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Before the big yellow bus, kids walked or took a horse-drawn wagon to the wood-shingled, two-room schoolhouse in the rural community of Victoria.
A bell signalled the start of lessons, and from inside the coal-burning stove roasted and covered those in soot near the front. At the same time, students in the back shivered during the winter months, recalled Connie (nee Boulter) McCardle, who came to see the heritage wall that was recently installed in the schoolhouse.
“There was a small room from grades 1 to 5, and then a bigger room for the older students from grades 6 to 10. Outside we had a water pump for drinking, and we made our cups from scribble sheets that would look like a hat,” she said, adding her father attended the same school and her aunt was a teacher there in the 1920s.
Victoria Public School, built in 1872 and closed in 1973 due to provincewide school amalgamations, was the talk of the town on Sunday afternoon for the heritage week theme this year called Bringing the Past into the Future.
Hundreds of children received their early education at this school, which since closing, is the space for various local events, including a daycare centre.
“I had wonderful teachers. Victoria was a very musical school and would always win a prize for its students’ singing, elocution, that sort of thing. We had a lady that lived on a farm nearby, who would teach us singing and acting,” said McCardle.
“Years later, I became a kindergarten teacher here for 10 years. It was interesting coming back as a teacher, but I have excellent memories of attending this school as a student. And despite the renovations, I like what they have done because it’s still functional. As a member of the Historical Society, I would, however, like more chances to display school memorabilia.”
Brenda MacQuarrie Boudreau, chairwoman of the Victoria Historical Association, said her parents and grandparents – on both sides – attended Victoria School.
“At one time there were more than 70 students housed in these two rooms. The front doors are still the same, including the decorative glass, but the renovation work has made it modern, so this is more reason we wanted to have this heritage presence. The wall installation is permanent, but the pictures will rotate,” she said.
The event, dedicated to students and teachers of Victoria Public School, was a volunteer project of the Victoria Historical Society with support from the Municipality of Victoria.
Artifacts on display included old schoolbooks, pieces of former students’ artwork in 1945, including memorabilia from the Women’s Institute, which was instrumental in supporting the school with maintenance through their fundraisers.
Boudreau added, “The old schoolhouse had a pot-bellied stove, and the bathroom was outside. It’s still in the same location, but the windows moved around. The (Victoria) municipality renovated the building into a community activity hall when it started to fall into disrepair after closure.”
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