Espanola school turns 100

Sudbury Star

The old AB Ellis Public School is marking a centenary in Espanola. File photo

“On the way to Manitoulin, oh my heart is young and gay, on the way to Manitoulin, I am driving there today,” is the song in my happy heart. Yet, I must pause and pay my compliments to the merchants at the Espanola Mall.

Wake up! I’m still home in New York City, dreaming of being in the North, driving to Manitoulin. I do, however, have the pleasure of talking to Wendy Ashton of Espanola, though we’re on the phone. What’s new with her?

“My committee and I are excited that the A.B. Ellis school building is 100 years old this year and it is the largest elementary school in the area,” Ashton says. “At one point, we had 700 children attending this school.”

Students came from Birch Island, Willisville, Nairn, Webbwood and Whitefish Falls, until the towns built their own schools, she notes. The building also served as a high school until the current secondary school was built in 1951. “We have lots of history in this building,” she says.

“We’ve been holding fundraisers to be able to host this celebration by holding our Cookie Sale in December, and in March, we presented an Ethiopian Dinner at the Royal Canadian Legion in town,” Ashton continues. “My daughter Cassandra Ashton, who goes by the name Cat, prepared this festive evening. And our group has been bagging groceries at the Your Independent Grocer on Centre Street. The donations have been generous. You even found us on Facebook for our Easter Bake Sale.”

“I was ready to fly up, rent a car, and get to those ginger snaps!” I exclaime.

“If we had known w would have saved some for you,” she says. “Catherine Clackett, one of our retired teachers, organized the donations for baking. And, we’ll be holding our festive Spring Tea on May 10 at the Senior’s Drop Inn Centre at 799 Queensway Avenue, right behind the Espanola Regional Hospital, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. On the menu includes open-faced and regular sandwiches, freshly baked croissants, mini crusty ciabatta buns, a wide assortment of cookies, tea and coffee. The cost is $6 to attend.”

“That’s a bargain!” I say. “Must people wear fancy hats?”

“Only if it’s sunny,” Wendy replies. “We’re excited about our new cookbook titled 100+ Recipes for 100 Years. All our effort is toward planning a Gala 100th Anniversary Celebration on the Civic Holiday of Aug. 2-4. This short ceremony will be held Aug. 3, with a formal celebration, speeches, local dignitaries, and a lovely chocolate and vanilla cake.”

As we dish about many things. I tell Wendy how I love calling at the Espanola Mall and I learned her husband Wayne was assistant manager at the A&P at the mall, and he’s retired now with other interests.

Trying to remember all the shops at the mall, I phone the town office, lucky to get delightful Cynthia Townsend, chief administrative officer for the Town of Espanola. She gives me permission to list some of the shops. I tell Ms. Townsend this is not shopping, this is research, local sightseeing, exercise, honouring the merchants. And keeping the Espanola mall green with currency.

First to Barb’s Kiosk Lottery, to buy a chance, passing by Espanola Dental Centre Healthcare. A peek to greet Drs. Bell, Booth and Sirkka at Healthcare – Optometrists. Stopping in at Cinder’s Natural Health Food Store. Next is the one I call upon needs a cart. You know it: Dollarama department store, which I peg as Fifty Dollarama. Next, it’s to Tommy‘s Nail Salon for a change of polish. Now into FreshCo, to bring flowers to Manitoulin, then a perusal at the Hart Department Store. The Anytime Fitness Center, open 24 hours, looks busy and so do the people at Liberty Tax Service.

My favourite is the Homestyle Foods Specialty Grocery Store, run by Pete Rodley, specializing in local and homemade foods. I get Pete on the phone, so proud of him.

“On one side of the store, we offer specialty items as gluten-free oven-ready meals and cookies, from around our area,” he says. “We offer cakes, brownies and pies, as well as dairy-free, vegetarian and Keto foods. On the other side of our store, we’re stocked up on oven-ready meals, pies, and desserts for people with no dietary restrictions. Keto is new this year. We’ve also expanded, offering local meats that are grass or grain-fed with no hormones or antibiotics. I’m so proud that 90 per cent of our stock in this store is local, coming from our area. Not only does this boost our local economy, but our offerings are healthier choices and much better tasting.”

Pete asks me to come in and visit him. You bet.

Next is Jason McGregor at The Source, offering Vintage Electronics. He’s busy selling CDs, guitars and accessories, and a full line of electronics. I get batteries there. And at Hair Plus, Janice, a fabulous hairdresser, cutter and colourist, says hello to me.

Mark’s Mens & Ladies Casual Workwear has so much stuff, I must peruse. I call it exercise. Next, I walk by Valupet Supplies. And RX Pharmacy, that has most everything. A stop at Shay’s Cafe Restaurant for a quick cup of coffee. And the Tin Cup for the next coffee. Back to clothes and shoes at Urban Athletics, all warming up to my other top spot, Northern Reflections, with Canadian fashions for all ages, and sizes.

Weren’t Wendy and I talking about the festive Spring Tea on May 10 at the Senior’s Drop Inn? With delicious sandwiches and the wide assortment of cookies, tea and coffee? Will I see you there?

Bonnie Kogos can be reached at

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