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Coalhurst School 1932 - 1950

Our Treasured Heritage-
A History of Coalhurst and District
Pages 183 - 188
by Wm. J. White

Coalhurst staff in 1932 had the following eight teachers: Cleota Crowe, Nora Tennant, Emily Rosewarne, Frances Morrissey, Kay Morrissey, Sid Oliver, Bill White (vie-principal), Marion Merkley (principal) and Howard Start(caretaker).

There were two four room school buildings on the north side of the village. Across the road west of the school was the Locatelli farm. Each building had a very small basement just enough room for the furnace, coal bin and a small area for storage of such things as extra desks. Each school had a small storage area on the ground floor for school supplies - scribblers, ink, chalk, etc. The eastern building was called the little school (Grades I to VI) and the western one the big school (Grades VII to XI). The big school had a Principal's office. The school yard was fairly large with the greater part of the playground west of the big school.

Mr. Merkley and I taught all the High school subjects (Grades IX to XI) except French. Mr. Oliver taught the French and Mr. Merkley taught Language and Literature in Grades VII and VIII.

The school population decreased in the next few years. Many miners left when they could find work elsewhere, because the mine only worked a few days a week. There was plenty of coal but no market for it. In December, 1935, the Coalhurst Mine Disaster brought an end to mining except for a short run early in 1936. This caused another decrease in population and school pupils. Coalhurst was dissolved as a village and the school became part of the Lethbridge School Division #7.

Mr. Merkley left Coalhurst at the end of June, 1936, to attend University in Salt Lake City. I was given the position of Principal. Sid Oliver left the teaching profession to join the Canada Custom Staff. Joe Luco came to Coalhurst as Vice-Principal. We started the first Grade XII in September, 1936.

The Oddfellows Hall, west of the Bank of Commerce brick building on main street, was obtained in the following manner. Early in the 30's the hall went to the village because of tax failure. When the village was dissolved the hall was under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Municipal Affairs Department. The Coalhurst Local School Board asked School Division #7 to try to get this hall. Mr. J. Tiffin, Chairman of Lethbridge #7, made a trip to Edmonton and succeeded in getting it. Now the school had a place for basketball, volleyball and social affairs.

Lethbridge School Division was expanding the subject field to give High School students a greater choice of subjects. They added teachers for Home Economics for girls and Shop Work for boys. Mr. Alvin Reid (Shop Teacher) and Miss Dyson (Home Economics) were stationed at Barons and travelled to other centers. I believe the first year they came to Coalhurst was 1940. Elsie Peterson took over the Home Economics in 1942 and Betty Borgen in 1946 while Mr. Reid continued as Shop teacher. They were now living in Coalhurst and went to other centers on certain days. About this time the basement had been enlarged in the big school and the Home Economics had a home there. The Shop was taught in the basement of the school hall.

Coalhurst being near Lethbridge, was a favorate place for visits from High School Inspectors. I think we had an inspection every year. Here are a few remarks from their reports. On an early report in the 30's was this "This is the type of school where the atmosphere is such that the pupils find it very difficult not to learn. "A report in the 40's was this "In the academic field, the Coalhurst School has the proud boast of an enviable record. On many occasions, inspite of a large number of candidates for the Departmental Examinations in Grade IX and XII, the Coalhurst School secured a hundred percent pass mark. On several occasions pupils were awarded the Governor General's medal - signifying the best student in Grade IX in the Lethbridge School Division. "These reports were sent to the school, copy to the Divisional Office and later to the School Department of the County of Lethbridge.

I found the people of Coalhurst and the parents from the other areas whose children were vanried to Coalhurst, very interested and helpful in the school. I remember the work of the members of the school board such as Bob Gammon, Andy Barrie, Dominic Tedesco and secretary- treasurer, Arthur Cunning. Mr. Conners, another helpful member of the local board, did a great deal of work in getting water to flood the outside skating rink. When Coalhurst went into the Lethbridge School Division and later the County of Lethbridge we still had a Local Board who did their best to get what the school needed from the Divisional Board. There were men such as Russell Clifton, Bill Willis, Tony Pavan and many others who did everything possible for the good of the school. After Howard Start retired as caretaker, Walter Garrick and his wife Denise took over. They were proud of their school and helpful to both staff and pupils. Walter also drove a school van. Other van drivers were: George Firth, Mr. Hendrie and two students from the Newlands area, Bert and Donald Pearson and Howard Brown from West Lethbridge.

