In the first years the only festival centre in the South Peace was at Rolla. Those were the days of dirt roads. Late May and early June usually brought rain and mud — lots and lots of mud. The alternative was smothering dust. Transportation was by truck, wagon, horseback or even by foot.
As the programs often started at 9:30 a.m. the children, who had as many as four miles to travel to their school, had to be there early for the slow trip to Rolla or in later years to Pouce Coupe or Dawson Creek. After the grand concert ending at 11 p.m. or later, they had to get home again.
Mrs. Anne (Bullen) Halversen lived in South Dawson, two miles from the school. She remembers gratefully the teachers who after the interminable day and evening, offered to walk home with her. After all, bears still appear close to the city centre occasionally!
The devotion of one teacher to her youngsters is told in a letter to the Pouce Coupe executive from Miss Eveline de Cour Meade, who was at that time teaching at North Pine. This redoubtable lady had no other transportation than a saddle horse but getting twenty-five pupils to Pouce Coupe — eighty-seven miles away — was not impossible for her!
She wrote, “Last year I had only four pupils who could hold a tune. I have never approved of any work that does not give every pupil a chance, hence (I am entering) the chorus and play so that my monotones can feel a part of the whole.
“Apart from the actual teaching, to organize a four-day trip for twenty-five pupils who live as far as eight miles apart is indeed an undertaking. As I have no accompanist and as ten Grade I pupils will come eighty-seven miles, I would be very glad if you would not put us on Thursday’s singing program. They will all be so tired!
“I have averaged a fifteen mile ride every evening hunting up flour and gunny sacks, dyeing wool etc. I hardly know how we will come out. However as these pupils, the most of whom have never been to Dawson Creek, and some who have never been as far as Fort St. John it will be a wonderful experience for them all.
“We intend to camp down at Mr. Hanna’s mill as so to get under cover as we have no tents.”
Needless to say, they came. Anyone who knew Miss Meade would take it for granted that however black with dust the children came out of the truck, they would march on stage with shining faces, neatly combed hair and clean fingernails!
Miss Meade could have organized an army! Her discipline was strict, her ideals high, her determination strong. As one of her former pupils remarked years later, “If you couldn’t learn to read and spell and do arithmetic in Miss Meade’s class, you knew you were dumb!”