Regal Road School Centenary Coin Story

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January, 2015  

Please find below a the fascinating story of the Regal Road School Centenary Coin, the role of RHRA and its members in its planning and the heroic role the Regal Heights Village BIA played in providing funding for this important local community project. 

Regal Road Public School – Celebrating 100 Years, with the Help of the Neighbourhood

Regal Road Public School celebrated the Franklin Belfry, Beau Arts style school’s 100th birthday on November 8th, 2014 with a Centennial Celebration and Open House. In the ‘lead up’ to this event, two initiatives were led by parent, Catherine Araujo, to commemorate the milestone for the students. The first part was for the students to “leave their mark’, in the form of a timeline mural, and the second part was for each, and every student to receive a keepsake in recognition of being a student at Regal during its 100th year.

The centenary mural, which now has “pride of place’ outside the school office, consists of different elements to ‘tell the story’ of 100 years at Regal. Photographs from 1913 to 2014 were sourced and placed along the timeline, as well as a full page Toronto Star Weekly article about the school in 1918. These elements are incorporated into a mosaic which depicts poppies during the war years to represent hope, and in recognition of those who sacrificed so much for our freedom, including our very own Regal Road teacher who made the ultimate sacrifice during WWI.

Daffodils surround the more recent photographs to represent the community involvement (RHRA) and creation of “daffodil hill’ which is the “naturalized’ south-bank of the school. The mosaic is something that every single (2014) student at the school got to work on, and leave a legacy. This was designed and supervised by artist Chantal LeBlanc (of La Muse art studio). It was partially funded by parents through a school fundraiser, and also with a grant from The Ontario Arts Council. Not only did the students get this opportunity to leave their mark as the centenary year students, they had so much fun doing so.

Regal Road Centenary Mosaic
Some students got to don safety goggles and smash tiles with a hammer, while most participated in bringing to life the design, one tile piece at a time. Even the youngest students got to partake in the creation of this legacy; little three and four year old kindergartners were “buddied up’ with “mentors’ from sixth grade classes, and all were “proud’ of the roll they played. Today, Regal Road Public School is a dual-track school. As an added bonus, Chantal Le Blanc provided an educational component for the students in the form of an assembly about the history of mosaic, and she was also able to lead the French Immersion students in French, and the English Stream students in English, and of course, she was willing and able to involve, and work with the whole student body.

The other part of the commemorative initiative was for every student to be presented with a keepsake, centenary coin. The coins are limited edition, and were custom designed by parent Catherine Araujo. They were also “cast’ locally, right here in Toronto. 

Originally, the students were to be presented with their memento, on November 7th, the day before the school held its centennial celebration and “open house’. However; the funding which had initially been secured at the beginning of October, fell through. The coins were still being cast, but the initiative to present each and every student, regardless of their family income, was about to become “a commercial item’ unless we could find someone with enough neighbourly goodwill, and enough vision to recognize and support our initiative.

Two days before the last day of school for 2014, and the last day for Regal’s 100th year, the initiative to “gift our students with a commemorative keepsake’, was salvaged by a local hero; the neighbourhood businesses who are members of The Regal Heights Village BIA. At their emergency meeting, it was decided that they would fund the full amount that we had originally been promised in October. At the eleventh hour, what was almost a commercial item for “some’, went back to being a special token of recognition for each and every 2014 Regal Road Student.
Two days before the last day of school for 2014, and the last day for Regal’s 100th year, the initiative to “gift our students with a commemorative keepsake’, was salvaged by a local hero: the neighbourhood businesses who are members of The Regal Heights Village BIA.

In addition to the 500+ students, all of Regal’s 2014 staff members were to receive their centenary coin, as were some VIP’s with a special connection to the school.

