It began with a school.
Mrs. J.B. Croft was on the Owen Sound School Board of Education. In the course of visiting schools, she met Miss Edna Jennings, a special education teacher at Strathcona School. In her class of twenty, six were believed only trainable. Both women felt there should be a separate arrangement for the six. (Children with Intelligence Quotient below fifty were refused admission to public schools).
The Minister of Education advised Melba Croft she would need parents’ consent and $500.00 to start a school. She obtained donations from the two I.O.D.E. branches, three area Women’s Institutes, Kiwanis, Jaycees and King’s Daughters. At a public meeting at the Y, in July 1954, 32 of 50 present paid a fee of $2.00 and became voting members.
In October of that year, we received our charter from Mrs. E.V. Hunt, president of the Ontario Association for Retarded Children. Meantime, the Jaycees lent us their second-story dance hall in downtown Owen Sound, if the group would clean it up after their Saturday night dances.
With Miss Frances Neish, a special education teacher from Scotland, we opened the class the day after Labour Day, September 1954. We were astonished at what Miss Neish had taught her pupils in just months. We were also looking for a new classroom. The present accommodation was no longer free.
The city now leased to us, for $1.00 a year, the disused woolen mill near the dam. The main building was in a state of decay and eventually the city tore it down, but left the offices which were much newer. In February 1955, we had our school at 110-5th Street A East.
The Board of Education gave desks, chairs and a blackboard and the city gave us $200.00. Allen White Florists gave shrubs and plants to enhance the grounds and the carpenter’s union gave 100 man- hours in needed renovations. The school was named Crofthaven. It was pointed out that a croft is a smallholding and a haven is a place of refuge.
After 1969 the Department of Education having taken responsibility for educating all challenged children, Crofthaven School was moved from the building by the mill dam to the vacant rural school at Rockford.