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The Amos School - Seven Persons

Once Hundred Sixty Acres and a Dream
The People Who Pioneered It
by Mrs. Lillian (Anderson) Ost
Book 11

During the era of early settlement, all children of the Seven Persons District attended one of these rural schools: Amos, Seven Persons, Bollard, Joffre, Pleasant View, High Bank, Red Rock, or Valley View. These districts became divisions of the community. There were some farms left in unorganized territory, and the pupils from these areas attended the school nearest their homes. Over the years everyone gained a sense of belonging to their separate district.

The Amos School, Number 2488, was built in 1913, at the special request of the Bruins, Jacksons, Edwards, Amos and Reynalds families, for they had children of school age. The buildings were contracted and built by my father, Ed Anderson, on the south-east quarter of 27-11-7-4. How beautiful this 'edifice of learning' was to those who were privileged to go there. It had shiny desks, blackboards for words and pictures, a stove with isinglass in the doors through which one could see the dancing flames, a bell in the belfrey, a library and an organ. Best of all it had enthusiastic, willing children, and coping teachers.

Each one of us has had a first day of school to remember. It was such an important day to me. Perhaps I had anticipated it for so many days prior to going. Even the often repeated remark, "You'll get the strap when the teacher sees you," couldn't dampen my hopes. I had a new dress, a new hair ribbon and a new lard pail for a lunch kit. My father took me there, driving a team of horses hitched to a buggy. My teacher, Mr. Baxter, was such a wonderful person I was quite in love with him. He taught us to read and write and sing songs. Ruth Sederberg and I walked home together, feeling quite grown up as six year olds. We met Conrad Edler when we came to the road. He was riding horseback. He teased me about not eating dinner at school, and then I realized I had left my lunch pail at school. What a calamity! - I couldn't go back - I ran the rest of the way home, crying all the way. My mother consoled me by assuring me I could take my lunch in a paper bag the next day and put it in the pail when I got to school. What wisdom! I hadn't thought of that. My day ended happily, and I was anxious to go back to school the next day for more adventures.

Between my home and the school were two quite steep coulees. There seemed no way to avoid going down one precipitous side and up the other to reach our destination. When winter snows were deep, and I recall the drifts to be two and three feet deep, walking became indeed difficult. Sometimes we fell or we rolled, and rather often our lunch met the bottom of the hill before we did. Then in the spring the snow melted making great wide streams, torrents and water falls. My father had to take us to school to cross these streams with a horse-drawn wagon or sleigh. There were times when the horses' tails floated with the currents, when the horses had to swim a distance, and when the wagonbox nearly floated away. Then our driver was busy controlling his plunging team and we were told to be quiet and to hang on. We were so afraid.

My father told us, "There was a man drowned in the Nine-mile Coulee at one time. His horse upset his buggy as it tried to swim in the swiftly flowing water. What if my wagon-box had floated off?"

Another school event from my memory was when I missed seeing the Prince. Mrs. Tate, my teacher when I was seven, heard that the Prince of Wales, later Edward the Vlllth and the Duke of Windsor, was coming to Medicine Hat. She arranged with Mrs. Draper, with whom she boarded, to take me along. Dad had been away at work for some time and came home that night. When we awoke the next morning, pandemonium reigned. "Dad was home!" We children each had so much to tell him. Suddenly, I realized the time for my planned departure had passed and I was late. I hurried away, running nearly a mile toward our neighbors. From the hilltop I could see their car leaving the house. As I retraced my steps I cried for I was correct in assuming I would never see the Prince. Mrs. Tate said they had waited as long as they could. Her son, Charlie, said, "He was sure some looker." With that, Mrs. Wally Simpson, the woman he married, would have agreed."

There was some romance at our school too. Carved on the south exterior wall were two hearts bearing the initials B.C. and C.E. what does it mean?" I asked.

"Everyone should know that Claude Edwards loves Bertha Carlson," I was told. I went off feeling I must be quite ignorant.

There was a stick-lady burnt with a magnifying glass into one board, of the wall that said "Teacher Kate Meyer."

I do not think there were any marriages performed in the school. We wondered if there would be when Marjorie Raeburn married Leslie Mumert before the school term was quite finished, but they were married in Medicine Hat.

Teachers' names for some of the years were: Mr. Baxter, Miss Ginther, Mrs. Tate, Miss McNichol, Mr. Terry, Mr. Caldwell, Miss Maloney, Mr. Stephens, Mr. Malcolm, Mrs. Williams, Miss Raeburn, Mrs. Martin, Miss Agnes Scheffler, Miss Elaine Hargrave, Miss Helene Sekjar, Miss Minnie Amos, Miss Helen Murphy, Miss Jessie Reilly, Miss Kay Connors, Miss Martha Brant, Miss Martha Wenzel, Miss Current, Mrs. Watts, Miss Vera Scheffler. (You will note the number of unmarried teachers. At that time married women were not allowed to teach, so Mrs.' names denote widows.)

This school operated until about 1940 when the classes were vanned to Seven Persons. Eventually the buildings were sold to be used as stables and granaries. There is no marker left to designate the site where the laughter of children, the sound of happy voices and the echo of song were so very evident. There are only memories of people and occasions at the Amos School.

Scenes from the school yard were not always the rosy memories of Christmas concerts and bounteous lunches served at dances. There were school lunches that were mere sandwiches of home ground unleavened bread "jam sandwiches" for they were jammed together with no filling and no butter, lunches devoid of cookies and fruit.

"May I have your orange peel when you are through with it?" or, "Promise me I can have your apple core; I sure would like a whole apple sometime."

There was no more exacting reflection of financial stress than the schoolyard lunch pail, and the school clothing. The children of depressed homes trudged along to school, in winter, without overshoes, sometimes with only oversocks, with stockings for mitts on their hands, and with shawls or small blankets in place of caps.

No one can overestimate the value of a family's milk cow and a few chickens for improving lunches and producing barter at the local store.

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Mary Tollestrup