Donahoo School is located south of Wildwood, Alberta, in the Chip Lake area west of Edmonton. There were two schools; one was tiny and used from 1914-1935 and the second school was an average size for one room schools in Alberta. The newer school was used from 1936-1957 as a school and is still used to this day as a community hall and church. Today’s blog is about the school and a former student – whose mother once taught at Donahoo and other nearby schools – that I met in November 2020.
First School: 1914-1935
“The Donahoo School was built in spring of 1913 or 1914 … The School was about eighteen by twenty-four feet. The men who helped build the school did not have to pay school tax that year. Mr. Wm. Poaps, the first teacher, was hired for July and August. when he was not teaching in Edmonton during the summer holidays.”Carl Ivan Oberg
The history of the old school is told through these vignettes by people who were familiar with the school. I didn’t see the original school as it’s no longer on the site. It may have been moved or used for firewood. Joseph Zemp was the last teacher before the the old school building was replaced in 1935. The adjoining cloakroom was his living quarters for that year. In 1936 the present school and teacherage were built. Mr Zemp continued on as the Donahoo teacher until June 30, 1940.
“The building was too cold to hold school during the winter as you could see out through the logs”Mrs. Helge Rehn
Second School 1936-1957
Alice Leakvold taught at Donahoo School from 1951 to 1954. The significance of her time as a teacher in this school is that we met her son, Karl (or Carl) Leakvold when he passed by the school on his tractor. Karl lives and farms nearby and keeps a close watch on the school as well as tending the grounds as needed. He was happy to talk to us about stories from the school although most of them had to do with the strict discipline that was handed out by the school and/or the parents of the students. Karl said he received all his formal education at this school except for grade nine as he had to go to Wildwood for that year. Karl added that the school gets lots of use even now. It’s used as a community hall for various events and is available for private rental. It’s also used for church services every second Sunday as can be seen from the sign shown below. The sign also shows how tired and frustrated the locals are with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had no school in the winter, school started May 1 and ended August 31. The classes were from grade one to eight; one or two children in each grade. It took a few summers to struggle through each grade, which meant most of us never got past grade three. Some days were missed because of heavy rain and mud or farm work. When it was wet we carried our shoes until the last puddle where we rinsed our feet and put on our shoes – many times when the weather was nice we went barefooted”.Mary Hampshire
I obtained all of the information in this blog about Donahoo School from Volume I of, “Where The River Lobstick Flows”, (pages 115 to 120) with the exception of the information obtained first-hand from Karl Leakvold. All monochrome images are from the Lobstick book and all colour images were captured by me, Glen Bowe.
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