We Made Hartney

We Made Hartney


School Inspector Albert West



ALBERT COOK WEST came from Nova Scotia to take his Normal school training in Regina and teach in the west. In 1910 he became principal of Hartney school and became a powerful force in the lives of his pupils and fellow citizens.

A square-built compact made of average height, A.C. West had black hair, kindly gray eyes under heavy, bushy, black eye-brows, a large nose that had been broken in his youth so that it bent downward and rested almost on his upper lip. His mobile mouth could smile easily or be drawn into a grim, straight line as occasion warranted. Because of his broken nose he had a perpetual sniff that tended on first acquaintance to annoy his listeners, but when his personality shone through his appearance, the sniff was forgotten. The secret of his influence in school and community was his genuine interest in people as individuals, whose possibilities he could assess in a realistic common-sense manner. Starting with the personality he found in each of his students, he built upon it, and brought out of each individual in his classes the potentialities he recognized within him.

A.C. West was keenly alive to the relation that should exist between home and school and endeavoured to make the parents aware of their part in their children’s development. To this end he wrote letters and articles to the Hartney Star explaining what the school aimed to accomplish and urging that the parents to support the teacher’s efforts.

In one letter he dealt with school gardens which were begun as a project under the department of education in 1914, to acquaint Manitoba citizens with the soil of the province. He explained the value of working, each with his own plot, watching plant growth and the result, in sound vegetables, and of good gardening methods.

Mr. West was a believer in healthy bodies to house healthy minds, and emphasized physical drill, marching and organized games. When he found no musical instruments in the school he approached the school board and persuaded them to advance the money to purchase a piano which he promised the school would pay for by entertainment in the following three years.

The first of these concerts was in March, 1911 and consisted of drills, marches, choruses and a few individual items such as a violin trio by Grade 7 and 8 girls. At that time the school colours of purple and gold were adopted and with a talk from Mr. West on “espirt d corps,” a real school spirit of co-operation for the corporate good began to pervade the classes and fire the individuals. After three such concerts the piano was paid for.

With the piano secured, singing and drills became part of the training of all students. Mr. West had himself attended cadet training classes in his holidays and was prepared to teach what he had learned there. Before long, lines of marching children were placed under the command of older boys and girls who learned to march, heads up and shoulders squared, in single file and two, and fours at the commands of their student leaders for half an hour’s exercise before starting classes.

With the co-operation of Miss Ella Finch, teacher of Grades 6-8, Mr. West secured an exhibition of art for display at a school fair. He and Miss Finch discussed the pictures and the artists and enabled the school children to catch a glimpse of the beauty of the old masters.

Before he had been in the town a year, Mr West had organized three patrols of Boy Scouts and enlisted the support of the men of the town. He thought the scout law and regulations so valuable that he applied their principles to the whole school and brought a wholesome spirit to bear on girls as well as boys.

The vacant room at the school became a gymnasium, when the scout leaders dragged parallel and horizontal bars and a trapeze from a storage corner where they had lain for years, and made them fit for use again.

During the years of Mr. West’s principalship, courses in elementary science required the students of Grade IX to observe and record the growth of six plants and the habits of six birds. Under his leadership his pupils of successive Grade IX’s wandered through the woods along the river bank, learned to step softly, to observe closely, and to know the joy that the woods hold for the observant.

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