We Made Hartney

We Made Hartney


Grade School Teacher Blanche Hunter



THE TEACHER IN THE HARTNEY SCHOOL with the longest tenure was Miss Blanche Hunter, who came to the town with her family when her father bought the Butchart hardware store in 1894. From that time until 1916 she taught the primary room and was a profound influence for good manners and discipline on all the grades of the school.

Blanche Hunter had a slight, erect figure of average height, and oval face with fine eyes and beautifully arched eyebrows. She could express approval or pleasure with a slow smile or her displeasure by a straightening of her firm lips. Her hair was beautifully arranged high on her head and this arrangement added dignity to her appearance. But Blanche Hunter needed not high-piled hair to give her dignity. Dignity was the essence of her being and it impressed her pupils while they were in her classes, and for all their lives.

She was never an intimate friend to her pupils, but remained a sort of deity whose approbation they strove with all their childish powers to win, whose smile was their eagerly sought reward and whose disfavour made their lives miserable indeed. She made learning easy and she made her pupils feel that to be ignorant was the worst fate that could befall them. Her approach was ever positive and sure. The large band of Hartney folk who look back to their first school days under Miss Hunter’s supervision are unanimous in acclaiming her a great teacher and a powerful factor in the creation of what is fine in their lives.

Adapted from The Mere Living, page 121.

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

A teacher’s duties in the late 1800s and early 1900s were many, varied and difficult. Many teachers walked a mile or more to work every morning, and home in the evening through farmer’s fields, herds of cows, rainstorms, or blizzards. Some had the luxury of riding horses for lengthy distances.

Upon arrival at school, the new teacher drew pails of drinking and washing water from the well, then set them up just inside the front door of the school. If it was a cold morning she would gather wood from the woodpile and start a fire. If it was hot she would see to it to open the windows and door. She might sweep the floor and wipe off the rough-hewn plank chairs and desks. She would check to make sure the “privies” or outhouses were tidy and sanitary, and make sure that her black-laquered plywood blackboard was washed.

Next, she dealt with the arrival of her students, many of them immature and ignorant. The male students could be much larger than she, and even older in years—and some resented being there at all, away from farm work. There could be jeers and jibes, truancy, and general disobedience. Many 19th-century female teachers complained that teaching was especially hard when “big boys” flirted, teased or defied them.

The curriculum usually included reading, writing, basic arithmetic, a little geography and history. Books were scarce and teaching tools few. The texts often took the form of moral tracts or primers of childish virtues and sometimes children were even asked to bring whatever books were at home, such as an almanac or old textbooks.

The blackboard proved essential as she printed and wrote lessons while students copied notes onto slates. Most students had to furnish their own supplies including writing slates and chalk. It would be some years before scribblers and pencils came into use, and only when there was money to buy them. In rural schoolhouses, apart from overcrowding, practical solutions had to be sought to overcome darkness and poor ventilation.


Hartney School, built in 1892 and replaced in 1954.

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