Grandson retraces grandfather's footsteps on campus

April 23, 1997 - 5:00pm

In 1938, Wilfred McGarrigle graduated from the mechanics course at Nanaimo's first vocational school.

Almost 60 years later, his grandson Mason McGarrigle has just completed his second year of the four-year carpentry program at the same school--only now it's called Malaspina University-College.

"That's pretty neat. I didn't know that my grandfather went to the same school," said Mason, who is working towards his journeyman's carpenter's ticket at Malaspina.

It's alumni like Wilf and Mason McGarrigle that employees at Malaspina University-College look forward to meeting at the 60th anniversary celebration of continuous vocational/trades training.

The two-day celebration is slated for May 30 and 31 at the Nanaimo campus, and according to key organizers, all former alumni and current students in the vocational/trades programs are invited.

Wilf McGarrigle, now in his early 80's, has led an active and colorful life since graduating from the mechanics course 59 years ago. He lives on his grandfather's old family farm on Jingle Pot Road, where he raised beef cattle for many years.

Before that, he worked as a logging truck driver and mechanic. "I learned many valuable skills in the mechanics course--skills I've used all my life," he said. "Whether I was logging, driving trucks or farming, I've never regretted taking that course."

When Wilf graduated from the vocational school in 1938, he was 18 years old. His first job as a logging truck driver paid $6.50 a day. "In those days, that was good money," he said. "My grandchildren tell me I'm crazy when I tell them I bought my first brand-new pick-up truck for $900."

McGarrigle has three sons, a daughter and 13 grandchildren--most of whom live in Nanaimo. He may be the oldest living graduate of Nanaimo's first vocational school but he has mixed feelings about attending the 60th anniversary party.

"I don't know whether or not any of my former classmates are still around or not," said McGarrigle. "I think I might be the only one."

His secret to longevity? "I've always tried to remain active," he said. "The secret is to just keep going."

When McGarrigle was enrolled in the mechanics course, the school was called The Dominion Provincial Vocational School, established in 1937. In 1958, the name of the school was changed to B.C. Vocational School - Nanaimo. Pre-apprentice courses commenced in 1957 with about a dozen trades training courses.

Malaspina College, the first community college on Vancouver Island, was officially opened in September, 1969, and two years later the B.C. Vocational School was amalgamated with the College.

Today, Malaspina University-College has four campuses: Nanaimo, Cowichan, Parksville/Qualicum and Powell River. The University-College offers more than 100 programs leading to certificate, diploma or degree programs, including 21 trade and specialty vocational programs.

For further information about the 60th anniversary celebration of continuous vocational/trades training at Malaspina University-College, on May 30 and 31, please contact Carolyn at (250) 753-3245.

Tags: In the Community

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