Millet and District Historical Society – Oral History Project
Transcript of Interview with Jean Scott #1 - April 26, 2007
KI: This is Kathryn Ivany, interviewing Jean Scott of the Millet and District Historical Society for their history project on April 26, 2007 at her home in Millet.
OK Jean, Let’s get to know you a bit better. Could you tell me about your family of origin, where they came from, why they came to Canada and Millet and where they came when they came here?
My father, James Orr Harvey, came to Millet, Alberta in May of 1906 with his cousin, John Harvey. They were from Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland, and he was accompanied by his cousin, John Harvey. Alberta had been proclaimed a province in 1905, so they arrived just a year later, and Millet had received Village status from the government of the North West Territories in June 1903. So Millet was a pretty small place. The CPR railway from Calgary to Edmonton came through Millet in 1891 and a post office had been established in 1896. By 1906 settlers were arriving from eastern Canada, the United States, Great Britain and Europe to settle in western Canada. Land was cheap and homesteads were available for $10; you could get a quarter of land, but it was raw land, covered in trees … but I think you understand the Homestead terms at that time.
My mother came from Dunmanway, County Cork, Ireland in 1910. She was the fourth child in a family of eight. The three oldest children, one brother and two sisters had come to Canada in about 1907. Her two sisters had married. One lived in the Hillside district on south west of Millet and the other lived in a newly settled area north of Edmonton near a place called Zion. She and her husband lived there on a homestead in the bush. This sister was expecting a baby and had asked my grandparents to send my mother to Canada to help her, as she and her husband were very much alone in this then remote area. My mother eventually became a teacher. She was teaching at Hillside where she met my father who was farming thereand they were married in 1921.
KI: What was your mother’s name:
JS: Winifred Atkins.
KI: Your father was farming with his cousin, or did they have separate homesteads?
JS: No the cousin had gone back to Scotland, but he stayed. (My father returned to Millet in 1914 while John Harvey stayed to farm in Scotland)
KI: He liked the land here?
JS: Yes, well he worked for … I should have mentioned or put in there, that he worked for a man called PJ Mullen when he first came, he and his cousin did, on a farm just north of Millet – a dairy farm, the barn is still - there's a big barn. And he worked there for a while and then he got a job on the section of the CPR and then he was on the bridge crew. Then he worked on the High Level Bridge and he also worked on the bridge across the Bow River out at Banff.
KI: Oh so he did a lot of things before settling…
JS: Yes about 1916 he bought a quarter of land that we lived on. Meanwhile my mother, when she went up to Zion there was no teacher there, they couldn’t get a teacher, there were few settlers. She had the equivalent of a grade 10 education so they got permission from the Government, the department … the Minister of Education for her to teach. She had six or seven pupils. She did that for a couple of years and then she went to Calgary to take the Normal School training there in 1912. Then she taught in Castor, and she taught north of Edmonton in a place called New London. Then she taught out in Ardrossan, try to think of the name of the school there. So then she came down and taught west of Millet in West Liberty. Then she came to teach in Hillside and lived with her sister who was married and lived there – the other sister. That’s where she met my dad. Of course my dad was on the .. he was a bachelor and all the bachelors usually tried to get on the school board because the teachers were usually single women. Anyway, in our Archives we have the minute book, and I found it when in 1919 or 1920 that the minutes of the meeting where her application for the job was accepted. And it said “moved by James Harvey that we accept Miss Winnie Atkins’ application.”. So I told somebody, “Never think that a motion is not important, It could change your whole life. ‘Cause if it had failed I wouldn’t be here.”
KI: So she travelled around a lot teaching – she didn’t stay in one place for very long.
JS: She'd joke about it – In a one room school out in the country – there weren’t very many telephones – so it was the main source of communication, what the children found out at school and what happened at school – so she'd say, "the best thing to do was to stay two years. The first year you were idolized, the second year you were criticized and the third year you were scandalized.”
You had to leave while you were criticized. –( KI : Before they got to know you too well)
KI: When she went to Normal School in Calgary – was that the closest Normal School?
JS: At that time it was. Later there was one in Camrose and in Edmonton. At Corbett Hall, and then during the war it was the Initial Training School for the Airforce.
KI: Okay, let’s go back to your father’s occupation. He came out and worked as a dairy farm helper …
JS: He milked cows. His father was a grain merchant in Dunoon, or a potato merchant – well they bought things from the farmers and sold them to the stores. He died when my father was about 15. And he had a lot of uncles who farmed so he was sent out to one of the uncle’s farms. But he must have come back at one time because before he came to Canada he had taken accounting courses, but he wanted to come to Canada because his cousin was coming – so he didn’t wait to take the final exam. I don’t know what kind of accountant he was or anything. He wasn’t particularly wanting to do that so he came to Canada.
KI: And found a different occupation. Now after he worked for PJ Mullen he went to work for the railway. They were making good money on the railway in those days.
JS: Well I imagine. He worked .. in the fall of 1913 he and his cousin went back to Scotland, and his cousin stayed and he became a farmer there and my dad came back to Canada.
KI: and that’s when he started working on the High Level Bridge?
JS: I’m not sure when he did that work. I think he started before he went back. I don’t know how long he worked for PJ Mullen I imagine for about a year or so. Then he worked as a section man.
KI: What does a section man do?
JS: Well they make sure that everything is safe – they have a certain section of railway they are responsible for – to make sure that the rail is safe or if any repairs have to be done – like replacing the timbers under the rail – well they have a crew. I don’t know how much distance that covers.
KI: So then he went to Banff to build as well.
JS: Then he joined the bridge crew. They did culverts. There was a time where the highway 2A is (not the QE highway) there were culverts they had the date in cement - you can see them. I don’t know how many still exist. But they did culverts. He told me when he was in Banff they used the hand cars to travel – they pumped them but one time he fell off and he was in the hospital for about a month. But he was working on the bridge – I can’t remember when that was.
KI: That may have spurred him to come back and try a safer occupation. So did he have a homestead or did he buy railway lands?
JS: He bought CPR land. He bought land from PJ Mullen in fact. Because PJ Mullen came up here from North Dakota in 1899 I think it was, and he got land or a homestead out near Crooked Lake – north and east of Millet and then he went back and got his wife and little daughter and brought them out there and they lived out there for about a year.
