The Pupil that wasn’t

All the time that we lived in Beaver Valley, I didn’t go to school… there wasn’t any school. I was supposed to be taking a correspondence course from Victoria. I even had a teacher that was assigned to me! I did send in a few lessons…. but not that many.

My mom and siblings didn’t think I was smart enough to do the lessons. They did them, and had me copy them in my handwriting! I never before thought of my mom connected to dishonesty…. But there it is, in black and white.

I missed two years of school, but skipped a grade, so was only one year behind when I graduated from Grade 12. I missed long division, and fractions, so had my next door neighbour, a teacher, tutoring me until I caught on.

I remember that Dad, Clendon and Horace did road work to pay the taxes on the property. They hauled gravel and filled in the pot holes… and there were lots of pot holes and ruts.

Dad must have been waiting for something important because one time they let me go for the mail. … I rode a total of 32 miles. You picked up everyone’s mail and dropped it off at each ranch as you headed for home. I was warned that when I delivered mail, I was “Not to get off my horse.” At the time I didn’t understand why, but I do now.

Winters were cold ­… at times -40F below zero. When it was that cold, only basic chores were done.

Our house had three bedrooms. My sister, Lena, and I shared one. I remember going to bed with a hot water bottle at our feet, and finding it full of ice in the morning!

They put a bed up in the large dining room where there was a pot bellied stove. My brothers took turns “sleeping” in there and keeping the fire going.

I had the job of bringing in the kindling for the kitchen range. They made a harness for Whuskie, and a little sled to “hitch” him to, and he pulled the load of kindling for me.

The kitchen stove had half a boiler tank attached somehow behind the firebox, and that was how they heated water. Bath night was once a week in a wash tub behind the stove, with a sheet hanging to give some privacy. Remember, the well was down by the barn and buckets of water had to be carried up the hill to the house (and carried out to dump) so you only used what you had to.

Clothes were washed on a scrub board, including sheets, and hung outside to dry. In winter they froze. Ironing was a chore as there was no electricity. We had two “flat irons” that sat on top of the kitchen stove. They had a removable handle so when the one you were using cooled, you switched the handle to the other one and continued ironing.

I loved Beaver  Valley. It was like being on a holiday most of the time for me. Lena had to help mom with cooking and household chores… me… I was free as a bird. I spent a lot of time with Dad and the boys as they worked outside.

Lena would also go to the neighbouring Campbell ranch and help with the cooking when they had a haying crew there. Al Campbell’s first wife died on the way to the hospital in Williams Lake, from a ruptured appendix. He batched for a couple of years, but when we moved back to Vancouver, he and Lena decided to get married.


10 thoughts on “The Pupil that wasn’t

  1. Great memories Norma! What a way of life you had in Beaver Valley! Great sketches of the two stoves too!
    I can relate to that poor woman dying on the way to the hospital if it was a long way away. I nearly died from a ruptured appendix about 20 years ago. Luckily I was a five minute walk from the hospital (St. Paul’s) and it only ruptured when I got there and they operated right away.
    Have a great weekend! Thanks for the tea! Hugs!

    • Wow, Greg! It was fifty miles to the hospital for her.
      My sister had appendicitis when she was 14 or 15. We were still living on Angus.. hers ruptured and went to her glands, and she had five operations on the glands. She was lucky that she survived, too!
      She also had diptheria when we lived there, and she survived that too! Me, I had measles! And I survived!
      Let’s have that cup of tea, Greg! Thanks for your visit and especially your comment! I sure am bringing back memories for you, aren’t I?

      • That’s amazing that your sister survived that Norma, and it’s so great that you survived the measles! Yes, you brought back some memories for me, thanks. But I really enjoy reading about your so interesting memories!
        Happy Sunday! I see some patches of blue sky out my window!

    • Hi GReg… this is a reply to your second comment.. Need a cup of tea first, don’t you think. I’m glad that you are finding my blog interesting…it was just my way of life, as i remember parts of it.
      I jump all over the place… but that is how my mind is working. I did something to my lower (middle) back yesterday, and it is so sore… I can hardly move. Having to take it easy today.

  2. What a lot of good memories! No schoolwork and not a lot of chores!

    Being a city girl, I didn’t have an excuse not to attend school and do my own work. I remember thinking occasional streetcar rides by myself into downtown Vancouver were pretty adventuresome! My only ‘roughing it’ experiences have come from times at the lake. We have Mom’s old sad irons in our cabin but so far I’ve never used them. Who really needs wrinkle-free during a holiday in the middle of nowhere?

    Your stove sketches are lovely. 🙂

    • Hello Carol! Thanks for coming by and for your comment. The kettle is boiling, so let’s have that cup of tea. You know, I didn’t have to figure out the answers to anything, but I had to copy everything in my handwriting, so I didn’t get off scott free!!! I sure had to work harder when we moved back to Vancouver and I was back in school. I skipped a grade, so was only a year behind when I graduated!

  3. Now if only your Mom & sibling could only see you now writing your own blog & doing a book I know they would be proud of you & see how smart you really are.Wow! How different life was back then!
    We really have it so easy today.Thanks for sharing another wonderful story! Have a nice evening
    Norma! Keep shining!

    • Hi Dianne! I’ll pour the tea as the kettle is already boiling. You know, my parents and siblings were proud of me… they just didn’t think I was very smart! Maybe, because of what they did, and I had to work harder, I got a head start! I loved Beaver Valley and my horse.. I was sorry to move away from there. I was lucky, though, as I got to spend a couple of summers there with my sister and her husband. Thanks for coming by and for your comments… you are always appreciated.

  4. I love these stories. 🙂 You’ve experienced incredible change. Imagine going from a 32 mile ride round trip fetching the mail to a few finger strokes to download email! Wow! Personally, I think I’d rather at least try the 32 miles. 😀
    PS love the accompanying drawings!

    • Hello Heather! You are just in time before the tea pot goes away for the night! I missed you… must have been a busy day. Yes, I have seen a few changes From little baby grouse hanging to the underside of a leaf while their mom tried to lure me away… to watching Blue Herons nesting in the trees just to the side of our apartment. From telephones that you wound a handle for party lines with two longs and a short.. to a phone that is also a camera! I don’t have one of those, but my son does!
      In Beaver Valley, if an airplane flew over, everyone ran outside to watch it! Lots of changes.
      Thanks for coming by, and for your comments! Much appreciated.

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