School days of yore at Stokes Bay

Wiarton Echo - - NEWS -

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.

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