KI: We were talking about your father buying PJ Mullen’s place …
JS: No it was just land that he owned. Because PJ Mullen was a real entrepreneur. Then he moved his family into Millet and he built a house and he advertised land. In the history book I’ll show you some of the advertisements that he had. …
KI: So he was more of a land agent….
JS: So they lived in Millet he and his family from 1901 - he built a house in 1901, right where Daisy Lane gift shop is now, and later became the telephone office, and then he had a barn built in the back where he kept horses and he hired drivers.
KI: A livery stable…
JS: Yes, because new settlers were coming from Ontario and Great Britain and Europe, and mostly from the United States – Nebraska and the Dakotas, Wisconsin I think and one settler came from Massachusetts, descendents of his still live in the Hillside area,
Anyway – people would come and register on a homestead in Edmonton, but they wouldn’t know where it was – all trails and bushes – so he had these drivers and he hired men to take them out to their land – this was after it was surveyed. And so then he went down there –back - visited – and advertised more – there were so many people from Nebraska here for a while that they had a Nebraska club. They were all out in remote areas and they didn’t know anybody – the men were busy working but the women with children were pretty much stuck where they were. The lady who came from Massachusetts, the mother of that family started what’s called a Mothers’ Club. She lived out near Hillside. Once a month any of the mothers were invited to come – to get to know each other. But the Nebraska Club met quite often and someone would play the piano or the organ or they used to play cards – but they always met at somebody’s home. Then it eventually turned into the Women’s Institute.
KI: Okay, your father bought some land from PJ Mullen and started what kind of a farm?
JS: Well, it was all trees – so he had gradually cleared it. Of course it was manual clearing - they cut the trees down, ‘course you used that for firewood eventually. Then they had to pull the roots – to get the roots out of the soil. So it took a long time to get a field cleared. We eventually had a mixed farm. We had grain and we raised cattle, they were dual purpose short horns. We had some purebreds and some that were grades as they called them. We had pigs, chickens, eventually turkeys. And I think that would be about it.
KI: Was he able to make a good living at it?
JS: Well he was doing very well until the nineteen thirties. And that’s when everything came to a screeching halt. He had built a house when he bought the farm – a two story house – and had been clearing land and he was working for a man who lived about two miles away as a hired man. He had been burning brush piles and then he went back to work but he thought they were out. When he came back about four or five days later or a week later the house had burned down. So then he built a little two room shack with a slant roof and that’s where we lived. Of course he became married after that and that’s the house where I was born. And then about 1928, he started to rebuild the house that had burned. He had the purebred Shorthorns, or at least he started on it. They used to do what they called Record of Production testing– and the ROP man as we used to call him, for Record of Production - would come once a month. They had a Babcock tester, and they would test the milk. We had to weigh the milk and then he would take and add up the sheets every month what the cows had produced. We had one cow that was a very good producer and she also had a high level of butterfat. In 1927 she rated highest percentage (among all the people who did this across the country) of butterfat among all the cows in Canada. So as a result there was a lot of publicity and people coming to see her. She had a bull calf. My father sold her to a man in Manitoba for $500 which in those days was a lot of money. So that’s how come he started to build the new house – a two storey house.
So anyway we moved into that house in 1928-29 (KI: How old would you have been then?) I was about 5 or 6. But the house wasn’t finished because that was about 1930 the time the Depression hit – and so we didn’t have linoleum on the floors just shiplap boards, the sub floor – they didn’t have veneer in those days like we use now. So life was pretty primitive. It was a warm house because he built it out of square logs – he squared the logs off - and there was a man, a carpenter in the district who helped him. But there were no storm windows so the windows would frost up and you didn’t see out much in the winter time. But it was a warm house and comfortable.
KI: Okay, you grew up on the farm and had all kinds of animals. Did you have lots of chores to do to help?
JS: Oh yes, we helped. We didn’t have to help in the morning before school. But at night we had to maybe go get the cows up from the pasture, to bring them back to be milked. And feed chickens, gather eggs, what else did we do? If we went to get the cows, once we got older, we would put out feed for them in the manger. And then we would bring the cows in and close the stanchions. And help milk. But when we were little we just begged to help milk cows. There was one cow that was really very tame - she didn’t kick or anything, and so I remember we were just begging our dad to let us milk, my sister and I, so he gave us a lid of a cream can and told us we could try on this cow because she was nearly dry anyway – and so it would not harm her milk production – so we squeezed and we squeezed and squeezed and we finally learned how to milk. And then in later years we wondered why we were so anxious to learn.
We had about 12 cows, but my dad always helped. We had to weigh the milk and strain it into the – we would take the big cream cans, 8 gallon cream cans, and then you had a strainer and you put cheese cloth over with clothes pins – and then you would strain in case there was any straw or dirt off the cows. And then you had to take the milk and separate it – there was a separator which you turned – and there was the separator that had to be washed, it had to be washed once a day and scalded (KI: Because you didn’t want any sour milk left) And then my dad sold inspected cream. So he didn’t take it to the creamery in Millet but he took it – because he got a better price – so he had to bring it into town on Saturdays and Wednesdays – and the train went though at two o’clock – and that was shipped up to the Northern Alberta Dairy Pool in Edmonton – and he got a better price for the cream.
KI: When was the creamery built in Millet?
JS: The creamery was built in 1924, by Pat Burns. The Burns Creamery. He (her dad) sold inspected cream – alot of people sold the milk to the creamery where they also made cheese – they made cheese and butter. If you sold cream you could take in your cream or if you sold milk – someone would come around – that was in later years – there would be a truck come to pick up the milk. But he never did that – he sent his up to Edmonton because he got a better price. He was very much a co-op man. The dairy pool – the Northern Alberta Dairy Pool – was all our own sort of thing.
KI: What kind of games did you and your sister play?
JS: We didn’t have … we used to play with out dolls of course – upstairs – we both had a bedroom upstairs in the house. In the summer time we play out a lot – we’d play out in the trees a lot – I can remember getting sticks to make houses - just the outline of the house. Then we’d get blocks of wood and pretend they were our children.
