Snake Creek School No. 4245

Snake Creek School: front row - Eva Becker, Walter Becker, William Becker, Melvin Rebbe, Owen Rebbe, Reginald Taylor, Joan Taylor; second row - Lenore Schierman, Frieda Becker. back row - Albert Shierman, Glen Bateman, teacher Kay Moore, Howard Rebbe, Sam Schierman.

Prior to 1926 there was an area consisting mainly of townships 23 and 24 which was not included in any school district. Some children travelled considerable distances to school, while some did not attend school at all.

Tax payers in the area discussed a solution and consulted with authorities in Edmonton. It was agreed that if a school was centrally located, it would still require traveling long distances over poor roads for outlying children to attend.

Eventually it was agreed to divide the area into two school districts. In the eastern portion Sand Pit School District was formed and a new school was built. In the western portion, there were a limited number of potential pupils making it appear very unlikely that a school would be needed for a long period of time. The farmers were reluctant to assume long term debentures on which they might still be paying when no more pupils remained. Mr. Wm. Bateman offered the use of an old ranch home located on NW 24-17-24, rent free, provided it was insured against fire and improvements were made by the school district. Snake Creek School District was established on April 6, 1926. Directions from Vulcan – North 3 miles on Highway 23, turn east onto Township Road 174 for 3 miles, turn south onto Range Road 241 for ¼ miles. Latitude 50.45260, Longitude -113.18820

Bill and Catherine Bateman and their family (Leon, Lorne, May, Clifford, Delbert, George and Lola) lived in a two-roomed house that eventually became the Snake Creek Schoolhouse. Because district children had to travel 4½ miles to Mayview School, Mr. Bateman donated this building for a schoolhouse about 1927. Throughout the years, attendance varied from five to twenty students. At one time there were only four pupils to register and five were needed to obtain the school grant. It was this situation which made it necessary for Glen Bateman to start school when he was five years old. Otherwise, the school would have had to close. Mrs. Bateman named the school and Mr. Bateman had built the school as their original homestead.

School opened in September 1926 with Rosma O’Neil as teacher of the Snake Creek School. Classes were offered in grades one to nine inclusive. It was a youngsters’ paradise with acres of playground, and pasture for nature hikes, hills on which to ski and toboggan in winter and Snake Creek only a short distance away. That autumn the children dammed enough of the creek to flood a skating rink where in addition to skating at noon hour, at least one successful skating party was held for old and young with a huge bonfire and plates of home baked beans served by our mothers when we were tired.

Lola (Bateman) Findlay remembers when she was in grade one, running around the schoolhouse, saying “KOR-CZY-NSKI” over and over again, so she could remember the teacher’s name to tell her parents. (Minnie Korczynksi)

Janitor work at country schools was done by the students. Her brother, George, was paid 15¢ per day to chop wood, haul coal and light the fires. Carolyn (Hay) Campbell and herself each made 5¢ a day by cleaning brushes, blackboards, basins and sweeping and dusting. They were happy to get this money.

In their area, everyone enjoyed Christmas concerts and Friday night dances at Mayview, Sand Pit, Highland and Red Cross schools, as well as skating parties on the creek at Gerdings, Batemans or Smiths.

What they called entertainment then is pretty tame by today’s standards. Just going to town on Saturday night was a big thing! Everyone, old and young, went to town to see neighbors, to visit, to shop, go to the movie and have a treat at the Cafe. Storekeepers stayed open till nearly midnight to accommodate late movie goers.

Pioneers took time for fun, too. Their Mr. Bateman was a member of the Literary Society and enjoyed participating in plays and giving readings. No doubt there are some folks who can recall the hilarious recitations given in Dutch and English dialects, which he recited in Highland and Mayview schools.

Succeeding teachers were Minnie Korczynski, May Bateman, Bernice Findlay, Verna Tate and Kay Moore.

In June of 1939 the school doors closed for the last time. The Big Units brought the end of many of the small schools, which were so valuable to the families living in the community.

Rebuilt building in background, school sign in foreground

Lola (Bateman) Findlay also recalls  that there were five to eighteen pupils at the school a year. They were lucky to have a spring down the hill, with very good water. They could go down the hill, lean over the rock and have a cool slurp of water.  The old home was used for the school for as long as the school was open. The school building was on a rock foundation. The rocks stayed, but the rest of the building collapsed. Her nephew, Norman Nelson, rebuilt the building on those rocks, keeping the same size and style.

More information about Snake Creek School may be found in “Wheat Country I and II, a history of Vulcan and District,” at the Vulcan and District Archives and from school directories (maps and driving directions) which are available at the Vulcan & District Museum.

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