School days of yore at Stokes Bay
Students and staff across Bruce County returned to their classes in September and soon found themselves sweltering through an unexpected early autumn heat wave.
While pupils had legitimate grounds to grumble, especially those without air conditioned schools, I doubt any would have wished to trade places with the children at Stokes Bay a century ago. Helene Murray Scott takes us back to those days.
The first instruction in higher learning did not actually take place in a school in Stokes Bay, but in an upstairs room in the home of Mr. and Mrs. D.D. McLeod. The teaching was done by the McLeods’ daughter, who was not a trained teacher but a bright young girl who carried out her duties very well. Other pupils walked to schools at Swan Lake or Lindsay Township.
In the dark mornings of fall and winter, they would set out before dawn from Stokes Bay carrying a lantern, making their way through the thick woods to get to school on time. When the Orange Hall was built sometime prior to 1900, classes were transferred there and a qualified teacher hired.
One well-remembered teacher was an elderly man who had been a schoolmaster in England. He never used the strap but carried a pointer in his hand most of the time. Many a student smarted when he used it for correction of behaviour.
Stokes Bay’s first and only regular school house, designated S.S. No. 9 Eastnor, was built in 1903.
Around this time the school was rather crowded and the older students sometimes proved unruly. John J. Smith of Lindsay Township, although not a qualified teacher, was given a special permit. He had the voice of authority and the muscle to back it up. In short order the school became more peaceful. Malcolm McIvor was the first former Stokes Bay pupil to become a teacher there in 1915.
The appearance of the one-room school house did not change much with the passing of time. The windows, three on each side, were bare as was the unpainted floor.
A blackboard extended across the end wall behind the teacher’s desk. Fastened to the wall was a case filled with map rollers, which the instructor pulled out when teaching geography. Later on, an organ was purchased so that music appreciation would not be lost.
The desks were all double with two boys or girls at each one. If misbehaviour occurred the boys were made to sit with the girls for punishment or vice-versa. This was a sore trial for most of the boys but the girls didn’t seem to think it such a bad idea.
This article by Helene Murray Scott was first printed in the 1982 yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society and abridged by Bob Johnston.
Stokes Bay School – 1915 with teacher M.J. McIvor.