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White School Community Activities

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts
by Helen Doenz

From the beginning of the 1900's the White School was the focal point for community activities. It was the class room the church, the place for farmers' meetings, and the social center for the community.

October was the time for Thanksgiving, time to meet and give thanks for our very existence. It was also a time for Hallowe'en parties, masquerades, and hard time dances held at the school.

In December, Christmas concerts were put on by the teacher, and every child took part. We learned all the Christmas carols, entered in the nativity scenes, the marches, plays and drills. I always recall the new dress and patent leather shoes I got for just that occasion. I know others did the same. It was a special time of the year. I can remember having my hair put up in rags, so I would have some curls. One of the best remembered Christmas concerts was the time Winnie Berry mimicked Henry Viney commentating on the hockey game. I remember Christmas bags with the prized Japanese oranges, candy, and the arrival of Santa Claus in the sleigh.

Prior to the organization of Home and School, members of the community co-operated with the teacher. They held Work Bees to make costumes for the Xmas concert, and fill the candy bags. Men from the community set up the stage for the concerts. The stage props were stored in the rafters of the horse barn. They raised money through raffles. Jack Tiffin donated a calf for a raffle held to raise money to buy a piano.

The Bobby Burns night in January was the highlight of the winter, celebrated by the scottish people and many others. There was a pot luck supper, organized by Mrs. Coupland, with the 'haggis' made by Mrs. Graham, and piped in by a real Scottish piper, Mr. Lowe. Coffee was made in a wash boiler on a coal stove. There were Scottish poems recited, and songs like 'Oh Danny Boy' were sung. There was also a lassie dancing the sword dance and highland fling. All during the evening the Scottish brogue became broader and broader.

Weekend dance dates would alternate with other schools so we could attend our own dance, and all the others. There was no electricity, we used gas lanterns. The seats were pushes back against the wall or stacked in the cloakroom. The men were charged fifty cents, and the women got in free if they brought a cake of sandwiches. Whole families would attend. The dances started at nine o'clock and ended two o'clock with a break in between for lunch. Many times we would like to dance longer, so a collection was gathered to pay the orchestra. During the late twenties and early thirties, music was provided by Alex Henderson and C. E. Parry on violin, Kate Andrews on piano and Hebert (Shrimp) Salmon on drums. The popular orchestras at our time were: Max Batemen, Norman Hurst, Alberta Ranch Boys, and the Raymond Canadians. Those were wonderful times, everyone learned to dance every kind of dance, like the Heel and Toe Polka, Circle two Step, French Minuet, Call of the Pipes, and square dances. Of course we mustn't forget the moonlight waltzes. The last dance held in White School was a welcome home dance for the servicemen.

I wish our young people could see how we dressed. The women wore dresses, high heeled shoes and 'silk' stockings. The Coupland boys, under the care of Molly always come in white starched shirts, and scrubbed clean.

For Valentine's Day we would often have a box social. Every lady would bring a box lunch for two. The owner of the box was unknown and it was sold to the highest bidder.

Other than the special occasions, variety programs or short programs were held after business meetings, and included skits and plays, songs and take-offs on district events, spelling bees, and recitations (Jack Tiffin's rendition of "Old Mother Hubbard"). At many gatherings, especially bridal showers, everyone took part in a contest striving for the first prize of perhaps second prize.

During winter months, there were the card parties. Lily Henderson recalls a charge of twenty-five cents levied to buy a gas lamp. Up until the time of the gas lamp, everyone brought their own lamps.

Members of the community also helped with School Fairs, Field Days, and Music Festivals.

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Mary Tollestrup