Chapter 1 The Decision to Build A School

Chapter 1 The Decision to Build A School

Chapter 1 Decision to build a school

Chapter 1

The Decision to Build a School

It didn’t take long for most homesteaders to realize that a school was essential in the community. Talk of building a school started as early as 1933.  As a part of this discussion a bachelor wrote a letter to the Department of Education expressing his concern about building a school. The Department’s response below clearly supports the building of a school in the district.

Although some children had attended school in their parent’s previous locations, some in their early teens had never attended school. To address their children’s educational needs the school board approved a motion requesting that a school district be formed. The Department of Education approved their request and formed the Arden Leigh School District #5015 prior to 1935. The significance of  #5015 is that it was the five thousandth and fifteenth school approved in Saskatchewan. Prior to the use of motorized school buses, similar rural schools were the mainstay of education in many countries including United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Scandanavian countries and Great Britain.

The origin of the name Arden Leigh is a bit of a mystery. The common theory of the day was that it was named after ‘some place in Scotland’ and in fact an area in Glasgow is named ‘Arden’, but nowhere is there any reference to ‘Leigh’. Furthermore, there were no Scottish people in the community to suggest the name around the time the school was to be named. A match with an area in England seems more likely. In medieval times the Arden Forest covered a large area in the Midlands north of the Avon River. When spots in the forest were cleared for farming, they were called ‘leighs’ or ‘leas’. The land was rocky and not very productive which matches Arden Leigh School area conditions to a ‘tee’ – it was built in a spot carved out of the forest with rocky clay soil. There were also a number of people in the community with English backgrounds to suggest the name.


One room rural school districts in Saskatchewan were typically four miles square. The west boundary of the Arden Leigh District was the main road which ran two miles north of Sundberg’s corner and then four miles east past the school. The east-west south boundary ran one mile south of Sundberg’s corner while the east-west north boundary ran one mile north of the school.

Most of the families in the list that follows lived along the east-west road that ran past the school.  Three other families; Nystrom’s, Chandler’s and Schnack’s moved along this road after the school was built so that they were nearer to the school.  My family moved across the road from the school in August, 1946 when I was in Grade 4. Prior to moving my family and Schnack’s were three miles from the school while Nystrom’s were 3 ¾.  The only families left with an unreasonable distance from the school were Bourget’s and Sundberg’s at 3 ¾ miles and Gorski’s at four miles. 

Grandparent’s house, George & Pauline Sokolowski

To directly address the educational needs of the district the board approved a motion to call a special ratepayers” meeting with Inspector Sparkes for June 12th, 1935 at George and Pauline Sokolowski’s residence. Nineteen ratepayers attended. There was a bit of intrigue at the beginning of the meeting.  Two bachelors and one family with no children were against paying taxes to educate other people’s children.  As a result they proposed a motion to split up the children and send them to the three adjacent schools. While this proposal seemed plausible, a careful look reveals that the nearest Arden Leigh ratepayers were to Stove Creek School on the east was six miles from the school and a similar situation existed in the west with Hazel Bloom School. In the south part of the district the distance for Chandlers, Whites, Sundbergs, Bourgets and Nystroms to Woodstone district was similar to the distance they would have to go to the proposed Arden Leigh School. However, Woodstone School had another issue- overcrowding- that made the proposal unworkable.  Besides, requiring attendance at schools outside their attendance area was not enforceable.  The motion lost by a vote of nine to four.

Another motion at this meeting “that the trustees proceed at once with the Building of the School” was passed by a vote of ten to two.  A further motion “that the district go on with the building of the school calling on the ratepayers for their cooperation the Trustees being in charge of the building operations” (SIC). This motion also carried. 

A follow up meeting decided the  wages that the volunteer ratepayers would be paid for working on the school.  Each man would receive 25 cents ($4.50)* per day and 12 cents ($2.16) for a team of horses for work on the school.  The ratepayers could work off of their taxes at this rate, but any work beyond would be ‘gratis’. Later, on November 20th, 1936 this was changed by the board to allow the full amount of work to apply to any arrears up to January 1st, 1936.

