Dying Man’s Daily Journal – Early School

Yesterday was a day that just flew by. Sleeping most of the day will do that. Vi, bless her heart, lets me sleep until I wake up on my own. I am going to have to ask her to start waking me up after about 2 hours. I am literally sleeping my life away and I really don’t want to do that.

Yesterday, I received a very nice surprise when I received comments from Carol, Lori and Ken all cousins of mine. It brought back into mind the importance of keeping in contact or reestablishing contact with those dear to you. I can’t really remember with any certainty but I think I have written about maintaining contact or reestablishing contact with those dear to you. Here I find myself guilty of not doing that very thing.

Most of my early years, well up until the end of grade 4 I grew up on a farm just outside of Swan River. My 3 uncles also had farms very close by. So I think there was quite a strong connection between all of the kids (cousins). That was back in the days of the one room school house. Each district had its own little one room school house for grades 1 – 8 after that you were taken by bus into Swan River for high school.

Lancaster was the name of our little school. Based on numbers, the Howdle clan dominated the school. I am sure it must have been about 3/4 of the entire student body were my cousins. Mind you the entire student body was maybe about 30 kids, but I was always related to most of them. You never really had a problem at any time that there wasn’t an older and bigger cousin there ready to step in and help. The camaraderie seemed to extend beyond the family ties. Everyone irregardless of the grade level always seemed willing to help each other. Of course there were the little spats etc that will happen anywhere but things seemed to always work themselves out.

I have to marvel at the teachers in those little one room school houses. Now I am not trying to take anything away from the teachers today. They face a very challenging job under very challenging conditions and do an excellent job. I admire and applaud everyone of them.

I think of those teachers back then everyday teaching every subject to 8 different classes. For me that was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. It did have what I considered to be disadvantages at the time. When the teacher got to my grade I was it. I was the entire grade one and then grade two, three and four class. There was no trying to hide behind another student hoping her questions would go to someone else. I was it.

Then there was always the walk to and from school. My walk was relatively short compared to many. I suppose mine walk must have been close to 2/3 of a mile. Ray and Bev, their walks must have been something in the area of 3 miles. Obviously there was no bus service, walking was just an accepted fact. I think back to some of those cold Canadian winters and just sort of shake my head. It is strange or I suppose good how things have changed, at least for some parts of the world. Today even just the walk to school would be considered so harsh and unfair. Back then it was just accepted as the way things were. Here is more information than anyone really wants to know. Back then everyone used an unheated outdoor biffy (outhouse) both at home and at school. Believe me when you had to do some business and the temperature is about -35, you do it quickly.

I just realized I have some of those “old timer” stories I can tell my kids and grandchildren. You know the type of stories every parent likes to tell their kids. Naturally, I will have to embellish it a little, it will be something like.

You kids today don’t know how lucky you have it. When I was a kid I had to walk to and from school. The walk was atleast 5 miles each way and uphile both ways. I waded through snow up to my waist bare foot and wearing nothing but my fathers pajamas.

12 Responses to Dying Man’s Daily Journal – Early School

  1. justordinary says:

    I really enjoy your posts here. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Ken Howdle says:

    Good Afternoon Bill

    Reading your column today gets me to thinking that the Waltons tv series had nothing on the trials and tribulations you and the cousins encountered back in the day.
    I cannot say I share in many of those expeditions to and from country school, but then again you have a few years on me (lol),but I have heard the stories….

    IT seems with each telling of the infamous travels to and from school that the distance each way seems to become greater and the storms more fierce etc…..why the last time I heard the story I believe it was a 4 mile walk each way…….But those numbers come from Joe & Jim so I don’t know if you can can consider them reliable sources.

    In answer to your question ,I do have a couple of houseguests for the weekend….the ladies are presently out shopping and will be headed to their respective provinces tonite or first thing in the morning. It is good to see them, and we have had a nice visit.

    I hope all is well with you and yours on this blustery winter day, and I will be in touch on Monday.

    Take Care………… KEN

    p.s….next time you tell the story of your school trips…change the miles to kms….then the number becomes really inflated

  3. Hi Bill…

    My question is a typical Manitoban question:

    Just wondering – which way outside of Swan River? I taught in Bowsman for 4 months, and my mother in law now lives in Swan River, teaching piano privately.


  4. kuntrygurl says:

    I’m new to wordpress and stopped by from justordinary’s. Your blog is beautiful as are your words. Hope you don’t mind if I come back again. Hope to get to know you better.

  5. […] Memories of a one-room school Not just one room, but one room populated mainly by one family and cousins.  Dying Man’s Journal has some reflections on a Canadian one-room school. […]

  6. Ken Howdle says:

    Dear Bill,

    This is cousin Carol again. As I always remind my siblings, “OLDER AND WISER” In the Free Press article you had stated that if you were Howdle and male, that you were kind of an old feller at 63. I need to bring up the case of uncle Joe. He is a ripe old 80++ something. I feel that kind of blows a hole in your story, however I do admit that he is kind of an exception.

    Ken and I enjoyed the Swan River and Lancaster connection to your blogging including the one room school house and outhouse story.

    I am curious about the teacher who taught in Bowsman for four years. What is his mother-in-laws name? Could I know her?

    Cousin Carol

  7. hudds53 says:

    Carol, you are right I had forgotten about Uncle Joe, but as you say he is the exception. Talking about the old school brought back some nice memories for me, I hope it did the same for you.

    To Chris, we live about 7 miles north west of Swan River. My cousin Carol still lives in Swan River, if you see here posting a little earlier today, she is asking your mother-in-laws name wondering if she may know her.

    Kuntrygurl, thank you for your visit to the site and you comment. You are welcome back anytime you would like. Please leave comments I would like to get to know you better also.

  8. Martha says:

    Boy did you take me down memory lane. I too went to a small country school & could relate to what you said. Those really were “the good ole days”. Thanks.

  9. babychaos says:

    One of my friends who is about your age is from Worcestershire, when she’s talking about it being cold she will often say “It was so cold you’d be froz up yer bum” What you were saying about biffys made me chuckle, I know I’d sure as hell do it fast but the question I ask myself is… could I? 😉

    You had more stamina in those days or asa my friend also says “they don’t make ’em like they used to”. Actually, my mother says that too!



  10. Mel says:

    Both ways–barefoot AND backwards, dontchaknow.

    Start spinning the tales, grampa.
    You’ve got a good start!


  11. “It’s a small world…..”
    That’s enough Disney….

    Linda Carpentier is my Mother in Law’s name. Perhaps Carol would know her. Linda moved to town about 3 years ago. She lives in the trailer park off of highway 10. She also works at a group home on the other side of town.

    We go up every once and awhile to visit. Perhaps we could connect, Carol?

  12. kabababrubarta says:

    Cool Site! kabababrubarta

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