KI: How did you travel to school – was it nearby?
JS: It was two miles away – we walked. (No pony?) No we just had five work horses – because that was what my father farmed with – but nothing to ride. So we walked – but there were about ten other neighbour kids by the time we got to school – there were about three that walked … seven that walked farther than we did. Then we all walked together. That was an extra curricular course.
KI: Do you remember your first day at school?
JS: Oh yes – I can remember that because I was very nervous about going to school because I was the oldest and had never been to school. I knew some of the kids from meeting them at the school – it was the social center of the district and I met them there or maybe when my parents visited. But I was still very nervous about it. I worried about it. But I remember I went to school and we had a very nice teacher. It was her first school – and she was nineteen years old – I found out later – course that was really old in those days,. But she was very nice – I remember what she wore, She had a green velvet dress. It had a Bertha collar – a lace Bertha collar – and it had a flared skirt and she had a big wide black belt on. She was a beautiful woman. And she was very nice and so I really – she had brown eyes and was a brunette. Her parents lived in the next district – but that could have been Edmonton – Because I don’t remember ever seeing her before.
KI: What school did you go to and what was it like?
JS: Hillside – it was a one room school – I’m not sure how many students there were – about 30-40 students in eight grades. And the year I started, I was reminiscing (or thinking about it), and I think there were seven of us in grade one. And there were new desks for the grade one students. The rest of the students had desks where the seats came up and you put the books underneath – you wrote on the top of the desk and the books when underneath – and then there was a seat in front hooked on and you pushed them all together. And there was an inkwell in the center.
KI: They used ink on paper not slates.
JS: No, we didn’t have slates – they quit using slates by the time I started - that was in 1930 when I started school/
KI: Did you have textbooks?
JS: Not in grade I, we had a reader – Highroads to Reading – that was the name of the series - in olive green – they had them all the way up to grade six – in grade seven they had different books. We learned – my mother who was a teacher, of course, taught me to read at home – and she got me a book and I can remember I could read that. So I took grade one and grade two in one year because I was able to read. It held me back a bit in writing and arithmetic; I was not so good – because my mother taught me to read. But anyway I caught up gradually.
KI: Did the older kids help out with the younger kids – with 40 kids and one teacher it must have been difficult.
JS: Well she started out … school started with the Lord’s Prayer and we sang O Canada. If I remember right the grades 1, 2 and 3 had reading between nine o’clock and ten thirty at recess and the other grades had math. She would take the grades ones up to read and the rest would have work to do – they had assignments from the day before. The other grades would go through the reader and would read it orally and then there were questions to answer. They would read it – then they would read it orally, and there was an exercise at the end - or she would have questions on the board. About what the story was about. So she would have us read and then she would give us work to do – I think maybe something to do with the story or colouring – I can’t remember all the activities but we were always busy. Then she would go on to the grade twos – she spent about 15 minutes on each class to hear them read. And then the rest like the older ones were doing math or she’d give assignments out so they would get started on their assignment. And she would eventually teach a class for a short while or correct the work they had done and discuss any difficulties.
KI: It was a matter of juggling all those activities and keeping them busy while she was doing other things.
JS: But it seemed to work – and I think it was an advantage in one way – or the one advantage maybe was when you were in grade one you heard what the grade twos were doing, and you heard what they were learning. When you got to grade two you went ahead and did it and then in grade three you could hear it was a review. You had an introduction, you participated and in the third grade it as a review. I mean if your mind wandered from what you were doing. So in one way it was really good – you had three chances.
KI: Did you take a lunch? What did you take your lunch in?
JS: Yes – I started out with a three pounds lard pail. We had sandwiches, and we always had an apple or some kind of fruit – wrapped in wax paper – and sometimes a cookie. And we would drink the water at the school. (KI: There was a well?) No at that time there was a family who lived quite close to the school and there was a boy of that family in grade eight –and he would bring a pail of water in the morning or two. And if we ran out he would go back at noon – because he always went home for lunch.
KI: Was he the one commissioned to come early to start the fire to keep the school warm in the winter?
JS: He might have been – I can’t remember – he might have been – I don’t know because it was always at that time but usually they had students - some of the grade nine students – we didn’t have grade nine – or the grade eights or one of the neighbour’s wives. There were two families who lived close to the school.
KI: So what time did you start school?
JS: nine o’clock (KI: Did you do chores before?) No no we were never made to do chores in the morning. Just got up and had breakfast and went to school. But in the winter time, on the first of November, school started at 9:30 because it was always dark in the morning – and there were some children who walked three miles to school so it wasn’t very fair for them to go too early. I think it went back on the first of April and started at nine o’clock. The roads weren’t always so good in the spring. They were just dirt roads.
KI: And when did school end – were the boys required for farm work?
JS: We stated the first of September or sometimes in August. The 24th of August, I remember we stated around that time and then we would go to the end of June. Then we had a week or ten days off at Christmas and a week or ten days off at Easter. And then there was always the Christmas Concert. That was the thing. It included readings, singing, plays. About the first of November the teacher would have play books and decide what plays we were going to have and pick out the people to act out the certain characters. SO then you got the playbook to copy out your part and start memorizing it. Then we would start out – maybe we’d spend the last period of the day – reading out our parts and practicing. Maybe one day a week, and then three days a week, and then December it got too – and then the week before it was pretty much all rehearsal. We were lucky. We had a platform at the front and the women in the district had made curtains. There was a dressing room for the boys and a dressing room for the girls. And then the curtains went across the front. And the trustees came and usually put up the curtains and everything. And there was an extension for the platform – there was a platform at the front of the class – which a lot of schools didn’t have – and the teacher’s desk was up there. And there was a chalk board across and then there were two bookcases – one of them is in the Museum now. – but there were two of those. And there was a blackboard at the back and the boys coats hung on this side and the girls’ coats hung on that side. And then there was a wash stand and a pail of water and a dipper – And I can remember when everyone used the dipper – and afterwards we were made to bring our own cups. The school had a furnace and there was a register on the floor. When you came to school the heat would be coming up so you could get warmed up. And of course there were a lot of the girls - of course girls didn’t wear jeans or slacks so they had skirts – and any girl that had a flared skirt would stand there and the skirt would flare up – there was one girl who would stand there and say “Don’t you dare touch my skirt” But then in the spring when we had been playing outside there were wet mittens and socks and they put them on the furnace and of course some of them had the leather over-mittens and anything that was wet went on. There was a lot of garlic in the school, like there was a big – quite a few families that used a lot of garlic – the Europeans - and I had never tasted garlic – of course were WASP (white Anglo Saxon Protestant) – there wasn’t much garlic in the British diet. I couldn’t stand the smell of it – I remember one day it was a warm day in the spring and all these wet mittens on the furnace – and it got real warm in the afternoon - this room was hot and the smell of the mittens and garlic behind me and garlic in front of me and I remember I was about grade 4 or 5. I got so that as I liked garlic afterwards.
