The old one room schoolhouses that once dotted the rural landscape have met a variety of fates. Some were sold and repurposed as homes, some burned to the ground or were dismantled and are gone and others stand abandoned and are testaments to the passage of time. In most cases the only legacy that remains are the memories of the students now in their senior years that tell the tales of days gone by. The Middleville and District Museum started in an old two story, stone schoolhouse that lives on for the enjoyment of generations to come. The old desks attached to each other, the wood stove that provided warmth and hot lunches and the water cooler with one dipper for all to use spark memories for visitors. The heavy, brass bell and strap on the teacher’s desk bring back stories of daily life in a one room schoolhouse where all the grades were taught by a single teacher. The playground swings are gone, but sometimes the woodshed and old water pump still remain. Old trees planted in rows by teachers and students on arbour day can be found along the front of the lots by a keen eye.
Our ‘Down Memory Lane’ page tells the stories of families, communities and school days. Bob Burchill’s stories of his days attending a one room schoolhouse as a young boy in Rollo Park, Saskatchewan are featured there.
Enjoy the following excerpt of Bob’s memories and then visit our Down Memory Lane page to find more of his school memories.
The desks in the old school were fine instruments for serious pedagogy. Cast-iron frames defined the contours of the gang desks where everyone sat two-by-two, except for a row of small, single beginners' desks on the window side, and a larger row of single, older students' desks on the other. Opening the lid of a two-by-two desk required the agreement of both parties involved, a fact that today would likely be seen as freighting academy with sinister political content. The old desks had a quality of purpose about them that was lacking in the single unit drawer/seat/arm rest/writing top versions that replaced them. In retrospect, the old desks were much more politically correct in that they inconvenienced left- and right-handers equally, whereas their replacements were for right handers, period.
When you entered the old school and turned left, there was a box cupboard on your immediate left with a water pail on top and firewood underneath. A step further and the heater was on your right, while on your left a bench under the window was generally loaded with lunch pails and filled beneath with boots and rubbers. Pegs on the wall in front held outerwear.
Turning right, you went past the three large windows to the corner where the piano sat. Facing you, above the piano, was a clock. The front of the school and half of the east side were covered with blackboards. In front, in the middle, was the teacher's desk with a brass hand-bell sitting on one corner. Centered at the top of the front wall was a picture of George and Elizabeth. At the top right hand corner of the front blackboard, a clever display of maps, hung like roller blinds, was our window on the world. Each was unashamedly adorned with a picture of a chocolate bar, in homage to the benefactor.
Proceeding around the room clockwise, you passed the eastern wall blackboard and came to a narrow window facing east. Finally, on the left side of the door there was a tall cupboard that held school supplies and books.
Did we supply our own scribblers? They all seemed to have the Times Tables on the back, which suggests a single source. Pencils were probably our own responsibility since they were so prone to lead breakage by the overenthusiastic, or to being reduced to nubbins at the hands of children mesmerized by the grinding of the pencil sharpener. Wax crayons, as well, were likely our own since they could be exhausted quickly by those who PRESSED TOO HARD.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.