Friday, 18 October 2019

Memories of Oak River School


It is hard to imagine just how many students and staff have passed through the doors of the five school buildings in Oak River over the years and went on to recall fond memories of their times there.  I hope today's blog post does just that for my readers.  The Manitoba Historical Society webpage about the schools here was a valuable help in  my research as were the RM of Blanshard History books.
In 1891, a building being used as a school was moved one mile south from SW 4-14-22  into the growing town.  A two-story four-classroom brick veneer structure designed by Brandon architect W. A. Elliott was later built at a cost of about $12,000. This building opened in the spring of 1907 but was destroyed a few short months later by fire on October 21,1908 apparently while classes were in session. A replacement school was constructed during the summer of 1909 and opened later that year.


In May 1917, Oak River School was consolidated with three rural schools, Bankburn School No. 1098, Maplewood School No. 662, and Wheatland School No. 304, to form the Oak River Consolidated School District No. 253.  Students were transported from the outlying areas to town in horse drawn and later motorized vans including one driven by my grandmother Mary Simms and her son Bob. The school van picture to the right is from the collection of Gwen (Simms) Milliken from her days teaching at Oakleigh School



The fourth Oak River School was built in 1929.  My Dad and his twin sister Dorothy are marked in the photo below on the front step about 10 years later.  (The former teacher in me notices the three little trustworthy boys with the triangles sitting cross legged in front and the wary teacher's eye on the boys in the back to behave during the picture taking!)


This building served the community and surrounding area for many years. In 1959 Grades 9 - 12 became part of Ward 2 of the Rolling River School Division #39 following a province wide recommendation for larger governing bodies.  Within a few years, all grades were brought under division responsibility as well.   In 1959, classrooms were built in the Oak River School basement and a separate collegiate was built just north of it in 1961 to accommodate the increasing enrollment.  In 1968, it was decided the Grade 10 - 12 students would be bussed to Rivers Collegiate. Community members established a private Kindergarten in 1961 and in 1968 it was taken over by the Rolling River School division.

This school (pictured at the top of this post) originally had four classrooms, with two more added on the north end in 1945. I remember the 5 classrooms (south two with cloakrooms), music room and staff room in the middle. The basement had 2 sides for boys and girls washrooms as well as a Science room and was used for indoor recess and a gym.  This building closed in 1977 when the all students were then taught in the Junior High School building and two "huts". 
Oak River School Grade 3 class 1972 (Yours truly in her red, blue and white hotpants second from the left)

My Mom, Margaret (Kinnaird) Simms taught the Grade 3-4 class at this school for 4 years beginning in 1956. Her friend Joyce first got a position there and Mom went to practice teach after her time in teacher training at Brandon College.  As it turned out, she met my Dad in Oak River and continues to live there - 63 years later!




The 1961 collegiate building is still presently home to Oak River School and also accommodates a daycare center called Villages United. I was pleased to see on the school website that the "chicken hawk" mascot lives on that was designed by my classmate Charlie Shingoose in the late 1970's.  Look - I still have the t shirt from the school uniform! More importantly, I could find it...

Enjoy some time with your memories today! 

Friday, 20 September 2019

Haddie Anyone?

Sometimes a random conversation that makes me curious about something is all it takes for a day of internet research.  The retired life suits me! A recent conversation with friends over supper while celebrating Dad's 87th birthday got me thinking all the way home so here I go!

Doyle was reminiscing about Peter Rae, the man who sold him his farm and was introduced to my readers in this previous blog post.  Pete's generosity to a young farmer starting out was fondly recalled but also his less than stellar cooking.  While helping to stook his oat crop in the 50's, Peter served Doyle a meal of cold Chicken Haddie, unbuttered bread and a glass of water. Others  listening to the story remembered the canned meat but were unsure what it was and hadn't seen it for years. A quick Google search found it is a boneless mixture of white fish including cod, hake and pollock.  I suppose the whiteness of the meat is where "chicken" comes from. A website carries a version here  that they claim is perfect for seafood chowders and fish cakes.  This blog includes a recipe from a 1938 New Brunswick newspaper for fish cakes made with canned Chicken Haddie. 

Talking about that reminded Dad of something called "Finnan Haddie" and that brought about another search.  A previous conversation with my husband Randy and his brothers came back to me about this food from their childhood, cooked by their Dad and Uncle Frank. It is described as cold-smoked haddock and what makes it unique is the way it was smoked with green wood and peat. The first part of the name comes from the Scottish town of Findon in north-east Scotland and haddie is of course the slang word for haddock. In the 1800's in Findon, fishwives hung lightly salted haddock in their chimneys to be smoked gently over peat fires. Both of my dad's material grandparents, James Sinclair and Elizabeth Henry, were Scottish immigrants where fish was a staple of their diets.  


As a landlocked descendant raised on beef with chicken on Sundays, I can't say either of the Haddies sound very appealing to me. Susan Branch, a food blogger, does a wonderful job in this post of almost convincing me to try it.  Almost.   

