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Memories of the McMahon School

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 404 - 405
by Fern Patching

At the McMahon school the students were always a challenge to the teacher. In most cases this was the first school for the teachers. We played games like Pump Pump Pull Away, Dare Base, Anti I Over, and we had a softball team that played a few other schools. With usually about 12 students in the school not too many had to sit on the bench. The best players had to be the pitcher or catcher, then came the first baseman as he or she had to be able to catch the ball.

On Feb. 13 there was a surprise party for my brother. It was put on by the Maybutt Young People's Society. He was taken quite unawares.

A fairly large slough at the north-east of the school yard, furnished the children attending the school a good deal of fun both in the spring and winter months. Autumn and spring the boys built rafts out of fence posts and two by fours and ferried passengers back and forth. Rocks were ferried out to the middle where an island was built and it was often a question whether some poor dupe would be left on this island when the school bell rang. In the spring, when there was a good freeze overnight, a thin sheet of ice would form and then we had fun racing over the ice trying to keep moving so that we did not break through. We called this "Rubber Ice" and almost always got our feet wet. In the winter after the ice froze solid, we skated on the slough during the noon hours and, we could change our shoes and skates so fast that sometimes we could even have a skate in the fifteen minute recess.

The slough also furnished a source of water for the rather rough rural pastime of drowning out the pesky gopher which every country lad pursued with religious fervor.

One of my most vivid recollections had to do with the dust storms that gave that period the name of the "Dirty Thirties". Great black clouds of silt raised by the wind in northern Alberta would sweep in blotting out the sun and we would find ourselves using the fence lines to keep us on the road on our way home.

Christmas concerts were great. There was always a competition between district schools over which put on the best concert and, after attending other neighbour school concerts, we always judged ours the best. Hours were spent rehearsing plays, practicing carols, and learning drills. Curtains to form a front for the stage and to give the participants cover when dressing, were made from sheets borrowed from district families which were hung on wires stretched across the front of the schoolroom. Light was supplied by Coleman gasoline lamps and lanterns borrowed from attending families. Lines might have been forgotten by shy actors, or cards or costumes misplaced to the distraction of the teacher, but the audience was composed of parents and family and everyone was applauded. The arrival of "Santa Claus" closed to the program and it was great fun guessing who Santa "really" was. Ray Poole from Wilson Siding and "Ma" Loder from Maybutt were the best ones that I remember, but Santa came in all sizes, and the bags of candy handed out were appreciated by one and all. Most of the students did not get other presents at the concert, either having Santa come to their home, or not at all (these were depression years), so others watched jealously those who did get their's at the concert.

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