The Camps : THE SCHOOL HOUSE
Speeder at Caycuse Camp 6 coming home from school in Lake Cowichan
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Families started moving into the camps in the 1930's and with them came the need for schools. The camp school house was a small building, on skids if it were a land camp, so that it could be moved from camp to camp to access the available timber. It would house all the children from grades one to eight; a minimum of six children needed to attend the school to qualify for government funding.
The schoolhouse would be heated by a wood stove, which would also serve to dry wet clothing such as mittens and scarves and to make soup for the children to eat during lunch. The students would supply the vegetables from home and the soup would simmer all morning on the stove, competing with the cookhouse for the savoriest camp smells.
The schoolhouses were sparse, often with no electricity so students would rely on windows for the light to complete their studies. There were no indoor washrooms, rather there were two outhouses near the school - one for girls and one for boys. The students and teacher kept the school clean and performed chores such as fetching water and firewood, cleaning the windows and blackboards and sweeping the bare wooden floors.
Sometimes, as in the case of the Caycuse Camp, older children would take a boat ride across the lake and then an hour and half speeder ride to attend high school in Lake Cowichan. They would turn around and do the same back home at the end of the day. However, for the younger children, many of the camps built one-room schoolhouses.
For many of the logging camps, the schoolhouse was the centre of the community. During the day, the students would complete their lessons in the schoolhouse, but at night, during holidays or on the weekends, it might play host to a dance or act as an election station during provincial or federal elections.
Two women getting water
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Teaching in the camp schools, especially in the small communities was not an easy task. Often, young, inexperienced women fresh from training would be recruited to teach in these communities. The women in these isolated camps seldom welcomed the presence of young, unmarried teachers. This was difficult for the teachers as they required local enthusiasm and support to teach the children and to make a life for themself in the camp. In 1928, at Camp Six, one young teacher, Mabel Jones, was so distraught by the women in town criticizing her teaching ability and petitioning the Ministry of Education for a male teacher, that she took her own life. Mabel's death brought to light the challenges young teacher's face in isolated communities and a Rural Teacher's Welfare Officer was hired to ensure that these women had an advocate looking after them.