Teacher recalls Wentbridge School

Community Chronicles column by Stephanie Boltz of the Kettle River Museum.

Myncaster School built 1911 – dismantled 1946.

Westbridge School 1935-37

By: John Harding (a few notes)

Late August 1935, I received a letter from James Marchell, secretary of the Westbridge School, offering me a position as teacher at $780 a year. I quit my job as mucker in the Susie Mine in the Fairview area, near Oliver, B.C. and went to Westbridge in the Kettle Valley.

The school had been closed for several years as there were not enough pupils to meet the legal requirements. Mr. Marchell and I did some repairs on the school to make it habitable.

I lived in a two-room cabin about three-quarters of a mile away, rented from Mr. Clery for $400 a month. I went to the lumber yard in Midway and got some spruce boards and 2×4’s and made furniture for the cabin and a sand table for the school, and also one for Iris Williams, who was teaching at Rhone.

The Westbridge School at that time was a one room building located about a quarter of a mile up the river and road from the store at the junction of the Kettle River and the West Branch. It included most grades from 1 to 8 inclusive.

All the families sending children to the school lived about three miles up river on the road to Christian Valley, so they had a long walk. The only family living down river with children of school age was the Smiths and they sent their two sons to the school at Myncaster. This school had remained open when Westbridge was closed.

The year 1935 was in the depression and the prairie provinces also had a drought and many families left. The Soderquist family originally from Northern Sweden, left southern Saskatchewan and came to Westbridge, taking up a farm on good land along the Kettle River, and their four children of school age made the school possible.

Mac Cutcheon, now married and living in Rock Creek, is the only pupil now living in the area.

In those days a school concert and dance were expected in December. The dance was held in Mac Cutcheon’s house. Cummen Abel called the square dances and a mimet.

The concert in the school house was poor, because of lack of experience from the teacher and the late arrival of one pupil.

An interschool track meet in Grand Forks in May had competitions from many schools but Westbridge sent one—Neil Smith, from the area, but attending school in Myncaster, won a few points.

The school year 1936-37 saw some changes. Madiline Ferroux, a niece of Mac Cutcheons, attended the full year. The Maisonneine family came to the area in January and added one pupil and a nephew of Mr. Clery attended school part of the year.

In December 1936 the school dance and the concert took place in the school and both were successful.

John Harding gave his resignation to Mr. Machell in June 1937 as he would attend university starting September 1937. (He graduated B. Sc. Mining engineering, Queen’s 1943).

Iris Williamson called on Mr. Machell and recommended an acquaintance, who obtained the position of teacher starting September 1937. The district built a new building near the centre of population in 1939.