Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part IV

Jean Kelly Cameron was the second school teacher in Peace River, arriving in December of 1913. In "I Remember Peace River, Alberta and Adjacent Districts 1800s - 1913 Part I", Cameron recalls her journey to Peace River, her memories of school and how Peace River Crossing looked in 1913. The first installment of the Recollections was published in our first newsletter sent out to our Members. For more membership information, please visit: the Museum at 780-624-4261.
Recollections of Jean Cameron Kelly, Part IV
"The schoolroom also served almost every week for evening parties and dances with myself at the piano quite often and whatever fiddler could be pressed into service. Besides this Mr. George had a phonograph and a large number of records of the popular music of the day.
I had ten pupils that first day, but by the end of June this had increased to about fifty, in all eight grades, and the ballroom was no longer adequate. Seventeen of my first pupils were: Bertie, Alice and Ethel George; Teddy White; Simon, Freddie and Alice Gullion; Emma Brick; Mary, Robert and Jimmie Hodgson; Mary, Henry and Paul Smith (from Fort Vermilion) and Mable and Willie George.
The members of the School Board at that time were H.A. George, chairman; W.J. Doherty, secretary, and Johnny Gaudet, treasurer. I was paid $850.00 a year which I thought princely compared with the $600.00 I had received on the prairies. Also, that first year I was made secretary of the school board with an honorarium of $25.00 for that year.
The old minutes book is still in existence, I believe, and it records a pathetically dogged struggle on the part of the school board, and especially Mr. George, to keep the school running. Practically every other meeting ended hopefully with the resolution: "It was resolved that the bank be again contacted regarding the possibility of obtaining another loan." This was usually for the purposed of paying the teacher's salary or buying fuel.
That first six-month term was the last time the ballroom was used as a school room, for as the fall term opened in a new school house - the first built in Peace River for that specific purpose. It was located on what we called "the first bench", just a little south of the where the railroad crosses the road up the Grouard Hill. It had a bell tower with a bell which I believe had originally been in some building in England, and which Mr. George procured.
This school now forms part of the Baptist Church, as when Timothy and Riley's grading outfit came in 1915 to grade the right of way for the railroad it was found to run right through the north east corner of the building, which had to be moved; and in 1916 tenders were called for the building of the old high school which until recently stood on the present site of the Travellers' Motel.
Down the river some distance were the homesteads of Willie George (a brother of H.A. George) and James Hodgson, and I had children from both these homes as pupils.

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