Ah, the good ol days . . . when times were bad.
Yvonne Moore knows all about those days growing up in rural Oliver while attending Testalinda school. In fact, she shared some of her memories last week at the annual general meeting of the Oliver and District Heritage Society.
“We knew that we had to look after our shoes . . . I can remember being told, ‘don’t scuff your shoes,’ you know, because those shoes had to last you all year.”
Moore recalled lots of children took their shoes off at school and played barefoot.
“I can remember squeezing your feet into shoes when you had to go back in September; your feet hurt because you ran barefoot all summer.”
At 86, Moore has no trouble recalling the two-room schoolhouse near Road 18. She had to walk about four kilometres to get to it every day, even in the dead of winter.
And the kids were always warned to stay away from the farmers’ water boxes, which were used for irrigation purposes. (The warning came because kids had a tendency to play in them.)
“Mrs. MacPherson (Mrs. Mac), she always caught us and she’d yell at us.”
Another rule the kids were subjected to was having clean hands and a handkerchief, which were inspected every day.
“I’m surprised they didn’t look behind our ears,” she chuckled.
Moore admitted that she had difficulty in school for the first couple of years, primarily due to her fear of one particular teacher (Miss East). She was very strict and didn’t smile.
Moore will never forget one teacher who called her “stupid” in front of the whole class.
That incident taught her how not to treat people.
As far as discipline was concerned, the teachers used to spank the kids for bad behaviour, Moore said.
“I never got that but I can remember one little boy getting spanked in the back of the classroom. I felt so bad for him.”
Moore recalled they did have the strap back then, but thank goodness it was never used on her.
“I think that was pretty cruel, myself.”
Teachers would also throw chalk at some students or humiliate them.
Later, in elementary school, the punishment was sitting under the clock in the hallway, she reminisced. “So anyone walking by could see you and you were shamed.”
Back then, students had so much respect for their teachers, Moore pointed out. “But they presented themselves so that you almost had to respect them.”
The students never talked back to their educators, she added.
Moore acknowledged that a lot of parents today are having difficulty with their own children’s behaviour, and they can’t discipline them like they did in the past.
“It’s not that you’d want to do that but the control is out of your hands now.”
Moore looks at some of the discipline today and shakes her head. For example, she doesn’t agree with out-of-school suspensions, saying the students just treat those as a holiday.
She also doesn’t agree with the ideology that you shouldn’t fail students anymore.
“They just push them through. That’s why there are so many out there that don’t know a thing when they get out of school.”
And allowing students to smoke cigarettes at the high school really bothers her.
“They’re not old enough to have cigarettes in the first place. How can they condone that?”
Moore said it was a sad day when the Testalinda school closed (in the 1940s) and the pupils had to attend school in town, which was scary.
“We were country bumpkins, really, we were. And when we came to town, the kids were a little bit different (because they had more advantages).”
She said kids in rural Oliver were lucky to come into town with their parents once a week. Moore distinctly remembers getting an ice cream cone at Mrs. Smith’s drugstore.
Attending school in town was a whole different world for Moore.
“Oh, my goodness. It seemed so big. I can remember walking into the old 26 building . . . holy cow, there were stairs. And the smell of the old wood; I remember that so vividly.”
Moore said the Testalinda kids were so accustomed to drinking out of a dipper in a pail. Using taps and real toilets in town was a luxury.
She said kids used to bring their lunch in pails.
“I told them about my old green pail, it was one of those flat ones. It had a place for a thermos, but I didn’t have one. So mom used to put milk in a little jar, but it was always warm at lunch time.”
One time her mom made her a tomato sandwich on homemade bread. Of course, it fell apart because it was soaked.
Moore said she used to have nightmares about walking to school only to discover she had no shoes on.
She can’t recall seeing any bullying in school, noting it was a “kinder” time back then when neighbours helped out neighbours.
Moore remembers people coming to the door and asking if any jobs needed to be done around the home. These people never asked for handouts, but were willing to work for a meal. “They never had their hand out without offering to do something. Not like today.”
Moore said one of the most important people in her life then was Rudy Guidi, the principal of the elementary school. He actually sang at Moore’s wedding.
Moore graduated in 1952 in a class of 52 students, who celebrated by organizing a dance. They didn’t have a dinner because there was no money for that. But they made sure everyone had a date for the dance, so they matched everyone up with a partner.
Speaking of matchmaking, Moore often thinks about the time she fell in love with John, a Grade 5 student who later became her husband.
She recalled waiting in the car outside a house where her parents bought vegetables.
“I looked up and here was this cutest face looking out the window.”
It was a classic love story of girl meets boy. They grew up together and were married for more than 50 years.