From Loon Lake Road – Cable company comes through with service

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column of community news along Loon Lake Road.

Winter arrived

As November was coming to an end, resident of Loon Lake Road nature delivered a dump of snow – up to 14 inches and higher in drifts. The storm began with wet rain/snow, then ice turning to heavy, wet snow which hung heavily on tree branches and bent over alder and other shrubs.

As the day progressed the heavy burden caused some trees to fall while some very large branches broke off big pines and firs or else the thick snow clump slid down, creating mini-avalanches. Altogether it made very difficult conditions for moving around walking or driving; yet with colder weather on the way driveways and walkways needed to be cleared.

The storm was followed by very cold weather with frost flakes falling out of the sky like glitter on a Christmas card. Loon Lake itself still steams but the ice is building out toward the centre and the continuing cold will bring about full ice in the near future.

Television service

Earlier in September I wrote about the on and off Local Television satellite solution that was offered by Shaw in conjunction with the TNRD, to replace the over the air programming provided by the Clinton TV Society.  After signing up for the service in July or August residents were told in early September they “weren’t in the system, nothing could be done and the programme was over as of Aug. 30.”

Then, suddenly, at the end of November Shaw called residents who “weren’t in their system” to tell them that a work order was being issued to install the equipment for the LTSS and that the programme would end on Nov. 30 as earlier advertised. Now as I write this most installations are being completed. Many thanks to the TNRD staff and directors for taking this up with Shaw and making something happen.

Bonaparte Valley School

It is the season of “good cheer” and thinking of those who are far away and times past.

Several weeks ago I received a thick envelope in the mail which contained some very interesting information about life at the Bonaparte Valley School. This school was located near where Maiden Creek enters the Bonaparte River (20 Mile) and was in session during the 1920’s and 30’s. You can still see some remnants of the school building on the hillside across Maiden Creek as you start up the hill from the 20 Mile.

The information I received was from Mrs Helen Dye whose mother, Mrs Elsie Calder, taught at the school in 1924/25. Many thanks to Helen for taking the time to send me the information as it has helped fill out gaps of information about this school. The school served families on homesteads nearby along that section of the Bonaparte Valley – it was sometimes referred to as the Upper Bonaparte at the time, as well as families living further towards Clinton along Maiden Creek.

Handwriting is a lost art

Among the interesting details sent by Mrs Dye is a programme for the school Christmas Concert of December 1924. The programme is handwritten by Mrs Elsie Calder and what beautiful handwriting it is. It is a pleasure to just look at the paper with all its loops and lovely curved letters. I think it is a real loss that the skill of cursive handwriting is disappearing; in fact any kind of penmanship is dying out.

I remember practising those letters and loops with the quill nib dipped into ink and how messy the ink and nib were at first until one mastered the art of using them. It seemed forever that we had to write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” as we practised joining the letters and making a neat page, staying within the lines and going above or below only when the letter form required it.

During my school years in the 1950’s, the nib pens were soon replaced with fountain pens. Mrs Calder had what was known as a beautiful hand and I remember that many people considered this an important skill. You couldn’t get certain jobs without good handwriting.

Let’s put on a show!

The second impressive item of the programme is just how full a programme of entertainment could be put on by 13 students between grades 1 and 8 and one teacher. How they and the parents must have worked to get everything in place for the evening of entertainment.

The performances included recitations of poems and little stories, singing – solo and in chorus, as well as dancing, tableaux, a charade, a flag drill, a play and ending with “God Save the King.” This programme reminds us of just how creative people were back then in creating their own entertainment.

The concert was held at the teacher’s home, about two and a half miles up the Bonaparte Valley from the 20 Mile, a location that would be fairly central for all the families to access.

Christmas concerts

The 1924 school concert programme brought back memories of my first Christmas concert, and the only school Christmas concert, held at the Loon Lake School in 1952.

The school was located in a cabin on the guest ranch then operated by the Ebert family – the ranch is today known as the S and S ranch. We were also about 12 to 13 students and the teacher was Mrs. Muriel McDiarmid.

Families and groups sang songs and those who could, played musical instruments. I remember my mother had taught my two brothers, my sister and I to sing “O Tannenbaum” and she needed to sing along with us up front to help our child voices be heard by the audience.

Everyone along the lake crowded into the little building, some arriving by horse drawn sled. I don’t remember how cold it was outside but I do remember how hot it was in the cabin.

Even today school concerts with children performing are highlights of the school year for the students but in earlier year these concerts, like to one in 1924, were the main entertainment for the season and everyone worked hard to make sure the evening was a success.

I still think a good sing-along of Christmas songs is a highlight of the season. Merry Christmas everyone.

Barbara Hendricks

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