Site of King Ed secondary gets heritage plaque near VGH

Nearly 40 years after Vancouver's first high school burned down, some of its graduates will gather Wednesday to unveil a plaque marking it as a major heritage location in the city. They'll also kick off a campaign to fund a commemorative sculpture for the school's former location outside Vancouver General Hospital's Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre on West 12th Avenue at Oak.

Bill Turpin recalled that Maclean's magazine rated King Edward secondary Canada's top high school in 1958. Turpin, a graduate from 1956, noted a photo with the article depicted teachers lined up against a blackboard with the date each of them graduated from King Ed written in chalk above their heads.

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"So people who went there wanted to go back there," he said.

Turpin recalled the reaction of a woman who completed her final year at King Ed. "She said she had only been in the school a few minutes and you could feel it. She said there was almost something in the air that this was a different kind of school. It's sort of a can-do attitude and a friendly attitude."

A can-do attitude could explain the long list of notable graduates from King Ed that includes philanthropist Cecil Green, Olympic gold medalist Percy Williams, DJ Red Robinson, journalist Jack Wasserman, politicians Grace McCarthy, Jack Volrich and George Puil and former B.C. Lions president Bob Ackles.

Opened as Vancouver High School, it was renamed King Edward in 1910 and would have been 102 this year. It burned down in 1973.

The plaque recognizes King Edward as one of the city's 125 "Places That Matter" through a public campaign organized by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. The plaque is to be unveiled at the remaining rock wall and gates of the school at 2 p.m. with music and memorabilia.

The King Edward High School Commemorative Committee will also kick off its fundraising drive to purchase a sculpture to recognize the important role the school played in the city's history. Former King Ed students are encouraged to attend.

Turpin and King Ed graduate Jim Greenwood envision bronze statues of a teenaged boy and girl wearing sweaters emblazoned with the initials of the school. crossi@vancourier.com Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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