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Education In Spring Coulee

"Pinepound Reflections"
a History of Spring Coulee - pages 39 - 40

Scholastic education in Spring Coulee began in 1907 when a one room school building was erected by Neil Forsyth. It was on the south west corner of Sec. 23 Twp. 4 Range 24, W of the 4th, which was donated by John C. Thompson.

The School District was designated by the Province as No. 1549. W.L. Thompson was appointed as the first secretary. Following his death, his widow, Clara C. Thompson acted in that capacity. John N. Barrus was one of the early trustees, and his son Emery also served as a trustee after his father.

The first teacher for the new school was Miss Estelle Bowness who came from Prince Edward Island in 1907. She was followed by many teachers, both male and female, some of whom spent more than one year teaching the students of the area. A list of teachers is included in the school section.

At the time that Miss Creighton, from Nova Scotia taught in 1910, the school enrollment had increased to 38 pupils. She gave her history class an assignment to draw two maps. One was to be the village of Spring Coulee noting the places of interest as well as the homes. The other map was to depict the surrounding sections of land with the names of the canals and highways.

In 1922 with the increasing population, it became necessary to expand the one room school to two rooms. The school board purchased the building located just across the street, west, which had originally housed the Bank of Montreal. However, in 1915 the banking business was re-located in Magrath. Roy Matson became the new owner of the building where he and his family lived until 1917, when they moved to Montana. For the next five years it was a family residence until it was sold to the School Board.

There were enough rooms in the building for a comfortable home for the teachers, as well as a large one on the north which provided for the needed classroom. A door between separated it from the teacherage.

There was also a barn nearby which was used to house the ponies the children would ride to and from school every day.

With the extra room another teacher was hired. Grades one through four were taught in one room, and grades five through ten were taught in the other. This system continued for some time until 1939 when the students in grade ten, eleven and twelve began to attend High School in Magrath.

The school bus service had not been introduced yet. Fortunately, the Greyhound Bus schedule for trips between Cardston and Lethbridge was ideal for the transportation of the seven students who required it. The bus conveniently stopped in front of the high school about 8:45 a.m. in time for morning classes. The return trip left Magrath at 6:00 p.m., making it a long day for the students. However, the bus depot in Magrath was in Fletcher's Drug Store, where Denny Fletcher operated a soda fountain in one corner of the store. So it was not too much of a problem to wait for the bus in this "tantalizing" atmosphere. At the time Denny's thick, super milk shakes were only 25 cents, and a "David Harem", a generous serving of ice cream and several toppings just cost 35 cents.

For the privilege of riding the Greyhouse Bus to and from school, each student paid $6.30 per month. There was no monetary assistance from the school board at that time, a far cry from the school bus system of to-day that carries students from their door to school, and return, a welcome sign of progress.

Beginning in 1907, when the first school was organized, local residents were appointed to the Board to administer the affairs and needs of the school, and to procure the necessary funds. Later, the Provincial Government became the source of revenue.

A decision to eliminate the small one room school and to send the students to the large one was made by the Provincial Government in 1942. From that time on, the Spring Coulee School Board, as such, was dissolved, and a representative from the designated district was elected to serve on said Board for a specified term. Bill Matson, of the Raley area was the first to be chosen to serve on the Cardston School Divisional Board, and the representative for the district in which Spring Coulee was located.

He was followed by others from elsewhere in the district. In 1962, campaigning for the continuance of the school in Spring Coulee, which was in jeopardy of closing. John M. Thompson of Spring Coulee was elected to the Cardston School Division where he served for eight years.

He was followed by other Spring Coulee cittizens, namely Eric Hohm, Dan Gruninger, Roslyn Beswick, and Gerri Ripley in that order. Gerri continued to serve on the Board until Regionalization changed the electoral boundaries which took effect on August 31,1994.

With the closing of the country school in 1942, the Davisville building was moved on to the Spring Coulee site, about 300 yards north of the teacherage. This third room was really needed as the students frorn the Vernal and Raley schools began attending the school in Spring Coulee. Cliff Johnson drove the students from Raley and Tom Beswick brought the ones from Vernal to the school.

With the beginning of construction of the St. Mary's Dam, located four miles to the west and north, several families moved onto the site in 1948. To accommodate their children the School Division added three rooms and a large multi-purpose room as well. This was quite an evolution from the original one room unit in 1907, with it's pot- bellied stove for heat, to the modern conveniences of more space, central heating, electric lights and indoor plumbing.

With the completion of St. Mary's Dam, and the departure in 1956 of some of the families involved, the enrollment at the school began to dwindle to the point where only two teachers were needed for instruction. From that time on, until the school was closed for scholastic purposes, there were no more than two teachers.

To put it succinctly, the citizens of Spring Coulee area, both past and present have left a noteworthy heritage to those who came after them.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup