I attended this school from 1936 until 1943. With the exception of the list of teachers, what follows is based on my memory of having been a student there. The list of teachers (from 1916) is taken from the book Corinth – Elgin County’s Crown, compiled by my brother Glen Duff. The list of earlier teachers who taught in the old building (prior to 1927) is taken from the bookTweedsmuir History of Corinth and North Bayham. I hope this page brings back memories to former students of the school as well as interest to those who obtained their elementary education in other schools.
Location of the School
It was situated 1.25 miles (one concession road) south of the community of Corinth, in the township of Bayham, County of Elgin, Province of Ontario, Canada. It was also less than one mile to Provincial Highway #3 to the south and to the east. The original frame building was moved to Corinth to become the Women’s Institute Hall when the two-room brick building was opened in 1927. A third room was added for the 1954-1955 school year. The school was closed in 1974 and students were taken to Straffordville. Although known as Corinth Public School, its official name was Union School Section #16 Bayham and #24 Malahide.
An early teacher, Mr. James Amoss, was responsible for the beginning of the planting of the maple trees on the western part of the grounds and the two rows of coniferous trees along the north and east fence lines. This foresight, which I believe was continued by other teachers, created the parklike appearance of the grounds today.
The dates for most of the teachers for the white frame school are currently unavailable. The list begins in 1862. The names of my classroom teachers are marked with an asterisk. All of my teachers were very capable and provided me with a good education.
White Frame School
William V Huntsman
Warren M Lyons
A. M. Springer
1877-1910 James Amoss
Miss Myrtle Bowle
Miss Blake Stone
1916-1927 Erie Amoss
1925-1927 Alice Miller
Red Brick School
1927-1933 Erie Amoss
1933-1937 Violet Turnbull
1937-1938 Gertrude Canning (interim)
1938-1940 Violet Turnbull/Herman *
1940-1945 Robert Gilbert *
1945-1947 George Garton
1947-1948 Dorothy Kipp
1948-1949 Peter Walter
1949-1952 Arnot Goodwin
1952-1954 Lois Godby
1954-1956 Richard Gregson
1956-1958 Charles Davis
1958-1959 Morley Desjardines
1959-1963 Robert Ball
1963-1964 Robert Phillmore
1964-1966 Charles Blythe
1927-1928 Alice Miller
1928-1933 Violet Turnbull
1933-1935 Mrs. Gorvett
1936-1942 Luella Rath *
1942-1944 Laura Lucas
1944-1946 Margaret Halton
1946-1947 Hazel Turnbull
1947-1950 Rose Dowds
1950-1953 Margaret Hutcheson
1953-1954 Ruth Newland
1954-1955 Arlene Harvey
1955-1956 Shirley Jones
1956-1959 Helen Watts
1960-1962 Margaret Secord
1962-1965 Vera Bond
1965-1967 Claire Dennis
1967-1970 Marion Holman
1954-1957 Ruth Newland
1958-1961 Eunice Barnes
1962-1965 Katherine Fabi
1965-1966 Ardeth Millard
1966-1967 Grace Davis
1968-1971 Mary Robinson
1966-1974 Ardeth Millard (5-6; 7)
1966-1972 Sid Shelley (6-8; 7-8; 8)
1972-1974 Mary Findlay (5; 6)
1970-1974 Bill Deane (8)
1972-1974 Fred Spicer (5)
1972-1974 Robert Godfree (Principal)
1936-1941 Evelyn Howey * (when I was in grades 1-6)
1941-1942 Helen Barnum * (when I was in grade 7)
1968-1974 Patricia Millard
Although I did not like Mrs. Howey’s classes, I received a good foundation in music theory, which was useful in later years. Miss Barnum, well-liked by all, left us after one year to join the R.C.A.F. She was again my music teacher in grade 13 at Aylmer High School.
Note: The Eden and Corinth schools amalgamated in 1971, with Eden having grades 1-4 and Corinth having grades 5-8.
