Jessie Strome … A Pioneer Teacher
My Normal School Class of 1941-42
I was born on February 12, 1923. I enrolled in the Normal School Class of 1941 at the age of 17. There were approximately 18 students enrolled from my area.
The Normal School Building was granted to the Department of National Defence for an Initial Air Training School so Normal School sessions were held in the enlarged Garneau Public School Building.
Our year could have been labeled “One Year of Adverse Conditions in the Normal School”. Yet not one instructor or one student begrudged the use of our building to the Air Force, even though our Physical Education periods were spent outside in the snow. We changed instructors so often we became dizzy. It seemed we were always saying goodbye and good luck to some staff members and even to some of our classmates who left to join the armed forces. In one month we lost the services of three teachers -Captain G.M. Dunlop, Flying Officer J. C. Jonason and Captain A.L. Dolicette, who was my room teacher and we were all emotional when he said goodbye to us.
The sending out of 11 week students in relays to “man the rural schools in Alberta” presented many problems for the teaching staff as well as to the Minister of Education (Wm. Aberhart) and his staff.
I asked if I could go out with the third group (February to May). I was sent out in late February to a school called Deer Hill. This school was 18 miles from Hines Creek, which was the end of the steel (railway). Deer Hill District had its own Post Office.
I boarded with a very nice family, just 1/2 mile from the school. They met the train in Hines Creek town and took me by team and sleigh to their home. The government paid my way on the train, also my board and room which was $20.00 a month. I received $1.00 per day for teaching grades 4-9. There were no pupils in grades 1-3.
Click here to see my trainee teaching contract.
I guess I was probably one of the lucky Normalites to have been sent to the Deer Hill School District. The school was situated on the top of a large hill. Down below the hill the Hines Creek (river) flowed. Many times the pupils and I could look out the windows and see deer and moose. The roads were only trails and there seemed to be a lot of small creeks, which one had to cross over on small pole bridges. In the spring, as the ice and snow melted, the bridges just seemed to move or float.
Luckily horses seemed to know when not to trust them. I remember trying to urge my saddle horse to cross. He absolutely refused so I had two choices, go back or travel along the bank until I came to a place that the horse could jump.
One outstanding memory was the prairie fire. It had jumped Hines Creek and was heading towards the school. The kids and I thought the only thing we could do was start a backfire if the school was to be saved. We were successful or lucky. We all stayed at the school until we were rescued by a group of fire fighters.
When the Normal School year ended in May, I was happy to receive my Diploma saying I could teach grades 1 -10 and also that I would get teacher’s wages for the month of June. It was a cheque for $84.00. At that time teachers were paid on a ten month basis.
I had a very helpful superintendent, Wm R. Dean, and he talked me into coming back for one more year. It was a decision I never regretted as Deer Hill was a great community. Every home welcomed me with open arms. I have so many happy memories..skating, parties, dances, ball games, picnics etc. There were a lot of competitions with other school districts and small towns. The women were all great cooks. I remember the mouth watering angel food cakes (made from scratch) the canned moose meat mixed with pork, the dill pickles from large wooden barrels, and homemade bread and buns.
The one drawback that faced the families was the lack of water wells. Each family put up enough ice to last the summer. Everyone had an ice house. I was told the only well was in Fairview. A lot of farms had dugouts for the livestock.
Each school had a ball diamond, one ball and one bat and maybe a swing or a teeter totter. A library was non-existent. Quite a change from then ’til now.
All things considered I enjoyed my stay in the North. The people were wonderful to me and I still keep in touch with my first pupils.
After teaching a full year in the Peace River Country, I decided to stay closer to home. I taught at Allandale 1943-1944. In 1944 I married, taught another year and resigned. The war was still with us and there was an acute teacher shortage. I ended up teaching Island Hill from 1946-1950, when I decided to leave the teaching profession to be a full time farmer’s wife. Then the superintendent, Mr. Simonson offered me grade 5 in the Vermilion Alexandria School. I accepted for one year. The rest is history -I kept resigning and then going back -the story of my life.
I taught from 1943-1950, 1954 – 1963 and 1963-1975. I taught at Deer Hill, Allandale, Island Hill, Dorothy Oakley, and Vermilion Elementary. I was Vice Principal in Dorothy Oakley.
After retiring in 1975 I was a substitute teacher for many years for St. Jerome’s and the County Schools.