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Green Glade School

Alberta

This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Harry Gordon Nickel (1940-2021)

Prior to 2015, I was primarily photographing old and historic churches as well as our own family activities. Strangely, our travels had rarely taken us past any old one room country schools. That changed significantly during our trip to the Wainwright and Provost areas of Alberta. Our first stop was an old but well maintained school south of Wainwright. It was a special place to explore because it was open to the public and had recently been used for a reunion. The reunion meant that it was full of the accoutrements of school life: desks, books on the shelves, etc. This of course made the school very real for our twins and quite enjoyable to photograph. That experience left me hooked on photographing old schools so I wanted to see more, lots more. In those early days I naively thought there were just three or four one room schools remaining in Alberta. I have since photographed dozens of old schools (maybe hundreds) although I’ve never actually counted how many that I’ve photographed.

The location of Green Glade School in Alberta.

Our trip east continued to the general area of Provost near the border with Saskatchewan. I didn’t know it then but the Provost area is rich in history and historic buildings, be they schools, churches, houses, barns or other structures. We drove down some country roads to see what there was to see and came across a unique looking old barn. It had an arched roof, cement block walls and was built into a hill that allowed easy access to the upper level. This barn had a lot of character, so I just had to get a photo of it. I hadn’t realized at that moment how excited our teenage twins were to get out of the car. Once we stopped they got out of the vehicle and started to run towards the barn. Naturally they needed to burn off some energy so I called out to them saying “stay out of the old building” and let them get in a good run. You can see an image of that fine old barn below. This barn no longer exists. I’ve heard that a storm weakened the roof to the point where it just came down. It was a beautiful barn but no structure lasts forever

An arched roof Provost area barn in 2015

I was told that this barn had been used for barn dances back in the day. It looks like the kind of a place where people would have a lot of fun. At least the photo above looks that way.

A one-eyed barn in 2015
The Barn on the hill in 2015
This is the same barn as shown above but the image was taken five years later in 2020.

Here is where we met Harry Nickel. He was driving by the barn when he spotted us so he pulled over to see what all of the fuss was about. He knew the barn’s owner so Harry said he was just checking to see that everything was okay (that’s country code for making sure we were not city folks up to no good). I explained that we were admiring the old barn but that I really wanted to find one room schools. Well, old Harry said “I know where there is another old school and it’s just a short drive away. It’s the school that I attended when I was a little boy and, if you want me to, I will even unlock it so we can see inside”. How could we say no to that offer? We followed his truck and after driving a few kilometers down the road we stopped at Harry’s School; otherwise known as Green Glade School. True to his word, Harry unlocked the school and let us in. He said that they just recently replaced the roof. They used metal so that it would last a long time as the regular asphalt shingles constantly needed replacing or repair. Harry was worried about who would take care of the old school when he and a few other of the old timers were gone. Using durable materials such as steel on the roof is certainly one way to ensure that this school will not soon suffer the same fate as the arched roof barn shown above. Even the outhouse building received a steel roof; I don’t think that I’ve ever seen that done before.

That’s Harry to the right of the school

About Harry

Harry Gordon Nickel was born May 29, 1940 in Provost, Alberta to Henry and Margaret Nickel. He attended Green Glade School for grades 1-5 and then Provost School from grades 6-9. He kept busy by helping neighbours with their chores, going to community dances, and working with his father. In 1964, Harry purchased the Nickel family farm that his father had homesteaded in 1906. He married Karen Jeffcoat of Edgerton, Alberta in 1967 and they started a new family on the farm (source: excerpt from Harry’s obituary).

As I read about Harry’s family in the local history book, I discovered that his mother, Margaret, also attended Green Glade School. As a student she enjoyed the dances and just having a lot of fun. You can tell she enjoyed a fun night out based on the comment below.

Margaret Nickel, Russell ‘s sister, tells us that the young crowd used to go in a large sleigh load to dances. On the way there, everyone would be singing and talking. On the way home, someone driving, would tip the sleigh over for excitement- -an accident- -on purpose.

Early furrows: a story of our early pioneers in Provost, et al- Beatrice and Russel McNall, page 267 (full citation at end of blog post)

The local history book also stated that Harry’s father bought what is believed to be the first homestead in the Green Glade area. He wasn’t the first homesteader – that was the Lloyd family – but he bought the farm from the Lloyd family.