Mr. and Mrs. Firby (Ernie and Annie), who lived a few houses east of the school, would be at the school in the morning until the teachers arrived. They would return at about 3:00 p.m. and start cleaning the basement area. The furnace was in the southwest corner of the basement. Coal was stored in the shed just outside the back door. Heat was carried through asbestos-covered pipes to hot water radiators in the classrooms.
In the time of Miss Turnbull (or Mrs. Herman), it was segregated. Boys had from the back door of the basement to the east fence of the property. Girls had from the maple trees to the west of the building to the road on the west side of the property. From the building to the trees on the west was the neutral ground. It was used occasionally for softball games under teacher supervision. A path from the west road through the girls’ area and one from the road on the southeast through the boys’ area were used on arrival at and departure from the school each day. Girls could cross the neutral ground to and from their play area. The front doors and the lawn in front of them were not used by pupils. We accepted these restrictions. This system was eliminated by Mr. Gilbert.
In the time of Miss Turnbull, chairs were set up in the basement – girls on the south side and boys on the north side, with an aisle between. They faced to the east. Pupils were assigned chairs, based on where they sat in their classroom. In the morning, we had the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, and the Lord’s prayer. Miss Rath would line the boys to go up the east stairs (past the boys’ washroom). Miss Turnbull would line the girls to go up the west stairs (past the girls’ washroom). We could not use the other stairs at any time. At noon, we ate our lunch at our chairs. Anyone who had a boiled egg might crack it on the head of a neighbour. Once in a while, an egg was soft-boiled, providing an uncomfortable result. The teachers sat at a table on the platform at the front. After dismissal, if we did not go outside to play, we could play in an area behind the chairs. If we were too noisy, the teacher at the table would tap a desk bell. If the noise did not abate, we would be told to sit on our chairs for a time. At the end of day, we would be led downstairs to the chairs, where we would have our closing prayer and orderly dismissal. This system was eliminated when Mr. Gilbert became principal.
Mr. Gilbert painted the C. P. S. crest, which was on the east wall of the basement for years. The colours were purple and yellow. We all had to draw it in an art class.
This was a room next to the basement assembly room and between the two stairs. Mr. Gilbert used this as a classroom for woodworking for the boys. I had little success in this class.
Behind the school was a shed where coal was stored. The boys would play Auntie-I-Over here. Sometimes, the ball would be thrown too high and would land and stay on the flat roof of the school. Boys would play softball on diamonds to the east. Girls would do likewise on diamonds among the trees. There was a sandpit to the east of the school for the younger boys. In the autumn, leaf houses were built along the fences and rows of evergreen trees. In the winter after a snowfall, two circular, concentric tracks with radii from the centre were traced out. A game of tag, known as fox and goose, would be played on the track. At other times, forts were built from fresh snow. Then snowball fights would follow. When the ground was dry, an area just east of the school was used to play a rough game called woodchuck. Physical strength and running ability were assets in this game. After Mr. Gilbert came, segregation was eliminated and the neutral ground softball diamond was in general use.
This was the first Friday of May. In the morning, we cleaned the yard. Recreational activities took place in the afternoon, often off the premises. Mr. Gilbert would take us to some point along the Otter Creek to fish. One time, we had a paper chase along the banks of the creek.
There was always a masquerade party. Usually, it was in the afternoon; but sometimes, it was at night. At least once, we obtained apples from Harold Wallace’s orchard and took them to the local grist mill to be pressed. The fresh cider would be collected in large milk cans. This cider would be our beverage for the event.
Each room had a tree. Gifts were exchanged. There would be a party in each room. We had Christmas dinners when Mr. Gilbert was there. Tables were laid over the rows of desks and a table at the front. Each boy had to ask a girl from the classroom to be his partner for the dinner. I remember Mr. Beemer, as board representative, being there one year. I cannot remember anything about food preparation and serving. Mr. Gilbert gave coping-saw blades to the boys. I do not recall what he gave to the girls.
