happiness

In Grandma’s Words part 14 (FGK-76)

The only stories I ever heard about Mr O’Brien were ones like how incredibly strict he was, being a military man and all, how one time he’d got really angry and thrown chalk across the room, and of course the firecracker story – which was of course more mom just responding to his flippant statement about putting a firecracker under someone than her deviously planning to light a firecracker under a classmate’s butt. But through the letters I’ve seen a much different man. From what I can see, he’s the one who organized the students to send those big class letters in for mom at the hospital. In the letters, the kids are describing doing such interesting things in their classes (growing plants, doing woodwork, and so many other activities). I have heard from many people what a big deal those JP Christmas concerts were. Hats off to Mr. O’Brien – he sounds like quite the man.

Mr. O’Brien did so much for the children and the social life in the district it is difficult to tell you just how far reaching his influence really spread. He had been a Sargent major in the army, a scout master of many years experience, and had taken a course in dramatics. All these talents and experiences were put into action immediately and the students experienced the unexpected pleasure of discipline, responsibility, and a scope for their own creative originality.

The fame of the JP Christmas concerts was so widespread the Community Hall had crowds far beyond its seating capacity, standing room only. I remember one concert where one part of the program was a quadrille on the stage by the students to the tune of a current favourite of the time “Buttons and Bows”. The crowd just went hilarious, stomped their feet, clapped their hands, and sang their loudest. Another time he used an Alberta artist talent of a play taken from the book “Johnnie Chinook” a local story and it was a big success.

He formed a Red Cross society among the students. Made them elect their own president and other officers in the correct parliamentary procedure. All this besides their regular schoolwork. And for the first time the students learned how to enjoy well organized sports at recess.

Every so often the students would invite the parents to the school and entertain them by having them take part in spelling matches etc. We became involved in many of the students’ activities, especially helping with the concerts and enjoyed their social life so much.

The annual school picnic was an elaborate affair where presentations were made to students graduating etc. All the speeches and work was done by the students themselves. Mr O’Brien would just strand in the background. but the results of his guidance was made manifest in so many ways.

For a little one room rural school house the ultimate achievement of most of its graduates is quite impressive.

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Going to School in Bed (FGK-54)

Before Covid, I would have thought that it would be a kid’s dream to be able to go to school in bed. And, although I think the girl has come to like the fact that she only has to get out of bed 2 minutes before class starts to go sit in her pjs at the computer, I would have to say that no- I was wrong, these online classes are pretty challenging. Of course, it’s a different situation than the one mom was in, and it’s even a different situation from my own online classes which are set up really well with lots of support. Instead it’s become pretty isolating and really difficult to get help from the teachers. I’m guessing mom hated going to school in bed. The only childhood stories about school I ever heard were the ones where she rode her horse with her brother and sister to the Jumping Pound School. However, pre-covid we used to joke that living life in bed like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would kind of be like a dream come true. Not anymore!

Pearce, Alberta

Feb 19, 1954

Dear Margaret

It was so nice to receive a letter from you because I thought you would be getting so many letters that you wouldn’t find time to write to everyone, but you did anyway and I hope you will continue to write. I received your letter February 12.

Do you enjoy going to school in bed? Are there many children taking the same grade as you are?

Yesterday we went to Lethbridge to the dentist, all but my oldest brother. I had two teeth x-rayed to see if the roots were ok so that they could be filled later if they were.

The wind was sure blowing today. One of our granaries blew part way off its foundation. It hadn’t done that before even when it was empty. There was a tiny bit of wheat in it.

The subject that I like best at school is Science and Home Economics. We sure got a good science teacher. I dislike Social Studies the most because of the teacher Miss Hyssop, who hardly anyone likes. She likes to see how much homework she can give us. We had a test in Social Studies today.

I have got a pen pal down in Burbank California whose grandparents on her mother’s side live in Calgary.

A few days ago my kitten and my sister’s kitten followed us up to the bus. They raced around, laid on the ground and rolled about kicking their feet in the air trying to get some attention. They started to fight once then raced up a light pole. When the bus came they raced towards the yard, their tails awfully big. They were sure scared of what we sometimes call the “Yellow Bug”.

Are you at all lonesome for the farm after being in the hospital? Did you have any pets at the farm you lived on?

