‘All of my teachers had an impact on my life’

From our January 2013 issue

By Julie (Friesen) JohnstonShaunavon, Sask.

I remember my country school Christmas concert when I was in Grade 4. The school was located in the middle of the village of Schoenfeld, called Maharg.

Our teacher, Mr. J. Worobetz, in his red flannel shirt, directed the rehearsals, and the end result was a choir of kids singing as we never had before. We had no choice but to sing for all we were worth. He was a rather stern kind of guy.

Attending that school has left me with a lot of memories, mostly good ones. My ride to school was not in a yellow school bus. On my very first day my ride was on a tractor pulling a combine. I was dropped off and away I went.

Fortunately, I had quite a number of cousins already attending and I don’t recall being afraid, however, I didn’t speak any English, and Mr. R. Sommerfeld, my Grade 1 teacher, spoke the same mother tongue as I did, which came in very handy. In no time I was bilingual! He got me off to a great start!

All of my teachers had an impact on my life. In Grade 2 Mrs. Hannah taught us arts and crafts. We spent time making various items such as pom-pom cushion tops, made with yarn on a frame, and plaster of paris ornaments that we painted. I still enjoy crafting.

A day in Grade 3 stands out like it happened yesterday. The teacher was Mr. G. Anderson. My sister and I stayed with our aunt and grandparents on cold winter days. One morning a terrible blizzard was blowing through the village.

Our aunt packed us a lunch of Klups and buns in a basket and walked us to school. We were the only two students attending that day – even the kids next door to the school didn’t venture out. We didn’t learn a thing that day but played with the Anderson’s little blond preschooler named Faye.

In Grades 5 and 6, Mrs. A. Bain taught me so much, from primary and secondary colours to the musical notes. The little I know about reading music I learned from her in the classroom and it has helped me all these many years.

She introduced us to books and read a chapter a day out of stories written by L.M. Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our school library was very small, and new books were exchanged every so often. The first book I read was The Long Winter by Laura I. Wilder.

Mrs. J. Shick in Grade 7 taught us respect, integrity, and responsibility. She was a great lady. There was no gymnasium but we had no problem entertaining ourselves. Games we played during recess and noon hour were prisoner’s base, pum-pum-pull-away, kick the can and Anti-I-Over. Hopscotch was very popular in the springtime. I wonder if any of these activities are still being played?

There was no indoor plumbing, so the outhouses were not a favourite place to visit in the wintertime. We, however, did not have to resort to catalogues.

There was no cafeteria for us country kids. School lunches were carried in syrup pails or in too-large lunch kits. When staying with our grandparents we felt so special in that we could eat the noon meal with them.

We’d listen to The Jackson’s and their Neighbours, a program on the radio, while we ate German pancakes or ruhvei, always with white sugar sprinkled on both foods.

Other special meals were roast chicken with bubbat, or chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles called Kielke. In much demand were the chicken feet, also roasted.

Each school day began with singing O Canada and repeating the Lord’s Prayer, and at day’s end we’d sing God Save the Queen. Times certainly have changed!

Those Christmas concerts were a highlight, with drills, recitations, songs and short plays. The take-home bags of goodies were very special. They didn’t include my favourite chocolate bars which were Pie Face and Fat Emma, but rather peanuts, an orange and a few delicious candies.

The school was usually filled with spectators because the concert was a highlight for them as well. Those were the days!