We had breakable cups (mugs) for the drinking of water. Sometimes, they were kept on hooks in the washroom. They were also kept on hooks in the cupboards on the south wall in the main basement room. Lunches were kept on shelves in the same cupboards. When the teachers were not looking, boys would place their mouths, instead of cups, under the tap to obtain a drink. This tap was the same one that was used for washing hands in the basin below. There was no hot water in the washrooms.
One summer in the late 1930s, school opened one or two weeks late because of an infantile paralysis (polio) scare. I do not know of any school pupil who contracted the disease. It was the custom that no one would go swimming in the creeks after the end of July each summer for risk of the disease. When I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever in September 1944, the doctor checked first for polio and ruled it out.
One morning, one of the older boys encountered a skunk when he was coming to school. The boy went into the basement. Everyone else went outside. All windows were opened. If I remember correctly, Miss Turnbull sent him home.
I used to carry my lunch in a honey pail. One morning as I left for school, I picked up a honey pail of lunch from our kitchen table. On opening it at noon at school, it became evident that I had the wrong pail. This one was full of salt, and my lunch was still at home. A lunch collection was made for me. I ate very well that day.
One afternoon in October 1942, when I was in grade 8, several of us boys were playing horseshoe at the east side of the school. In one match, it was the turn of my partner and me to try to prevent two of the older girls from pulling up the stakes. In the process, I was knocked down onto my back in front of one stake. The horseshoe landed on my face, cutting me just above my left eye. The boys took me to the washroom. One gave me his coloured handkerchief to stop the bleeding. When Mr. Gilbert arrived, he took me to the chesterfield in the library. He took away the coloured cloth and gave me a white cloth soaked in alcohol to place on my cut. Then, when classes resumed, he proceeded to scold the girls. I did not go back to class, but I walked home later. I did not see a doctor. I still have a faint scar in my left eyebrow.
On May 12, 1937, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were crowned. Children from the schools of Bayham Township gathered at Straffordville for a celebration of the event. Among other events, there were races. I did not do well in my race.
In the late spring of 1939, the king and queen took a royal tour of Canada. One morning, the teachers and pupils of our school left early for London in Clare Richmond’s open-rack milk truck. We sat on benches below a large tarpaulin. We gathered along Maitland Street. Just to our left was the intersection of St. James Street. Soon after we heard the train whistle, we saw, approaching from the left, a convertible car with the top down. We waved flags (Union Jacks) as it passed. The king and queen were in the back seat, with the queen being on our side. I saw the queen’s famous smile and wave. I did not see the king well.
Occasionally, children would come to school barefooted in warm weather. I did it at least once, but the gravel on the road as I walked to and from school was very uncomfortable.
Hearing profanities and obscenities on the playground was not uncommon. However, if a teacher heard one, the speaker could face the penalty of strapping, either in private or in front of the class. Occasionally, there were informers. They did not always hear well.
Visits by the Inspector
When I was in the junior room, Mr. Smith would have us go to the front of the classroom to read to him. A few times, his assistant, Mr. McColl, came. I remember the visits as a child less than those when I was a teacher in later years. Mr. Smith was an Ontario Public School inspector for many years in Elgin County. Over fifteen years later when I taught at Union, Mr. McColl was still an inspector in the eastern part of Elgin County. My inspector, Mr. Rawlings, was responsible for the western part of the county.
There were two classrooms on the second level of the building. Desks in the junior room to the east faced to the south. Those in the senior room to the west faced north. The east wall of the junior room and the west wall of the senior room consisted, for the most part, of large windows. There were blackboards on the other three walls. There were two doors along the south wall of each room. The one along the outside wall led to a cloakroom. The one toward the wall that separated the rooms led to a hallway adjacent to the library and the two stairs. Above the blackboard at the front of the junior room and on the east wall of the senior room was a large Regulator pendulum clock in each.