*25 cents in today’s money would be about $4.50.




Read More  
CHAPTER 4 Teaching/Learning in the One-Room Country School

CHAPTER 4 Teaching/Learning in the One-Room Country School

I attended Arden Leigh School for nine years (1943-52) and completed the grade one to eleven program. While grades 1-8 were taken as a part of the regular school program, my first three years of high school, grades nine to eleven, were by provincial correspondence courses.


Teaching/Learning in the One-Room Country School


I attended Arden Leigh School for nine years (1943-52) and completed the grade one to eleven program. While grades 1-8 were taken as a part of the regular school program, my first three years of high school, grades nine to eleven, were by provincial correspondence courses.  The process was to read the assigned readings, answer questions related to the readings and send the lessons to the Correspondence Branch in Regina for marking. During the three years of correspondence, I still attended the one-room school, but set my own pace with the teacher providing help when time permitted.

For the first three years of school we lived on the homestead so I had to walk three miles one way to school with my three older siblings.  Since I was small for my age mum soon decided that for the few months of school I would take Wednesday off so I could rest up for the balance of the week.  On a trial day of school on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 1943 I had my picture taken for the first time. 

From left: George Chandler ,Bernie Chandler, Tommy White(hidden)

Teacher, Idamay Standish, Barry Cook(hidden),Dawn Cook,

Angus White ,Lorne Cook(born with no hair),Gordon Cook

Walking to school was not a lot of fun in the winter time, except after a snow storm when we could walk over 10 foot high snow banks, but summer was a different story. In the spring and fall we walked diagonally through the bush instead of following the L-shape of the road.  I recall one morning specifically, May 24th, 1943, we met up with the Nystrom kids in the middle of the bush.  They had exciting news-a baby sister, Elaine, had been born at their house that morning!

Edna Nystrom’s account of walking to school was not all bad:

”I remember starting school in Arden Leigh when I was about 8 years old.  Almost every one walked to school in those days, the summers we enjoyed, never in a hurry and often getting to school late.  The winters were not as nice, some days were pretty cold and it would always be dark when we left for school in the morning.  However, we had a lot of holidays during the winter months.  I often think of my school days, it brings back a lot of happy memories”.

Likewise, Elsie Gugin’s account of walking to school was very positive. “I always enjoyed our walk to and from school. In the spring the birds filled the air with pleasant sights and sounds. The cardinals with their beautiful colour, the cheerful robins, the red-winged blackbirds and the little wrens all left their pleasant memories”.

During our winter walk to school, the janitor (usually my grandfather) would have lit the fire in the pot-bellied stove and stoked it so by 9 am the school would be comfortably warm to greet the arrival of the students. The janitor also brought in enough wood to last the day as well as bucket of snow to melt on the stove for drinking water.

The students arrived and gathered around the heater to get warmed up.  While in summer, the boys grabbed the softball and bat and headed out to the “ball diamond”.  At 9 o’clock the teacher rang the bell and the day’s learning activities commenced.

The school day started with the singing of  “O’ Canada” unaccompanied, while standing at attention with correct posture, “chin-up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in and arms at the side”.  This was followed by reciting the Lord’s prayer, a custom that continued in Alberta schools until at least 1967 when I was teaching there. At the end of the day we sometimes sang “God Saved the King”.  After the opening rituals of singing and praying the teacher walked up and down the aisles to do the health inspection.  She checked to see if your hands and face had been washed and asked whether you had brushed your teeth and checked to see that you had a clean handkerchief.   

Teaching in a one-room school meant that the teacher had to be a wizard at planning; eight grades that took eight subjects each.  The general modus operandi was to briefly assign students in a grade what was to be done, provide any explanation of the concept or topic and lastly assign an exercise from a textbook.  Then move on to the next grade to do the same.  One benefit of this system was that students became independent learners, an essential characteristic of lifelong learners.

