The time has come for the wrecking ball to take down Petawawa’s only high school.
General Panet closed its doors this past winter when students transferred to the new Valour JK to 12 school on Civic Centre Road.
“General Panet was like any Canadian high school in many ways, but different because our fathers and mothers were members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) or worked on Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. That created the bonds that withstand distance and time,” said Patricia Sanford, former student, website host and co-chair of the Panet Reunion Committee.
General Panet High School, originally dubbed the Camp Petawawa High School when it was located at Rivercrest from 1958 to 1960, was named in honour of Major-General Henri-Alexandre Panet.
Panet graduated from Royal Military College in 1891 and joined the Royal Canadian Artillery as a lieutenant in 1894. He served with distinction in the First World War in France with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and later commanded several regiments until his retirement in 1930. His local connection lies in the early years of Camp Petawawa. Panet personally commanded 26 artillery batteries here in 1912.
When the Department of National Defence decided to convert Camp Petawawa from a wartime training ground to a permanent peacetime military establishment, it included schooling in its plans.
The doors of “Petawawa Military Camp School” formally opened in the autumn of 1948 with some 89 pupils enrolling for the fall semester. The school’s population exploded to 1,109 by 1956.
“With families constantly moving between bases, friendships between students were formed quickly and often reignited when families reconnected on different bases. It was a small community, complete with recreational and entertainment facilities, ensuring as students our evenings and weekends were spent in each other’s company,” said Sanford.
The past students of Panet are represented in a wide variety of careers, with many following the family tradition of joining the CAF. Some past prominent students of Panet are Major General Mike Ward, baritone Joshua Hopkins, former NHL players Joe Reekie and Ray Sheppard, editor Jim Cormier, actress Allison Brennan, high school principal Jimmy Clark, Headley bassist Tommy MacDonald, and CTV senior newscaster Tony Grace.
Former Panet students have also served in the CAF all over the world, putting their lives on the line in Bosnia and Cyprus to Rwanda and Afghanistan. Panet lost one of its own in 2009 when Sapper Sean David Greenfield was killed in Afghanistan. His memory lives on through the charity Sean’s Smile, which raises funds to support the children of Afghanistan.
The next Panet reunion, taking place from May 18 to 20, 2018, is already being planned. In addition to hosting formal reunions every five years, informal past-student gatherings have taken place across the country for over 30 years.
“The reunion gets us together, raises money for bursaries for Panet graduating students and contributes to local initiatives. The 2013 reunion provided a contribution for MRI machine and Civic Centre BBQ shelter,” said Sanford.
The Panet Facebook page boasts over 220 members allowing the Panet Boomers, some friends for over 40 years, to keep in touch.
According to Sanford, the difference between Panet and other high schools of its day was that students from other schools were merely friends. Students who attended Panet were part of the greater military family, uniquely supporting and understanding each other.
Although the bricks and the mortar will be torn down, the spirit of Panet will live on the hearts of those who walked its halls.
Details of the 2018 Panet Reunion can be found on their website.
To learn more about Sean’s Smile please visit their website.