Now THEY TALK CANADIAN
“OFFICIAL TRUSTEE” FOR MANITOBA
IN MY capacity as “Official Trustee”—a position which I will proceed shortly to explain I have been surprised at the number and variety of things which cause friction and lead our foreign settlers to object to the formation of a proper school district. As Trustee, I do not feel that I am carrying on a form of local self-government, but I take the attitude that I am a State-appointed official looking after the most vital interests of groups of minors. In no instance of the many with which I have had to deal, have I felt more inclined to view the foreigners as “minors,” than in the case of School District No. 1735.
The whole trouble was caused by “$” and
People who carry on under a load are apt to be pessimistic or suspicious, and with our foreign settlers suspicions are easily aroused.
School District No. 1735 had been organized for some time without tangible results. A non-resident, English-speaking settler had endeavored to assist them, but no school-house had appeared. He felt the call to the colors in the fall of 1915, and a letter had been sent to the rate-payers, informing them that I nad been appointed Official Trustee. *
A meeting was called to confirm the selection of a school site and to authorize an issue of debentures.
Fearing that the friction over the school site might cause a split in the matter of debentures, I drove to the neighborhood early enough to visit the proposed location, and ultimately persuaded them that it was quite suitable. After some discussion the rate-payers agreed to haul the lumber free of charge, and authorized debentures to the amount of $1,400. The vote on the motion was unanimous, but I could see that all suspicion was not allayed.
The meeting adjourned, but we continued our discussion.
Finally one rate-payer desired to know from me what I proposed doing with the “balance of the money.” I explained that there would be no “balance” but there probably would be a deficit. Next time the question was direct: 1
“What are you going to do with the rest of the money?” And a letter was produced to show that there would be a balance. It was a letter from the Deputy Minister informing them that I had been appointed “Official Trustee for School District No. 1735,” but in typing the letter the sign “$” was used instead of the abbreviation “No.” for number and they had confused it with the “$” sign and assumed that $1,735 would be raised and that I would spend $1,400. I succeeded in explaining their error, but also increased my familiarity with possible stumbling blocks.
ONE day a well known immigration official, the late “Wes” Spiers, was superintending the demobilization of four carloads of “Galicians” at Regina, when a bystander asked:
“Why do you bring those cattle into this country?” Spiers promptly replied: “Because there are so many jobs the Anglo-Saxon back will not bend over.”
And it is true that we have miles of waggon roads and ditches and whole divisions of railways which would still be waiting for the first sod to be broken had these people
not come. The railway system familiarly known as the Canadian Northern may or may not prove a valuable asset to our Government, but it owes its physical existence for the most part to these people and derives most of its traffic from the fruits of “those cattle.”
Whether their habits and beliefs (for they are very superstitious) should lead one to regard them as an unadulterated menace, or their industry and sturdy constitutions be accepted as a distinct contribution to our national upbuilding, need not be decided at this point. There is just one thing to keep in mind: they are here and here to stay— and here in large numbers. Their number is ever increasing and even Ontario has them by tens of thousands. The registration of June 22, 1918 showed about 30,000 unnaturalized Austro-Hungarians (Galicians) in Ontario, more than in either Manitoba or Saskatchewan.
The older folks sought this land of freedom because of the dream of high wages, farms of their own and civic liberty, rather than because they knew how to function in a democracy. They may be disappointed, and they may disappoint us, but our great menace is found in the possibility of the younger element not being properly trained.
The presence in our midst of a people who would do our rough work faithfully, at a fair wage; would accept sufficient rough treatment to permit our nerves to tingle with a sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority; who would aid our commerce by construction work and by their purchasing power; who would one day become ready purchasers of farms; who would render certain constituencies "safe” for the wily politician; who would improve their homesteads during the slack periods—such a people were surely not an inconvenience but proved to be a factor in that wave of prosperity which made such inroads on our moral
fibre and to such a degree stifled our national conscience.
When a people turn aside from one moral standard, not all are found gathered around the same new one. If a national standard be neglected, the varying tendencies will not bring all of the people to the same national ideal—even though it be new.
BEFORE the war, more than a few Manitobans had gripped the idea that the abundance of raw material to be seen on every hand might be utilized in building a
strong nation; or it might become food for a conflagration which would mar, if not destroy, the very foundations, which our fathers had labored so strenuously to lay.
The “School Question” of Manitoba has been very much to the fore and has received attention not only in Manitoba and the other provinces of Canada, but has even been much discussed in Great Britain.
What caused all this trouble?
There was first introduced in the 90’s a Remedial Bill which precipitated a climax and brought a change to Ottawa. The measure was talked to death, but the electors placed the remains in the morgue.
Then came a rather innocent-looking settlement which gave sanction to bi-lingualism in Manitoba and yet seemed more acceptable than the Remedial Bill. The bi-lingual bill came into force in 1897. Its purpose, of course, was to give equal rights of education to the French settlers, but it led to infinitely more trouble than its sponsors could ever have prophesied.
At this time the cry in the West was for people and still more people. The cry for people was rising persistently. As an answer to this cry and as a result of the efforts of the immigration officials at Ottawa and abroad, there came to our shores those elements which have proven so great a factor in development and construction work and are destined to prove even greater factors in determining just what kind of man the Canadian of the future will be.