KI: Did you have much homework?
JS: We had assignments every day and most of your homework – like in our reading called social studies it was history and geography – and nature study and hygiene. For history and geography this one teacher we had would put an outline on the board of questions. He would teach the lesson and then you had to fill out your general workbook as they called it– you used pencil in that – you would answer the questions in paragraph form. You would hand it in and then he would mark those exercises. The next day you had to copy those into your notebook – your history or geography notebook – and you had to write neatly – and then he marked your notebooks too.
KI: I think there was a lot more writing in those days than today.
JS: Oh yes. You learned to print in grade one. You printed in grade one and two, grade three you started the cursive writing – learning to do the letters. And then there were writing lessons every day for fifteen minutes – like for the whole school - and you would have to learn – it was all free arm movements in those days and you had to make ovals and straight up and down lines and then you would have a word to write and you were marked on your writing too.
KI: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JS: Well we used - some of the games we played if we had company and there were other children – We would play school. I remember I always wanted to be the teacher. Of course I was the bossy thing anyway. So we’d go upstairs to play and pretend.
My mother was a teacher – in those days you could be a teacher, a nurse or secretary – or work in a store – but I never had any interest in those – I always took it for granted I would be a teacher . (KI: How about the boys in the school – did they have ambitions to do other things than farm?)
JS: Well I don’t know, they didn’t - there were not too many of them that went beyond grade 8. In those days you had be 15 or have your grade eight – if you had grade eight then you didn’t have to go to school anymore. So most went home and helped at home – or worked for another farmer. Eventually, in years to come they would go out and buy their own farm or take over their father’s farm. It was like the bell (curve) – you get down to the lip of the bell – the average in the middle of the bell didn’t go on. Especially in the settlements, there was a German settlement south of us. They were very industrious, but none of them – or very few of them – in those days ever went on – they all went home to the farm and became prosperous and – well they were farmers before they ever came over – they were an industrious race. The girls usually stayed home and worked – or worked for a neighbour someone else as hired girls – some of them went away and worked elsewhere – but most of them stayed right in the district and married in the district.
KI: Did your mother work after her marriage?
JS: She worked for a year. I think she must have been a leader – because it was unheard of. Usually when you got married you quit teaching. They were only two miles from the school but she rode her bicycle – when they were over in Ireland they road bicycles everywhere. But she had a bicycle – in the winter time I think she drove. Like my dad had a little cutter (a sleigh) and she had a horse. I know there was one of the neighbour’s boys who lived about a mile away – and he told my cousin that he started school when my mother was teaching in 1921 – he started grade one and he said my mother would pick him up and have him sit on the bike and she would give him a ride to school.
KI: Did you go straight home after school to do chores or were you able to go over to friends’ houses and play?
JS: We had to be home by 5:00 o’clock – we had two miles to walk. Of course in the spring there was a culvert just east of the school – it was kind of a slough-y area - a boggy area and there were frogs. And we used to stop and get frogs eggs, we take jars and get water out of the – it wasn’t little creek – the water that went under the culvert and then we put frogs eggs in and we would take them home – and they would turn into tadpoles. But I can’t ever remember having them long enough to turn into frogs. But we had all these little things swimming around.
KI: After elementary school obviously you went on to more education?
JS: We came to Millet my sister and I did. My dad would bring us in on Sunday night and come get us on Friday afternoon. In those days if you came in from the country you paid tuition because they were separate school districts. And then the town of course was a separate entity. So we had to pay tuition. It wasn’t very much. We stayed at a place just outside of Millet. We brought our own food in and we did our own cooking in the kitchen in this house then we would take our food upstairs – we had a room upstairs that we rented that we slept in and ate in. It wasn’t a boarding house – my sister and I were the only people there and my dad knew the people.
So we walked a mile down the highway 2A and we’d walk on the highway – 2A went through in about 1937 – it wasn’t 2A then it was the Calgary Trail – but there wasn’t the traffic there is now. People would stop and give us a ride and we didn’t think anything of it. We be walking along and a car would stop and give us a ride and drop you off.
That was for grade 10, 11 and 12. It was a one roomed high school. Mr. Griffiths was the one teacher. He taught 10, 11 and 12 and he taught all the subjects; to get your matric; he talked French when he taught the French class. And he was the principal of the school as well. There were four rooms in the school – grades 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. And there was a science lab off the high school part – there was a door right in the center, and a hall. The school is still not quite the same – well they took the center part off and of course it has been added on to many times.
KI: When you went back to the farm on the weekends did you do chores or just relax?
JS: Oh yes, because we had to help – my mother wasn’t really that well. After my sister was born, my mother nearly died of Phorifial fever. Of course it was before antibiotics. My sister was born in a maternity home in Wetaskiwin, and I think the doctor didn’t turn out to be too great and she nearly died. My sister was born on the 16th of August but my mother didn’t come home until the Thanksgiving weekend – because she got (oh what do you call it) . She was paralyzed from the waist down and her legs all swelled up. Anyway she got over that – of course my dad had to get her help in the home. Then she ended up getting varicose ulcers – and a varicose ulcer – the doctor said that the only limit to the size of the ulcer was the size of the leg if she didn’t keep off her feet. She would just get healed up and she would bump it – or she be on her feet too much and it would start up again and she would have to go to bed. So there were a couple of summers when we ended up running everything – such as we did. Of course my dad, we didn’t have a hired man – during the depression we had a hired man for a while – but he got kinda bad and we couldn’t afford it. So we ended up having to help out. We used to help with the chores and would help out in the fields. We certainly didn’t sit around saying “boring” – like I’ve heard my kids do. We did the best we could. I remember her when she would get up we were out in the garden and she was reading us Anne of Green Gables – or we were shelling peas or else we would get her to tell us stories of Ireland – when she was little - she was a great storyteller.