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Flashback to My Ancestors in 1926


Census taker visits a Romani family living in a caravan, Netherlands 1925 from Wikipedia
Almost 93 years ago on June 1,1926,  a high of 12 degrees Celsius was recorded at Brandon but four days later a temperature of 25 degrees would have had my Manitoba ancestors working and playing in their shirt sleeves! Farmers all, they may have been annoyed at having to stop their daily activities to answer the questions of the visiting enumerator for the census but I am glad they complied!  Liberal William Lyon Mackenzie King was holding onto a minority federal government for just another month and Manitoba was led by premier John Bracken of the Progressive party. Hopes were high for another  large wheat harvest across the prairies and seeding would have been in full swing.

Back to present time - 2019 - my Twitter feed let me know that the database of the 1926 census of the 3 prairie provinces had just been released. Although the census was available earlier, there was no way to search for a particular name but you had to look page by page. Since 1871, a Canada-wide census has been held every 10 years. However, the population of the Prairie provinces was rapidly expanding, so there was a need for more frequent population counts in those provinces. It was decided to conduct a census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in June 1906 (in between the Canada-wide censuses), and every 10 years thereafter. The Statistics Act states that census returns will be transferred from Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada 92 years after a census has been taken so here we are.  The 1926 census database was created in partnership with FamilySearch where volunteer genealogists indexed the records to make them searchable.

Grandma Frances Milne is listed as 20 years old with her parents Alexander and Jean on 14-11-27 in the RM of Wallace with 3 of her brothers Alexander, Jim and Charlie and her sister Nan. The last 3 were noted as students.  The Milne’s are identified as Scottish with Alex immigrating in 1905 and Jean the next year.

Grandpa Frank Kinnaird would be married to Frances the next year but and in 1926  he is found as a 30 year old single man on the page before the Milnes. He lived at 1-11-27 in the RM of Wallace with his employee 48 year old Dave McMannus. A piece of information that I found interesting was that this census says both of Frank’s parents were born in Ireland when I believed they were born in Ontario. The census taker has indicated his racial origin is Irish. Hmmmm

Frank and Frances Kinnaird about 1927
Grandma and Grandpa Simms- Alexander and Mary Tait - are married and living on 15-14-22 with three of their children listed this way: Robt Alex (9), Doris Ellen (5) and Gwenny Elizth (2). Only a very few others on the page have middle names recorded by this enumerator (P.W. Thompson) so it makes me think it was Alex or Mary that gave the names that way. The surname is written "Sims" so evidently he was just writing what he heard.  The family was living in a small house built after the fire that destroyed their home on New Years Eve 1923. No doubt as they told Mr. Thompson the names of their children, they were thinking of Glenn James who had died at the age of two years old less than a year before.
Construction began on the Simms home a few months after the 1926 census was taken. 
 As seemed to be quite common in the area. Simms's have a labourer living with them of Polish origin named Joseph Bialas -19 years old and born in Manitoba. Neighbours on section 28, the Morcoms had a domestic living in their home, 17 year old Mary Bialas, perhaps the two were siblings or even a young married couple.
Above and left - Sinclair house and barn in the 1920's.

Mary Tait Simms's parents live on the next section #16, James and Elizabeth Sinclair with daughters Ellen (30) and Elizabeth(28) and son William(25). The year of immigration for James confirms he was an early prairie homesteader coming in 1883 from the Orkneys. His wife Elizabeth Henry was in Ontario much earlier, 1859 from Kirkcudbrightshire in Scotland.


Irving Shadford who identifies as Irish and William Vanderbosh of Dutch origin are labourers in their twenties living at the Sinclair farm in June of 1926.  

I hope I have interested you enough to go back and peek in the windows of your ancestors' lives.  They are just a mouse click away!

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Bankburn Star - December 21, 1907

Further to the last post about Bankburn School  , this tabloid school newspaper has survived the past 112 years fairly well and gives us a glimpse of the school and community though the eyes of the school pupils.  I wonder if there was ever a second edition or if this was the first and last. It is a wonder that it was printed on plain white paper, not newsprint, and the pictures were taken and reprinted so clearly.  Hope you enjoy reading it! 





Saturday, 2 February 2019

Bankburn School

It is always exciting to see a new comment on my blog and this week I received one on my Grandma Simms's post about a classmate of hers from Bankburn School. The school was located straight north of Oak River on the  Southwest quarter of 21-14-22 where a large bolder with an inscribed plaque marks the spot today. The Manitoba Historical Website has some information but I also have the following account written by former pupils, my great aunts.  

