In 1913 he sensed the growing unrest which was to result in World War I. Being fortunate to sell his small property to a coal mining company, he set out with mother and six children from the little village of Ullersdorf in the province of Bohemia, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. All our baggage was addressed to Red Deer, Alberta, but fate stepped in and we were destined to remain in Calgary where he was persuaded to accept a position as a machinist in the CPR shop at Ogden. Thus ironically he continued in the same work he hoped to leave behind and his dream of becoming a farmer was not realized.
I received all my education in Calgary and Edmonton where I attended the University. The Ramsay Elementary School was newly opened that year, and later I attended the Crescent Heights Collegiate under the able principalship of Mr. W.M. Aberhart. I received my teacher training at Calgary Normal School under Dr. Coffin.
My first teaching position was in the intermediate room at the consolidated school at Enchant, Alberta. Then I taught in the two-room High School at Granum.
The beauty and enchantment of the coast lured my father to Coquitlam, where he had acquired a few acre of land for growing fruit and berries, so in 1930 I got the school on Denman Island. This proved to be a very interesting place. The majority of the people had originally came from the Orkney Islands. They were skilled in many kinds of handicrafts. I learned to spin and make pillow lace with bobbins. Their lace club is still flourishing and has founded other clubs on Vancouver Island. In 1939 my brother showed me a newspaper clipping pertaining to the new settlement of Sudetens being established in the Peace River District, advertising for a teacher.
As these people came from my homeland, I became very much interested and decided to apply. Fortunately, I was accepted. On September 2, 1939 I arrived at Tupper Creek, since my position involved the East Group. The main groups were situated on the other side of Tate Creek. A two-roomed school had been built there.
A small school at the north end of Swan Lake had been closed for some years, and the few Canadian children had to attend a school across the Alberta border in Independent Valley. This school was now reopened. It was a typical log school, and now somewhat in need of repair. For some reason the supplies were delayed, and for a few days I had to get along with one piece of white crayon. I dropped it and half rolled under the floor. The teacher from Independent Valley came to the rescue. The stove did not arrive until the end of the month. Fortunately the weather co-operated.
In January 1940 I was transferred to the senior room in the school at the main settlement. It was then called Tate Creek. The junior room was under the direction of Miss Meade who had considerable experience in teaching English to the Chinese in Victoria and was very efficient after the 15-year-old students left. The attendance dropped to 35, one room had to be closed and Miss Meade asked for a transfer to South Dawson. I remained until 1943 when necessity forced me to ask for a transfer to Dawson Creek, as I had to look after a blind sister and I wanted to be near a doctor.
The school at Tate Creek (now Tomslake) was unique in that all pupils were non-English speaking, but it was also in many ways ideal. First of all there was freedom. The official trustee Mr. English said “Teach them English. I don’t care how you do it.”
Second there were no grades. Everyone started with book one and progressed at his own speed. Subjects were taught to all to build up vocabulary. Meanings of words were acquired through pictures, dramatization, illustrations, etc. Singing and memorization of poetry were very important.
Motivation was no problem. Students were enthusiastic, anxious to learn, well disciplined, and of course there was 100% parental co-operation. And last of all there was not the problem of overcoming incorrect grammar and careless habits of speech.
At the end of four years, when I realized that I had to leave, the problem of grouping into grades to conform to the course of studies had to be faced. Otherwise my successor would have found it somewhat difficult to carry on. I was truly sorry to leave and will always remember those years with the deepest affection.
The transfer to Dawson Creek was truly a contrast, as the town was “mushrooming” through the building of the Alaska Highway, and the attractive four-roomed school was filled to overflowing. Four classrooms were brought from somewhere and added on. A three-room annex was hurriedly constructed and that too became crowded. Rooms were opened in the basement of the main school, and other classrooms were opened in one of the army camps.
In 1952 the new Dawson Creek Elementary School was opened and here I taught until 1965 when I retired in order to realize a dream of thirty years — to attend the last season at the old historic Metropolitan Opera, a step which I have never regretted.