Speech by Bernice Rutski on the History of the Edgewood Schools

The First Schools in and around Edgewood BC and the Grand Opening of the New Edgewood School in 1983

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SPEECH: Written and delivered by Bernice Rutski, Board Chairperson, on behalf of the Board of School Trustees, on the occasion of the official opening of Edgewood Elementary School, December 2nd, 1983.

It is my great pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the Board of School Trustees, on this momentous occasion.

This evening we witness the culmination of long years of planning and consultation, designing and decisions, by a great number of people.

Now, I’d like to tell you a story – a true story, to take you back on a journey in time; to follow through, from the birth and growth of education, in Edgewood and Inonoaklin Valley – your Valley! I’d also like to name some of the people, and history, involved in this part of your past, some who are now long gone, and those who are with us yet.

Legend has it that the Indians named this Valley. It seems that long ago, before the arrival of the settlers, when the Indians visited the Valley, there was a fire burning, the whole area seemed to be one huge flame. Hence, the name “Fire Valley”.

The year was 1909, the place, Fire Valley School in Sleepy Hollow (which is now on the Gary Wood property). The proposed teacher was a Dr. George Heaton. There was, however, one big problem. The magic number of 6 year olds and up needed to start a school was then 7. There were but 6 youngsters, rumour says, all from one family. Nothing daunted, the elders searched the Valley far and wide, found one little 5-year-old boy named Frank Olds whose schooling began then and there.

That same year, 1909, another school was opened in old Edgewood town site (in what some of you may remember as the old Vroom home) . The teacher here was also a Heaton – named Leonard, and brother to Dr. George Heaton.

1918 saw a new Valley School built by Jack McLeod’s father, and known as the “old school-house”. A retired soldier named Ashmore was the first teacher in this school.

Edith Flick’s brother Harry Olds was Secretary-Treasurer of the local Valley School Board until some time in the mid or late 20’s. Edith Flick attended the Valley School at one time. Some of the teachers during these years were: Cole, Freeman, Don Burch, the late Wilfred Jowett, Dora Olsen and Mary Mills.

Much later in 1973, the old Fire Valley School was rented, and a library was opened by Joanne Shipman and Vivian Paseka, who kept it going for 2 years.

Late in 1979, Ambrose Laboucaine bought the place, is gradually renovating it, and plans to make it his permanent home.

The following year, 1919, old Edgewood had a new Grade 1-8 school.

The dividing line between the old Edgewood and Valley School attendance zones was Ferret Road. This is the road to Gerald Ferguson’s place. Each school had its own School Board at this time as well.

The 1920’s and 1930’s saw farmers come and go. Some farmers felt that the name “Fire Valley”, was a deterrent to gaining new settlers. They were instrum­ental in having that name changed to “Inonoaklin Valley”.

These years (30’s) were also the “Depression Years”. Scores of people, some young and some not so young, were on the move, looking for work. Due to the then limited access to this Valley, more people came here by design, than by chance. Some who came to teach were Edith Cummings, Mrs. Lees, Freddy Job and Vince Downing. With the advent of war in 1939 many of the young men left this Valley, some temp­orarily, others forever.

1940’s – Education in the 1940’s, as now, was important to the people, and to certain people that meant getting involved. For several years in the 40’s Minnie deGans, Mother of Margaret Bateman, was a school trustee for the Valley School.

During the years of the 1930’s and up to 1947, for those who wished to go beyond a Grade 8 education, there were 2 choices. One was to take the required courses by correspondence, and the other was to lodge in and attend school in a larger centre, such as Vernon, Nakusp, which was, to say the least, expensive.

Several, who ventured out, were Evelyn DeYeager, Winifred Ferguson and Hedwig Kline who went on to Trail and Vancouver.

1946-47 – Consolidation of schools took place in 1946 and into 1947. This meant that all local schools were incorporated into District No. 10. Local school boards were disbanded. Initially one person was appointed and one was elected to rep­resent this area.

1947 – Changes made by consolidation by 1947 were:

  1. All Grades 1-4 students from Needles, Edgewood and the Valley went to the Edgewood school. (Elsie Sugden, the teacher)
  2. Grades 1-5 went to Fauquier School.
  3. All Grades 6 and 7′ attended the Valley School, Doris B. Gibbs the teacher.
  4. Grades 8-9-10 went to Needles School (with John Wood  as teacher).

1949 – In 1949 a new 2 room Grades  1-6 School  was built in Edgewood, while a new 2 room School with Grades 7-12,    was built in Needles. This resulted in the closing of the Valley School.

