Boarding the Teacher

Spy Hill, Bavelaw School District SK

Spy Hill School, Bavelaw School District SK
Left to Right: Gladys Vance, Pearl Riddall, Wayne Riddall, Steve Vance
Photo: E. Whitney collection

How Grandma Met Grandpa

Our Grandmother, Emily Priscilla Turner was hired to teach at Spy Hill, SK around 1904, and was to be boarded with a local family, as was the custom of the time. According to Uncle Steve, she was hired by the school board of the newly formed Bavelaw School District for a salary of 20 dollars a month. The Barclay family were to board and room her for $10 a month.  (“I am quoting these figures from memory so I may be out a dollar or two.”)

Emily later married Allen Vance and they lived at Spy Hill.  Their children attended this school.  Today the school is gone and there is a cairn remembering it.

One old timer shared his memories in a prairie history book, recalling when he was a boy at home and how they boarded the teacher every year.

He says that every summer when the subject came up for discussion again, his mother would announce: “This year I’m charging double for all those extra meals I have to cook.”

The problem was never the teacher; she didn’t eat that much extra food. The problem was all the bachelors in the district that would find their way to his folks’ home whenever they were in town – and especially for Sunday supper – so they could get to know the new teacher. Sunday afternoon was the day to go visiting and every lonely bachelor for miles around would come to visit the teacher. I remember eight or ten of them around our table for Sunday supper.

The great part about all this company was after the meal when Mom would say, “Who wants to help me do the dishes?” Wanting to make a good impression, some would jump up and clean off the table. Others would get the water ready. Mom could sit back and relax while those fellows did all the work, so we can’t say they were freeloaders.

Yes, Mom grumbled, but she had a soft heart. She knew how lonely a young man could get sitting out in a little soddy by himself all week long – especially through a long prairie winter. We fed a lot of people on Sundays and Mom really didn’t begrudge the work because she knew some of them were barely surviving all week on wild game and hard tack.

It was interesting to see the variation. Some were cheerful and talkative; some were shy and barely said a word. Some really had an eye on the teacher and others, you could see, were just happy to be in a civilized house with all the feminine touches and good conversation. We had a gramophone and they played records, sang songs, swapped stories and told jokes until it was time to go home again.

So my folks never made any money boarding the teacher – and every year once school was out we had a wedding. One teacher that came lasted only three months as a single girl! They’d have a church wedding, then my mother would host a little reception for the couple.

No heaps of presents to open then! Off they’d go across the fields to his little soddy or shiplap shack, whatever he’d been able put together, and set up housekeeping. I have to credit all those girls; I never knew one to be a quitter. They’d stick with the job, then work together with their man, helping to build up the farm.


About Christine Goodnough

I'm a wife, mom & grandma, a writer, homemaker and nature lover at home on the Canadian prairies. I post short stories and poems about life and personal experiences, writing from a Christian perspective and adding a dash of humor where I can.
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5 Responses to Boarding the Teacher

  1. evvance says:

    Bavelaw School not Babala

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. It’s a real insight into the courtship of my grandparents.

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