At this time there were few Slavic settlers in any parts of Canada. The Scandinavians had proven their value as pioneers and had manifested a ready acquiescence with Canadian customs and laws.
In the summer of 1897 a few small groups of what were termed “Galicians” came and settled in Manitoba. In 1898 they came in thousands; then colonies commenced to dot the prairie landscape, and one of the day dreams of the early settlers gave fair promise of realization.
The general term “Galician” was then applied to all such Slavic nationalities as the Great Russians, Little Russians (Ruthenian or Ukranian), White Russians, Bulgarians, Slovenians, Serbo-Croatians, Bohemians, Slovaks, Polish, etc. They came chiefly from Austria-Hungary. Galicia, Bukowina and Russia. They were not, however, to be confused with the Doukhobors, who also came from Russia about this time, but whose customs, dress and creed were all different.
The influx of Galicians and Doukhobors being almost coincident and of such volume as to be particularly noticeable, their utter strangeness became cause for alarm. While quite dissimilar in manners and dress, the term came to
be used by Canadians in a tone of contempt. The immigration commissioner was dubbed “Doukhobor Bill” or “Galician Bill,” according to which type of newcomer was in the mind of the speaker. This was a sobriquet which never roused any resentment in the warm Irish heart of “Big Bill” McCreary.
His many friends joked him about his proteges, but a broad smile was the only evidence of feeling.
IN 1903, when driving with the Commissioner (then the member for Selkirk) through the Pleasant Home and Willow Creek Colonies,
I saw an elderly homesteader come up and take “Galician Bill’s” hand and kiss it reverently and fervently.
McCreary seemed to think that some explanation was in order and he said:
“When I had that big bunch under quarantine at Stony Mountain, for Scarlet fever, I could not get anybody to do anything. I drove out one day and called at that old fellow’s tent to enquire after his sick child.
I found it dead. There was nobody else, so I had to prepare it for burial and carry it out myself. The old chap still remembers it.”
One could not witness this evidence of enduring gratitude without feeling that human kindness would prove a powerful factor in dealing with these people.
The Doukhobors went to what was then termed “The Territories.” Settlements of “Galicians” formed around Stuartburn, Pleasant Home, Poplar Park,
Beausejour, Sandy Lake,
Rossburn, Ethelbert, Gilbert Plains, and in similar sections of what is now Saskatchewan. The settlements grew in number and in population until a new problem was very much in evidence. They were becoming numerous enough to be reckoned with as one of the component parts cast into the great melting-pot of assimilation, which one day will give forth the Canadian race of the future.
Thus far, no person had associated these people with the bi-lingual provisions of the “settlement.”
Different schools of thought—if Canada may fairly claim her discussions are fostered by schools of thought —advanced varied opinions concerning the newcomers as their numbers increased and as their natural tendencies came to be partially understood. Their church creeds alarmed some people; their mode of living was condemned in other quarters. Their ignorance of our language ed many to the conclusion that the newcomers were scarcely fitted to function as units in a great democracy.
Of a!' the settlers who came to Western Canada, the nationalities who were friendly to the English language were he Scandinavians, the Hebrews and those from the Un:t. ! States. The others were mostly claiming the protection provided by the “Settlement of ’97”, and in very many cases were outrageously abusing the privileges accorded them by that arrangement.
Sometimes they had clashes among themselves. The Polish settler had a contempt for the Ruthenian language; the German held both in scorn. All three were wont to regard the French as too strange an innovation; and yet the clause in the Public Schools Act gave the parents of ten children of any nationality the right to employ the services of a teacher acquainted with their mother-tongue, and instruction in such language for their children.
Confusion Worse Confounded
A SLIGHT digression will show the situation had its grotesque features. One large sized school-room might serve a population of fity or more fairly well until some had reached higher grades; but if the fifty or more chanced to consist of five groups of ten or more each—this actually happened in the case of one or two districts—and the parents of each group made the demand which they were privileged to make, and the trustees complied—as by law they were required to do—the confusion of the Tower of Babel would be re-enacted at the “little red school-house” and a colossal expense bill be incurred.
Feeling ran high in some places. The history of R . . . . district is the story of early French domination and Ruthenian chafing.
The name of Bill Gryvinski did not read to his father’s liking on the fly-leaf of the French primer, but for a time the French were adamant and in the majority. More Ruthenians and Polish appeared on the scene and the trustees provided a second room, and two teachers were employed. The school was divided—not graded.
Slowly, however, the French settlers sold out and the day came when the juvenile French-Canadians numbered less than the statutory ten. There was dismay when the Ruthenians called for the dismissal of one teacher and the discontinuance of the French language. Their early experience had not developed in them any tendency to
be generous and the Ruthenians insisted on the Ruthenian bi-lingual texts.
In 1915 two petitions were sent in from an outlying district. Parents of twenty-six children of German descent demanded a German bi-lingual teacher. Polish rate-payers, parents of twenty-seven children of school age, asked for a Polish-English teacher. I was assigned the task of adjusting matters with a view to getting along with one school-room. I journeyed thither and met the trustees—two Polanders and one German—with a German secretary.