The desks were immovable as they were held to the floor by screws. The smaller desks were at the front of each row. Part of the top of each desk was a lid which lifted so that books belonging to a pupil may be stored or removed for use. In the upper right corner of each desk was an ink well. Pupils used straight or fountain pens. This was before the time of ball point pens. To the left of it was a slot where pencils or pens could be laid when not in immediate use. The wooden seat could be turned up when not in use. A seat was actually a part of the desk behind it.
Pupils provided their own pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, and paint boxes. Textbooks, notebooks, art paper, plasticene (grade 1), chalk, and ink were supplied by the school.
We did have free-reading books, which were kept in a room that served as the library and the teachers’ staff room. We did not have much direct access to it. I do recall that we did have books to read throughout my time in this school. My favourite book at the grade 4 level was Hoot-Owl, a story of the young son of a New England pioneer couple. He became lost in the woods and was found by a Native American man, who took him back to the village. The boy lived with these people until he was located by his father. In 2004, I was able to borrow a copy from a college library in Iowa and to read this child’s book again.
When we started school, we used crayons for colouring our pictures. For the rest of our time at the school, we used water colours. Everyone had a metal box of water colours and one or more brushes. The teachers gave us various assignments in these classes. Certain nature subjects could be expected each year. These would include a maple leaf, a daffodil, and a goldenrod stalk. There would also be an assignment with the celebration topics: Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. We kept our finished work in a thin, cardboard folder, known as a portfolio. Art was not my favourite subject, either as a student or a teacher. One assignment that I really did enjoy, though, was the one in which we were shown how to draw the buildings along a city intersection with the use of perspective.
In some of the senior grades, we were assigned to memorize 200 lines of poetry during the year. Every student was required to recite a minimum number of lines orally in the classroom each week. Some of us competed with each other in reciting the longest poem at one time and the most lines during the year. Some of the longer poems that we chose were: The Lady of Shalott (Tennyson), The Deacon’s Masterpiece (Holmes), The Walrus and the Carpenter (Carroll), and The Highwayman(Noyes).
World War I
An acquaintance of Mr. Gilbert would come to the school in regard to supplies. He was Major Hanlon, a retired veteran of World War I. Mr. Gilbert had him talk to us about his experiences. We learned all about trench warfare. Later, one of our pupils used this information as his topic in a public speaking contest.
When I was in grades 6, 7, and 8, our school had drives once a year for metal and paper to be recycled for use in World War II. The pupils from both classrooms were divided into three groups chosen by three captains. The teams were army, air force, and navy. When I was in grade 8, I was the navy captain. The schoolyard behind the shed was really a junkyard for a while until a truck came and carried everything away.
War Saving Stamps
At school, we could buy a stamp for twenty-five cents. Then, we would stick it onto a sheet especially prepared by the federal government for these stamps. After the sheet was filled – twenty stamps – we turned it in. The government would provide a certificate with our name on it. This was a method of saving as well as helping the war effort. Several years later, when I was preparing to attend Normal School (Teachers’ College), I sent them to the government for redemption.
At the end of grade 8, students would go to Aylmer to write a series of tests on subject material that we had covered during the year. I did not have to go because my year’s work was good. These examinations were not multiple choice or true-false. In mathematics, it was necessary to solve problems and show how answers had been achieved. During the year that I was in grade 8, Mr. Gilbert prepared us for the event by using previous entrance exams in class. Through these, I was able to gain a good foundation in basic mathematics and English grammar, in particular. This has helped me later as a student, a teacher, and a citizen. The next year, I continued my education at Brownsville Continuation School, three miles north of Corinth, in Oxford County.
Graduating Class of 1943
- Duane Duff
- Archie Ker
- Fred McCurdy
- Jean Pressey
We would like to thank the following for any help which they have given us in regard to this page.
George Beard III, Corinth, Ontario
Sandra Richardson, Straffordville, Ontario
(This page was updated in October 2012.)