That is all for now, hoping to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Ann de Koning

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happiness

Career Day and French Class (FGK 53)

We are in the final stretch of the school year for my girl and I have to say the stress level is unbearably high. Compared to the requirements her “in school” friends have, the online expectations are through the roof. 70ish years ago it seems as though the stress on students was about as high.

June 20, 1952

Dear Marg

Gee it’s been nice out. Didn’t do a thing over the weekend though. Went to Eklund’s and played five hundred (Marsh and I). Saturday night Pete and Jeff Norman came down and taught us a new game called “blackout’. It’s sure good. Something like whist.

On Sunday Nichols had a tobogganing party but I didn’t go ‘cause I didn’t feel so hot.

Anne O <this is the friend From yesterday’s letter, she signed it Anne O> went up to Edmonton with a bus full of kids from Tech this weekend. They started at 7am Saturday morning and got back 6am Sunday morning. I guess Anne was dead tired.

Peggy and I went to see ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ at the uptown staring Clifton Webb. It was really god. All music and comedy.

Mom bought me a white blouse and some more pyjamas. Real jazzy.

I guess Peggy and I came in on time yesterday ‘cause Sonia said that they just had our door open when we were coming up the stairs. They were going to put breadcrumbs in our bed. They did to Barbara and Evelyn and they haven’t a clue as to who did it.

Jan 22, 1952

Well I’m writing this at 8:15am so please excuse mistakes. The Winnipeg ballet was really good. There were three different stories one was the Shooting of Dan McGee. Peggy went at night and she said it was just dancing, no stories at all.

Peggy says to tell you I’ve been feeling stupid all week, and I have too.

Dr. And Mr. Gordon went to California yesterday. Oh Happy day!!

Well must go to school now

Love Sheila

Thurs Afternoon

Well, I went to see Mr. Colette about that career day. There were three of us. Jane Rowan, Doug Hamilton and I. We’re going to have Ken Coppock talk to us on agriculture.

And in French did I ever feel dumb. I was talking about keeping awake in class and about how to do it. I said to Sheila (she sits in front of me) “I wish I could find a formula to keep awake” and Miss Devivona(?) heard me. She was coming up the aisle so she put her hand on my head and started shaking it. “Oh do you Sheila. Let’s see if you can get on without it” or something like that. I blushed like mad.

Fri. 3:00

I was sick yesterday after school.well anyway I went to see Mr Collette about that career day and I might have go to ask Ken Coppock to give us a lecture on agriculture besides interviewing 3 other speakers. It’s good training I guess but Gad!!! I wouldn’t be able to say a word when I am with them. Oh well!! The worst they can do is kick me out.

Well must get my homework done

Love Sheila

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Valentine Letters from Jumping Pound School (FGK-45)

I love these group letters from the kids at Jumping Pound School. Of course, the typing doesn’t reflect it, but the printing and handwriting shows the varying ages of the kids writing the letters. Bless Mr. O’Brien for organizing the kids to write these letters. I don’t know how the girls in school felt, but I kind of want to learn how to do the woodworking!! That said, I could use help learning how to properly care for my flowers as well haha. I didn’t do all that well on the Canadian Quiz, my history degree isn’t really making itself all that useful it seems.

Stamp Dated Feb 16, 1953 (cost of this letter was 4 cents, it was a heavier one)

Letter One

Dear Marg:

You know Mr O’Brien is always thinking of something now for us bright students to do. Well today we are writing you numbered letters. I got number one so I’m writing you the first letter.

I hope you will be back and helping us do these things soon.

Thanks for the candies and the lovely Valentines you sent us. You should see some of the fancy figurare(?) we have drawn today. They’re not bad for use Janet is visiting us today.

Your pal Rose

Letter 2

Dear Marg

I see a Valentine

Raymond

Letter 3

Dear Marg

We started our new English book. We are having a Valentine party. The boys have started woodwork

Joan

Letter 4

Dear Marg

Wear a making a letter for you on Valentines Day. We are going to start our games at twelve o’clock. The teacher told us to write a letter to you. Today is James’ birthday. Jim, John and Lawrence are doing woodwork

Sincerely

David

Letter 5

Dear Marg

The boys have started woodwork. And the girls are making flowers

Lynn

Letter 6

Dear Marg

We are having a Valentine’s party today. Elaine and Rose made a Valentine box on Wednesday. We started the Red Cross corner this week. Lawrence made a pen ____ for the corner.

Yours Sincerely,

Jim

Letter 7

Dear Marg

We are having a Valentine’s party. Elaine and Lawrence are sick today and couldn’t come. Rose and Elaine are making flowers. Lawrence, Jim, Dave and I are doing woodwork. I have made Rose a cabinet for her bedroom. I wish you many happy returns

Sincerely John

Letter 8

Dear Marg

I see a Valentine

Bill

Letter 9

Dear Marg

We are having a Valentine party

Mary

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Breathe, slow down, smile

The girl finished the last of her exams today – she still has “school” next week, but it’s all fun stuff like swimming and sports day. The stress of exam week is over and the kids can breathe, slow down, and smile. It’s been a hard week. Both kids really want to do well in their classes, both struggle with reading which makes it that much more difficult. The boy has excellent support in place at his school and I’m hoping the girl will get more soon as well. But they both work hard and learn lots and that is what is important.

And now.. some fun. It’s time for that. I’m glad that things can slow down a bit now. Happiness is found in the little moments and when we slow down we are able to enjoy those little moments more.

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happiness

Locker clean out

My boy had his last day of classes today – almost the end of grade 10. I can hardly believe it. It feels like yesterday I was in a panic as to whether to put him in the French or English school in Quebec. And here we are, a whole lifetime later with him in the Catholic system in Alberta after taking a tour of North America.

He’s doing so well and growing into such a great young man. I feel honoured to have been such a big part of his growing process.

He texted me this afternoon asking me to bring garbage bags so he could clean out his locker. When I arrived at school it had a happy energy carried by hundreds of bodies (student and teacher alike) who couldn’t wait for summer vacation to start. This school has been such a blessing for him, we have lived a series of miracles in the last couple of years that’s for sure.

End of year locker clean out – happiness. Happy for him, happy for me. End of making his lunches!

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End of season

Basketball season came to an end tonight. They have their all every single game. It actually looked like maybe they were going to win for a while tonight. But even when it didn’t they continued to play with heart and with class. 

I’ve learned a lot this year watching other coaches and other parents. Our coach is the one who has taught our boys to play with class and integrity. All the way through he conducted himself in such an admirable way. Such a good example for the boys. 

Happiness moment today was watching my boy sprint out on the court and play his heart out. He’s gained so much from this season.  

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Cheering each other home

I’m sitting at a basketball game watching both sides play their best. Our boys have lots of heart, but struggle to compete against a lot of these other teams. I have been impressed with them all season – even when the score is obviously defeating, they never give up. 

The opposing team was cheering for their players. One of the younger siblings for our school started yelling over them let’s go thunder over and over. 

Something interesting happened. The stand remained silent, our team remained silent, the opposing team started to smile at this enthusiastic boy and started clapping along with his cheer. The opposing team!!!! And they weren’t making fun of him, they were genuinely enjoying it. 

That’s what sportsmanship is. I am  so impressed with those kids. That is happiness. 

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Teamwork

I always avoided team sports like the plague. I loved the partnership I had with my horse, but I never really got into being part of a team. 

I have learned a lot watching my son who is so drawn to team sports. It hasn’t left me with a huge desire to go out and join one myself, but I am understanding more and more how important and fulfilling they can be. 

They had a game tonight and I walked into the gym when they were all standing in a little huddle. 


It’s cool to see how they all support each other. Sure, there are some conflicts but they have to work them out so that the team can succeed. 

My boy really needs this and he thrives in this kind of environment. And that is happiness. 

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Meet the teacher 

The boy went very unwillingly with me to parent teacher conferences today. He pointed out that no other kids had to go and only because he has a damn helicopter mom he had to show up. It’s not like it’s a new thing, I’ve always made both kids to go their conferences. They have the most to gain from learning what their strengths and weaknesses are. 

Secretly that boy likes that I care how he’s doing and that I make him be involved and accountable for his learning. But I pretend I don’t know that. 

My moment of happiness today was hearing his teachers tell me what a joy he is to have in their classes. They all seemed to know and genuinely like him (a huge benefit of a smaller school). They see him for the great blessing that he is and appreciate his quiet kindness. 

Of course there are things to work on, he’s not perfect. But it’s always so nice to hear other people who spend a lot of time with him say what a fantastic human he is. 

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