“What we do, Mister?” they queried.
“Why, hire both teachers, of course,” was the reply— as if there were no room for debate.
“Oh, Mister! Only one school-room. What we do?” “Put both teachers to work in one room until you can build another.”
The expressions on their countenances indicated that they thought I lacked sympathy, so I said:
“I can’t help it. I can’t say one petition good; one petition bad. Both petitions good, you hire both teachers.” “But Mister, people very poor, they not pay,” came in almost pleading tones.
“Of course they will pay. They say they want teachers. You hire teachers. They pay taxes all right.”
A brief conference followed, in some dialect unknown to me. But they understood each other’s words, apparently, and a new light had dawned on the situation. The spokesman addressed me again:
“Say, Mister, we think we hire English teacher.”
“All right, Gentlemen; both petitions ask for English.” An English-speaking teacher was engaged and bi-lingualism or multilingualism died a mighty death, so far as H. . . . School District was concerned. The results of its former use may still be noted in the young men and women. Their speech is so broken. But the young children? They speak as good English as you or I.
But to resume my narrative:
T NVESTIGATION of conditions and much publicj discussion stirred the people, and in the elections of3 1910 and 1914 the “School Question” was to the fore itt3 the form of a demand for plenty of schools which would] make the English language supreme.] In 1914 the issue became very acute! and was very nearly the cause of the] wreck of the government of the day.l In the spring of 1915 a new regime! was established. New men with!
ther conceptions came to author-j ity under the changing condition»! brought about by the war. Dr. R.S Thornton became Minister of Educa-] tion and at once set himself to his] stupendous task. For five and a half] years he has labored incessantly for] its accomplishment. Manitoba] already had a school system, and] in many respects it was an excellent] one, but multi-lingualism had proved] a drawback and a curse. A high] birthrate in non-English commun-l ities had brought about overcrowded] school conditions which] menaced intellect, health) and morals. Overcrowding] in badly ventilated schools was common. Poor ventila-; tion may yet prove the physical undoing of the central European before as a class he becomes reasonably Canadianized, and the Canadian standard as regards ventilation is still very low.
I once found in I.... a very poor school room heated by an ordinary stove, and huddled within its walls sat 110 children. I use the term “huddled” advisedly, for with a rule I measured a corner 10 ft. by 10% ft. and counted thirtyfive children sitting there. One day during the month in which my visit occurred there were 119 children present.
The teacher was energetic and possessed of some natural ability, but he had lost some time owing to illness. There were indications of a possible tubercular taint.
Pondering over these conditions, I said to myself:
“Manitoba must choose and choose at once, between sanitary schools and better home conditions, on the one hand; the building of numerious sanitariums, on the other.
‘ She will lose one great asset which these people have brought—sturdiness of constitution—if we allow them to rot down from impure air.”*
I am often constrained to say to persons who volunteer as teachers for these districts:
“If you can teach only one of two things and have to choose between ventilation and the multiplication table, teach ventilation. When you climb the Golden Stairs, St. Peter will not ask you or your pupils to repeat the multiplication table, but he may ask you what you did to better human living. Familiarity with the multiplication table is a convenience—fresh air is a necessity. Land is plentiful and cheap; fresh air is equally plentiful and free. Why should Manitoba children be restricted in the use of either?”
I am glad to say that a handsome four-roomed school now adorns the site at I... . and the children are trained by three thorough-paced Canadian teachers who use the fourth part of the building for residence purposes.
Visiting H. . . . once I found a school-house there 20 ft by 30 ft, with 147 names enrolled, the presiding genius being a man of Polish parentage, whose mental attainments and whose physical energy were of a low standard. His father once assured the inspector that “Peter is a bum.” The old man’s English was reasonably modern— and accurate.
I made a careful survey and discovered that in this district—a strictly rural one comprising an area three miles by three and a half—there were 216 young persons of school age, five to eighteen years, inclusive. There were 296 potential Canadians (of non-English descent) and no other standard bearer save Peter to lead the forces which develop Canadianism.
Why Ruthenian Teachers Fail
FOR the past three years there have been three schoolrooms, and three true Canadian teachers. These reside comfortably in a four-roomed cottage.
Once again to resume the normal trend of my narrative: A. considerable attempt had been made to furnish instructors of their own nationality for many of these communities, but it had largely failed. Yoin:1|S of Ruthenian and
Polish parentage had been assembled at training schools— the chief of which was at Brandon—and moneys had been advanced by the province as loans to be paid when the young men went out to teach.
The scheme appeared quite promising; under the conditions prevailing in the school district it seemed to be absolutely necessary.
After a period, long or short, according to the attainments and circumstances, the young man was licensed. In some cases the faculty of instructing in book knowledge was developed and later brought into full play. But ideas of human development for its own sake, conceptions of true national ideals and the faculty of developing ability to converse in the English language were all largely lacking. Old world prejudices in the minds of the parents, and a tendency on the part of the young men to follow the lines of least resistance, were much in evidence and proved a hindrance.
