Sunset Valley School No. 3236

Sunset Valley School 1916-17

Marion (Beacome) Winters wrote in “Wheat Country – a history of Vulcan and District”:

Times being more prosperous in 1915 than in earlier years, the board of trustees, consisting of A. H. Tharle, A. D. Mitchell, H. W. Ernst and S. Washburn as secretary-treasurer contracted the construction of the school for approximately $1500 on the S.E. corner of 29-19-24-W4, a central location in the area. It was established on March 25, 1915. Directions from Vulcan – North 12 miles on Highway 23, continue North at Highway 23/24/542 junction (Corner Store) onto Highway 24 for 4 miles, turn West on Township Road 194 for 1 mile; from Arrowwood – South 1½ miles on Highway 547, follow curve and head west 6½ miles on Highway 547, turn south on Highway 24 for 6 miles, turn west on Township Road 194 for 1 mile; from Mossleigh – East 1½ miles on Highway 24, follow curve south for 6 miles, turn West onto Township Rd 194 for 1 mile. Latitude 50.63060, Longitude -113.28276. A contractor from Edmonton built the school.

Sunset Valley School Picnic Mrs. Beacome, Bert Tharle, Mrs. E. Campbell, Grace Campbell, Lois Arrison, Mrs. Washburn, Mrs. M. Tharle, ?, Mrs. B. Tharle, S. Washburn, E. Campbell. Kneeling: Jack Pettifer, Jeannie Tharle, Bob, Marion and Ken Beacome.

It is of interest to note that the school began with five pupils and closed with five. Names on the first register included Tharle, Haldaine, Washburn, Ernst and Sharpe. The school opening in 1915 was somewhat less than auspicious when the first class, led by their teacher, Miss Helen Steiner, entered the classroom by way of a window-the contractor having gone off to Edmonton for a week or so with the keys in his pocket.

On the school property was a barn, a boarded-in ice rink, a woodshed, a water pump and two comfort stations. The school yard itself provided pasture for the horses, a ball diamond, and running space for pupils during recesses and noon hours.

The school building was divided into the main classroom, two cloakrooms and a lean-to kitchen. A potbellied heater at one end of the classroom was the only source of heat. Many a winter morning was spent with desks huddled around the stove, until the room warmed sufficiently to continue in proper rows.

Teachers who served the board were: Miss Helen Steiner, Miss Duguid, Mrs. Robert Kelly, Miss Mary Douglass, Miss Margaret Jerrold, Miss Beatrice Chisholm, Miss Florence Hoskyn, Miss Lenore Ernst, Miss Neva McKeague, Mr. Horace Jackson, Miss Margaret Ostrum, Miss Helen Simington, Miss Clara Gold and Miss Carolyn Hay.

From the beginning, the building was used as a community centre, for church services, dances, picnics, and Christmas programs.

By 1939, pupil numbers had dwindled and a decision was made to close the school doors. The students were bussed to the larger unit at Mossleigh.

In 1947, Sunset Valley School was purchased and moved to the hamlet of Mossleigh, where it became Mossleigh Church. Its doors welcome all today. (1973)

Margaret (Ostrum) Gilbert, a teacher at Sunset Valley, recalls that in those days teachers were responsible for the caretaking, or janitor work as it was then called, for an extra five dollars a month if it was not included in their salary. At Sunset Valley there was an extra five and the pupils divided up the work to get the five dollars to buy Campbell’s Soup by the case for winter days and Borden’s Hot Chocolate for warmer days. The soup and hot chocolate were set on the top of the pot bellied stove at recess and left to simmer until noon hour. The doctor and nurse’s visit in the spring and fall confirmed the fact that the plan paid off. Everyone had gained at least two pounds during the winter and our fire builder, all of five pounds!

During the 20‘s they had School Fairs. All the schools around Vulcan participated. The children were given seeds to plant. The fair was held in the fall with exhibits shown such as garden vegetables, flowers, grain and art work. Each school had its own colors. Sunset Valley’s were purple and gold.  There was a parade in which all the schools took part. Everyone spent much time training, and were judged on marching ability and color. George Christie remembers his school was the first to carry a banner. It had a gold sun, setting in a purple valley, and won first place that year.

Neva McKeage, teacher from September, 1930 to June 1932, states that she had quite a room full the first year, including grade nine. The next year she had only seven or eight pupils. The area was being bought up from homesteads to large unit farms so there were many empty farm buildings. It was a pleasant school and had been used as a community centre for dances, and had a small kitchen on the north end of the building and a good sized barn. There was a good well and the boys of the area had built a fence around a skating rink. The school yard was well fenced and it was not uncommon to find a farm family on the move from Saskatchewan, with hayracks, horses and a cow, just pulling out after staying the night. Nothing was ever taken from the school. There was even a telephone, but hard times were making it difficult to collect taxes for teacher’s salary so all extras were discontinued. Anyway, the telephone poles were falling down and it was many miles to the next phone. The winds rolled Russian thistle on the fields and piled them against the fences which gave way eventually. Dirt piled over the ridge of thistles so the whole contour of the fields changed.

Bert Tharle helped start the Sunset Valley school district. The school opened classes in the fall of 1915. Bert served as a trustee for many years and later as secretary-treasurer until the school was closed in June 1940.

In 1946, Mossleigh Church purchased Sunset Valley School. The next year was spent in moving, remodeling and redecorating the old school building. Eventually the church became registered as a United Church. In June, 2003, the church was closed. Now (2010) it has been purchased by an individual and it is still standing in Mossleigh.

More information about Sunset Valley School may be found in “Wheat Country – a history of Vulcan and District”, “Furrows of Time” a history of Arrowwood and Shouldice, Mossleigh and Farrow, at the Vulcan and District Archives and from school directories (maps and driving directions) which are available at Aspen Crossing, Mossleigh, the Arrowwood Museum, the Arrowwood Post Office and the Vulcan & District Museum.

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