KI: You told me once before that you always had good food out on the farm.
JS: Oh yes, because the only thing my mother bought at the grocery store would be sugar or spices – vanilla flavouring. We had eggs and milk and my dad used to have a bag of wheat ground up in the fall. We have about 10 big hundred pound sacks. We made our own bread and butter. We always had cream and whipped cream and we had raspberries – a big patch. IN the summer time she would buy peaches, pears and plums and she would can those. And then she would can raspberries. I remember before we had the big raspberry parch in the garden we go out and pick raspberries in the bush. And pick other berries like gooseberries, Saskatoons and different berries. So that was another thing we did in the summer – we picked berries. And so we had all our own fruit in the winter – of course you couldn’t buy fruit in the winter like we do now. And she canned our own vegetables. Of course we had the cellar and it was cool enough. We always had our own potatoes and carrots and beets and turnips. …and cabbages as long as they would last. So we were self – sufficient – that way – but we never had any money to go anyplace. We had money – but we charged our groceries at the grocery store and my dad would pay when he sold something. A lot of people did that – it was just expected.
I remember they used to have the Hillside picnic every year. And we used to get 25 cents to spend. But you could get an ice cream cone for a nickel and ten cents for a can of pop. So we didn’t suffer. So anyway they would have races and you could get money for races. My sister was very athletic but I was very not athletic. So she would have all this money and course I was kind of like that (square) so I didn’t need it.
KI: So when did your family move into Millet?
JS: My family never moved into town just my sister and I. Then she trained up at the Royal Alex up to Edmonton. When I went to Normal School, I would come home on the weekend and so would she when she got time off. It was a three year course at that time so she stayed up in residence. The nurses always did in those days. When I went – I stayed at home in the summer – I stayed at Normal School and went out teaching during the war and went up north. And then I came back and stayed at home then for the summer and helped out at home. It was only one year at Normal School. In the fall of 1942 I started. I started on the 10th of August and on the first of October they sent our class out teaching – way up in the Peace River country – most of us. Some in the Barrhead area, and Athabasca area. But I got sent 100 miles northwest of Peace River. And a little log school and got the mail once a week. I was nineteen. One thing, at nineteen you have lots of self confidence. Now I would have had a nervous breakdown.
KI: So then you came back for more courses?
JS: Yes, you got an interim certificate. We came back on the first of March and they sent another class out to take our places. We went back to Normal School from the first of March to the end of May. And then I went out teaching in September - in the east of Millet in a one room school and I was there for two years. But we had an interim certificate. In order to get a permanent certificate you had to go to summer school for a year and have two good inspector’s reports. So anyway, the second – after I taught at Sparling, I went to Edmonton to take summer school. It was just the time they were starting to change over. We took our courses at the university. Before that the Normal School was entirely different. Then gradually they integrated so that Normal School faded out and you went to University. I think it was one year to start with, then two years and eventually it was the four years.
KI: I’ve seen inspector’s report at the Museum. How did the inspector fill out the report – did he watch you during the day?
JS: You never knew when he was going to come. Then he came and the first thing you would show him was your register, then your plan book. An then he would go around and look at the children’s books and they he would teach a class – or he would watch you teach a class. You never knew until about a couple of weeks later when you got the inspector’s report. So he would write out what he thought (everything from how under control the children were to your planning).
Usually the children thought he was coming to see them – so they were kind of frozen up and the teacher was frozen up at the front. They came once a year. I think its all changed a lot now.
KI: What did they teach you at Summer School?
JS: The year I went I took a course at the university and it was a child psychology course and then I took an art course – I only took the two it was all they allowed you to take. The Art course was in the Normal School and the psychology course I took at the Arts Building.
KI: You were sent out without much formal training.
JS: No they told us we would teach the way we had been taught. And thankfully I had some very good teachers. Then I had been to a rural school from grades 1-8 so I knew exactly how the timetable went. So I had no trouble that way. But a lot of the students who had gone to a city school or a town school with only one grade in a room they had a difficult time in the short while they had been there to work out a timetable. That was one thing I didn’t have trouble with.
KI: Your first job was at Sparling. Did you live at home?
JS: My first year long job was at Sparling School. I boarded – it was four miles east of Millet, and, of course, I didn’t have any method of transportation – I had my bicycle, which I took with me, and in the fall and summer I could ride the bicycle. It was about a mile away from the school where I boarded. In the wintertime I walked. There were two students in the home where I boarded. One was in grade 8 and the other in grade 9. I taught there for two years. It was a very nice place for board. I knew the family before I ever boarded there.
KI: Do you remember how much you made in that year?
JS: I think my first cheque was $67 a month and you paid $25 a month for board. And you could do whatever you wanted with the rest. I would go home every weekend in the summertime – or my Dad would come get me after school – and I would take my laundry home, and come back on the Sunday night. In the summer time, if the weather was nice, I would ride my bicycle. It was four miles east and then five miles out in the country. But I never thought anything of that. Everyone did it – during the war there wasn’t any gasoline anyway. Very few people drove about.
KI: When did you join the band?
JS: That was after I taught at Sparling for two years. Then I came to Millet and taught grade 1, 2, and 3. That was in the fall of 1945. Of course, the war had ended in May of 1945. I was out at Sparling. That’s kind of interesting too. I can remember the day the war ended. The trustee, the chairman of the board came and the kids were playing outside for recess. He told us we could all go home, we were going to have a holiday since the war had ended. A sunny day. The 9th of May I think it was.