In the summer of 1908 I met Mike D— and he complained bitterly of this plan of education. When questioned as to its defects, he said: “Take our boys; give them
big heads; make damn fools. We get one teach our school. He not teach big class; not got education teach big class. Me one trustee. Me tell teacher he got to get out.
I want my boy learn English. Maby by’m by get a job; not work all time with pick and shovel. But people get mad. Goin’ to shoot me. I carry revolver six weeks. I say,
‘shoot me dead, all right, shoot me here’
(pointing to his leg) I shoot too.’ We get Irishman named M. .. . to teach our school, he got more education than other man. He go to school, but somebody mad and lock door. He take stick cordwood and open that door and he teach school, you bet!”
ON enquiry I found the Irishman was no myth. Mike had a sort of intuition that the brief training given to their young men left them still unequal to the task before them in active life. There were many like Mike who were not averse from education and from the beginning had longed to know the English language, but most of the local trustee boards engaged teachers of their own nationality, for two cogent and selfevident reasons: some of the people wanted their owp
language and could demand a bi-lingual teacher, and neighborhood conditions were such that the Englishspeaking teachers could scarcely contemplate the task. With many rate-payers it was not a matter of prejudice. They thought it a physical impossibility for an English teacher to instruct their children until that teacher had learned the foreign tongue, or until the children had learned some English. But the old order changed. The manifest unfitness of most of the newcomers for the responsibility of school trusteeship and the tendency of human nature to so often appear at its worst where school differences are concerned, led to the amending of the Act, so that when it proved especially difficult to obtain a local school board which could, or would, function properly as such, the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council might appoint an official trustee who would be clothed with all the powers and burdened with all the responsibilities ordinarily assigned to a local Board.
During the seven years since this became law, some extreme advocates of democracy have questioned the right as well as the advisability of this. Frequent decisions by the Privy Council have established the fact that the right to direct affairs of education in Manitoba is vested in the province. No decision has stated that it is vested in any school district or local group. Authority may be delegated to’a group but the province can never free itself from the responsibility of seeing that the work is well done.
Nothing less will pay its debt to the child and to the nation. It may have to reassume the authority which it formerly delegated to others. Then it may redelegate that authority.
This it does when it appoints an Official Trustee.
That province which delegates its responsibility for the direction of the destinies of educational institutions to men who had no share in self-government in their’ former homes in Central Europe and who had no part there in the direction of school affairs, and who are unfamiliar with our ideals and our institutions—that province
shows a manifest inability to live up to its duties.
At the first session of the legislature following elections of 1915, the Minister of Education gave the House a comprehensive statement of conditions fostered by bilingualism, and moved the repeal of the bi-lingual clause. It was expunged from the Act.
With the changed order came my appointment to act as “School Organizer” in lieu of the Polish and Ruthenian officials formerly employed, and to act as Official Trustee in certain cases. It was assumed that nearly half a century lived as student, teacher and trustee, combined with some knowledge of the Slavic settlers, would partially fit me for the work in their colonies.
Unfortunately, They’re “Stung”
'T'O HARK back for a moment to one of my early experiences with these “Galicians,” one Saturday in July 1898 a group of “Galicians”, as they were called, were sent to Stonewall (then the terminus of that Branch of the C.P.R.) en route to Pleasant Home. They were
I “Big boy!” — 66 Yesy big dad!”
THERE is no appeal like the human appeal Ira Stratton finds in hiis New-Canadian wards. On one occasion he says : “I was urging: the rate-payers at a certain school to provide taxes for an English teacher. I produced a photo of my little son, saying : ‘That my boy.* ‘How old V came the query from three or four places. ‘Fourteen months,’ was the reply. ‘Oh, bigí boy!* they ejaculated. I came back with ‘Yes, big dad!*. They laughed.
“ ‘I want that boy work hard his hands. I like big, strong men, me. I want that boy work hard his head. Young man work hard his hands work hard his head to get job anywhere/ Then lowering my voice and looking squarely into their eyes, I said : ‘I want your boy have good school like that boy/ ”
being sent to homestead just north of Pleasant Home, partly because they had very little money with which to travel to more remote districts, where the land might be better. The government land guide from Pleasant Home met them and arranged for four teams to transport the several families with their baggage, to the colony. Each teamster was to receive $7.50 for the trip. The government official went to Winnipeg and then the newcomers received their first lesson in Canadian “high finance.” The four teamsters put their heads together and refused to start the journey until they had each received $10.00 for the trip.
Some time later I learned of this “hold up.” I sought out the Immigration Commissioner, and for the balance of the season made reshipment arrangements at fair rates for the incoming settlers, and without paying for my own services.'
I found these people hopeful for the future and possessed of a strong desire to know English. Teamsters would tell me that before they were well out of town the men would be asking the “English” for pipe, boots, coat, etc.
As years passed, their contact with the Canadians wrought changes. Tom Sawyer got his fence painted and was several toys to the good, by shrewdly suggesting to his playmates that to paint a portion of that fence was a
privilege to be sought after, and, if need be, purchased Some subtle suggestion brought these people to thinking that the use of their own language was a privilege they should contend for. They became less elemental and direct as they came into contact more and more with their Canadian neighbors. In fact, much of the difficulty with the so-called “foreign” problems has been accentuated by short-sighted Canadians who went among these people leaving their citizenship on the mantel-piece at home.