Another strategy of these teachers was to have students teach other students which research tells us now is the most effective teaching method.  If a student can teach others, it means that the concept being taught is reinforced in the student doing the teaching.

As a supplement to the teacher’s expertise there were school radio broadcasts primarily to enrich fine arts, particularly music.  With a minimum of student preparation by the teacher, the students could follow the school radio broadcast.  One enterprising teacher also used to have us dance to the music from the Temple Gardens broadcast over CHAB Moose Jaw.  The desks were pushed aside and we danced for thirty minutes.  While it was enjoyable at the time, I felt that it was a taking us away from serious studying, but in retrospect it really wasn’t because in many jurisdictions now dance is a mandatory part of the curriculum.

The one subject that was given the highest priority was reading.  After the older students were given their assignment, the teacher devoted considerable time to reading in the primary and intermediate grades.  And yes, we used the Dick and Jane Series; we learned phonics and every day we had to read out loud.  Arithmetic included going to the blackboard to do questions given on the spot by the teacher.  Also flash cards of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication facts were used regularly, often with pairs of students giving the questions to each other.  It certainly meant that we became very adept at these arithmetic processes unlike today where most students have to rely on their fingers to get an answer.

Other activities used by teachers to enliven the day and hone skills was the spelling bee or geography match. In the spelling bee sides were chosen and the teacher gave words from the spelling textbook to the contestants. While in the geography match students had to give a place name starting with the last letter of the place name of the previous contestant. 

One teacher, Mrs. Margaret Miller thrilled the whole class by taking them to her boarding place to listen to the radio on the coronation of George VI.  Most families did not own a radio and here is one student’s account of that event.  “Miss Margaret Millar was our second teacher.  I recall the Coronation of King George VI.  Miss Millar took all the students to Mr. and Mrs. Hemricks where she roomed, one and a half miles east, so that we could hear the Coronation ceremony.  It was the first time I had ever heard a radio, a man on the other side of the ocean talking threw (sic) that wooden box, what a thrill for a ten year old!”  (Marie Gugins)

Recess and noon hour were the best times when we created our own recreation.  In spring, summer and fall there were at least two softball diamonds in operation, one for the younger and the other for the older students.  In winter two games were very popular, Fox and Geese and Pom-Pom Pull Away.

Fox and Geese was played exclusively after a fresh snowfall.  First you tramped out a circle in the snow, then made spokes so you ended up with a wheel.  One person, the fox, was positioned at the centre of the wheel and the geese were all around the perimeter or on the spokes.  The fox chased the geese and as soon as he touched one that person became the fox and the process was repeated. 

Pom-Pom Pull Away, also called Redline, started by choosing up sides.  The fastest runners (usually the bigger and older kids) got chosen first.  Then the teams formed two parallel lines about 100 yards apart.  The lines were simply marked in the snow or demarked by pieces of boards or horse turds.

The idea of the game was to take prisoners from the other team.  It started by some people venturing out from the safety of their line.  If they ventured too far or couldn’t outrun a person(s) from the other team and got touched, then they became a prisoner of the opposing team and had to stand at the end of the opposing team’s line.  To get a prisoner out, one of your team members had to sneak up and touch the prisoner.  While this was virtually impossible at first; soon the line of prisoners grew and by holding hands extended closer to your home line.  At the end of noon hour, the team with the most prisoners won. Really everybody won because it was fantastic exercise.

The boys also played Mumble Peg.  Mumble Peg required that each participant have a jack knife; one that had two blades that opened on the same end.  The knife was then configured with the shorter blade pointing straight off the end and the larger blade perpendicular to the other.  Then the longer blade was set in the ground and the idea was to flip the knife into the air with a quick movement of your index finger.  If the knife stuck straight into the ground with only the shorter blade, you got 100 points; if it landed on both blades, you received 75 points; if it landed on only the longer blade 50 points and 25 points if it landed on the spine of the knife.  There were no points if the knife flopped over on its side.

