This article by reporter Ann Piper was published in the Yellowhead Star on June 17, 1991.
Emphasis on ecological conservation in elementary education is not an entirely new idea, according to Florence Gaudreau.
And she has proof: the 83-year-old former teacher, who arrived in the North Thompson Valley in 1927, has in her collection of school memorabilia a copy of a picture taken in 1926 at Louis Creek School. The pictures shows Louis Creek students grouped around a sign which reads “ Save our Forests”.
Gaudreau, quick to point out that the picture was taken before she arrived, can identify all those shown in the photograph, and explains that the Forest Service sponsored a program dealing with conservation during that era.
All classes had to take ‘nature studies’ in school at the time. she adds.
Gaudreau, who now lives with daughter Pat Hatfield in Barriere, first taught at Louis Creek in 1927. She is one of a number of people actively attempting to preserve the history of education within the North Thompson Valley.
The group, which calls itself “The Friends Of Education” operate under the umbrella of the Barriere and District Heritage Society, and was originally made up of former teachers living in the district, when founded in the mid-1980’s.
Since then membership has been expanded to include others interested in preserving that part of the historical record relating to the school system in the North Thompson region.
Prior to the 1950’s, Gaudreau explains, each small community within the region operated its own school, independent of any authority other than that of the provincial government.
Schools running in the region at the time of her arrival included Cahilty, Blucher Hall, Squam Bay, Louis Creek, Barriere, Barriere Forks, Floral Creek, Chinook Creek, Darfield, Little Fort and Chu Chua.
Among items collected by the Friends of Education in recent years are histories of individual schools and school teachers from earlier times.
Included are recently written recollections of Margaret N. Todd Martin, who taught at Blucher Hall School beginning in 1930. Gaudreau provided a copy of that document which recalls that “deer used to wander down through the woods on their way to the creek and stop and gaze in the school windows”.
“The gophers would sit up on their hind legs on the mound of earth left from their well-digging, and chatter to each other about us. If we opened the front-and-only-door, the little chipmunks would scuttle in to see if there were any crumbs on the floor from the lunches.
“One September another animal became a rather unwelcome visitor,” she wrote,. “A bush-tail rat – well-named a pack rat – made his appearance.
“The first we knew of him getting into the school was one Monday morning when I found that most of a bin of bright shiny pen-nibs had disappeared. Those of course were the days before ballpoint pens, when every desk had an inkwell and this was our year’s supply of pen-nibs gone.
“That afternoon I caught a flash of silver grey tail as he again made his appearance. I set one of the bigger boys at the back of the room with a piece of stove wood beside him, and told him to take a whack at Mr. Pack Rat if it should appear again.
‘The older pupils were busy with their language seat-work and I was taking a primary reading lesson at the front of the room when there was a loud crash. Billy missed the pack rat but everybody jumped about six inches out of their seats.
“Almost simultaneously there was a knock on the front door and in walked the school inspector who had left his car down on the main road and walked up to the school.
Order was soon restored and Mr. Mathews was very understanding about pack rats and log school houses,” the former teacher wrote.
The Friends of Education meet regularly at the Barriere museum, and are continuing to collect memorabilia from early school days in the North Thompson Valley.