There are four or five classes of persons who prefer that the Slav should not have a thorough command of the English language. Of course, there are exceptions in every
There are publishers who realize that their craft will be endangered by a wide-spread knowledge of everyday English. When the public school has discharged its duty, the foreign-language publication will have but limited circulation.
There are merchants who have acquired a working knowledge of English and who might naturally be expected to favor thorough instruction in that language, since
they know its value; but they also realize that when men, women and children all speak English, the Canadian merchant competing with them can do business on an equal footing. The mail order business might grow if these foreigners should learn to read and write English easily.
The average non-English teacher wishes to “stand-in” with the Department; he feels that to be the go-between for the settlers in their intercourse with the outside world enhances his position and increases his power.
The municipal or parliamentary politician prefers to handle them en bloc, rather than individually, and whether with individuals or with groups his desire is to trade on their prejudices rather than to make an appeal to their real intelligence.
The average cleric is not noticeably different from the others. In some cases he enlists the activities of the other classes to enable him to carry on along the lines of
least resistance. Instead of those who have been favored with the greater opportunities espousing the cause of intellectual freedom and human development, it is quite a common thing to see them arrayed in the opposition.
AS SCHOOL Organizer it is my duty to bring into being schools where no schools existed. As a sort of lay school expert it is largely to solve the problem of over-crowding in some of the cases. As Official Trustee I must demonstrate that, despite obstacles, proper public school facilities may be placed within the reach of the Slavic rate-payers. As I have indicated before, I feel that administering in a school is far more a matter of trusteeship for the State and for the children than it is a question of self-government.
I believe that readers of MacLean's Magazine will be interested in stories telling some of my experiences with my “wards”. Stories of personal contact, which I have told directly to various individuals, seem to have considerable interest. My separation from the ordinary Canadian as it were, and lack of experience in approaching the public through printed communications, make it difficult for me to determine into just what form these stories should be put, as well as hard to select the stories which will best illustrate my work and hold the interest of the magazine reader. But I will try and give readers of MacLcun'e a few typical stories of instances which have actually occurred and will show them some of the vital problems
some problems we in Manitoba are trying to solve:
Early in November 1915 I took the train to Elma, on the Transcontinental (eastboundl. I found a one-roomed school seriously overcrowded—66 children actually present—with a teacher of Polish descent in charge. He was a faithful worker but badly handicapped. I listened as his Grade 7 read Dickens' “Christmas Carol." They pronounced the words cor rectly, barring the accent. They could spell them very well. In fact, 1 was convinced that for the most part they would "recognize the words again in a crowd,” but still there was that about the reading which suggested that the best part of Dickens’ beautiful story was lost on them. After some cogitation I concluded that the weakness
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had its origin in the fact that neither teacher nor pupils had any real conception of the life which formed the setting for the story.
Useful Things Come First
AND the question came home to me with force that evening: “What
should the school try to give these children?” And then I remembered that our much-cherished Free School System had for its foundation stone the idea that the State should see to it that each prospective citizen should receive sufficient education to render him a self-supporting citizen. Said I: “These children must
be trained with a view to self-support. What do they most need?” And then the answer came in very plain terms: “They must have first of all knowledge of the conversational English of the household, the farm and the shop.” There were other things, scores of them, but this stood out as the great essential and from that day forward I planned accordingly.
The next day I drove southward from Elma. Ten miles out was W— R— school. A very good building had been erected two years before. As yet it is barren of blackboard, stove or seats. After seven miles driving I called on a settler. I said “You are Secretary for W—R— school?” He replied in gruff tones. “I resign yesterday. They say I crooked. I tell ’dtt go to h... . I take books to Chairman yesterday.” I enquired: “How long were you Secretary?" He replied “Since July.” I said “How much money you handle?” “Four dollars! Two political meetings. I get two dollars each time. I gave it yesterday to Chairman.” Then I could understand that his indignation was not assumed. Almost anybody would resent the imputation of going astray for so paltry a sum.
Taking him along I drove to the schoolhouse and sent for the trustees. I asked them why the school was not in use and they said “Our people too poor, not pay taxes.” Knowing that many of them had been out in the harvest fields and others on the water-line earning good wages, I replied: “They spend more money on Christmaswhiskey than would pay taxes. I know, they pay taxes all right.”
The trustees protested that they could not collect the rates. There were two other districts adjacent where schools were standing idle through non-payment of taxes.
I took over the administration of the three, installed equipment in No. 1, engaged teachers for January 1. By July 1. upwards of $1,700 in taxes had been colleeted_ without even threatening to enter suit. Two other near-by schools were re-opened in January 1916.
Throughout 1920 there were twelve school rooms in operation in the territory adjacent to Elma and South. Of the twelve teachers, eleven lived in teacherages. The enrolment was 486 and the average attendance 317. A collector, after sending notice, spent three days among six schools, of which W—R— is one, and came back with more than $3,000 in taxes—evidence that they have acquired "the habit.”
Another instance of practical illustration was flemished me about the same time.
