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August  11, 2006

Good old Golden Valley school days

Tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. students and teachers who attended the Golden Valley School(s) will gather for a reunion at the Lion’s Den at the Arnstein Community Centre.  Like many who attended a rural school or taught in one, as I did, wonderful memories remain.  The last of several Golden Valley schools, 40km west of Trout Creek on Highway 522, closed 30 years ago and is now privately owned.  The planning committee has been working hard to make the reunion memorable.  Their brochure prompts participants to remember – best friends/ teachers, the long walks to school, the first and last day of school, Christmas concerts, school yard fun, bike rodeos, etc. etc. 

The original Golden Valley log school house c.1890

Committee member and Golden Valley resident Marlene Moore and her husband attended the school and she is acting as the archivist for the event.  Old photographs and other material from the Women’s Institute were invaluable.  The old local history on McConkey Corners and the book Lunch Bucket Chronicles have some good information on Golden Valley.  Some old school registers where discovered and old school books, teachers’ contracts, etc. have been found.  Several former teachers have been contacted including Lisa Fry, June Hampel, Dorcas Gehrke, Erva Grasser and Carole Dobbs.  These artifacts will be on display at the Reunion. 

 Later school houses 1920 & 1957.  

The original school in the 1890’s was in the Methodist Church near the corner where the townships of East Mills and Pringle meet.  The first class had 18 students and for several years the school only operated from April to Christmas allowing the older boys to take winter work in the lumber camps.  The church burned and was replaced with a clapboard building.  In 1920 a separate new school was built and in 1957 a two-room school replaced it to handle the growing population.  In less than a decade students began to be bused to the Argyle School in Port Loring and the school was sold to private purchasers. 

In a conversation with former teacher Lisa Fry she made reference to a photo of her and her class of 40 students Grades 1-8 in 1949 in The Lunch Bucket Chronicles.  Lisa’s first job was to replace a pregnant teacher and she jarred the school inspector when she told him that she was pregnant.  Lisa’s daughter is now a retired teacher from the area.  Lisa talked about the shortage of books and how she wrote stories for the class and wrote phonics books to help them learn to read. 

The conversation at the reunion will undoubtedly move to other memories from the old days - the local stores, post office, churches, businesses, the first phone, the Saturday night reveries, the hockey rink.  I have a copy of Josephine Grawbarger’s remarkable book about one of Golden Valley’s well-known old timers who she wrote about in her book “The Legend of Joseph Driver” (1974).  The following, part of the poem about “The First Post Office”, captures the spirit of the time.  Joseph Driver (1849-1929) was the first Post Master, had a dozen children and his son Walter built the first school in 1920. 

The First Post Office 

It was in the house of Joseph
That a post office was started.
How the people watched with pleasure
As the first stage with its mailbags
Rumbled in to golden Valley.
Johnny Kyle, the chubby mailman,
Would unload the mail and parcels,
Then exchange his tired horses
For a pair from Joseph’s stable
Ere he galloped on to Loring.
He combined his mailman duties
with a dozen other interests,
Bringing gossip from the outside,
Bringing ‘railroad time’ for watches,
Bringing freight and summer boarders.
Three times every week he passed there,
Through the bleak cold days of winter,
Through the dusty days of summer,
And through wind and rain and weather
Rode his jug of rye beside him. 

Another interesting book about the Golden Valley area is Walter Heasman’s Off the Beaten Path at Golden Valley which tells about his life primarily as the developer of the popular Little River Lodge. 

The South River Festival of the Arts 

South River will be bustling with activity from August 10-13 with many well-advertised art events that are always entertaining and educational.  I want to see Doreen Woods’ art show at Renee’s Café and hear the Neil Lehto talk on Tom Thomson. 

Powassan Clark House Museum 

Saturday the 12th is the “History Alive” day at the Clark House Museum in Powassan.  From 10-4 there will be antique cars and farm equipment, a dog show, fun for the kids, crafts, a quilt demonstration by Jane Vester and a visit to the Museum.  The Pioneer Porter family will be featured at an 11a.m. event with 4 of the Porter Great Great Grandchildren present. 

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