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Seven Person's School

Seven Persons - Once Hundred Sixty Acres and a Dream

Chapter 24

In 1912 a new school was built and named Valley City School. Clinton and Sanford Campbell were the contractors and carpenters. It was a two-roomed building, joined at the back by a long coal shed and at the front by a plank platform and plank steps. Elementary and high school instructions were offered here. When attendance became low it became a one-roomed school.

Another school about two miles south of the village, built in 1906, bore the name Seven Persons School. When the village school was ready for occupancy it took on the name of Seven Persons School and the other changed its name to Joffre, after Captain Joffre, a famous leader of World War 1.

This village school served the district well from 1912 on through the years. Sometimes it operated to capacity and some years its attendance became so small children from rural districts were brought in by a car-van system to keep it in operation. In 1952 it was attended by only five students who belonged to the Seven Persons School District and only two of these lived in the hamlet. In 1946 it was completely closed down.

Teachers' names recalled were:
Miss Nellie Wagstaff 1911 -1912
W. Fowler 1912
Mr. Atkinson 1912 - 1913
Miss Ogden 1913 - 1914
Miss Belle Sellens 1915
Mr. and Mrs. Mock 1916
Miss Fraser
Mr. Shumaker 1919 - 1920
Kate Meyer1919 - 1920 (Mrs. F. Schmidek)
Grace Graham
Lillian Cameron
Margaret Elson
Norah Worts 1924(Mrs. Olander Nesting)
Mary Thirlwell (Mrs. Charles Murray)
Ruth Sudworth
Anne Gillespie (Mrs. Anderson)
Marion Spencer
(Mrs. Dave Foster)
Mrs. Florence McDonnell 1944,1945,1951 to 1957
Ray Mellor
Mrs. Jim Harris
Verna Jordan 1940 - 1941
Lillian Dempster 1940 - 1941
Mr. Les Melborne 1942 - 1943
Marie McDonnel 1944 (Mrs. Floyd Natress)
Adeline Wasley1946
Genevive Irvine 1947
Wilma Daniels 1948
Mr. and Mrs. Potters
Mr. Baker 1949 - 1949
Mr. Leibrecht 1950

For many consecutive years John Meyer Senior, Sam Carlson, and Tom McDonald served on the Seven Persons School Board. Their task of keeping the school in operation was often a difficult one. Employing suitable teachers was one problem. Raising money through taxation, especially during times of economic stress, was another, for government grants were not large enough to pay a teacher's salary and school maintenance costs.

Most of the teachers boarded at the Carlson Restaurant. They were thus afforded a good home near their school, near the highway and the railway and within the social centre of the hamlet.

Little is remembered about most of these teachers. It was recalled that M. Shumaker, one teacher, frequently walked to his home in Medicine Hat to spend his weekends.

A special tribute was paid to the last teacher of this school, Mrs. Florence McDonnell, when she retired. She had been a widow and for a number of years, had raised her two daughters alone. When they were grown she returned to her profession of earlier days and taught at the Seven Persons School for several terms. It is recalled that she was a fine teacher. She boarded with the Carlsons most of those semesters, but for a time she lived at the school, having had the second classroom converted into a teacherage.

When the room for the senior classes was not being used for classes, it became a dance hall for the community. There were some eras when a dance was enjoyed every Friday evening. Many wedding dances were held here. Some wedding dances of couples recalled were those of: Tommy Nesting, Olander Nesting, Tommy Dunn, Red Amos, Les Welling, Bert Stiff, Eric Holmberg, Gunster Bruins, and Olander Ost.

Other special dances were for box socials, costume parades, hard time, charity, and particular days such as St. Valentine's or Halloween. People came from near and far, first on foot or by horse-drawn vehicles, or by horseback, and later by car or truck. They came from the hamlet and from the surrounding area, from Whitla, Winnifred, Orion and Medicine Hat.

Music was supplied by local talent or by orchestras from nearby centres. Names of some persons who so generously gave these services, if even for a small fee were: Red Amos, Lee Orr, Alex Yuill, Pearl Robertson, Jimmy, Charlie and Dora Anderson, Cy Fountain, Trixie Chalmer, Roland Konrad, Carl Carlson, Adolph Carlson, Sven Neilsen, Jack and Bob Nicholson, Mr. and Mrs. Trone, Keith York, and Lawrence Lonson.

Instruments used were: violins, guitars, accordions, mouth organs, pianos and organs, cymbals and drums. Recordings were sometimes used but were not popular.

In July of 1956, lightning struck this building, setting it on fire, and in a short time burning it to the ground. Bill Anderson and a few customers from his store went over to the site when they saw the blaze, but there was little they could do. They did save the piano. One young man said, "When we couldn't save the school, I had the fun of breaking the windows. I had always wanted to throw something through a school house window and here I wouldn't have to pay for the glass."

One family recalled seeing the school standing, when they drove past it that morning, on their way to Medicine Hat. They had noted at that time that one door was painted green and the similar door to the other room was varnished. They recalled too, hearing a very loud clap of thunder and seeing exceptionally bright lightning. When they were told, a couple of hours later, that the old landmark had been consumed by fire, they were surprised and sorry.

Roger Moore remembers someone saying, "Modern education was the cause of the demise of this school." Roger, who was a student at that time, said a slide projector had been procured to offer some visual education to the classes. To supply power for it, a wind charger and generator had been set up on the roof. Twice during that spring term, lightning had struck the tower and sent balls of blue fire down the wall and out through the cloak room. The teacher and the pupils were very much frightened. The recurrence of this probably set the final fire during that severe electrical storm.

In 1937 the Medicine Hat School Division Number 4 was formed, encompassing the Seven Persons School District. Their assistance in maintaining and financing this now small school was a step of progress.

In 1956, the board of this Division decided to consolidate nine rural districts, those of Seven Persons, Amos, Bollard, Union Valley, Nine Mile, State, Dauntless, Joffre and Pleasant View. A new Seven Persons School was built and opened in October of 1956. The enrollment was about a hundred. These children were brought in from these various districts by proper buses. The teachers that term were: Miss Frances Ost, principal, and English and Social Studies teacher of senior grades; Mr. Ed Redicopp, teacher of science and mathematics and of shop; Miss Shimbashi in grades five and six and of Home Economics; Mrs. McDonnell in grades three and four; and Mrs. Dudley in Grade one and two. This school is the nucleus of the hamlet at the present time.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup