Alex Lord’s memoirs continued

Continued from Alex Lord’s Kelowna Beginnings and the introduction to Alex Lord.

“Independent incomes did not tend to strengthen either exertion or initiative, and the fruit industry was to experience deep tribulations when it had to be self supporting later on. When the First World War erupted, British-born subjects went ‘home,’ usually at their own expense. Many were not to return, and the incomes of those who did were drastically reduced.1

Few children of English-born parents attended Kelowna Elementary School which, from the viewpoint of their fathers, was the equivalent of the ‘board school’ back home and socially undesirable.2  Some went away to boarding schools, but the majority were taught in small, local private schools or occasionally by a governess.3  Because of this and because of the considerable proportion of bachelors in the area, I opened school on that August Monday morning in 1910 with only 235 youngsters divided among five rooms [editor’s emphasis].

Four rooms were in a wooden building which I believe still stands just behind the United Church at the corner of Glen Avenue and Richter Street. Built in 1904, it was Kelowna’s second school; the first, a one-room building, was on Bernard Avenue about where the Post Office now stands. There, D.W. Sutherland taught for a good many years before going into business and becoming the city’s well-nigh permanent mayor.

The fifth room was just across the street in the as-yet-unfinished new school, internally a capacious six-room brick building and externally an architectural monstrosity, The high school was also there occupying one room, fully adequate for its one teacher and twenty-one pupils. It had been established in 1907 with Elizabeth McNaughton in charge, a teacher whose record of consistent success had seldom been excelled in the province’s history. For five years single-handed, she taught all subjects in the three-year high school program until 1912, when L.V. Rogers was made her assistant. At her own insistence the two exchanged positions in 1917 and Miss McNaughton continued as assistant until her retirement. Throughout those years the standing of her pupils in departmental examinations was always high; of greater meaning, she retained the affection and respect of both pupils and parents.”

1  This drastic reduction stemmed from no simple cause such as orchards deteriorating during the owners’ overseas war service. On the contrary, the problem was not too few apples but too many, with fierce competition from Washington and Oregon orchards. For an analysis of these fruit market complexities, see Margaret A Ormsby, ‘The History of Agriculture in British Columbia,’ Scientific Agriculture 20 (1939), p. 66.

2  In an attempt to educate the working class, board schools were established in England under the 1870 Elementary Education Act which enabled elected boards to levy taxes in part support. These boards charged tuition fees as well, but excused poor children…. See David Rubinstein, ‘Socialization and the London School Board 1870-1904: Aims, Methods and Public Opinion,’ in Philip McCann, ed., Popular Education and Socialization in the Nineteeth Century, London: Methuen, 1977, pp. 231-4 and passim.

3 Probably the two best known regional private schools run on English lines during Lord’s Kelowna principalship were Chesterfield School, Kelowna (1912-1924) and Vernon Preparatory School (1914-1972). See Jean Barman, Growing Up British in British Columbia: Boys in Private School. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 1984, pp. 33-35.

John Calam, ed. Alex Lord’s British Columbia. Recollections of a Rural School Inspector, 1915-36. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 1991, p. 106.

1 Comment

  1. Carl shearer

    Very interesting enjoyable read


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