Rocky Ford District had been unfortunate in its choice of trustees. Teachers went forth to do valiantly only to return shortly filled with bitterness. The dominating trustee was miserly and cantankerous. The school door stood locked. The little feet of the future voter were not passing that way.
No, Horses Can’t Talk Polish
T SAT in my office deeply engrossed in the problem of how to combat the tendency of prices to soar, when Martin Sempowicz was ushered in. Martin had a query for me. “You send us English teacher for our school, Mister?” To test him, I growled: “You people
don’t want English teacher.”
“OH. yes, Mister,” came back in positive
I tried again: "What are you talking
about, man? Rocky Ford does not
want English teacher. Your trustees send them away.”
Again Martin took on a positive air. “Yes, Mister, nearly all want English. One or two trustees maybe not. Hardly anybody want Polish teacher. You see, Mister, me talk three languages better than English. Me not get job because me speak German, me'Viot get job because me speak Polish. Me job because me speak English. My boy 22, he speak English better than me. He get job all the time.”
Here again was the practical pioneer. Whatever were my inmost thoughts, doubt was written on my features and my visitor tried once more to convince me. "I go down street to employment office. I see notice ‘Teamster Wanted, must speak English.’ I not any time see notice ‘Teamster Wanted—must speak Polish.’ ”
I smiled and responded “No, Martin, our horses not understand Polish,” and he joined in the laugh.
I said: “You tell trustees I send teach-
er, must treat him good.”
He had scarcely reached home when I despatched a fairly promising teacher. The next time we came within hailing distance, he greeted me as enthusiastically as any old friend might do.
Since I got a new school and transformed the old one into a residence, Martin’s wish has been religiously complied with. Two of the former trustees still manifest occasional signs of unrest. But I think Martin’s reasoning quite as good as “English only” for the reason that the teachers know no other language.
In December 1915 a communication appeared in the daily press to the effect
that the Trustees of L--Zschool
had dismissed the English speaking teacher, ostensibly because the treasury was depleted, but really, so the writer alleged, because the teacher was not Ruthenian. Word was sent that the “Trouble man” would be out “along the line” after the Christmas holiday.
January 20 was selected as the date for a meeting. At 4.20 A.M. I dropped off a south-bound mixed train, walked along in the darkness to the baggage car, and noticed a man start away with His Majesty’s mail. When he turned to close his store door after taking the mail inside, he met a surprise. My height is 6 ft. 2% in., my avoirdupois 250 lbs., and I fancy that to his startled vision I looked to be the largest he had ever seen. When I declared my intention to sleep on the counter beside the stove until day dawned, he gave his consent as readily as if he had gone to the station to welcome me.
It is generally admitted that I am the best sleeper in Manitoba, and I give due attention to my specialty. I slept soundly on that counter and furnished my own accompaniment. I have also been known to turn aside from school matters to eat. When I awoke that morning I started in search of breakfast. I found a very good one, and by the time I had drained my second cup of coffee my host had “wised me” to much local history. As if confirming previous suspicion a Ruthenian teacher had started work on the 17th, in spite of the feeble throb of the financial pulse.
The Bluffers are Bluffed
AT TEN o’clock I found 43 ratepayers in the schoolhouse. The “made chairman” called on me for a talk. I responded in my best pigeon English: “You got pretty good school here. Pretty good school! I see on street plenty nice children. Good children! You need good teacher. I not know this man. Maybe good man. Maybe good teacher. Must have good teacher.
“Your secretary say you not pay taxes. He say $1,100 taxes not paid. No good. Must pay taxes.”
“Here, secretary, show me list,” I demanded, and scanned itTcarefully, my countenance grave as a judge’s meanwhile. Gravity slowly gave place to indignation.
“People no good, not pay school taxes. I tell your secretary bring me that list
three weeks from today. I be in D-
He bring me list, show me who pay, why
not pay. I (HI him what to do. You understand, Mr. Secretary?”
An interruption occurred. There chanced at the (ime to he an embargo on wheat. It could not lie consigned to either Port Arthur or Port William. An elderly ratepayer rose with a poser for me. “Mister, you sue a man for not pay his taxes, lie not sell his wheat? Not good time now to sell wheat. Can’t ship to J’ort Arthur. Can’t ship to Port Wi liam.” Convinced that he was bluffing I still must be serious, so I said:
"I not like to sue man for not sell his wheat, but I not want man to say in.June, ‘Mister, got big slough in road, can’t haul wheat’.” There was a general laugh at his expense, but I continued: “$1.26)4 pretty good price for wheat. Maybe go to Duluth, I don’t care. If men who got money, pay taxes, money for school then. I know some men got plenty money in pockets now to pay taxes. I can tell which men. Want me to put hand on shoulder men who got money this morning to pay taxes.?”
Again I spoke of the scrutiny of the list to take place on February 10.
Seven men paid their taxes before the meeting ended and thirty-seven had paid before February 7. The district has never since been threatened with insolvency. It has now two good Englishspeaking teachers. The collector gave me $1,800. taxes in December last, and in June three daughters of the man who first drew attention to the conditions passed the Entrance to the High School.
Surely he has his rewai .
On one occasion I tried the effect of the human appeal, urging them to pay taxes and provide schools.