Then I got the job teaching at Millet in grades 1,2,3. Then he who was later to be my husband came home in December – they didn’t all come home at the same time. He’d been in Italy for over two years. He came home, and the Scott family was very musical and they had an orchestra before the war. They all played by ear. Their father was a carpenter, and in those days carpentry was either feast or famine. You worked in the summertime and in the wintertime you tightened your belt. But they lived in the west side of Millet (then) and they always had a big car and they managed to exist too. Anyway they had a piano, the older sister played the piano. Gerry played the saxophone, the guitar and the violin, all by ear. His younger brother played the trumpet. His sister played the guitar, too. They had their own dance band. They would go to dances and play. When he came back from overseas his two sisters were married by then. His younger brother was still at home. Then there was another brother, Stuart Tralen who played the saxophone, and a man who worked at the bank who played the saxophone. They had three saxophones, and a trumpet. There was a gal who worked at the bank who played the violin. She’d play along with us but she didn’t play by ear – Gerry had the violin for square dances – and I would play the piano.
My mother bought us a piano when she was teaching. All her family had music lessons – the music teacher came out to their house and taught them. She was a good piano player – she used to play for Christmas concerts. My aunt played too. My dad’s family, he had cousins who played by ear. My dad played the violin someone told me – but I never saw him play it. My mother taught my sister and me. We learned to read music. When we should have gone further on – there was no way we could during the Depression. No way we could get music lessons. When your mother teaches you – you don’t learn – when a stranger teaches you – you are more attentive. Then of course, someone showed me how to cord and I started to play everything by ear. I would go to dances and the next day I would spend learning all the things I had heard the night before.
Of course, Gerry and I were going together after he came back. If I knew the tune I could read the music – otherwise I just played by ear. It was called the Silvertones. We had two practices a week, and then we played on the Friday night usually and Saturday nights we’d play at the Moose Hall in Wetaskiwin. The dances went from 9-12 because you couldn’t dance after midnight on a Saturday night – since the next day was Sunday. We played until I was married. We were married in the summer of 1947. Janet was born the next summer 1948. We didn’t play quite so much then. When she got a little older then we started playing again – we would play the odd dance, you know. Then, of course, our son Ron three years later and two and a half years later another daughter, Cheryl. Then we played a bit after that because the kids tell me they can remember when we had practices at the house when they were in bed. It sort of died out. At first it was for fun, something to do, because I know Gerry when he came home from overseas … In those days they didn’t give any counseling for trauma – they just said “oh you’re home.” I think it was something to do. Of course life had been pretty dull around Millet – although it wasn’t too bad – but everything was restricted – rationing and gasoline and everything else. Everyone was so happy that everything was over. And they were for “let’s do something”. We had lots of cooperation as far as letting us practice in the hall.
We were married on the first of August so I would be married 60 years on the first of August.
(break) 1:12 minutes.
KI: We were talking about your orchestra and you mentioned you used to play for other special events besides the weekend dances.
JS: Yes we used to play for wedding dances. We played for a lot around Calmar. In those days, people usually had a wedding reception after their wedding for their close friends and family and then they would have a wedding dance for anyone who wanted to come. We would play for those, many of those in Calmar. There was a nice big hall in Calmar and people could rent the hall there. Then we would play for wedding dances in Millet and different places around. There were usually, the same as they have at a private wedding if you have a dance at a wedding reception now-a-days. The first dance is for the bride and groom, then the parents and the best man and the brides’ maids and then everyone else joins in.
They didn’t charge anything and they served lunch. At midnight when they had the midnight lunch the hat was passed around they would take up a collection. Everyone just put in what they could. But everybody was welcome to come - in the community.
KI: Can we talk some more about your teaching career? You taught in Millet for how many years?
JS: In all, in my career for 25 years. I taught in Millet for 3 years before I was married. When I raised my family, I didn’t teach for twelve years. When my youngest daughter started school then I went back to teaching and taught 3 to 6 for a number of years. I taught once during that twelve years when the school became overcrowded and they had to put a room in the basement. They moved the classrooms around and had two grades in a classroom from grade 6 down. I taught the grade 5 & 6 class for six months. But that was the only time I went back. I did sub occasionally. They found out that the classrooms were so crowded so they fixed up a room in the basement and put the grades 1 and 2 down there. They put the grades 3 and 4 in the old grade 1,2,3 class and I had the grades 5 and 6 in the old grade 4,5,6 classroom.
KI: What were your favorite things about teaching?
JS: I enjoyed the children. We used to do quite a few projects. We had map practice that I enjoyed. The children learned – I had maps for them – and they chose a country. They had 15 minutes every morning and we would take three states (if we were studying the United States) and they would write in the capitals. Then we would have map practice or geography match at certain times. These seemed to be something that they enjoyed. We did it for Canada, Europe and Asia – all the countries in the world before the year was over. I put that for their social studies mark. They really enjoyed it – because it was something that they could grasp onto – rather than “pie-in-the-sky”.
KI: Did you have any particular challenges – things that you didn’t particularly like?
JS: I taught all the grades in the country schools – up to grade eight and including grade 9 in Sparling. When I came to Millet I had the three grades. Then when I went back teaching when my youngest daughter started school, then I had just the one grade – grade 6. Then the principal wanted me to teach language arts in grades 7,8, and 9. The students I taught in grade six, of course went on the grade seven. I enjoyed that for three years until they left the school because I had had them before and we all got along – you know, I knew them all. Then Millet started getting bigger, and more people came in. Things changed in the junior high years. It became altogether different. I found it difficult to relate to the kids and cope. I did that for five years and then, as I told someone, I figured I was too young to die. A grade five room teacher retired – so I applied and got that room. So I really enjoyed that after junior high. It was a time of great change. A lot of things started that teachers did not have much knowledge about. It was so different from when we were raised. It just happened – it seemed like overnight everything changed. It was very challenging.
KI: When you were teaching the split grades in the rural school, you had the timetable that you grew up with. How was the town school different from that, in terms of what you were teaching in the day?
