Personal Memoirs: Memories of Teaching at Minnedosa North School (1952-1953)
by Duane Duff
The area surrounding Minnedosa was wheat country. The highways were paved in each direction outside the town. Since the main street was highway in the town, it was, therefore, paved, as well. Minnedosa was the gateway from the south, east, and west to the national park to the north.
The Winnipeg-Edmonton main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway had this town as a divisional point. Thus, many residents were employed by the railway. This was still the age of steam locomotives. Mr. Campbell, at whose home I lived, was a retired conductor. Since the station was about a block west of the main street, it was not unusual for cars and pedestrians having to wait for a passing train. I recall hearing that a train was not supposed to tie up a level crossing for more than four consecutive minutes.
In the spring, a number of streets had been dug up for the laying of pipes for the water system. Up until this time, each home and business had its own disposal system and water supply. About June, there was a headline in the Tribune “Water Runs”. There was now a town water and sewage system.
There were numerous businesses in this town of a little under 3,000 residents, some of which are listed here. In the southwest part of the town was a municipal hospital. The Royal Bank of Canada had a branch on the main street. Other businesses on the south side included the following: Paler Jewellery, Stevenson Pharmacy, Lower Pharmacy (where we purchased our texts for school), Cleverley Bakery, Buck Furniture, Dare Family Restaurant, another restaurant (next to the river), Green’s (a miscellaneous store and also an outlet for Perth Cleaners of Winnipeg), Woods Clothing, Burgess Foods, Co-op Store, Carvers (including the Greyhound stop), Ferguson Law Firm, a theatre (with admission of twenty-five cents), the weekly Minnedosa Tribune, a laundry, a bowling alley, and three barbershops (King, Sneddon, and Serle).
On the north side, there were fewer businesses, most of which I cannot recall. However, there were Chipperfield Brothers store, Thoms Motors, and a tailor shop. The town had two hotels, the Minnedosa on the south side and the Tremont on the north side. The court house was located in the southern part of town. The post office was located on the west side of the street on the south side. Hansen Photographic Studio was located on the east side of town.There were at least four churches: United Church of Canada, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Mission Covenant.
Canadian Pacific Railway – There was daily passenger service to Saskatoon and Edmonton (to the west) and to Winnipeg (to the east). However, the timetable for the Minnedosa stops was not the best. Going east, the train arrived at about four o’clock in the morning. Going west, it would arrive about two o’clock in the morning. Otherwise, the service was good. There was another smaller train that branched to points a little farther north, once or twice a week. The route, east or west, out of the valley was steep and winding. Thus, long freight trains were often double-headed until they were back on the level prairie. If one wanted to travel to Vancouver by rail, it was necessary to start in Brandon, where the transcontinental line was, or to change stations and railways in Saskatoon or Edmonton.
Greyhound Bus Lines – There was daily bus service to Winnipeg and Saskatoon.
There were two schools, the South School (grades one to six) and the North School (grades seven to twelve and a combined grades one and two class). I worked in the latter school, happy to have only one grade in my room. It was a two-storey white brick building, located in the northwest part of the town. Grades nine to twelve were located on the second floor.
My room was in the northeast corner of the lower floor, with windows on the north side only. The door opened on the south side of the room, very close to the first row of seats. This created a problem for some students during a fire drill as they tended to hop over seats instead of opening the door completely and walking in the aisle. To the back was a cloakroom, to which a classroom door opened. There was no library. I do not recall where we kept the few library books that we had. Blackboards were on the east and south walls.
The grades seven and eights worked together for physical education, sports, and social events. My colleague, Betha Gibson, had about forty-eight students in her room. She took the girls from both classes for physical education, while I took the boys. Between us, we were able to conduct a track and field meet with the two classes. The favourite sport for the boys when on their own was soccer, even during the winter. In one soccer match that I was refereeing, one boy fell with about ten seconds left to play. Sensing that he was hurt, I checked him immediately. Suspecting a broken leg, I placed two sticks on the leg and tied the splint with shoelaces that one of the boys took from his own shoes. When the principal was notified, he contacted the municipal doctor, who arrived promptly. He took off the splint, checked the leg, then placed the splint back on, and had the boy taken to hospital. X-rays determined that there was a double fracture. The boy, from grade seven, remained in hospital for a few weeks. After he returned to school, he walked with a limp.
As there was a shortage of paper, we had to make adjustments when setting examinations and reuse paper whenever possible. Art was not my favourite subject to teach. I found a way out with this class. A Winnipeg radio station had a weekly art class for schools. Thus, I set my timetable to coincide with the broadcast. We obtained good results from this program. It was the custom to allow top students to be exempt from final examinations, based on their year’s marks. This allowed them to leave about a week early. Several students qualified, in particular, five girls whose subject average was at least 90%.
We had two joint social events that I can recall, one in late autumn and the other at the end of the school year. I believe that we also had one on our own in the classroom. My class wanted to have a class yearbook. They gathered the information and I typed it and ran it off on the gestetner. It was ready for the end of classes. I had my copy until we left Mexico in 2000, when we had to give away our library. Also, near the end of the year, the students asked that there be a judging of notebooks. They insisted that I not be the judge. We agreed to have Harry Piniuta, of the high school, judge. It came as a surprise to Bruce Dagg when it was announced that he won. There was a winner for boys and a winner for girls, but I do not recall who won for the girls.
In June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II had her official coronation. Plans were made by the local Legion to have a track and field meet for the young people and a march of students along the main street from the South School to the North School. Jack Gibson and I, as school representatives, were on the planning committee. However, on the morning of the event, there was rain, causing the cancellation of the sports. Early in the afternoon, the sun came out. It was decided that the parade would be held. Only two teachers were on hand to march with the students. Doug Crandle accompanied the South School students, and I accompanied the North School students.
Students (* those who transferred out during the year)
We would like to thank Bob Mummery of the Minnedosa Tribune for verifying a name for us.
Staff and Associates
Page revised: 11 December 2015