Lavila Lang, who attended the Calder School opening at the Sunnybrook Farm Museum, says one-room schoolhouses were the centre of rural life.

Memories shared at the Calder School opening at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm Museum

One-room schoolhouses were once the centre of rural life, says volunteer

George Scott stood in the same schoolroom where his late dad, as a precocious youth, had dipped a schoolmate’s pig-tails in the inkwell and hid a snake in the teacher’s desk.

“I think my dad would be happy to see this,” said Scott, referring to Sunnybrook Farm Museum plans to restore Calder School to its original 1932 interior. “I was thinking how this is a nice legacy — not only for our parents, but for the pioneers.”

Scott feels their lives will be vividly brought to life for future young museum visitors.

The historic Calder School officially opened at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm Museum on Thursday, more than a decade after being moved from its original location east of Innisfail in 2008.

The journey involved financial contributions from many pots, and the efforts of many people, said Ian Warwick, the museum’s executive director.

The moving and restoration effort so far has cost $620,000, raised from provincial grants, contributions from the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County, and a large bequest from the estate of Vladimir Novak. As well, donations in kind were made by Shunda Construction, who created a foundation for the building and a basement community hall and kitchen, and Moore Maintenance which levelled the gravel parking lot.

Warwick paid tribute many dedicated volunteers, including a few who passed away since plans for moving the school were first initiated in 20o4.

This big fundraising project, was sometimes a “struggle,” but he feels the effort was well worth it. Sunnybrook Farm’s offices have already been moved into space beside the schoolroom.

Within classroom interior are “prop” desks that will eventually be replaced with vintage ones from the era. Copies of old newspaper stories line the walls.

Lavila Lang recalled riding a horse to the New Hill one-room school south of Eckville, and later teaching at another one-room schoolhouse, Gordon, west of Innisfail, in 1956. While at Gordon School, Lang remembered having to act as a medic when a student stepped on broken glass and lighting the stove to keep students warm in the winter.

One-room schools were the centre of rural life — where weddings, baptisms and box socials were held. “When Jim and I married in 1958, my shower was held in a one-room school,” she recalled.

The Calder School preservation is important, said Red Deer city Coun. Michael Dawe, since only a handful of these old school houses still exist in the province. Many have been converted to community halls, shops or were abandoned, added Dawe, whose parents both taught at one-room schools in the area.

Colleen Donald, whose late father went to Calder School, calls its preservation “awesome.”

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Ian Warwick, executive-director of the Sunnybrook Farm Museum, and curator Nicole Parson-Admussen. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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