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End of an Era at Galt

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Len­noxville, Sher­brooke

Af­ter spend­ing thirty-eight years co­or­di­nat­ing and or­ga­niz­ing stu­dent ac­tiv­i­ties in the same of­fice at Alexan­der Galt Re­gional High School, it’s not sur­pris­ing that Robert Hal­sall, or “Bob” as he was af­fec­tion­ately known for so many years

by staff and stu­dents alike, was find­ing his­toric trea­sure af­ter trea­sure as he cleaned out his of­fice, get­ting ready for re­tire­ment.

“That was me play­ing Mr. Bum­ble in Oliver, the school play,” said Mr. Hal­sall, who then rat­tled off one of Mr. Bum­ble’s fa­mous lines, word for word, like it was yes­ter­day, as he showed me the play’s pro­gram from the 1970’s. An­other school pam­phlet, also from the seven­ties, en­cour­aged the boys to dress in a shirt and tie or turtle­neck, whereas the girls could be “cre­ative”, dress­ing in a tu­nic or pleated skirt.

Other trea­sures, these ones sports me­mora­bilia re­lated, cov­ered the walls; hockey greats like Wayne Gret­zky and Mau­rice Richard who looked down on the hun­dreds and hun­dreds of stu­dents who en­tered ‘Bob’s realm’ for some kind of of­fi­cial school or per­sonal busi­ness; his door was al­ways open.

Born and raised just ten kilo­me­tres from the high school, in Birch­ton, Bob was work­ing in the Munkit­trick bike shop when he was told about a job open­ing for the new po­si­tion of Stu­dent Ac­tiv­ity Co­or­di­na­tor at his old high school, a po­si­tion he was in­ter­ested in af­ter tak­ing Recre­ational Tech­niques at Cham­plain Col­lege. “They had re­ceived forty-nine ap­pli­ca­tions and I went through three in­ter­views, then waited three months be­fore hear­ing that I had the job,” he ex­plained.

“For my first thir­teen years, there were no sports in­volved in my job, ex­cept for the trans­port. I was in­volved with the year­book, the prom, fundrais­ers, Stu­dent Coun­cil, grad pics, trips abroad, class rings, the car­ni­val… if it didn’t take place in the class­room, then I was in­volved in it.” And who hasn’t bought fresh or­anges or grape­fruits at least once over the years from a Galt stu­dent, a fundraiser that Bob be­gan or­ga­niz­ing soon af­ter he ar­rived at Galt that helped stu­dents pay for ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties. “Al­though I had a full time job as Stu­dent Ac­tiv­i­ties Co­or­di­na­tor, in 1989 they added sports to my job. The job of Ath­letic Co­or­di­na­tor was enor­mous – so I made Galt my life. I didn’t work for the ETSB or for the prin­ci­pal but for the stu­dents; I al­ways did it for the kids,” com­mented Mr. Hal­sall. “But other ac­tiv­i­ties did suf­fer, like the Film So­ci­ety and a few other clubs.”

It’s not clear how the po­si­tion of Stu­dent Ac­tiv­i­ties Co­or­di­na­tor will evolve or even if it will sur­vive at all come Septem­ber. The po­si­tion of Ath­letic Di­rec­tor was taken over two years ago by Robert Fisk. “I don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen, if they will hire some­one part time, or what. I’m con­cerned about it, but I have to move on. Hope­fully the kids won’t lose too much,” said Bob. “When I came here I was a young and vi­brant per­son; I hope they find a young and vi­brant per­son to re­place me.” “In 1976, we had 2,400 stu­dents; now we have just over 900,” com­mented Mr. Hal­sall when talk­ing about some of the changes he’d seen over the years. “The amaz­ing part about that is that the crowd will be al­most as big this Fri­day night, at the prom of about 150 grads, as it was back in 1976 when we had 440 grad­u­ates. More of the stu­dents and their par­ents take pride in their grad­u­a­tion than be­fore.”

He con­tin­ued: “So­cial me­dia cer­tainly changes the at­ti­tudes of the stu­dents but, in the end, kids will be kids. They walk into my of­fice to talk, and I lis­ten; I don’t ask a lot of ques­tions. Of­ten they just need that ex­tra ear.”

Ear­lier in June, Mr. Hal­sall was hon­oured by teach­ers, coaches and friends at

a re­tire­ment party held at the ANAF Hut, in Len­noxville. Dur­ing the party he was given a hand­made mem­ory quilt to re­mind him of the eighty-one sports teams that he coached while work­ing at Galt. Dur­ing the Galt Awards evening Bob got an even big­ger sur­prise when he was told that the school was nam­ing the foot­ball field af­ter him: Hal­sall Field. “That was a re­ally good sur­prise. That floored me to have that hon­our,” he said.

Be­sides be­ing ded­i­cated to his job and to the stu­dents of the school, Mr. Hal­sall was also fa­mous for know­ing how to belt out a tune, well, one tune any- way. And if you’ve ever been to a Galt Grad­u­a­tion, you’ve heard it: Born to be

Wild. “I was asked to sing it at the Band Con­cert in May. Mr. Ober­meir said it was the best one ever!”

“What I’ll miss most is ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­body. One day a for­mer grad came in for a visit with his nine year old son. Dur­ing the re­cess kids kept com­ing into my of­fice over about ten or twelve dif­fer­ent sub­jects, prom, hockey, car­ni­val… Hav­ing this as an open of­fice was al­ways spe­cial to me. That’s what I’ll miss.”

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Bob Hal­sall sits at the desk in the Stu­dent Ac­tiv­i­ties of­fice that he oc­cu­pied for thirty-eight years at Alexan­der Galt High School.

A very young Bob soon af­ter he be­gan work­ing at Galt.

Photo cour­tesy

Bob Hal­sall poses with some stu­dents at a re­cent Grad­u­a­tion.

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