Angeline Otto (Kerbrat)
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
In the spring of 1950, when she was attending school at Saint-Adolphe, the great Red River flood struck. It was so bad that many people, including Angeline, were required to evacuate. It was her birthday. What a way to celebrate it! She climbed into the little boat, which took her to a spot just outside of Winnipeg. It was a building that the Oblate Fathers had recently purchased. A short time later, she and others boarded a train for Winnipeg, She had to be claimed by someone and then go where the government directed. A family from her home town of Saint-Laurent who was then living in Winnipeg claimed her and someone else. What an ordeal this event was!
Angeline was born in Saint-Laurent, Manitoba, on the southeast shore of Lake Manitoba, and attended school as far as grade 11 there and grade 12 at Saint-Adolphe, just south of Winnipeg.
In her first position after Normal School, she taught at Silver Plains, a one-room school grades 1-8 with students in only six of the grades. Here she lived in a home next to the school with a former teacher. Her accommodation was an upstairs room where she cooked her food. She also had access to the refrigerator downstairs, She liked the place and the people here. Her class consisted of about 20 students in the first year. She did not have to tend to the fire at school as the husband at the house where she stayed lit it early in the morning so that the school was warm when she and the children arrived. However, if the classroom were cool during the day, she would throw a chunk of wood into the fire. The janitor did all the work in caring for the school. Angeline was responsible for caring for the books, the students, and her teaching. Since she enjoyed her first year in this school, she stayed there for a second year.
Following the next two years at Saint-Eustache teaching grade 3, she moved on to Flin Flon to another grade 3 class for two years.
At Flin Flon, she lived with another teacher, Rose Phillips, who attended Normal School the same year as Angeline. The girls shared an apartment, which was very close to their school, with an older lady who was the cook with the curling club. Curling was an important sport in that town. Angeline and Rose cooked for themselves in their apartment. The school consisted of three adjacent buildings on one piece of property, with grades 1-6 in one building, grades 7-9 in a second building, and grades 9-12 in a third building. Thus, the teachers had close contact with each other. In their spare time, they often bowled together. The social life in Flin Flon was good!
At Dryden, Ontario, she was assigned a special C class because she had experience. This class was for the lowest achievement level children, some of whom had transferred in and some who had been quite sick and had missed school. It was a small class in which, for example, grade 3 children were reading at grade 1 level. Her job was to try to bring the students up to par. She really liked the class and watched the children improve with her as she had the time to spend in helping them. It was not as difficult as having autistic children. Nearly half were below their grade level. Once a month, a class, including hers, would stage some kind of performance for the student body. Her principal, a lady, was well-liked by everyone.
Regrettably, she did not like the superintendent. Thus, she, Rose, and another teacher resigned at the end of the school year as none of them wanted to teach in the fall. All needed a rest. Angeline took advantage of the free time to travel to Europe in the fall with her father. When a position at Kenora, ON, opened in January, she returned to teaching. In the two and one-half years there, she taught a grades one and two class and a grades two and three class.
From Kenora, she moved to Lethbridge, Alberta, where, during her six years, she taught grade 3 and French in grades 5-8. As a child, she was a Francophone and did not learn English until she entered school. Her father had emigrated from France, while on her mother’s side, she is tenth generation from France born in Canada, the descendant of a nobleman in Normandy. This background helped both teacher and students in these French classes. In addition, those students with an Italian background usually scored A+ as both French and Italian are Romance languages. Two of her students are currently, in 2012, members of Lethbridge City Council. Now, schools in this city embark on teaching French at the grade 4 level. As well, there is also a completely French school in Lethbridge.
In June 1967, she left her classroom for the last time. Her first child, a daughter was born in 1968. Then, in 1973, a son was added to the family. In 1966, her husband Wolfgang had opened a business in Lethbridge in which he produced and sold spudnuts and homemade ice cream. Angelina helped him in this business, which became popular in the city. Young and old alike eagerly purchased the products at the shop.
Spudnuts are doughnuts which are made from potato flour. Even though retired, 80-year-old Wolfgang still bakes for the new owners. Every Thursday, because of popular demand, he goes to the shop and bakes 90 to 100 dozen of the delicacies and all are sold by 3 o’clock the same afternoon. Ice cream was made by them with real cream in an electric machine. Of the ten to twelve flavours they sold, licorice proved to be a favourite among children. In the summer, customers from many distant places stop for spudnuts and ice cream.
The couple have travelled numerous times to Germany as Wolfgang is the only one of his family in Canada, and the family also have come to visit frequently. He is from Husum, in Schleswig-Holstein on the North Sea to the north of Hamburg and to the west of Kiel. Being a gorgeous area of Germany, it is popular with tourists.
As Angeline’s own family is large, the couple have gone back to Manitoba quite regularly. On their trip there in August 2012, they were shocked with what they saw along the shore of Lake Manitoba. The spring flooding of this year was devastating in the areas of Saint-Laurent, where members of her family still live, and Delta. She saw that the water from the lake was being restrained by structures that were 12-14 feet long and 7 feet high and filled with sand. The lake, normally fairly shallow, was three feet higher than in the past.
The Souris River joins the Assiniboine River in Western Manitoba and the combined water flows eastward to Winnipeg, emptying into the Red River. This year, the rivers were high because they filled with spring run-off from melting snow. To save the City of Winnipeg, which is vulnerable to flooding because the Red River flows to the north to Lake Winnipeg, engineers decided to divert the excess water through a ditch, commencing near Portage la Prairie, that connects the Assiniboine River to Lake Manitoba to the north. It was too much for the lake. There was much damage to cabins and homes along the lake and the ground near them was muddy. In addition, the pristine beaches were filled with water. She was heartsick with the sight.
One of the affected cabins was formerly owned by Dr. LaFleche, father of Canadian singer Gisèle Mackenzie and now owned by a relative. It is near where Angeline’s father used to cut hay. Her brother and sister chummed with Gisèle when they were much younger.
During her teaching years, Angeline always had great principals and enjoyed her work. In addition to her various current activities, she sometimes babysits her two young grandchildren. Her children were raised using three languages: German, French, and English. Her daughter is now working as a facilitator in the office of the superintendent in Parkland School Division, west of Edmonton, AB.
Angeline’s message to beginning teachers is that the profession is very demanding but most rewarding. The results are worth the effort.
(This page was updated in September 2012.)