Each took turns and the first lad to get 500 points won and the one with the fewest lost.  So why was it called Mumble Peg?  Well, a peg about two and one-half inches long whittled out of wood was the other required piece of equipment.  The winner then closed the blades of his knife, put the knife in his fist and with three strokes with the end of the knife pounded the peg as far as he could into the dirt.  And guess who had to pull it out with their teeth, of course, the loser.  What usually happened was that the older boys won and the younger boys lost so until you get a knack for the game, you “ate” a lot of dirt!

In my first few months at school from April to June, the older boys, including my older brother, George, (some of them 15 or 16 years old) decided that rather than play at noon that they were going to vandalize the barn and the school fence.  The teacher was so exasperated that one day she asked all the boys to stay in after school.  Of course, being a boy I stayed along with the other boys.  Immediately, she ushered the younger boys out of the room.  I believe some of the boys got strapped and that brought an end to the vandalism.

This reminds me of the first off-colour joke I ever heard, told by Sam Gugins to my brother, George, and me.  A student by the fortunate name of Johnny Pool wrote on the blackboard at noon, “Johnny Pool has the biggest tool in the school.” The teacher kept Johnny in after school to deal with this situation while all of the other boys waited outside the school till he came out to see what his fate was.  When Johnny came out he said, “Well, boys, it pays to advertise, but you’re got to have the goods!”

As November approached in each school year, the teacher began planning for the Christmas concert or Christmas tree as it was known.  The teacher would have already gathered up books of plays and Christmas concert suggestions.

Each child had to be given a part in the concert because all the parents would be attending and a parent would not be impressed if their child was left out.  There were plays, some of them had three acts. As well there were recitations, monologues and dialogues.  There were drills and dances with music from a wind-up gramophone and, of course, Christmas songs. Some of the recitations were humorous while others told the serious Christmas story.

Practicing started in November and as time went on, there was less schooling and more and more practicing because teachers were also judged by parents on the quality of the concert.

There were decorations to make and costumes to prepare, often out of crepe paper while other kinds of paper were used to make tree ornaments.  Either the older boys or a parent went into the woods and cut a spruce tree, which all of the students decorated a day or so before the evening of the concert.  Some of the decorations had been purchased while many were hand made.  The scariest of all decorations were clip-on candleholders for the tree. One year they actually lit the candles for a short time! 

The concerts usually began at 7:00 pm with families arriving by horse and cutter, sleigh or caboose and since the barn would not hold all of the horses, they were merely unhitched and tied to the side of the outfit to munch on the hay brought for that purpose.

The program concluded with the whole school singing Christmas carols with the parents joining in.  As these songs concluded, there was a jingling of bells outside and Santa Claus came bounding in with a “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas boys and girls;” a few people got kisses. Then presents were passed out and every school and pre-school child received a bag of treats that always included an apple, an orange, mixed nuts in the shell and hard striped Christmas candy.  A box of Japanese oranges was passed around for the adults. Santa left with a ’Merry Christmas to All’ and cocoa, coffee and lunch were served primarily to the adults who visited until about 10:30 pm when they bundled everyone up and headed home.

A Christmas concert drill featuring Susan Chandler, Geraldine Fenske, Shirley Clarke…

During the twenty years that Arden Leigh School operated twenty-two teachers were employed, some for periods as short as two months while four teachers, Betty Doull (1943-45), Everett Gerrard (1946-48), Dorothy Evans (1950-52) and I (1954-56 ) served for a full two years.  The attached list names all of the teachers and where available, the years that they taught.


