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The White School

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Page 375
by Lou Lanier

A few years after I started attending Wilson, probably in 1935 or 1936, the School board decided to move grades seven to nine, to White School. White was twice the size; it had two classrooms, one for grades one to six, and the other for grades seven to eleven, plus a playroom under the elementary room. This seemed like quite a luxury, especially when the weather made it impossible to play or take physical education classes outdoors. To solve the transportation problems involved in this transfer, arrangements were made for Lewellyn Bishop to build a cab for his pick-up truck. This became our first 'school bus", which was to transport ten to twelve students from the Wilson district to White School. Initially, Lew, along with Irene and Herb, would pick up Ray Lanier, Doreen and Les Robinson, Virginia and Layne Harvey, Evelyn Poole, and Ester and Charlie Chow. For some reason it was decided that I would travel the 3 1/2 miles by horse. The first two and a half miles were a little boring, but at the railroad crossing a number of families would join the trek to school for the last mile, some on horseback and some on foot: Allan Petrie, the Snopeks, the Webbs, Thelma Salmon and farther down the road, the Mercers. Somewhere on this stretch we would be passed by Lew's van from Wilson. On arriving at the barn there would be riders coming from other directions, such as; the Andrews, Berrys, Handsaemes, and Parrys. In the winter time, when the weather was very stormy, I remember a few times when I stopped at Shrimp Salmon's, at the crossing, to get warmed up and to enjoy hearing Shrimp tell funny stories about helping Dad at harvest. Years later (about fourteen years later) when I started farming, both Harold and Melvin Salmon worked for me over a couple of years.

When I was at White School, Ray and I spent more time visiting each other. I was then big enough to wrestle with him. Sometimes we would talk Ike into letting us play "rodeo pick-up cowboys" with him. We would get on two horses with Ike on the back of one and go galloping across the pasture while we transferred Ike back and forth from the back of one horse to the other all the way across the pasture. Our mothers would have had a fit if they had seen us.

In April on my thirteenth birthday, Dad casually mentioned that there was something in the corral that I might be interested in seeing. I rushed down to the corral to find a beautiful little sorrel horse - what a surprise! Dad came strolling down the hill with a big grin on his face, and said that she was my birthday present. I was a little stunned as it was such a surprise. He helped me catch and bridle her. Then as I rode her around the corral she pranced first to the left, then to the right, hinting she was ready to race at the drop of a hat. He told me she had been "winded" by misuse on the race track and should be treated gently for a few months, then maybe she would be settled down enough to ride to school in the Fall. By September, we felt she was ready for the test. So it was great thrill for me, on the first day of school, to set off on Tip, named after one of Dad's favorite horses. Art Webb had a horse, Tony, about the same size and color, so it was even more fun to ride along with him on that last mile. The following spring we yielded to the temptation to occasionally race our horses for part of that last mile.

One time on my way home I was riding in the borrow pit (as there was a lot of fresh gravel on the road). All of a sudden Tip jumped sideways; she was caught on some barbed wire but I couldn't see just where she was caught. I jumped off to disentangle her. As she pranced around me the wire became wrapped around my legs until it tightened up and then pulled freefrom her tail. I was relieved that she was alright, then I became aware the wire had cut two deep gashes in my thigh. I was just glad she wasn't injured. As she was only fifteen and a half hands tall and I was now over six feet, I could easily swing on to an upright sitting position. She loved for me to let her have a loose rein, then grab her mane and swing on, by which time she would be at a full gallop. I'm not sure whether I felt like an Indian or a cowboy, but I felt great. I had a lot of fun riding Tip for the next couple of years, until that fateful night when horses got out of the pasture, onto the highway. She was struck by a car which broke her leg and she had to be put down - that was a very sad day for me.