With very short notice, an invitation went out to invite these special people to attend the last junior assembly of the year, as they were to be presented with a centenary coin from our school Principal, Douglas Ajooni Mintz Khalsa. Among those who received an invitation to attend, were:

  • Mary Bull, a descendant of Bartholomew Bull, who was the original landowner and farmer of the lands which the TDSB purchased in 1913 for $56,000 to build Regal Road Public School;
  • Gordon Belfry, the Grandson of Franklin Ernest Belfry, the architect who worked under James Augustus Ellis, and who designed the school in 1913;
  • Andrew McCausland, the Grandson of Robert McCausland, of Robert McCausland Ltd (Canada’s longest running, family owned company. Founded in 1856, and still running today). Robert McCausland lived right in the Regal Heights neighbourhood (on Oakwood,) and, hired by Franklin Belfry, designed and installed stained glass windows in the kindergarten room, depicting nursery rhymes. (They are still in existence at the school);
The Robert McCausland Stained Glass Panels
  • Author, David MacFarlane, the Grand-Nephew of Lieutenant Hedley Goodyear, The Regal Road School Teacher who made the ultimate sacrifice in WWI, when he was killed by a sniper in France. He was also the recipient of The Military Cross for Baravery. (David MacFarlane writes about Hedley, and other Goodyear relatives in his book, “The Danger Tree’);
  • Mike MacConnell, Son of Brian MacConnell (known to the students as Mr. Mac.), Brian was the school’s original Literacy Assistant who helped students with their reading for years, and was also a local hero who shared stories of his experiences in WWII as a spitfire pilot, with our older students on Remembrance Day each year, without glorifying the facts;
  • Some community members from The Regal Heights Residents’ Association were also invited to be recognized for the many projects and initiatives they have been involved in to enhance and improve the school, including, commemorative trees, flower barrels, naturalizing the south-bank with carefully researched native trees and shrubs, and the creation of “daffodil hill’, the restoration of the school pillars and portico, as well as a heritage designation for the school in 2007, and the installment of playground equipment, after the “shortsighted’ board-wide decision to raze all “unsafe’ playground equipment, which resulted in Regal School losing theirs. Those RHRA members are; Florence and Dick WattsJohn LorincAmy BodmanHarry LayJudy Adler and John Keating.
RHRA Initiated and Supported Restored Portico
  • Others, from “the city’ and “the school community’ who worked with the Residents’s Association to close the gap on making these initiatives a reality, are, Brian Green (Supervisor of Parks at City of Toronto), Uton Robinson (former Principal of Regal), and our ward 17 Councillor, Cesar Palacio.
  • In addition to these contributors, we invited two artists who worked with students on centennial projects, Chantal LeBlanc who worked with the students to create the centenary mosaic, and Bill Wrigley, who gave his time for free over many weeks to work with a small number of students in the creation of a colourful, painted mural which depicts the interests of those students in 2014.
  • We also requested the presence of Ward 17 MPP, Cristina Martins, Ward 17 MP, Andrew Cash, Superintendant, Sandra Tondat, and our newly elected, ward 9 TDSB Trustee, Marit Stiles.

As the invitations went out so late, only a small number were able to attend. Principal, Douglas Ajooni Mintz Khalsa decided that the others could attend the January 30th morning assembly instead. It was a very successful event indeed. For some of the students it was “pyjama day’, but for all, it was an exciting and memorable day to end the year.

The Principal gave a wonderful speech to end the centenary year, and introduced each recipient. He explained who each person was, and why that person was being presented with a Regal Road School Centenary Coin, and the students seemed very enthralled with the information. Each of our VIP’s said a few words of their own making this “already exciting’ event, even more successful. The students were able to see and hear from; Gordon Belfry, who talked to them about architecture and his Grandfather, and engaged them with a few questions, then it was announced to the junior students that they would be receiving their own centenary coin, and they were introduced to two of the Benefactors making it possible, Joseph Locurto and Manjeet Matharoo from the Regal Heights Village BIA.

Next up was Mike MacConnell, his sister Debbie and his son (Brian’s Grandson), Sean, a Regal Road graduate. John Keating, Chairman of RHRA was unable to attend, but Marie Goldthorpe, an RHRA longstanding member, collected the presentation on behalf of the Residents’ Association. Last, but not least, Florence and Dick Watts, who have had their hands in so many community initiatives, including many of the ones that involved the school, came up to receive their coins and (Florence) spoke a few words of thanks to the students for looking after daffodil hill!

Regal Road Public School Centenary Coin
Now, because of the kindness and generosity of our local businesses, we were able to do it all. It has been a challenging and “bumpy road’, but finally it all came together, proving that the impossible is sometimes made possible when communities work together, and heroes can sometimes be “local’ after all!

I encourage all my neighbours to shop locally and support local traders. It is an investment in your home (property value) as well as your community business strip; making it more vibrant and attractive to extra outside trade and businesses. It’s a “win, win’ for all, and an opportunity for us to “give back to ourselves’!