Kirkcaldy School No. 4221

Kirkcaldy Community Hall, 2009

Established on July 9, 1925, Kirkcaldy School opened in what had previously been the Kirkcaldy Baptist Church. It was located on the NE quarter of 9-16-24-W4, in the hamlet of Kirkcaldy. Directions from Vulcan – South 4 miles on Highway 23, turn west onto Township Road 162 for 1/4 mile, turn south onto Railway Avenue (Kirkcaldy) and turn into the Kirkcaldy Community Club.  Sign is hiding in bushes in front of the hall. Latitude 50.33695, Longitude -113.23856

The name of the hamlet, Kirkcaldy, came from Kirkcaldy, on the Firth of Forth, Scotland, which means “church and refuge.” The church had been financed by Joe Myers, Dick Boose and Grant Mallory. It was built by the Renches. Church services and Sunday school were held there for many years. The church later became the property of the community and in 1925, the Kirkcaldy Women’s Institute was responsible for acquiring a school in the hamlet and the hall, as it was now known, was rented for that purpose. Grades one to nine were taught and one year, grade ten was also taught.

The first teacher was Arvilla Johnson (Anderson) of Barnwell. Second was Irene Coombes. Then followed Belle McFall (Larsen) Priest River, Idaho; Mrs. Helen Holdershaw (Kuhl), Foremost; Margaret Gardner (Shulte) Calgary; Dorothy Marshall (Mair) of High River and now of Scotland; Gertrude Roebuck (McCann) of Eckville; Marjorie (Kerr) Geddes of Vancouver; Jean Benedict (Payne) Calgary; Evelyn Reath of the Alston district; Mrs. Schroeder of Parkland; Miss Marion MacKay of Kirkcaldy/Vulcan and Constance McFarland of Edmonton.

Local residents were hired to maintain both the school and teacherage and were the janitors. Some of these were A. J. Maisey, Bert Maisey, Don McKay, Joe Main and Morley Schobie. Morley Scobie was the last caretaker and he was paid $25 a month. Their duties were to pack water, coal and wood and stoke the coal fires approximately 3-4 times a day, or as needed, and clean the school each day.

The school yard housed a small two-room residence for the teacher. It also housed a “2-holder” outhouse.The school yard also had a baseball field and boasted both ladies’ and men’s teams. There was also a tennis court, which was regularly maintained until the 1960’s. The local children were very lucky to have use of the school yard as their parents and members of the community annually built an outdoor skating rink. It is well remembered as the adults would flood the rink nightly from the hand pump, using buckets. A loud hard crack could be heard in the still, cold night air as the buckets of water hit the ice. The adults of the community had a horseshoe pit, so from spring to fall the evening air rang out with the sound of shouts, laughter and the clang of the horseshoes against the metal peg.

When Grandma and Spencer Lewis bought the Dykes farm just west of Kirkcaldy in 1921, his nieces, Janet (Nellie) and Mildred (Tiny) Ware came to help them settle in and stayed. Their three brothers, Bob, Billy and Art, remained in Calgary.The Ware children had lost both their parents, Mildred and John Ware, in 1905 and were then cared for by Grandma Lewis in Calgary. (Their father, John, was a well-known black cowboy.)

Some memories of those school days:

  • Several of the children came by horseback and put the horses in the barn. The kids would go down at noon hour and give their horses a snack. The barn had an attic. Ruby Sullivan, Ruby Chugg and some of the other girls entered the barn. The boys would be up in the loft. They would pee through the knot holes down to the main floor.
  • There was a hill behind the school. It seemed quite high at the time, but now it looks small. The girls enjoyed going to the top and rolling down, skirts a-flying. Once, after the roll down, they noticed that the boys were watching from the top.
  • There was a large culvert. The girls used to like to go through, making sounds like birds and hearing them changed by the space.
  • Some of the games they played were pom-pom-pullaway, hide and go seek and anti-I-over. In anti-I-over, the pupils were on two teams. Each child had a partner standing on the other side of the school. The one on the one side would try to throw a ball over the school to their partner on the other side.
  • The school fairs, with all the work and reward involved.
  • There were athletics like high jump and broad jump. There were foot races, too, but in a small school there weren’t very many of the same age or size to race against.
  • There was an annual picnic. It may have been the Sunday School. They went to Little Bow River west of Kirkcaldy, near Nanton a couple of times. A local group would supply ice cream and cones. The teachers often made lemonade. Everybody would bring something to eat.
  • There were hayrides with wagons pulled by horses.
  • In harvest time, the grain trucks would go right by the school on the way to the elevator. Some of the teenage girls would dash to the window when they heard a truck coming. Sometimes they would even run out to wave at the truck driver, especially if he was a young fellow.
  • One year, during a big blizzard, Don Mallory’s mom had kept the Sullivan children at her house.
  • Three sisters walked across to school (about 3/4 of a mile). The little one’s hands got so cold, she was making a noise. Her sister said, “You sound like a freight train.” When they got to school, the teacher discovered that she had frozen her thumbs. The teacher rubbed them with snow. Her nails turned really black and eventually came off. She learned that she should put her thumbs in with her other fingers when wearing mittens on really cold days.
  • The kids used to drown and snare gophers at recess. They had to have somebody watching at the “back door” of the gopher tunnels to catch the gopher as it came out there.

More information about Kirkcaldy School may be found in “Cleverville Champion 1905 to 1970”, at the Vulcan and District Archives and from school directories (maps and driving directions) which are available at the Vulcan & District Museum and Vulcan and District Archives.

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