1950 – From January to June of 1950, Hazel Haggart, still of Edgewood, replaced Elsie McBurnie nee Sugden, in the old Edgewood site school.

1950’s – A newcomer to the Valley in 1952 was a teacher named Yvonne Pattie, who taught 1 year here and 1 year in Nakusp, then she and Roy Donselaar were married in 1954 and Yvonne quit teaching. In 1957 Yvonne came back to teach and taught until 1966. Then in 1968-69 she was asked to teach High School students in Needles for its final year.

The year 1952 also saw electrical power made available to the Valley.

1950’s – Two of the trustees who represented the Valley and Edgewood during the 1950’s were Roy Bateman and Roy Donselaar.

As well, old timers, who have left us, Scotty Delvin, Charlie Claridge, and Vance Taylor served on the School Board from other areas of the District during the 50’s.

In 1959, the Edgewood School received an addition of a third room to house the Grades 1-6 students from Fauquier, Needles, Edgewood and the Valley.

The early 1960’s saw the introduction of T.V. to Edgewood and surrounding area.

1962 – By 1962, unease was growing in the District, due to fear of ratification of the Columbia Treaty. This treaty, which could and eventually did, changed the lives and the whole world adversely for a great many people.

1962 and on – Teachers coming into the District from 1962 on, had great difficulty in securing accommodation, due to the influx of Hydro workers in the area.

1962 and 1963 saw two new teachers come to the area, Erick Walters, and a young lady, who soon became Mrs. Terry Ewings. Nina has remained a teacher on staff since that time. Very commendable, Nina!

Mid 1962-66 – During the next few years, mid 1962-66, numerous people – Board members, parents, B.C. Hydro officials and teachers all spent a great deal of time trying to decide on a logical location for a new school. The difficulty was to accurately gauge the potential growth areas.

1966 – The trustees of this time, 1966, some of whom were the late Bill Craft of Fauquier, Don Williams and E. Milne of Edgewood, Robazzo of Burton, Glen Weatherhead and Jotf Lee of Nakusp were striving for a realistic sum of monies to be realized from the sales of schools, garages, teacherages and much land, south of Nakusp, with an option to purchase given buildings from B.C. Hydro, should they so desire. Eventually, the sum of $251,000 was received.

The Superintendent of Schools during the negotiations with B.C. Hydro was Claude Bissell, and H. Miller was the Secretary-Treasurer, until July 1966, when Laura Beingessner took on the job in September 1966. All dealings with B.C. Hydro were done before July 1966.

In 1967 the School Board accepted B.C. Hydro’s offer of 4.1 acres of land on the edge of new Edgewood town site for $1,200. The cost of the ATCO’s (trailers) and set up on the new site was $50,050.

With the impending flooding of Arrow Lakes imminent, October 1968 saw a new 3 room (ATCO) School in New Edgewood town site for Grades 1-7. Grades  8 -12 were bused to Nakusp, with Bill Penner as the driver.

It’s interesting to note that the school populations down the lake, which include High School students, vary little from then to now: Then – 243; Now – 253.

The garage from the old Edgewood town site school and the Needles garage, which Roy Donselaar dismantled, were used to make the 2 bus garage recently demolished to accommodate this new 1983 School.

In 1978-79 a kindergarten room was added to the Edgewood school (due to population explosion a few years earlier). The cost to the School District was $25,000 for the ATCO building alone.

During the years, the School Board, some of whom are with us tonight, was aware that the ATCO’s needed more than band-aid treatment. The buildings were wearing out quickly. Major repairs were needed, and a decision had to be made.

Finally in 1981 definite steps were taken. Late that year (81) Ministry Officials visited the District and the necessity for a new building was concurred with.

1981-82 – Much red tape was dealt with by the Senior Administration, (Stewart Ladyman and Norm Kuhn),in the next two years. The file on obtaining a bit of Crown Land is one inch thick.

  • 1981 The Board engaged the Architectural firm of Allen, Huggins, Thorburn in early 1982 to draw up plans for this school, estimated cost to be 1.2 million dollars. All staff, the community and various levels of government were involved in its design and services.

What was a dream in ink is now a reality in brick.

My thanks to all for the interest, co-operation and help shown me in my quest for historical information. A special thank you to Yvonne and Roy Donselaar and as well to my patient husband, who has been a brick (no pun intended).

On behalf of the Board of School Trustees I thank all those people, who in any way were involved in making this building a functional, educational environment for the students, and the adults of our Valley.

THANK YOU.

 

 

Kootenays Local History Photography Submissions Writing

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