It is amazing how many wonderful people I have met giving my talk about my book. Today I enjoyed a lovely meal at the Mandarin Olive Restaurant on Ogilvy Road as the invited guest of the Ottawa Newcomers Alumni Club. At my table was a man named Dirk Paul. He moved with his family from Holland to a farm in Gainsborough Township in the Niagara Penninsula. He remembers his father walking him and his brother to S.S. No. 4 Gainsborough (Bismark School) on the first day, wrote their names and ages (11 & 9) on the blackboard, and then turned around and walked out leaving his two boys who didn’t speak a word of English. He grew to love his little blue haired lovely teacher names Miss Cook. This thin old lady managed to maintain discipline without the need for corporal punishment. Unfortunately, her replacement, a new graduate, was unable to do the same. Dirk remembers smoking in the basement, skating at lunch and returning late to class. What a small world it was to learn that Dirk grew up, graduated in engineering from Queen’s University, and went to work for my father at Bell Canada in 1962. He remembers coming to my house in Lachine, Quebec and listening to me and my siblings play the piano when we were little!
Brenda Maunder told me that her mother, Maybelle Koen, and her three sisters taught at the one-room schoolhouse in the Sydenham area north of Kingston. Each sister taught two years, except her mother (who was the youngest) as she was getting married. Each day she rode her horse bareback two kilometers to school and put the horse out in the little fenced in area. At the end of the school day, she would send the big boys out to catch the horse so she could ride home. Maybelle met her husband in Maynooth, north-west of Bancroft. He was the principal and taught the older students in the two-room school, while she taught the younger students.
Mrs. Mamie Hill was Janet Wright’s teacher for the six years she attended Hill’s School, thirty miles north of Kingston near the village of Godfrey. Janet started Grade 1 at Easter and was in Grade 2 by September. She ended up skipping Grade 7 and often would help younger children with their spelling before she started high school in 1944. Janet remembers putting up one finger for water and two fingers for the toilet. If you wanted to talk to a classmate, you just had to wave your hand at the teacher. Fridays were special. Miss Hill had pictures of cities around the world placed on the walls inside the classroom. If you got all 10-15 words right in the Spelling Bee, you got to “fly” to the next city. Janet proudly professed that she “flew” around the world several times. This was an excellent way to teach geography. Janet told me the boys used to get the strap regularly for doing something bad like talking back, hitting a girl or using foul language.
Barbara Cresswell owned Hillhead School on the road between Barren Lake and Lachute, Quebec. This school was built in 1840 and many children from Scottish ancestry went to school there. She found a picture of school children in the attic. Fortunately it wasn’t damaged when they had a fire in the house.
As mentioned in my book, there were French as well as English one-room schoolhouses in the Ottawa Valley. I was surprised to learn that there was a German school near Hurdman’s bridge in Ottawa. If anyone has more information about this school, I would love to hear from you.