Old country school draws her ‘like a magnet’

From our January 2013 issue

Maxwelton School #1813 (1907-1967) was a part of the rural Melville, Sask., school district located northwest of Melville. The wildlife sign (inset) is situated near the corner of the schoolyard, where kids learned to skip rope.

By ELSIE (Horgas) CARRICK – Moose Jaw, Sask.

Although more than six decades have passed and many miles separate us, Maxwelton School draws me like a magnet whenever I’m in the area. A feeling of thankfulness warms my heart to find it still stands as proudly now as it did in its heyday.

The general appearance of the building shows its age. It now serves as storage space for a neighbouring farmer. The neatly-manicured hedge of long ago has lost its youthfulness and has spread beyond its borders. Gone is the teacherage with its flower-bordered walkway. The large schoolyard, once filled with the laughter of children, now part of the adjacent farm.

Maxwelton School seems to remember with pride and extends a welcome at each visit, just as it did so many years ago. My brother taught me to read about Jerry, Jane, Snow, and Laddie and to print. Finally I could enter that magic world of books, learning, and new experiences that seemed so long in coming.

With Roger’s corn syrup lunchpail in hand, we trudged the 2-1⁄4 miles to school. I was fairly bursting with anticipation. The classroom boasted a large enrollment of mixed grades, not including the addition of a large group of us beginners – some hesitant, others eager and antsy. It was one of the latter that initiated an experience I was totally unprepared for.

Older students were role models

The other beginner energetically raised and lowered her seat portion of our double desk several times which earned both of us the strap within a half-hour of having started school. She got the strap because she was guilty of the act and me because I was the unfortunate desk mate.

My memory of that first year is sketchy beyond activity cards of line drawings that we copied freehand into our scribblers. Placing the four legs on the drawing of a table was particularly troublesome.

The older students were great role models. They patiently taught us how to skip rope, complete with jingles and chants. A particularly exciting game was “Mother, may I?” There was also a game of ball that included players of all sizes and skills.

Then along came Miss Senchuk for Grades 2 and 3. She taught nonstop, formally, and incidentally planted the seeds whereby we could expand our knowledge and skills on our own like so many little sponges. We unlocked the mystery of all those numbers on the backs of our scribblers and our addition, subtraction, and multiplication skills grew.

She introduced us to phonics and our reading and spelling vocabulary expanded. Not to waste the final minutes of a Friday afternoon, she introduced the ‘f’ sound of ‘ph’ as in elephant and telephone. We were challenged to remember the spelling of both words on Monday morning.

Doctor and students dreaded it

A few minutes’ nature hike on the road allowance outside the schoolyard was enough to introduce white asters, purple asters, goldenrods and more. Arbour Day was observed each spring and it, too, was an outdoor education experience. Singing was a part of each day.

WWII was in progress and our repertoire included many wartime songs. One experience we were totally unprepared for was the mass immunization program. The unfortunate doctor in charge must have dreaded that experience as much as we did. It taught me to be shy of needles and injections for years to come.

The good memories are many. Christmas concerts and meeting Santa Claus for the first time, the Valentine box, bobbing for Halloween apples, spelling matches, and memorization of poems to name a few. There was so much to learn and experience.

Soon I was in Grade 4 and Miss Zulynik became my teacher. She was later recognized for her contribution to the field of education in B.C. It was in early fall of 1947 when my family left the log home where I was born and we moved on. It was not a dreaded move.

Maxwelton School helped me gain confidence for the future with a good basic foundation for learning. It deserves some credit for my two university degrees in addition to a lifetime of learning. There must be many more former students who have reaped similar rewards.

Maxwelton School has the right to stand proudly in old age after the wealth of opportunities she rendered to so many in her youth.