Looking Back


School is Out for Another Year!


Recent visitors to the Onoway Museum archives had been students at Beaupré School in Onoway in the 1950s and wanted to find themselves in the school registers. It didn't take long to spot their names on the class lists and that opened a floodgate of memories – fellow students, teachers, (favorite and not-so-favorite), events – it went on and on.

The school registers are official documents listing the students in each class and their attendance. Additional information changed over the years but included age, date of birth, parents' names, parents' land location, distance from the school, home school district, birthplace. Just as informative are the pieces of paper stored in the registers. Looking through the school registers, one cannot help but compare schools of 50 or 100 years ago to today's schools.

In 1922 Mrs. Husband's class of
                                  20 students from Primary to grade III
                                  had a week off school.

In 1922 Mrs. Husband's class of 20 students from Primary to grade III had a week off school.

Here's a random look at some of the Beaupré School registers over the years.

  • Class size is a hot topic today. Back in January 1919, there were 43 students from grade I to VIII in E. A. Freland's class, age 6 -16. This was in the days with blackboards, few textbooks, no electricity. What would learning have been like then?
  • In 1948 – 49 Doris Kuntz taught a grade I – II class of 44 students. (She was ill for three days in March so there was no school for her students.)
  • In 1949 – 50, Wm. Bramley's grade V – VI class had 48 students ranging in age from 9 to 15 years. In Caroline Ulmer's grade II – III class, there were 40 students aged 7 to 11 years.
  • In 1950 – 51. Mr. Jegard's grade X – XI class had 47 students aged 14 – 18 years.

Given the condition of rural roads, it was not unusual for school to be closed.
  • Mark Smith noted on February 4, 1913 "No children arrived. Stormy weather."
  • Then at the end of January in 1916, A. J. Pineo recorded "School closed account extreme cold."
  • On March 16, 1951 Caroline Ulmer recorded "Roads blocked. School closed."
  • Even as late as December 13, 1955 "Bad roads (no school). Closed for storms" was recorded.

It was not uncommon to see that the school was closed for health reasons.

  • Scarlet fever caused the school to be closed April 3 – 6, 1950. In 1953 school didn't start until September 14: "School opening postponed on account of polio" wrote Mrs. Shinkaruk (grade III teacher). Mrs. Erickson (grade I teacher with 35 students) noted that for a week in March 1954 "School closed by nurse. Measles & flu".
  • School was also closed for holidays (Empire Day in May, Labour Day in September, Armistice Day in November, Farmers Day in June) and special events such as Election Day June 27, 1949; day of Mourning for King George VI in 1952; Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II June 2, 1953.
  • Even from the early 1900s, teachers attended an annual convention. The two-day convention was held in October until 1962 with an additional day for travel until the early 1950s. Convention days were changed to February as of 1963.


Tucked inside some of the registers are notes and documents of all sorts. The monthly Bulletin from Lac Ste. Anne School Division kept teachers informed about all aspects of the educational process. In 1957 the Superintendent sent an alert that someone was preying on young girls – does this sound like today's digital world?

An alert from
                                  the Superintendent warned teachers
                                  that a predator was sending conning
                                  letters to high school girls.
An alert from the Superintendent warned teachers that a predator was sending conning letters to high school girls.

School registers can tell a lot more than just names. Familiar family names in registers dating back to 1909 help put things into a cultural/historic context – how did the kids get to school? Why was it important to go to school? What if you didn't speak English? What was it like to sit at a two-seater desk in a dark room trying to ignore the other 30+ kids in the room and make sense of what the teacher wrote on the blackboard? But then there was recess – time to run around outside with your friends!


Fascinating stuff! Come visit the Onoway Museum Archives – you'll be sucked in!


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Last updated: August 5, 2018