Now that I was at White School, softball became more important. By the time I was in grade nine, I'm sure we played some form of ball every day, weather permitting, except for the two to three weeks in the spring when track and field took over the spotlight. Wilson McKenzie, our high school teacher, was our coach and worked with us to organize an practice for games against schools, such as; Crystal Lake, Hardieville, McLean, and Readymade. Since we only had about sixteen boys in all of grades seven to eleven, we probably ended up with an age spread of three to four years on the team. We relied on parent's cars or pick-up trucks (it was permissible in those days for people to ride in the back) to travel the five to ten miles to these games, and of course Bishop's van did it's share. Unfortunately, some of the older boys often had to do farm work at home, and were unable to play.

In the spring, Sports Day was a big event. Preparations took several weeks, some of the older ones started to practice much earlier. We had to dig the pits during physical education classes; arrange for a father to dump some fresh sand in the pits; practice the various events; calculate each students classification and finally select those to compete in each event. Instead of only using age as the means of classification we used a more scientific system based on age, weight and height. This had quite a significant impact On me- As I was over six feet tall when I was thirteen, I found myself competing against boys like Johnny Zinc from McLean, who was two years older, but much shorter and stronger. So the number and color of my ribbons really changed from the days at Wilson School.

District calf clubs, for both dairy and beef calves, started up in Alberta when I was young. The District Agriculturist (D.A.) along with a few enthusiastic farmers seemed to be the energizing force that started each district club. I was about eleven years old when I first became involved, with the encouragement of John Davidson, a family friend and farmer from Coaldale. In the early fall, club members would select their calves, which had recently weaned. They were usually an Angus, Hereford or Shorthorn. On getting them home it took a week or two to gentle them and get them used to being in a small pen. It helped to put one of Dads calves in with mine for company. There were several Club meetings during the fall and winter at which the D.A. and other experts would talk to us about developing a feeding program, how to keep a record of his feed intake for each day, and about general care and preparation of a beef show animal. Each morning and evening I would have to carry water (about a 100 yards) to them, feed them, clean out their stall and spend a little time handling them. Later on there would be the task of halter breaking to lead and to stay tied up. Sometimes it was a battle to see who was going to lead whom. As show time approached more attention had to be paid to increasing his food intake to an optimal level, and working on techniques for showing him to the best advantage, at a walk and standing squarely on his feet. There were times when the calf and I would argue about exactly how he should stand. I didn't always win and got kicked instead. Grooming him would now include shampooing his coat and trimming his feet. The arrival of show time meant moving the calf and all his feed, grooming and showing equipment as well as all the personal things I would need for the next three days at the Lethbridge and District Exhibition and Fair. It was an exciting time, being away from home, being with all those other boys and girls, even as shy as I still was. That first year my calf did very well, winning second place and on the next day selling for the big price of $0.21 per pound. I continued to be involved in the Club for another two years but my calves never did as well as that first one.

Dances at White School were big events in the community. It was a family affair, with babies, small children, teens, young adults, often from other districts and even from town, and older people. I'm sure Mother and Dad were there at least once. I remember watching Dad dance with Kate Andrews and being amazed at how light Kate was on her feet. I was surprised to find out, years later, that they had dated in their single days. These were dances where one could learn how to dance, as older teens and adults would teach us younger ones. Some of my early dance teachers, who were three or four years older, were Evelyn Poole, Joan Webb, and Elaine Hamilton. I must have been only fourteen or fifteen when I had a crush on Elaine, and was dejected and depressed when she and Matt Handsaeme got married. Unlike school dances in Lethbridge which stopped at midnight, these dances went until at least 1:00 a.m. and if we still had a lot of energy the band would take up a collection and continue until 2:00 a.m. When I was fifteen, Mother didn't seem to mind if I stayed out until 2:00 a.m., but when I was eighteen and went to a dance at White School, she made a big thing out of being home by 1:00 a.m. Parents were just as difficult in those days!

In 1940 I moved to Lethbridge to start grade ten at the LCI, boarding with Mrs. Frey, Kay Frey's mother. Ray also went to the LCI to complete his grade twelve, before joining the U.S. navy. Even when I was going to the LCI, I would quite often go to the dances at White. They were a time to visit old friends, to be surprised at how quickly some of the girls had grown up in a year or two, and to have fun dancing with them. We did have some good times in those early days.

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Mary Tollestrup