Coalhurst school had a Christmas concert each year for the children and parents. Each room took part in the program. The success of these concert was due to the students, teachers, caretaker and 6 parents of the pupils. I always remember the works Mabel Luco, her choir of pupils and their part in the concert, singing Christmas Carols and Hymns to bring an end to the program.

The schools of the area sponsored an annual track meet in the 40's. After having this event in several centers it was decided to hold it at Park Lake each year. The schools participating were: Diamond City, Picture Butte, Nobleford, Rolling Hill, Monarch and Coalhurst. Individual winners received a ribbon but the important thing was which school could get the most points. That school was awarded a trophy. The shop teacher with students was responsible for carpenter work such as booths, ball diamond and the Home Economics for food.

The school had basketball and softball teams for both boys and, girls. Games were played with students from other schools and competition was keen. The money needed for equipment for sports was raised by the local school. Coalhurst did not get any money from the Lethbridge Divisional Board or County Board. The school sponsored dances to get money for sports' equipment. When teams were taken to other towns we had to get cars to take them. I especially remember Harvey Sandham who was always willing to take a load anywhere we had to go.

Coalhurst sponsored a Musical Festival in the 1940's. Owen Williams, Superintendent of Schools, obtained the Adjudicators and helped to arrange the program. The Home Economics being in larger quarters in the basement of the school made it possible to have a Grade XII graduation banquet for the graduates and their parents. Here again, the co-operation of the staff especially Betty Borgen and the girls in Grade IX, X and XI who helped her make this a success.

The local board in 1939 arranged for a van to take pupils to Calgary for the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. They were able to get a van and driver from Nobleford. Bill Ramage, a member of the local board was in charge of the trip. We stopped at High River for a picnic lunch and then on to Calgary. A spot with an excellent view of the Royal Couple was obtained after unloading the van. I felt very proud of the behaviour of the Coalhurst pupils and the work of Mr. Ramage in his management of the trip. I think all of us will always remember that day.

The Canadian Parliament during World War 11 moved many of the Japanese from B.C. to Alberta. A large number were brought to Southern Alberta to work in the beet fields. Nearly all the schools in Lethbridge County #7 had some Japanese students. Miss Bartling, a United Church Social Worker, helped the Japanese young people overcome their difficulties in the various communities. Miss Bartling told me the Japanese children were adjusting to their surroundings in the Coalhurst School better than other schools in the Lethbridge area. To help the Coalhurst girls, Miss Bartling started a C.G.I.T. They used a room in the small school for their weekly meetings. Later, Miss Bartling became an ordained minister in the United Church. She was awarded an Honorary Doctor's Degree in 1980 by the University of Lethbridge.

Rota and Voldis Dalderis, originally from Latvia, come to Coalhurst after the war. They had been in a concentration camp in Germany where they learned some English. Rota soon obtained her Senior Matriculation and went on to University receiving her Doctorate in Dentistry.

Hugh McLachlan and his brother attended a country school near Aden, They came to Coalhurst, staying with relatives, to complete their High School. I heard no more of them until my retirement when I had a letter from Ottawa from Hugh. He was at that time a Brigadier General and after that made several advances in his field. He became head of the Air Transport Command of the Canadian Armed Forces.

There are people who help so much but without mention or publicity. I want to mention one who has lived in Coalhurst many years - Mrs. Nestoruk. When the school or someone in the school was in difficulty, Mrs. Nestoruk, in her quiet way would be there to help.

Our first house was owned by Mr. Tedesco, located across from the school. The neighbors we remember kindly on that street were: Merkleys, Mellings, Palletts, Mazzaros and Pat McLeods. Not far away were the McCaughertys, Rohovies, Cunnings, Gusellas, Starts and Hugh McLeods. Other houses we lived in, near by were the Joevenazzos, Katanchuks, Bacades, Yucytus, Komars, Ramages and Loxtons.

The first person who came to our door in Coalhurst was Bill Arsene. He asked if he could deliver milk to us and Bill or his brother, George, did this all the years we were there. We bought vegetables, chickens, eggs and strawberries from the Lacatelli's or the Garrick's. The Aben boys brought cream. We had a series of paper boys all courteous and reliable.

The schools in this area did what was asked and the pupils received a good education. It was necessary for the Coalhurst School to have the co-operation of the people of the Village and adjacent area from where pupils came. We had this co-operation and for this the teaching staff was most grateful. There was no wilful destruction of the school by the pupils. Both parents and pupils were proud of their school.

My eighteen years in Coalhurst was the best of the 46 years I had teaching. Probably this was due to the few times I had complaints from parents, and not many problems with the students. I have fond memories of the teachers, pupils and their parents. May they have had many happy years, and many more in the future.

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Mary Tollestrup