I produced a photo of my little son, saying “That my boy.” “How old?” came the query from three or foul • laces.
“Fourteen months,” was the reply. "Oh, big boy!” they ejaculated. I came back with “Yes, big dad.” They laughed. “I want that boy to work hard his hands. I like big strong man, me. I want that boy work hard his head. Young man work hard his hands, work hard his head he get job anywhere.”
Then, lowering my voice and looking squarely into their eyes, I said: "I want your boy have good school like that boy.”
The look on their faces left no doubt that the appeal had gone home. After events proved it. And yet there is something pathetic in the fact that it would have weakened the appeal at that time if I had included the girls among those who needed a good school with a view to satisfactory employment.
On one occasion I found myself in a comparatively tight place. As already stated, I turn the scale at 250 lbs.
A Non-English ratepayer from a district 200 miles away came into my office and asked: “What you going to do about our school?”
I said: “What’s the matter with your school?”
“We got over 100 children,” replied my visitor. “Our school no good. Just sink down in ground. We need new school and two teachers.”
I had previously planned an itinerary which included schools not far from his. After a little I said, “Oh, I give you meeting ten o’clock, fifteenth February. Got two meetings now, one afternoon, one night, go to your school in morning.”
I gave him notices for the secretary to sign and post up. They required to be posted for fourteen days if certain business were to be done. A week later I met my visitor on the railway train and he informed me. “No meeting, Mister, Secretary not put up notices. He say ‘Not have a
man come from Winnipeg tell us what to
I said “You tell them there will be a meeting anyhow. I’ll he there ten o’clock you bet.”
f Don't Always Scold
IN February 15 as the hands of the clock pointed to ten, I drove up to the school door. My friend was waiting for me outside but he was alone and the door was locked. The secretary had persisted in having no meeting.
I looked around. A short distance to the westward was a farm-house but around it all was silent as the grave. No man or woman splitting wood. No children dodging about. Even the hens wore a chastened air.
To the northwest a little farther away was another residence, also without indication of human activity.
I said to myself “The enemy is in hid-
I found a loose window in full view of the houses. I invited my friend to “give me a leg” and I climbed in the window. I proceeded to examine the register. In about five minutes the key turned in the door and in walked a group of men. A little later another group, and before eleven o’clock I had an audience of fifty, and I felt rewarded for crawling through the window. It is essential that one succeeds when he goes out to do business under such circumstances.
Without any formalities I opened fire. I said, “I not like this. I come all the way from Winnipeg to help you people. I find door locked. Your secretary say he not have meeting. I tell you what I do. I send word again. I come along, I find school-house locked, I fire schoolboard and make my own secretary.”
A little prodding of this sort made the secretary undertake to justify himself, but he was soon floundering badly.
I then said, “Oh, I not want to scold all time. Let’s talk about something else.” Looking across the room I saw some fifteen white earthen cups wiped clean and hanging in a double row over the water pail. I asked quite abruptly: “What you mean all the cups, eh?”
A self-appointed spokesman said, "Mister, Mister, some people say onecup every child; we say anyway, one cup every family, so not spread disease.”
I said approvingly, “Pretty good, pretty good.”
Then came a query, "Mister, why not have law so that doctor visit school two or three times every year and examine children for disease?”
I replied, “Pretty good, I think. Not. everybody think so yet.”
I then asked, “What you got in cupboard?”
“Books, Mister,” came the reply. “How many?” I asked. “Forty-one.”1 somebody shouted. “What you think, Mister. We have twenty-five books; we read twenty-five books; another school have twenty-five books, read, twenty-five books. We change, eh?” “Why sure, change.” Circulating library idea.
Our Plans Were Flouted
THE prosperity of the West has turned' largely upon the fact that cereals and vegetables grow rapidly in our virgin soil. In elemental minds such as these the plants of progress develop rapidly if once the idea gets rooted.
After some discussion of the school situation in which it was impressed on
■them that they must have more and better accommodation, I drew attention to the return of my team and said I would have to leave for my next meeting. Almost in a body they rose and the councillor, acting as spokesman, said.
“Now, Mr. Stratton, we want for thank you. Now we know you come for help. You come back again, you send us word, we make big meeting. We make schoolhouse full.”
A splendid school (of large dimensions) and a snug four-roomed cottage now adorn the new site near by. But as an indication of how all things human change, let me add that my first assistant in the «limbing escapade has not always been pleased with me. It appears that he wanted me to make his neighbors do as he wished and I have not always done so. Only last fall when talking with one of my men he told him of helping me through the window and added: “Me wish now me give him great big push;” at the same time ■shrugging his shoulders eloquently.
In Mschool district another
trouble arose. They would not accept departmental suggestions or work to authorized plans. Their spirit was “we pay, we do as we like.”
They resented my appointment as •Official Trustee and when notices were sent calling a meeting they did not post the notices properly.
Notices for a second meeting were posted and on the day appointed my representative was on hand to guide them through the maze of authorizing debentures, etc. They assembled, but finally declined to ■do any business, remarking “Sorry for you Mister, but we not do business. You good man but we not do business without our own men'trustees.”
