Part 3 of 3
Though I was home schooled early by my teacher mother, my formal education began in Hebron School, a one-room schoolhouse. This sounds like a pioneer situation but it was actually the 1950s. The area south of Brandon had plenty of young farm families at the time. Dad and Mom along with several neighbours with school-aged children petitioned the provincial education department to reopen Hebron School. With the baby boom in full bloom, the province agreed with the local wisdom of using an old one-room school to help educate the population surge. The school reopened in 1955, the year I attended Grade One. Hebron School sat at the intersection of two gravel grid roads, three miles from Hayfield, one west, one south, one west.
Hebron School as recorded in A Study of Public School Buildings in Manitoba (1994) by David Butterfield for the Historic Resources Branch of Manitoba Culture Heritage and Citizenship (as the department was known then)
Between 1903 and 1918, the building of one-room schools flourished all over Manitoba. About 400 new schools were built over that 15-year span bringing the total number of one-rooms in Manitoba to 1,400. Built about 1910, Hebron School was a traditional one-room country schoolhouse, wood frame with a pyramid roof and a low dormer above the front entrance. The doorway sported a small porch with modest Classical Revival stylings in the form of a pediment supported by columns. Almost square with a small cloakroom at the entrance and a little office for the teacher on the west side, the rest was the classroom with blackboards around two sides and a row of large windows facing east. A flagpole flew the Union Jack. The school’s amenities included a small stable out back where you could tie up your pony or mule for the day while you went to school, and a manual pump for water. In the spring and fall, I rode my little two-wheel bicycle to school.
About 30 pupils demanded the attention and wisdom of Miss Bernice McRae, a young local woman fresh out of Normal School. During the school day, Miss McRae moved from the large Grade One row to the much shorter Grade Eight row, giving each her own special attention, their lessons and the direction their attentions needed to go. I learned everyone’s lessons in one year. It was impossible not to, a bright, curious child getting eight years of knowledge at once! It was school immersion. I attended Hebron until the middle of Grade Three.
Every year the School held a Christmas pageant that disrupted the room completely because the stage, built on wooden trestles, took up a third of the classroom. The show consisted of the familiar songs, drills, costumes, the usual Christmas trappings all cute as the dickens when done by little kids, your little kids! I “sang” and “acted” in the nativity play, usually as a shepherd.
Hebron School had a basement, which meant it had a furnace that kept it relatively warm most of the winter. On the coldest days, we lit an extra stove on the classroom.
When Miss MacRae noticed black clouds streaked with lightning building in, she’d herd us all into the cement basement of the building to wait out the storm in safety. I recall the sound of the daily attendance binder she kept as she snapped it shut after taking attendance as we entered the basement. I suppose she brought it to account for her small brood of charges should we be hurled into oblivion or taken to heaven by a twister.
My Grade One picture from Hebron School 1955
Like Hayfield, Hebron School no longer exists. Sold and moved off the original site in the 1990s, its corner of the world has turned into cropland. Often unused schools became granaries, shops or sheds but I’m not sure of the eventual fate of Hebron School. A stone with a commemorative plaque marks the spot where the school stood.
Though I excelled in terms of the requirements of Miss MacRae and Hebron School, and despite school immersion, in Shoal Lake Grade Three, I was behind. I couldn’t multiple or divide for my level. Before and during Christmas, while I recuperated from an accident, Mom taught me math at the kitchen table. Dad would come home from work and we’d report how the multiplication was going, complete with demonstrations. “Six times nine,” Dad would say and I would spout out the answer. I caught up.
In addition to the plaqued rock, there is one other reminder of Hebron. Hebron Road, a good gravel road, runs off Hwy 2 east of Souris and goes right by the former school site.
Find more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.