of the Swan River Valley
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998
Jack and Olive Belton
John Nelson Belton was born in 1906 in Birtle, MB and later educated in Roblin- the first consolidated school in Manitoba. Jack’s father was the school inspector. In those “horse and buggy” days one reached the next town by train!
Jack attended Yorkton and Saskatoon Normal Schools being active in music and becoming secretary of the Year- book, “The Light”.
He taught five years in rural Saskatchewan living in teacherages, where he learned to keep house for himself, knit socks and for recreation, he played cribbage with his neighbours, and played baseball on the community teams. Jack encouraged sports participation.
After one year at Shortdale, teaching seventy six students, he accepted the position at Grandview, Aug. 1928. From then on for 25 years he spent six weeks each summer at Summer School in Winnipeg, to earn his degree. During his time at Grandveiw he taught Sunday School for 15 years.
In 1932 Mr. Belton married Olive Bowes, whom he had taught in Gr. eleven. Also that year because of the depression, his salary was reduced from 1000.00 to 850.00 per year or ten months with nothing July or August. Years later he taught his daughter Iona in high school. Iona took nurses training, married after graduation, and worked in Windsor ON. for ten years. In 1964,she was pleased to come to the Valley to become the Matron of Benito hospital. There were four children from her first marrige, and one from her second .Mr. Belton was appointed School Inspector for the Swan River Valley in Aug. 1955 . He and Mrs. Belton arrived by bus on a Sunday afternoon. His predecessor, Charles Rhine introduced them to the Valley, by taking them to a ball game at Bowsman. What could be nicer for a ball player, in such a beautiful setting?
Bill Taylor had been contacted earlier and had located a house - one of five new ones on 7th Ave. South, which Jack and Olive could rent.There was no town water as yet, and an oil floor furnace for heat. That furnace caused some grief after our Easter conference, when the pilot light went out, and the oil, with its accompaning smell had to be soaked up before it could safely be relit.
Bridges did not span the deep ditch in front of the house - just long planks laid across at every second house - not the Beltons. The movers detoured to Dauphin for coffee - ate the fruit that was in the fridge and came very late - at 4:00 AM. Long before that good neighbours, Mr. and Mrs Stanley Anderson had invited Jack and Olive to spend the night with them. Close by also were Don and Marg Dennis, Mrs. Zimmer and later the Frank Madills - all of whom became good friends.
Autumn weather was splendid, so Olive packed lunches, and accompanied Jack to each of his schools. While he worked, she studied Gr. twelve history later to write the exam at Duncan School, supervised by Jack Orchard. Yes she passed. But the map of schools in Jacks area, had not been updated, as they were soon to find. First school - away South of Minitonas, and East of Wellman Lake road - a mess - hadn’t been used as a school for years!
Second school - Ravensworth - wonderful surprise, Rod Nerbac the teacher, a former Grandview student! A visit to the secretary, Alvin and Anna Smith, proved just as pleasant.
Another school - Mountain Crest - no school or any building on the site.
On to Golden Acres - Beautiful country, fairly new school, one teacher, one student.
Lavender School - teacher, another Grandview graduate - Faye Nicol
While school work came first, Jack and Olive were both community minded. They continued their memberships in the Masonic and Rebekah Lodges, joined the United Church Choir, Jack the Barbershoppers and Olive the Sweet Adelines. Soon after arriving here, Jack became a Rotarian. Though he missed directing plays as he had in Grandview, he was much in demand as a speaker known for his humor and eloquence. Olive was a soloist for four Rebekah Assembly Presidents and sang many beautiful solos at the St. Andrews United Church.
Jack’s love of sports continued for the days at Grandview when he was pitcher, catcher, umpire or comentator, where with the help of a mic he could be heard all over town, to later years when he joined the students at field days.
Gradually the system was changing. With the anticipation of districts becoming part of school divisions, Jack accompanied by various trustees drove many miles figuring out school bus routes.
Then for a period teams of several inpectors were given one subject to consider travelling even as far as Churchill to see how “their” subject was being taught in High Schools. Shortly afterward School Inspectors were phased out of the system, and School Superintendants covered the local areas of work.
Jack retired in June, 1971. He and Olive then enjoyed traveling - first to Europe for six weeks, later up the inside passage to Alaska and numerous times to the U.S. Life around home became more relaxed, though always community centered. Since Jacks death in 1981, Olive maintains their home at 118, 9th Ave. South and continues to sing and be active in the church and nieghbourhood.
Submitted by: Olive Belton
Manitoba's Swan River Valley is an area rich in history. These family histories were a part of the 1998 Pioneer Centennial History Book project. If you would like the history of your area available online, have your historic group contact the Key Rock Group for information on electronic publication. We offer publication free of charge and also provide the option for making your history book available on CD.