March 4, 1935-June 30, 1956

Mrs. Finn Cook (March 4,1935)

Miss Margaret Miller

Miss Lena Merushechka

Mr. Onhausser

Miss Bowman

Miss Mary Ann Pinkerton

Mrs. McQuarrie

Miss Jean Anne Malenchuk

Miss Idamay Standish (1942 -43)

Miss Betty Doull (1943 -45)

Mr. Jake Woykin (September, 1945 to March 1946)

Mr. Larry Zbitnew (March – April, 1946)

Miss E. Wickenkamp (May-June, 1946)

Mr. Everett Gerrard (1946-48)

Mrs. F. Murrison (1948-49)

Miss E. Helen Schur (September-November, 1949)

Miss Thelma Rudachuk (November, 1949-April 1950)

Mr. Peter Bohurak (May-June, 1950)

Miss Dorothy Evans (1951-53)

Miss Muriel Plaskan (1953-54)

Mr. Bernard Chandler (1954-56)


Miss Betty Doull (1943-45)

Everett Gerrard (1946-48)

Dorothy Evans (1951-53)

Bernie Chandler (1954-56)

The school reached its highest enrolment of 26 in September, 1946 when my cousins briefly enrolled at the school. The first picture attached names the students that were enrolled in October 1946 while the second picture gives the enrolled students in 1948.


Back Row (L-R)

Elnor Cota, Bernie Chandler, Ruth Cota, George Chandler, Hubert Guy, Angus White

Middle Row (L-R)

Clara Chandler, Edna Sokolowski, Ervin Nystrom, Harry Rachkevich, David Sokolowski, Norman Byspalko, Oliver Gugins

Front Row (L-R)

Ruth Parry, Mildred Cota, Mildred Parry, Winnie Sokolowski, Florence White, Darrel Guy, Elma Nystrom

Back row

Alec Gugins, Bernie Chandler, Oliver Gugins, Ervin Nystrom, Elma Nystrom, Einor Cota, Mildred Cota, Clara Chandler, Florence White, Ruth Parry, Harry Rachkevich

In Front of Step

John Clark, Shirley Chandler, Marie Schnack, Darrel Guy

As I reflect on my review of the minutes and my association with the school, one main conclusion springs to mind. In the twenty years of operation of the school there was never an issue that divided the parents. Even the closure of the school and transport of the students to Stove Creek School didn't cause a ripple among the parents.

There were some disagreement over where the Christmas concert should be held in 1954. Some Arden Leigh parents, at a joint meeting with the Stove Creek school trustees, felt that if Arden Leigh hosted the concert then the school should be good enough to be "operated as a school afterward" ( H.W. Clark). After some discussion and diplomacy on the part of the Stove Creek trustees, John Fenske, Fred Fenske and Mike Delowski, the gathered parents agreed to the concert being held at Arden Leigh and the necessity to continue to transport Arden Leigh students to Stove Creek.

Instead they were fully cooperative and accepted the necessity resulting from the teacher shortage. The parents are to be commended for their commitment and support to any change which would result in improvement to education for their children 

Read More  
Appendix "A"

Appendix "A"

Agreement for Conveyance of Children to School 1954/1955

Appendix "A"

Read More  
Chapter 2  Construction

Chapter 2 Construction

The trustees got right down to business with the Arden Leigh school district 5015 construction after the June 12th meeting.

Chapter 2


The trustees got right down to business with the school construction after the June 12th meeting.  Mr. Sundberg, the chairman of the board, took charge of the school design and the construction process while two trustees, A.C. Chandler and William Joss assisted by organizing the volunteers and the procurement of materials. The ratepayers obviously were very cooperative and put in a great effort so that by August 24th, 1935 they were in a position to let Inspector Sparkes know that they needed a teacher for the winter term starting in March.

The author has always been impressed with the external attractiveness of the school building.  This is probably because of the proportion of the height of the walls to the width of the walls as well as the slope of the roof.  Mr. Sundberg, trained as a carpenter in Sweden, was probably aware of what is known as the golden rectangle where the length of the rectangle is 1.6 times the width. The golden rectangle in architecture is known to be “pleasing and easy on the eye”.

