We entered the school through an archway in the centre of the brick-and-stone building and went up a steep set of stairs that rose a half-storey through the facade to the main floor. In the classrooms, the blackboards stood at waist level, while a red and gray checkerboard floor and tall windows brightened each of the large rooms where at one end stood a narrow cloakroom. Two open doorways led into a short, narrow hall with a row of hooks along each wall, a single bare light bulb hung by a long wire from the ceiling, while cast-iron radiators, painted white, ran along one side beneath the hooks.
Wooden doors, inlaid with nine panes of square glass, opened from each classroom into a wide gray-tiled hallway where coarse orange burlap covered the lower walls, creating an extended bulletin board for artwork. The upper walls were white and portion held a mural with a bright yellow half-circle mural decorated with the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and Grover and the Cookie Monster flanking big, red, squarish words that proclaimed ‘Let’s Be Friends’. Grover and the Cookie Monster had their arms around each other’s shoulders, while Ernie, looking at Bert with a wide smile, had an arm around his best friend’s shoulder. Bert, however, stared out of the mural stoic, unsmiling and unfriendly. His arms held stiffly at his side. It was a warm, musty place, ripe with age that saw generations of Canmore kids run up and down the stairs and the halls. Outside, a row of stately elms lined the front of the school. Eventually, after the school, old and tired, had been demolished, these trees became a signpost, marking the spot where the school had once stood. But, then, like the school, these trees – including the one known as the ‘love tree’ that stood just to the right of the sidewalk that left the school’s doors where kids wrote their initials + that one person they were sure they loved – were chopped down when they too became old and tired.