Giffen School No. 3720

Giffen School class, 1926: Wilmer Mallett, Arnold Herman, Polly Schierman, Ena (Hyde) Herman, Jackie Osler. Front John Schierman, Alex Hagg, Lorane Herman, Mildred Hagg and Lillie Schierman.

Giffen School was located on the NE quarter of 12-20-21-W4. Directions from Milo – East 1 mile on Highway 542, turn north on Highway 842 for 8 miles, turn east on Twp Road 202 (Crowfoot Ferry/Haul Road) for 3 miles. Latitude 50.68866, Longitude -112.77584. It was established on August 24, 1918. It was named after Dr. Giffen, who donated the site. Dr. Giffen and his family were in the Strathmore community, where he raised cattle and horses. He also had land in the Milo area. He had become a medical doctor in the United States and assisted the town doctor when needed.

The ratepayers of this district met on August 1, 1918, with the intention of proposing the building of a new school in this area. Dr. J. W. Giffen was chairman of this meeting. The elected trustees were Carl Herman, chairman, N. B. Dawson, secretary-treasurer, and A. R. Elliot. After much correspondence with Edmonton, the N.E. corner of the N.E. quarter of Sec. 12-20-21 was chosen as the site. $2,500 debentures were obtained and an account opened at the Union Bank of Canada in Cluny. Robert McMillan of Gleichen built the school for $1,675, of which $823 went for lumber.

Miss Edith Marshall Seeley opened school on July 2, 1919, and taught until the end of the year, at a wage of $80 per month. There were no classes during the winter months, but they started up again in May with Gertrude Stocken teaching four pupils, and going on until August. The next teacher, Miss Blanche Crawford, started Nov. 1, 1920 and went through till the end of June, 1921, with a wage of $1,200 per year. The teachers were paid whenever someone paid their taxes or the Board could borrow some money. The pupils for 1920 were Laura Dawson, Lloyd and Arnold Herman, Melvin Thomas and Jacquelyn Osler.

There was no school in 1923. Inspector of Schools, J. T. Boyce, was appointed official Trustee and Mrs. E. Thomas was engaged as secretary-treasurer at a salary of $35 per year. The number of ratepayers living in the area increased, so that the finances were brought in good standing again. The mill rate rose from 6½ to 10 mills, and the school opened again in January, 1924. The teacher’s salary remained at $1,000 a year until the 1930s, when it gradually started to decrease as the depression set in. In 1936, it was down to $650 a year. This often included the janitor work. In 1931, Giffen withdrew from the Marquis school fair and no money was spent on a school picnic in the following year. In 1935, it no longer collected school taxes; instead, the responsibility was taken over by the municipality. In 1938, Giffen was included in the Bow Valley School Division No. 43 and finally closed down at the end of the 1941-42 term, after which the children were bussed to Queenstown.

Some of the other teachers who served here were: David MacKay, Marjorie Graham, Blanche Crawford, Samuel Sugden, Nellie Stagg, Mary Jones, Marguerite Wiswell, Maude Henderson, Miss E. A. Jater, Grace Jennings, Ena Herman, Marguerite Jackson, Malcolm Taylor, Lola Armey, Jessie Macomber and Charles Shellian. It seems as though several only taught a few months and then quit, for reasons which did not appear in the minutes.

However, to the students, there were many wonderful memories, such as when, in 1929, they won the Strathcona Shield for Physical Culture in the Bassano Inspectorate, and an award for the best exhibit of school work. And no doubt during the depression, the mothers were grateful that flour came in cloth sacks, as with a little ingenuity, they were able to make quite attractive clothes for their children. Also not so pleasant was that, year after year, the nurse’s report stated that dental and medical care was needed by the pupils.

According to the minutes of the Giffen school board, ten dollars was donated towards the School Fair in 1921, so possibly this is approximately when the school fairs began. Other schools in the Marquis municipality which competed were: Berrywater, Eastway, Kirkdale, Lake McGregor, Queenstown, Corbie Hill, Pioneer and Liberty (possibly depending on whether they could afford the $10.00). The Giffen minutes show that the school board voted to forego the Fair as possibly the funds were too low, in January, 1931. The depression perhaps put an end to a project that seemed really worthwhile in the education of the young people of that day.

Despite the lack of money, the school saw some wonderful parties, and dances that lasted till dawn, to the music of Sig Carlson, Jack Shield and Harvey Godkin.

Stephen Godkin and Jim and Margaret Osler attended Giffen School. Alex Hagg attended Giffen and Robertson Schools. Dorothy (Godkin) Lohse went to Giffin and Queenstown schools. Jack Sutherland rode horseback three miles to Giffen School for six years and then he went by school bus to Queenstown for two more years. Some of the children of John, Sr. and Mary (Dippel) Schierman attended Giffen School when the family came in 1926. Their children were Pauline, John, Lillian, David, Samuel, Albert, Freda and Lenore. Norman Hagg, brother of Mrs. Vaughn, stayed with the Vaughn’s and attended school at Giffen.

Edith and Andrew Suitor lived in the Giffen School District until 1944. They had five sons: Roy, Allan, Merlyn, Kenneth and Lloyd.

However, in 1942, Giffen had finally completed its mission, and was sold to Aubrey Gore.

More information about Giffen School may be found in “Snake Valley I & II- a history of Lake McGregor and Area”, at the Vulcan and District Archives and from school directories (maps and driving directions) which are available at the Milo Village Office, the Milo Municipal Library and the Vulcan & District Museum.

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