JS: I would teach the same thing, I mean, the curriculum was the same. But you had more time. When I taught 1 through 3, I could take more time and give more individual help to the students. The classes were about the same size – there were 38 students when I started teaching grades 1-3. There were 19 grade ones. I enjoyed them all. Things were different then. I didn’t see one parent on the first day of school. They came with their older brothers or sisters. Or they knew where to come because Millet only had about 300 and some people then. We didn’t have the gymnasium so we didn’t have a Christmas concert – we had a Christmas party and a Valentines’ party. I really enjoyed them. I really like the smaller children. Oh, I like them all, but the junior highs were more challenging. The grade 4,5,6 I enjoyed them. It was just it was my first experience with teenagers.
KI: How did the curriculum change over the time while you were at school?
JS: When I went to school there were certain subjects; geography, history, and I was telling you about before, hygiene, nature studies and arithmetic. Later, when I went to Normal School the new thing came in. In Social Studies you asked the children what they wanted to learn about. I followed all my instructions when I was out in Sparling. I remember asking them – the 4, 5, 6 classes – you taught one class and put them together. They wanted to study about Africa. So we studied Africa and it was very interesting. (We learned) all about the animals and the geography and the whole thing. It went from that. When I went back to teaching when my children were all in school, then it was back to subjects and very structured. There were so many units you had to cover. When I was teaching grade five there was one unit on Australia and one on Indonesia and everything was definite and you gauged your time and everything was structured. Now, I understand, its gone around again and they work in groups and they give reports. Before that we sat down and were quiet and wrote your report. There were books in the room. Then they centralized the books in the library. All the books came out of the classroom and went into the library. They allowed you a certain amount for the library. Then when they set up the library and got a librarian and you had to wait your turn to get into the library. That was a bit of a disadvantage. But things seem to go in cycles.
There were a lot of courses that were geared to a classroom of students just sitting there anxious to learn – what are we going to learn today. If they all had that attitude the curriculum would work beautifully. But they don’t all come in willing to learn. So you spend a lot of time on discipline. Now-a-days you have to be very careful if you do that. I don’t think I would cope very well – I would have to change my whole way of thinking. There was a time you could tell a whole roomful of kids to be quiet and they would.
KI: You said you took about 12 years off to raise kids. Did you do other things while you were raising them.
JS: It took up a lot of my time. I remember the day after I came home from the hospital with my youngest, and my oldest was 5 and the other was 2 and a half. They all woke up at about the same time and all needed attention. My husband had gone to work and I remember thinking – what am I going to do first. We were very fortunate. My husband’s sister and her husband lived on the same block as did his brother and his wife. There was a family who rented a house next door to us, where his parents used to live, and they had children. When they were growing up they all played together. We always knew where they were – they just went from one yard to the next. All the mothers, especially in our family, had the same rules. So they knew that when they left home, we knew where they were and they were being supervised. The cousins are still good friends.
KI: Were there things like neighbourhood parks and play programs in Millet.
JS: No it was provided by the moms. There were 21 children in our block. They were like waves on the sea. They never came home complaining – our standards were about the same. If they weren’t good they went home.
KI: Did they all go to Millet for school?
JS: Yes, I taught most of them. I taught my own children and my nieces and nephews. It wasn’t difficult. They called me Auntie Jean. I didn’t care what they called me as long as it was respectfully. There was never any problem, they were used to me anyway from when they were growing up. Some still live in Millet. My oldest daughter is a musician and teaches piano at the University. My son is a mechanic – he had his own business for a while and he works in other businesses as it interests him. Now he is restoring motors of vintage cars. There are lots of people who have old cars they have had for years and now they want to get them going. Some people have their first car. One of my nephews has a bodyshop in town and they do the bodywork. They are very busy. He has a shop out of town on the old farm. My other daughter, Cheryl, is in Wetaskiwin and is a nurse. She just got this promotion so she is happy there. She is married to Allan Decker and he is a lawyer in Wetaskiwin. My son is married to an ex-ray technician. Janet is married to another musician, David Hoyt.
KI: Do you think your children’s lives in Millet were different than yours on the farm?
JS: Oh yes, they had more playdates. I had my sister, and the neighbours who lived about a quarter of a mile away across a field. There were three daughters who were older than we were, but we used to play with them quite a bit. One of them married a fellow in Millet and we lived about the same distance apart as we did on the farm.
KI: Did you get involved in any volunteer activities while you were raising your kids?
JS: Not really, I taught Sunday School for three years while they were going to Sunday School. I belonged to the Lodge, the Rebecca’s Lodge. I went to the chairs of the lodge. We used to serve for wedding receptions. I never joined the Women’s Institutes. The Lodge was very active at that time. They had an Odd Fellow Lodge here for the men and my husband belonged to that. It kept me busy, doing things for the children, taking care of them and taking them to lessons – but not as many lessons as the kids today have. There was no organized sports – well only for the older children.
KI: When did you stop teaching? And what did you do then?
JS: 1981. I kept on at the Lodge – more often. Then there was the museum. The Historical Society started in 1977 and I was the editor of the book. There was still another teacher in Millet, Norman Erkman, who did the editing too. The two of us did the final editing. We had 2000 sets of books printed. When that was going on we decided to sponsor the John A. Smith Manor. The Government built it, put the money into it and we had to agree to operate it. We had a Board and ran it. One of our members was the Manager and got $200 a month. The rest of us got $50 a year for being on the board. We had a meeting every month and we had to make sure that we had to interview people if they wanted to come in. Then the Manager, of course, collected the rent. We had a maintenance man who cleared snow in the winter time and cleaned the hallways. Every resident cleaned their own. If someone moved out then the apartment had to be cleaned out. Things worked fairly well. Then they regionalized the Board and we only had two representatives on the Regional Board. I served on that as well for a couple of years.
Meanwhile we were operating that we got the idea to start a Museum, but we didn’t have enough money and we weren’t sure what we were doing so we organized a bus tour. A number of interested people went. We went to Red Deer and Olds and toured their facilities. They gave us advice and told us what they did so we had an idea about what it was about. On the way home we decided that everybody, or each couple, would put in $50 and that was our seed money. In the meantime we sold the 2000 sets of books and we invested the money. In Alberta’s 75th Anniversary year, the municipalities were given money to give out in grant form. So we applied to the county, and we got $12,000 and we invested that. Then the town was building a new town office, because at that time Moonen Heights was starting to be built and the town was flourishing and population growing and they needed a new town office. The MCR (municipal, culture and recreation) grants had been in effect for seven years and it expired in 1984. They had spent 75% of it on the Agriplex and that was built during that time. 25% had to be spent on culture. The whole grant had to be matched. We were the only cultural group in town that had any money. We were able to generate about $60,000 because investments were pretty good at that time. We had that. We got a rental agreement drawn up. The town got legal advice and we got legal advice and we negotiated a lease agreement for a 99 year lease. The town helps, they pay our utilities (heat, light, water) and that is renegotiated every three years. We started out that we only had to pay $100 a year and now it’s up to $300. That helped out.
