Old photo conjures happy childhood memories

 In Letters, Opinion

I wish to thank Elaine Lightheart for submitting the picture of the class of 1961 at Corn Hill School in the August 14 edition of The Echo. I’d also like to thank my cousin, Tom Macham, for sending me a copy of this edition.
I do have this picture as I, and my brother John Macham, were two of the students pictured. I haven’t looked at those old school pictures for a very long time and it brought back many fond memories.
The Corn Hill School opened in 1870 and closed in 1962. My grandmother, Jennie Grice (later Mrs. Robert Macham) taught there for the 1897-1898 school year and was paid $225 at the end of the school year. Their children, Dorothy, Howard, Edith, and Douglas (my father) all attended Corn Hill. Edith became a teacher and taught there from 1923-1927. Elwin Lightheart was the last caretaker of the school and was paid $215 a year plus a Christmas bonus. The school had no running water so the washrooms were nothing more than open pit outhouses but were located in the front entrance area. I don’t remember there ever being a smell so they were well maintained. The girls’ washroom was on the right and the boys’ was on the left. The school was heated by an oil furnace that was situated in the center back of the main school room. We had a large crock with a tap that held our drinking water. I can still see Elwin Lightheart walking from his grandfather’s house across the road, carrying a pail of water to fill the crock. It looked so heavy and he did this every morning.
During the first week of school, all the students spent a morning cleaning the schoolyard of sticks and leaves. In the afternoon we would all take a short walk down to a small creek behind Ray Coe’s farm which was located next door to the school. There was a small swimming hole there and we would spend the rest of the afternoon jumping and swimming in the water. Of course one of us would, on occasion, come out of the water only to find a blood sucker attached to our leg but we would just pick it off and go right back in the water. During the fall and spring we would play baseball with the older students teaching the younger ones how to play. We would also play jacks against the school wall, something I never could master. There was the rare occasion when Brenda Longmire would ride her horse to school and let it graze in the school yard. I don’t believe we were allowed to sit on the horse but we all loved to pet her and pick grass for her to eat out of our hands.
In the winter, we would build snow forts and have snowball fights. We also played fox and goose on tracks we made in the snow. Before going back into the school we would sweep or brush the snow off each other. I can still hear the sizzle of snow when we put our mitts on top of the furnace to dry. We would also put on a Christmas concert. My father would borrow or rent long planks and set them up as our stage. Mrs. Ribble?, a piano teacher from Creemore, would come by and help us practice songs for the concert.
The school room was always full of parents, aunts, uncles, and neighbours for the night of the concert. I remember one year I had to sing a solo. I was so nervous that my knees were actually knocking together. These concerts were very special occasions.
Even though the school was very primitive even in those days, I would not have wanted to miss the experience. We all got along (well most of the time), we looked after each other and we had fun, during and after school.
I finished grade seven at Corn Hill and then it closed and I went to New Lowell Elementary School for Grade 8. It was nice too and was certainly a good preparation for high school.
As I read this edition of The Creemore Echo, I noticed a few names I recognized even though so much has changed since I lived in the area. Most notably was an in memoriam notice for my brother John and a letter to the editor written by a relative on my mother’s side, John Miller.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and concerns, I was unable to go ‘back home’ for a vacation this year. By receiving The Echo and seeing that one picture of my 1961 classmates, I felt that a little bit of ‘back home’ had come to me.
So thanks for the memories everyone.
Nancy (Macham) Conrad,
Nova Scotia.

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