of the Swan River Valley
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998
The night finally arrived, my family walked to the school under a brillant star-lit sky. It was beautiful to walk in this almost day-like light. The snow crunched under our feet. A brisk north-west wind nipped at our faces. Our fingers and toes tingled with cold. How good it was to see the lights of our one room school house after a mile and a half walk. As we entered, the warmth of the big wood stove enveloped us. Several kerosene lamps hung from the ceiling making the small room look very bright.
The tall spruce tree looked elegant covered with paper chains and many other creative pieces that big and little hands had put together in the busy days preceding the concert. Red and green streamers criss-crossed the room. The stage platform had been put in place for several days. Nice white sheets, that had been loaned by our mothers, formed the curtains and the wings for the stage.
Mothers had sewn flowing angel costumes from cheese cloth. They also made fitting attire for the Nativity players. Mrs. Jeffery had come many times to rehearse the Christmas music. Recitations, plays, drills and music were all polished to perfection for this special evening.
The carefully arranged program moved smoothly even though butterflies danced in the tummies of the players. Each performance was well applauded by the gathered community.
The mothers were seated on the planks supported by blocks of wood. The fathers crowded in the cloak room and peered over the half wall.
It seemed almost suddenly, the concert was over. Silence fell on the crowded building. Everyone waited excitedly for that magical moment. Then, in the distance we heard the faint jingle of bells. The sound came closer until we had heard the tromp, tromp of heavy footsteps in the entry way. Santa burst through the door with a “Ho! Ho! Ho! and Merry Christmas”. He carried out his act giving out candy bags and gifts.
Everyone clapped and cheered when it was Miss Flemming’s, our teacher, turn to sit on Santa’s lap. Then wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas” Santa made his way out the door and vanished into the night.
Our steps were light with happiness as we made our way home. We said goodnight to our neighbours as we parted where the roads crossed.
We were hurried off to bed because it was later than usual. There would be time enough to enjoy the treasured gifts in the holidays ahead.
For a short while the events of the evening passed through my mind. I heard Father add several pieces of wood to the fire. I nestled contentedly under the warmth of the feather tick.
We lived approximately 350 miles north of Winnipeg near the town of Bowsman River. My sister and I attended #2295 Hall School. I started school in 1944. My family moved to Ontario in 1947.
My sister and I watched with starry eyes as Mother lit the wax candles on our beautiful spruce tree. We enjoyed the glowing scene for a short while. Then very swiftly Mother blew out the candles. She pressed a nut and candy into each of our hands. How satisfied we were! A knock at the door excited us very much. Visitors were most welcome in this well-spaced community. It was Margaret and Dick Sims. Their farm joined ours directly to the west. They had come over the open fields. They unbundled their big scarves and took off their heavy coats. Soon they were warming themselves by the round wood heater in our livingroom.
Neighbourhood news, farm and weather were the topics of conversation. After a time Mother invited Margaret to play Christmas carols on the pump organ. The coal-oil lamp was carefully placed on the organ and the hymn book was opened at the carols. Margaret played and sang in her sweet soprano voice while Mother added alto in harmony. Dick and Father sat at the dim end of the room carrying on their friendly conversation. The evening passed quickly.
It was time for Magaret and Dick to make their way home under the star-lit sky. As the door closed behind them we felt the gust of cold air and returned quickly to the warmth of the livingroom stove. There my sister and I donned our long warm nighties and matching night hats. We knelt on the icy bedroom floor to say our prayers. Mother listened to us each in turn. We soon felt cosy under our plump feather tick. We fell asleep feeling very content because we had had visitors that evening.
Submitted by: Mildred Bowers
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.