We got our first exhibit of hobbies – we finally opened in the fall of 1985. Our first exhibit, we did it of one day. There was a Museum Advisor by the name of Ian Patterson, through the government. He advised us and helped us with the plan of our exhibit room. We hadn’t even thought about the museum, except that we were going to do the exhibit room. During the building the ceiling was supposed to be eight or ten feet in height – but it ended up being 12 feet high. We were going to use it for storage. Then we thought about making it into a Museum. Then we got a museum and an exhibits room. We had the provincial traveling exhibits from the Provincial Museum at that time. You just applied for them. You had them for six weeks and then you paid the freight for the next place it went. The provincial Museum paid for the freight from the Museum to where we were. We had exhibits every six weeks for a couple of years. Then that came to a halt and we had to dream up our own ideas. We had one on churches – that was probably our most successful. Our mandate for the exhibit room was to include the surrounding school districts and there were a number of churches in the area: Baptist, Lutheran, United, Catholic, Anglican churches. So we had an artifact and information from all of those. We’ve had two of those exhibits and were very successful.
KI: Sounds like the Historical Society took up most of your retirement.
JS: Oh it did. And my husband. Before he went to the post office, and after he came back from overseas. He started out as a carpenter, his dad was a carpenter. Then he joined up and went overseas. When he came back from overseas, he did carpenter work. Then the post master left and he applied for that job and so he was postmaster here for 23 years. He still could do building. He built six of the cases. He donated the labour but we bought the materials, the lumber. He and my cousin’s husband, from out in Southside, Bert Loder, and another fellow in Millet who did carpenter work, Ray Wagner and Mr. Bitford, and men who belonged to the Historic Society, they built the fabrications for the houses downstairs. They got the materials from a pioneer house south of here, between here and Wetaskiwin. The owner wasn’t using the house and it wasn’t being lived in. We got the siding and the flooring and the windows. He used it for the museum exhibit.
He was as interested as I was. People would ask how I could spend that much time, I won an award from the Museum’s Association. My answer to that was that if my husband hadn’t been as interested as I was, I never would have been able do it. Because it would have disrupted our lives, and our retirement. History was my favourite subject. I always liked history. Especially when I was going to Hillside school, I remember that we learned about Alberta and explorers in grade 5. In grade 6 we learned about Canadian history and in grade 7 we started with the English history. I forget what it was in grade 8, I think we went back to Canadian. My favorite was English history. You hear about King Henry the 8th and his 6 wives. The textbook when into great detail and when you are a child, now I could hardly stand to think about it, in those days it was “oh boy”. When you are young its an attraction.
KI: Your retirement was a good time to concentrate on one of your passions.
JS: I like the artifacts that are old. When we started to grow up we got different things from overseas. Our grandparents were overseas so we never knew our grandparent – I met two of them once. One grandmother for six months and one for two weeks. One wrote quite a lot of letters but the other one had too many grandchildren. I remember getting things from Scotland, some jewelry or something that was old. My mother especially told stories about her mother and her family. My dad never talked about his until after my mother died. Then I asked him about all our relations. We were always being told about what happened many years ago. That gave us a better understanding.
KI: A lot of your family and friends were involved in the Historical Society – or did you make friends there?
JS: I made a lot of friends there. At one time we had many members, maybe 30 members. Most have now either passed away or drifted off. Only two of us are charter members are left and that’s my sister-in-law and me. Some of our best workers are people who are newly retired. And we have a couple of them now. We golden oldies are getting a little slowed down. They are certainly helping us – especially with the fund raising – fund raising takes a lot of our time.
KI: Was your retirement what you thought it would be?
JS: It was much better than I thought it would be. We traveled a lot. We went over to Hawaii five different times. We went over on a trip for the 45th anniversary of the liberation of Holland. We went to Holland, Germany, France, Belgium. We started off in London, we stayed there for a few days. Of course, I’d been in London before. That was nice. After my husband passed away, the widow of a friend of his from Ontario, we’d kept in touch with. He’d been with Gerry in the war, and she was going on a tour to Italy, a military tour, a veteran’s tour. She asked me if I would like to go along. So I went and I enjoyed that – (all the places that Gerry had been in the war). Most of it was graveyards – same as the other tour. When we went to Holland and France in 1990 we went to his brother’s grave – he lost a brother overseas. My daughter and her husband had been there but none of the rest of the family had. When you see graveyards with 2-3000 graves and all of the age groups were 18-20. We saw a graveyard in Dieppe where one was 17. The oldest one was 35. It sort of hits you on the side of the head. (A whole generation).
KI: You left a legacy for the rest of the people in Millet in writing the book.
JS: I have a good memory for things that have happened. I can remember members of the family and their birthdays. The history books, I wrote a little book, more or less compiling the history from the Tales and Trails of Millet. But we have a waiting list of about 70 who want that book. We can’t reprint it because we don’t have the galley sheets – of course, it’s on the internet now.
There are a lot of things I’m not quite sure of with the town. The information I got, it was more or less sorting it out and getting different people’s information about one certain topic and I put it all together. It took a lot of research. In one way, it wasn’t that I went out and did all the research myself. I took the work done by Mrs. Blanche in Wetaskiwin and used to live in Millet and did the whole first section of the book, and did a marvelous job. I did the next so many years from 1940s on. I just went through the Westaskiwin Times and picked out what I thought was interesting. But she went through all the old, old papers and put it in her own words. I capitalized on that information and different family histories and put it together – so I couldn’t really say that I did all the work.
KI: Thank you for talking to me today Jean. We’ll come back in a week and talk again.