The only alternative which would enable us to proceed was to ask the council to levy that autumn for the money. I decided to call another meeting and try ordinary means once more. I met the same determined opposition. I said, “All right now, I build school you bet.” They replied “Mister, you make us build school you not give us our trustees, we leave our farms.”
I retorted: “All right, boys, I got
bunch of men in Winnipeg want these homesteads. One man want farm with good house like this one (indicating the building we were assembled in). They -take farms. They glad to build schools.”
The assurance of the bluffer gave place to the look of those who are temporarily baffled. They suspected that I meant business. I told them to take no independent action. I required $1,400. and requested the municipal clerk to levy but one half of this amount, intimating •that I would want the balance the following year.
I built and opened the school. The tax rate was high. Towards spring I asked my ■representative who had formerly visited them to see some of them and intimate casually that if they cared to meet and authorize debentures for $1,000. early •that year we could make that season’s levy quite small.
A meeting was called and the debentures voted with alacrity and unanimity.
For nearly three years they have cheerfully accepted reports and declared, “School good.”
Teacher’s Nemesis was Smoke
I HAD advertised for a teacher for the White Oak School. To one applicant giving a city address I wrote: “I fear White Oak School is not the place •for you, but if you have time, call in some day and we will talk over other schools.” About 4.30 on Saturday as I ran in from a country trip and was hurrying
-to catch a car home I met Miss B'-just
leaving the office. She said, “I was just leaving a note for you about White Oak School.”
Inviting her to be seated I said, "I wrote you the other day telling you that the White Oak School was no place for ■you.” As I addressed my remarks to a fair-haired maiden not more than 5 ft. 3% inches tall I felt my conviction deepening, but when she promptly enquired “Why, what is the matter with it?” I tried to think quickly.
“It is fourteen miles from a station,” said I . So often do teachers want schools “At or near” a railway station that I felt I should say no more.
But my fair interlocutor came back promptly, “Well, I’ll be all right when I get there, won’t I?”
So conscious was I that the ground was •slipping from under my feet that I for-
got to look horrified at her English. I said almost weakly, “You will not get home until Easter.”
“I do not expect to come home until July.” „
"But those people are all Ruthenians,
I affirmed, only to be told that she had forty Ruthenians where she was then teaching.
I asked her where she was teaching, and she replied, “In M—-— School.
I thought when I went there that I would come home every week-end, but the people thought I should stay, so I did.
I said, “The people were quite right. You belong there,” and then assured her that she would have to board with Ruthenians. Instead of being nonplussed she said quietly, “Well, it will be all right if they are clean.”
I disclaimed any definite knowledge on that point and said, “By the way, there is a pretty good farm house a mile and a half from the school. It is new. The owner seems a decent sort. It might be all right.”
Making a rapid mental review of the situation I continued: “There is another
house. TL-’s house. I never
saw it but they tell me he has a good house. He should have. He has been there
for a long while. T----’s father was the
first Galician murderer hanged in this country.”
I virtually surrendered when she retorted: “Look here, Mr. Stratton, you
cannot scare me. I have talked with the brothers of murderers and they did not hurt me. Not nearly all the men have been hanged who should have been.”
To gain time, I said “Miss BI
am not going to send you to White Oak School and I am not going to say you shall not go. I need your sort all right. You go home for a week and think it over. Talk it over with your people. In the meantime I shall ask the teacher from the next district to make a survey with a view to ascertaining what sort of board is available.”
By the following Saturday I knew of an upper chamber (the whole upstairs) in a small house (frame) about one hundred rods from school.
I told Miss BI assured her of
her absolute personal safety among these people, extracted a promise not to endure too much and wished her “God speed” on her missionary trip.
In five days she returned, having taught four days. She told me “The people are all right and treated me splendidly. The children are dear little things. The schoolhouse is just fine. I had a very good room. The whole upstairs to myself; but when I shut down the trap door in the ceiling there was no ventilation. There was a small window but it would not open. I spoke to the man about it, but apparently he did not understand me for he put on a storm window and almost hermetically sealed it. The ceiling floor was unmatched lumber. In the evening six or eight neighbors would come in and all start smoking. It would come up through the floor and I couldn’t keep my appetite. I am sorry, Mr. Stratton, but I simply couldn’t!”
I reminded her of her promise not to allow her pride to lead her to endure too much. She felt relieved and later said, “You know, Mr. Stratton, I was just as safe there as I would be on Main Street in sight of a policeman.”
I sent her to another school, but as I
thought of the crying need for Miss B-
at White Oak, and of the cause which compelled her to retire from the field— although I seldom moralize on the tobacco habit, I recalled a recitation I heard a young lady give some years ago. It was a parody, and began thus:—
“Tell me, ye winged winds That round my pathway roar,
Is there on earth no spot Where men may smoke no more; Some lone and pleasant dell Some valley in thé West,
Where free from smoke and quids Our weary sex may rest?
The loud wind dwindled to a whisper
And sighed for pity as it answered “No!”
Apart, of course, from the reminiscence, it was such interviews which kept me firm in the belief that there were among the Manitoba teachers those who would solve the problem before us if only the State would remain awake and true to its responsibility.