Monday, February 29, 2016

Country School

After the war my father went house hunting in Saskatoon, but soon found it was more difficult than he expected.  It looked like we would be at the farm for a while, so my mother enrolled me in a small country school until we got settled.  Cleland School, located about nine miles from Rosetown, was the same school my mother had attended as a child, and was located a half mile from my grandparents' farm.  In mid December 1945 I started my new school.
My mother attended Cleland School in 1924
She was third from the left, second row

Cleland School was the type of turn of the century schoolhouse you would see today if you were to visit any of the heritage villages located across Canada, but in 1945 small rural schools such as this were still in use in many places including Saskatchewan.  To describe the school, I would say there were about twenty desks in the classroom, but only nine students and they were seated in rows by grade; three first graders, two second graders including my cousin Diane, then I think there were two in grade six.  I was the only one in grade four and a boy named Russ was in grade nine taking his classes by correspondence with the teacher overseeing his work.  The map of the Dominion of Canada hung on the wall along with a picture of King George VI, and the alphabet was carefully written in chalk across the top of the blackboard in upper and lower case.

Russ helped out by arriving early in the morning to start the fire in the pot bellied stove and would make sure there was a supply of wood to keep the classroom warm during the day.  Outside there was a small barn and many students rode their horses to school, while others, including me relied on other means of transportation, including a horse drawn stone boat.  A nearby farmer, Mr. Black would take his son to school each day on a stone boat, which had a wooden frame about six feet square and looked like a small raft.  It was a cold winter with a lot of snow, so my grandparents asked if he would swing by and provide transportation for me as well.  Riding the half mile to school on a stone boat was quite a unique experience.

Each morning the teacher, Miss Purse would make sure all the students had work on hand, then would start teaching the grade ones and gradually make her way across the room, one grade at a time.  At lunchtime we would all sit around a big table with the teacher and chat as we ate our sandwiches, sometimes playing games like "I spy with my little eye" or just discussing events on the farm.

Soon after I enrolled, it was Christmas and a community supper at the school was a big occasion for the local farm families.  The tables were set up in the school basement and people crowded into the room, loaded down with roasted turkeys, home baking and all the goodies that make up a marvellous holiday feast.  I can't think of any  celebration at school that could ever surpass Christmas at Cleland that winter.  Everyone was so happy that the war was over and families were back together again.  Even Santa Claus made an appearance.

I attended Cleland for five months before we moved to Saskatoon where I went   to my third school in Grade Four.