Memories of Bankburn School 1901—1917 
Written By Mrs. Lizzie Morcom and 
for the cairn dedication in 1984

In the year 1901 Bankburn School District No. 1098 was officially formed and the school opened with an enrolment of seven pupils. Bankburn School was built on a site overlooking the ravine which flowed through the farm owned by James Sinclair and his family. This farm was called Bankburn farm, so the school was appropriately named Bankburn. Mr. George Kelly of Pettapiece, Manitoba built the school which opened in August 1901. Classes had been held in James Sinclair’s granary in the summer months previous to the school being opened for a few years. We have James Sinclair, G. Sparling, and H. McPhaden to thank for being instrumental in having the “Bankburn District School” formed. Miss Ethel Sparling (Mrs. Walter Delamater) was the first teacher in the granary and also in the new school where she taught for two years before leaving to continue her studies.
The teachers through the years were as follows:
Miss Ethel Sparling (Oak River), Miss Annie Frazer (Hamiota), Miss Lizzie Shier (Hamiota), Miss Semima Cameron (Oak River), Miss Vivian Jackson (Rapid City), Miss Evelyn Spearin (Rapid City), Miss Mable Cooper (Souris), Miss Amanda Shields (Rivers), Mrs Islay Jackson (nee McIntyre) (Oak River).

The teachers boarded at Sinclairs, Sparlings, and McPhadens in turns. The highest salary received was $500.00 a year. Mother received $10.00 a month for room and board, washing, and ironing. A far cry from today’s prices.

The children that attended through the years have recalled the amusement they enjoyed when they knocked over the benches (accidentally on purpose) which were always the standard furnishings in the pioneer schools.


The second year Miss Cameron taught there were 42 pupils enrolled from Grade 1 through 8, 9, 10 and one studying for a third class certificate all had to go to Oak River and pay a sum to write and live there until the exams were all written (usually five days). What a thrill the teacher and pupils enjoyed when the report from the Department of Education came back—all had passed the exams clear with no supplements.

Many good times were held through the years at the yearly picnics, baseball games and football games, Box Socials through the winter months and of course dancing. The ravine was a big attraction in the fall and spring for skating and sledding. The Empire Day celebrations on may 24th honouring Queen Victoria’s birthday was an annual event. Maplewood School always came to Bankburn School for a baseball game. Miss Cameron had taught there before coming to Bankburn and she always arranged that game. After the ball game and programme, lunch was served by the parents. Rev McCullough, The Presbyterian Minister from Oak River, was chairman and Mr. Chris Cochrane, Reeve of Blanshard Municipality, gave a very interesting address on “The Flag” after which he raised the Union Jack which floated over Bankburn School for the first time. 





Sunday School was always held in the school every Sunday when a large crowd attended.

In the year 1917, a drastic change took place. Bankburn, along with Maplewood and Upland School Districts, were merged into the Oak River Consolidated School District ending the era of the three little “Red School Houses”. Some pupils were transferred to Oak River School by horse drawn vans—winter and summer. The taxes at the time were $42.00 a quarter.

Bankburn School was later sold to John (Jack) Andrews and moved to his farm which later became the property of W. D. Reid and son Bill. Eventually the former Bankburn School became the property of Murray Kirkpatrick. A cairn has been erected on the site where the Bankburn school stood. On Sunday, July 15, 1984, a dedication will be unveiled in the memory of the pioneers who were instrumental in having the school built, teachers, pupils, trustees and Secretary Treasurers.


The students who attended from 1901—1917 were as follows:
Mary Sinclair Ralph Espey                                Jennie Lee
Jean Sinclair                                 Ada Espey                                     Annie Lee
Nellie Sinclair Janet McKenzie Pearl Lee
Lizzie Sinclair  Katie McKenzie Frank Hyndman
Alex Sinclair Eddie McKenzie Annie Hyndman
Bill Sinclair                                  Bessie McKenzie Ralph Hyndman
Clara McPhaden Rosie Day                                     Rae Armstrong
Barclay McPhaden Herbie Day                                    John Warren
John McPhaden Fred Smith                               Marjory Thompson
Frank McPhaden Hilda MacLay                          Joshua Thompson
Myra McPhaden Russell Bayman Alex Thompson
Percy McPhaden Laura Ireton Norah Thompson
Cedric McPhaden Delbert Glazier Harry Thompson
Marjory McPhaden Earl Glazier                                     Laura Smith
Morton Furtney Tory Furtney                                   Frank Smith
Bella Furtney                                  Bill Reid                                         Harry Smith
Hubert Sparling Jack Reid                                     Mildred Reid
Muriel Sparling Sadie Reid                                       Eddie Reid
Ena Sparling Margaret Reid                                Gladys Reid
Elmer Sparling Myrtle McQuaig Pat Reid
Herbie Davis                                   Wilf McQuaig                                George Reid
Lorne Davis                                     Roy McQuaig                        Harvey Robinson
Arthur Davis                                    Elsie McQuaig Seaman Robinson
Harry Davis                                      Pearl McQuaig Lawrence Robinson
Jim Davis                                          Elsie Davis                                     Eva Davis

Although all those who taught and attended Bankburn School have passed on, it lives on in the ways each and everyone of these people touched the lives of others.

Keep reading my next post here for more on Bankburn School.