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Delta throwback: A bell 'kidnapping'

The determined students believed they had good cause to remove the old bell from the DSS attic
dss bell kidnapping 1969
Students hid a historic bell at the barn of Ian Paton Sr. until a ransom was paid.

In 1969, the “kidnapping” of a school bell from Delta Secondary was the talk of the town.

The old bell was once used on the steam locomotive that ran from Surrey to Port Guichon and later at Central School from 1926 until 1938.

It was in storage in the DSS attic waiting to be donated to the Delta Historical Society so it could be rung by Premier W.A.C. Bennett at the opening of the new Delta Museum.

It was discovered missing and in its place was a ransom note from the student members of "Operation Stopgap" demanding funds to purchase new books to replace books lost in a school fire in September of that year.

A total of 16 rooms were gutted in the fire, caused by arson, resulting in $700,000 in damage.

The ransom for the bell was paid.

Principal Gordon Rogers noted he was glad it was not a real act of vandalism, but wondered how the students removed the heavy bell.

The Optimist reported the school board had delayed transfer of the bell to the museum because it was believed "the efforts of several men" would be required to safely remove it from a perch in the attic.

According to DSS, everyone came out ahead because the ransom demand focused attention on the need for new textbooks, the premier was able to ring in the opening of the new museum in style, while school workers did not have to go to the trouble of bringing the bell down from the attic.