore our white midi outfits, pleated skirts and white tops. The auditorium had a large stage with steps leading up on both ends. Miss Moir would conduct our singing here. If you were not able to sing you mouthed the words. It was exciting to be on the stage and looking out to see if your parents were in the crowd.

The second floor was classrooms for grades one to eight. Boys and girls were separated once they reached grade six.

Hostess & Helper
Top floor was for High School, grades nine to twelve girls on one end and St. Thomas boys on the other. I used to wonder if it was called High School because it was so high up. One of the Sisters also had her painting studio on this floor. Once you reached High School you wore a uniform. They were black dresses with pleated skirts and a white collar. I liked this, as everyone was dressed the same, so it didn’t matter that you didn’t have nice clothes. It was thrilling to look out the windows on third floor. You could see all over town. The large trees looked so beautiful.

Playground for boys was at one end of the school and girls on the other end. Recess was a time to look forward to, as we would gather in the trees at the bottom of the school yard and listen to one of the girls tell spooky stories.

The school was owned and operated by the Sisters. They had a Convent that was approached from St. Michaels through a tunnel and also led to the hospital. The sisters also had a farm, garden, and apple orchard. Every St. Michael’s Day students were treated with baskets of apples.

Hostess and Helpers

St. Michael’s Basilica was also close by, as was the Bishops Palace. St. Thomas College wasn’t far from St. Michaels. Hotel Dieu Hospital and Mount St. Joseph were also close by, thus the area became known as “Holy Hill.”

My years at St. Michael’s were very enjoyable, and I look back on them with fond memories.

Last August about 36 people attended the 46th Reunion of Saint Michael’s Academy Class of ‘59 together with their former grade two classmates at the Canadian Legion Branch # 3 in Miramichi (Chatham), New Brunswick.

The hall was beautifully decorated in keeping with the reunion theme, Rock ‘n Roll of the 50’s. The Reunion commenced with Registration and a Meet & Greet on Friday evening, followed by attending the last night of the Folk Song Festival—an energy filled evening! During the Meet & Greet, groups were taken on a tour of the old St. Michael’s Academy.  From this sprung many memories and stories.

Saturday morning, some energetic members went for a walk at French Fort Cove, followed by coffee at Tim Horton’s in Newcastle. In the evening, a delicious salmon dinner was served at the Legion. Welcoming address was given by Anne (Whitty) Kane.  Grace was said by Martina (Nowlan) McCarthy. Guest speaker was David Walsh, Columnist for the Miramichi Leader.

Joan and Marie
Reunion members initiated the evening’s entertainment with singing, guitar playing, clogging, jokes and more. This was followed with Rock ‘n Roll music by Sonny Weatherbee, DJ. Sunday morning began with attending Mass at St. Michael’s Basilica. Cathy (Murdock) Murphy and Anne (Whitty) Kane read. Group photos were taken on the steps of the Alter following Mass.

Sunday Brunch was served at the Legion. Jean (Whitty) Corbett said grace. Guest speaker, Barry McKenzie, spoke on behalf of St. Michael’s Basilica Museum. Anne Kane thanked the primary organizer of the Reunion, Marie (Duplessis) Sutcliff for all her hard work, and presented her with a copy of The Fighting Fisherman written by former classmate, Ray Fraser. Marie is a big fan of Yvon Durelle.

Half and half draws and door prizes were drawn all weekend to help finance the reunion. Thanks everyone for your wonderful support. The Brunch ended our fantastic Reunion weekend, with plans already in motion for the same group to meet again in four years time.

Tea Tasting Ladies

On Monday afternoon Joan Cripps (sister-in-law of one and cousin of another graduate) and Joan Searle hosted a seafood chowder luncheon for the grads. The group sang grace. The daughters of hostess Joan Cripps served lunch.

Following the luncheon there was a gift exchange game, song singing, tea tasting, poetry reading, and viewing of memorabilia from St. Michael’s. The afternoon ended with Marie Sutcliffe presenting thank you gifts to the two hostesses.

All the gals left for home with fond memories of a great four-day weekend.

Joan Cripps of Chatham, New Brunswick, is a frequent contributor to Bread ‘n Molasses. She’s also the founder of the Purple Hat Ladies Tea Society, a group she formed in 2001. Email Joan at