The building has also shown itself to be structionally sound. As of this writing the building on the cover is 84 years old and there are no sways in the roof or walls even though it has had no maintenance since 1950. Most of the reason for this continued sturdiness was the substantial foundation and the well-braced roof trusses similar to those used in construction today rather than just using plain rafters.

The Department’s expectation that the school was to be built without incurring any indebtedness means that the trustees had to be both frugal and creative.  So rather than pouring a concrete foundation, the trustees utilized rocks, which were plentiful, held together by concrete for the foundation.  Building a traditional log school was out of the question since the trees in that area were not tall enough to yield logs of sufficient length.  The ingenuity of the builders was evident when they decided to use shorter logs in 8x10 panels for the walls separated by vertical logs.  When assembling these panels, they made sure the exterior walls were flat with no protruding logs so that in the future the walls could be sided with spruce lumber.  The walls were plastered externally and internally with a clay/straw mixture.  The inside logs were totally covered with plaster so that no logs protruded while the outside logs were plastered just to fill the joints. To save costs, kalsomine, a chalklike white substance made of lime, was used to paint the internal walls and ceiling while beaver board, a hardboard made of pressed paper painted black was used for blackboards.

Another stroke of ingenuity was to place the chimney at the opposite end of the school to the potbelly stove. This resulted in the stove pipes running the full length of the ceiling, thus maximizing the heat from the stove.

The government grants were sufficient to buy the lumber for the floor joists and flooring, the ceiling, the roof trusses, the doors and the window framing.  The lumber was usually donated by ratepayers or purchased from the mills in the Porcupine Forest Reserve, thereby avoiding the retail mark-up.  Although the amount of other construction grants are not known, the startup grant of $66.66 amounts to $1200.00 in today’s dollars, a fair amount of purchasing power.

The desks were made out of hand-planed two-inch planks.  The original builder of the desks, Ludwig Kattler, procrastinated to the point were the board passed a motion that John Sokolowski remove the lumber and materials from Mr. Kattler because he “has had same for the past six months and does not seem capable of finishing the work”(November 26, 1935). The desk materials were taken to Alf Mitchell and Wm. Joss who finished the job.

Construction was finished by early winter 1935, although there was a bit of a hold up in construction after some of the windows were stolen.  The board contacted R.N.W.M.P. (Royal North West Mounted Police) on November 26th, 1935, but were told by the constable just before Christmas ”nothing can be done until something more definitive turns up”, even though the residents had told the police that they suspected the installer.

A teacher, Mrs. Helen Cook, was hired on February 27th at a salary of $350 for the school term with an advance for board and lodging.  While Mrs. Cook lived with Hemricks which was a mile away from the school, others choose to live with Kattlers about ¾ mile from the school or with Clarks, a stone’s throw from the school. The school opened on March 4th, 1935 since it was common practice for boards in those days to set the school year from March until the end of November thus missing the two coldest months of the year.  To facilitate the school opening Dad lent the school a table suitable for the teacher’s desk while Grandpa loaned a grandfather clock.

The sixteen students in the first Arden Leigh class were Joe and Cecile Bourget; Daisy, Peter, Louis and Margy Kattler; Dorothy, Lillian & Helen Mitchell, Ruth and June Sundberg: Elsie, Evelyn, Verna and Marie Gugins and Violet Oxford.

Read More  
Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouse Project

Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouse Project

Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouse Project

This Arden Leigh School A History by Bernard Chandler is placed online by the Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouse Project

Webhost Julia Adamson

The original Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouse Project was on Ancestry/  This website on Rootsweb received full functionality on June 12, 2019 so can be upgraded. While Rootsweb was down additions were placed on the 123Me web hosting site for the temporary Saskatchewan One Room Schoolhouse Project

Arden Leigh School 5015 on Rootsweb 


Read More