Sunny Lake School No. 4123

Sunny Lake School

Doris Orchard tells of the history of Sunny Lake School in “Wheat Country – a history of Vulcan and District”:

Sunny Lake School was started around 1922. The first school room was a room in a house on the Corbitt farm, later owned by the Smith family. The first teacher was a Miss Jessie Graham, followed by Belle McFall who was teaching about 1924, when we moved into the new school located on SE-23-17-22-W4.

(Directions from Vulcan – East 15 miles on Hwy 534, turn north on Range Road 221 for 3 miles (last mile is an unbuilt road, travel at your own risk); from Milo – West 2½ miles on Highway 542, turn South on Highway 842 for 8 miles, turn East on Township Road 174 for 1 mile, turn South on Range Rd 221 for 1 mile (this is an unbuilt road, travel at your own risk). Latitude 50.44169, Longitude -112.91416. The school was established on June 10, 1922.)

All the furniture was moved to the new school on a hayrack, followed by the children either riding horseback or driving a single horse in a buggy.

The first trustees were James Dann, George Armstrong and Mitchell Hawkins.

At Friday night school dances, the whole family took part.

In 1927 one of the worst blizzards hit the country. Most of the students and the teacher stayed at the school overnight. We had a telephone which didn’t give out on us, and that was the only year we had hot lunches, so no one went hungry.

The school was closed for lack of teachers. When the Sunny Lake School district was drawn into the Reid Hill area, the old school was bought by Mrs. Mandy Gay and used for a private dwelling in High River.

Adeline (Armstrong) Seaman recalls exciting rides over the frosty fields in a straw-filled sleigh covered with fur robes, to attend Christmas concerts at the neighboring schools: Prospect Slope, Kirkdale and Sunny Glen, as well as Sunny Lake, her own school.

During the time Adeline attended school, she did the janitor work for a few years, sweeping the floor and moving desks after school. In the winter, it would be dark when she got home after walking the mile and a quarter. She had to be at school early each morning to dust the desks, shelves and window sills before school assembled, receiving for this, the sum of two dollars a month.

Brothers, Jim and Ben Dann helped to organize the Sunny Lake School district. Both served as trustees for many years, with Jim acting as secretary for ten years.

Sunny Lake School pupils: Jennie Eastwood, Miss Graham, Elvera Thomander, Harold Thomander, Alma Hanson, Angela Boe, Eldon Johnston, Violet Smith, leonard Engen, Leroy Eastwood, Jim Smith, Harry Hawkins, Christine Smith and Andrine Johnson.

“Snake Valley- a history of Lake McGregor and Area” also tells about Sunny Lake School

In 1923 they opened a school room in a house owned by Corbett on the corner between where Jack Kale now lives and the Buster Armstrong place. Jessie Graham was the first teacher with about 13 students.

First school board was: Martin Hanson, George Armstrong, Belle Thomander, Jim Dann.

On June 30, 1925, the Sunny Lake Board  of Trustees was authorized to borrow the sum of $2,000.00 for the purpose of purchasing site, building a first school. The Treasurer was James Dann of Reid Hill.

In 1925 the new Sunny Lake School was opened with Belle McFall teaching approximately 18 students. Students had to walk or ride horseback from one mile to the farthest being about 2½ miles. Each student had one job of hauling drinking water, sweeping or lighting fires at a salary of $3.00 a month, later this was raised to the big wage of $4.00.

Grade I to Grade IX was taught, as was usual in all country schools.

The highlights were the Friday night school dances when all the family came out and the Christmas concerts.

Finally, from lack of teachers, this school was forced to close in 1944 and the building was sold to Mandy Gay for a home and moved to High River where it still stands.

Sunny Lake, oddly enough, seems to have had only one church service held there while the school was in use. In 1928 or 29, Reverend Miller, possibly a Lutheran, arrived. Only two men, Art Engen and Johnny Johnson, had come to attend the service. The reverend donned his robes and preached the whole sermon to the two. None of the three ever returned for more.

Walter Dann remembers the magic of Christmas was reflected at concert time. A week before the concert, the trustees would come after school and put up the stage and the curtain. Walter doesn’t know if they put up the decorations then, or if the big boys did that after school, but as a small boy, he can remember walking into the school the next morning to all the glitter. It was like a fairy had waved her wand and changed the whole room!

More information about Sunny Lake School may be found in “Snake Valley- a history of Lake McGregor and Area” and  “Wheat Country – 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 Milo Village Office, the Milo Municipal Library and the Vulcan & District Museum.

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