Reunion recalls positives of small schools

Christopher Gooding
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The alumni of Brookdale’s one-room school reunited in their former hall of education, where photos of the past, memories and recollections were traded. On display during the reunion included a board found in the Brookdale Recreation Centre’s attic – home of the former school – signed and dated by students as far back as the 1940s.

BROOKDALE – There’s something about Brookdale’s recreation centre most Nova Scotians recognize.

Crowned with a new patio and vinyl siding, its shape is the undeniable outline of the one-room school, long since retired, but immediately recognizable for dotting the countryside between townships.

And rightly so.

The centre was once one of these one-room schools but was recently given new life, as a rec centre where the school’s alumni gathered to reminisce and stay in touch.

“We have a few here that turn 86 years-old this year,” The Citizen-Record’s correspondent Jean Miller said. “That’s why we wanted to have it this year. They’re the oldest one’s left.”

The building stopped operating as a one-school classroom in 1960, after opening its doors in 1894. Still, the reunion garnered a large turnout of alumni who hadn’t shared the space in 53 years.

Betty Thompson, whose career in education began in this very building, has fond memories of the school and still has her report cards from when Grade Primary students would sit beside Grade 10 students and learn together. Some of her memories are still of the school and what it looked like back then.

“There used to be a big stove in the middle of the room. My brother, who went to school here, he and I took turns keeping the fire going,” Thompson said.

Students entered the front of the building to find their seats facing towards them, Thompson said. To the back, two large windows wee covered to keep the sun out – and offer some privacy to any student making their way out back to one of the two outhouses. To the left of the seating was a long chalkboard and students would have to turn their desks to read their lessons, from Primary all the way up to, sometimes, Grade 11.

As a teacher, Thompson taught in one-room schools as well as modern schools, and says today that there were benefits to the one-school room that won’t be seen again.

“You started in Primary and by the time you got to Grade 9 you overheard the same thing over and over again that you retained a lot of it,” Thompson said. “There are benefits to larger schools, like art and music, but on a more primary scale.”

And recess was an adventure. There was little money for equipment, one alumn said, so recess was dedicated to specific activities, sometimes overtaking indoor class time.

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