I slept in school – or, more accurately, I slept in a former school. The opportunity came when I was invited to speak to the Beaverton, Thorah, Eldon Historical Society. One of their members owns a renovated one-room school. She very kindly offered hospitality
When it was new in 1926, the school had many features considered modern at that time – separate entrances for boys and girls (still there – see photo), an office for the teacher, and a bell on the roof. A finished basement partitioned into two sections, each with its own chemical toilet, provided separate play areas for boys and girls. Until 1969, it was a school. Now it is a roomy home, with a modern kitchen, four bedrooms, and modern bathrooms.
Nearby in Beaverton, the Historical Society maintains a museum and archives. It includes an old stone jail, a log house (1850), and a storey-and-a-half brick home furnished to about 1900. On display were many household items mentioned in my book, including a butter churn and a treadle sewing machine.
I was pleased to discover the friendliness of the historical society’s members and their extensive efforts to preserve their heritage. As the noted scientist Carl Sagan said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” Millie Morton
Millie with Ernie Pattison in The Old Ormsby Schoolhouse Tea Room
Imagine a large room with several dining room tables, large windows, and an old-fashioned wood stove. Add a Union Jack, a blackboard, a couple of wooden desks, books and artifacts. Clearly, this was a one-room school. Now it’s The Old Ormsby Schoolhouse Tea Room, near Bancroft, Ontario. The photo shows Ernie Pattison, owner of the tea room, welcoming me. Last month, while numerous patrons enjoyed a tasty lunch, I shared stories about Grace and one-room schools.
The old schoolhouse used to be S.S. #3 Limerick – that’s School Section number three in Limerick township of Hastings County. Nearby is the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery, an old house transformed into a shop and filled with gifts of every kind. Gary and Lillian Pattison run the gift shop. Ernie and Debbie Pattison operate the tea room. Both places are gems in the countryside – off the beaten path and well-worth a visit. Millie Morton
I’ve received many letters from readers who identify a teacher like Grace – one who had a life-long love of teaching, learning, and contributing to community. One letter was from Gail, whose mother-in-law lived almost a hundred years (1911-2011) and was a teacher in Wisconsin. Lorene graduated from a one-year teacher training program in 1929, taught school in rural Wisconsin, married a dairy farmer, and raised five sons. Below are excerpts from her letter. Millie
“During Lorene’s first year in the classroom, she wasn’t paid until the end of the school year (1930) when the community was finally able to come up with her salary. She sent most of her pay home to her parents to help keep their farm afloat. Many of the families in her school community spoke Norwegian at home – so Lorene asked her parents to help her with Norwegian (their first language) so she could work with her students.
Lorene was five feet tall and a bundle of energy and wisdom. After her marriage (1937) she made countless contributions to her community. She loved to go to auctions, often helping out by purchasing items at the church bazaar that no one else wanted. She never wanted donors to feel unappreciated.
At the age of 58, she began attending summer school to earn a teaching degree. At the time of her graduation, she was the oldest person to get a degree from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. During her last few years as a teacher, she had a class of special education students. Years later some of these students would see her on the street and come over to give her a hug.
I believe there were many many Graces and Lorenes who made significant contributions to rural communities in Canada and the US. Thank goodness for them. It was wonderful to read your book.”
Last month the University of Guelph celebrated campus authors – faculty, staff, students, and alumni who had books published recently. In the photo, Rebecca Graham, Chief Librarian, is presenting me with a plaque recognizing my book. The university library acquired a copy of Grace and gave it a special bookplate indicating this honour. Along with many other books, Grace is highlighted on the website of the Campus Author Recognition Program and available through the library’s online catalogue.
Given the long-standing connection of the University of Guelph with agriculture and small communities, I appreciate this opportunity to share Grace’s stories from rural Ontario and the book’s insights into how Ontario changed during her lifetime. Millie Morton