Now I understood why Harry was so attached to this school. Not only did Harry and his siblings attend Green Glade, but his mother (and probably his father) did too. Actually their connection to the school goes even deeper. As you can read in the quote below, Harry’s father donated the land for the school. Eventually Harry took over the farm so that means that Harry owned this land where the school sits (typically farmland donated for a school was not subdivided out or literally transferred to the county. Rather it was made available for the exclusive use of the school until such time as the school is removed or torn down).

In 1911, there were a few children in the district, so Henry (Nickel) was happy to donate an acre of land, on which they built Green Glade School. As more settlers came in, the school was enlarged. Since it was central, it also served as a church, and social centre, as it does today.

Early furrows: a story of our early pioneers in Provost – page 216

The local history book states, at a different location, that it was James Carter’s homestead where the school was built. I haven’t been able to reconcile the discrepancy as to the original ownership of the land where the school still stands.

Harry was the perfect ambassador for Green Glade School. We were quite fortunate to have met him on that sunny day. Without Harry we probably would eventually have found and photographed the Green Glade School but then it would be just an old building whose stories I might never have discovered. Instead, I met a second-generation alumnus and am the richer for it.

Green Glade School’s History

Green Glade school was built in 1913 and opened in 1914. Here’s a quote from the local history books about heating the school and naughty students.

Green Glade was heated by a round sheet iron stove at one side of the school. When the wind blew hard and the temperature dropped to 20 or 30 degrees below, Fahrenheit, it was necessary to push the desks toward the stove. In mild weather the desks were pushed the other way. A lean-to coal shed was attached to the barn, wood and coal were carried from there to the school. The school desks were in units and bolted to one by four inch rails from four to six feet long, these at being hinged to tip up, and the seat back formed part of the desk behind. The crack where the seat and back joined together was dandy for giving the boy or girl in front a poke with a ruler.

Early furrows: a story of our early pioneers in Provost – page 195

In 1930, the school house was enlarged due to the need for more student space. A full basement with a good coal furnace were also added.

In the early century a school was never just a school. From the time that this school was built in 1913, it also served the community as a centre for dances, Christmas concerts, box socials, and card parties. The ladies’ Happy Home Helpers Club met there for some years. On Sundays it was the church. The first ministers were mostly Presbyterian students in the summer months.

Green Glade opened in 1914 with six students and closed in 1952 with nine students. Once the school was closed the students were bussed to Provost or Chauvin depending on where they lived.

Images of Green Glade School

My images were taken in 2015 and 2020. The monochrome image below is dated 1980.

Green Glade School 1980. This picture was found inside the school. Photographer unknown.
This is how Green Glade School looked in 2015
Green Glade School in 2020
Green Glade School in 2020
Green Glade School in 2020
The place to get those hands washed and ready for the teacher’s inspection.
Green Glade School in 2020
Inside of Green Glade School in 2020
Even the outhouse was fitted with the expensive metal roof.

Many old schools have a song that the kids sang regularly. In the case of Green Glade School one of the Nickel family even made it into the lyrics. It was written to the music of “Yes we have no Bananas”. Pauline Keats, a teacher at Green Glade composed it sometime in the early 1920’s. If you want to hear the music that these lyrics were written to, click here.

Yes, we all live in Green Glade,
Yes, we all live in Green Glade,
We all live in Green Glade, today,
Yes, we all live in Green Glade,
We all live in Green Glade. Hurray!

There's Nickel, and Jacksons and Risely and Beatty
There's Naylor and White and Gray,
Then there's Rud, Emsley, Lee, Russel, 
Hummel, Miles, Austin, Nent Burdock,
Bratton, Gillespie, Dancey, Emery,

We all live in Green Glade, Today,
Yes, we all live in Green Glade--
We all live in Green Glade.  Hurray!

Wrap-up

There won’t be any new names added to the school song but that’s okay. The main thing is that this school was well maintained and should last a long time, thanks especially to the steel roof. That is just what Harry wanted.

Citations

If you visit the structures shown in this blog, or any other old and potentially abandoned structure, please respect the landowners” rights and obtain their permission to access and photograph their structures. Always exercise caution when visiting abandoned buildings as there are potential dangers such as crumbling structures, deep wells hidden by grass, and even spores of mould in the air.

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5 thoughts on “Green Glade School

  1. Hi Glen, Tried to post this comment on the blog, but will have to log in to WordPress apparently. In the meantime, see below,

    After a life spent in support of his community, I’m sure that Harry Nickel’s friends and neighbors saw his obituary as a fitting way to close out a life well lived. Your meeting with him was a great example of the value of chance encounters. Ron

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ron, it’s great to see your comments on the blog.

      Like

  2. Its so nice when happenstance leads you in the right direction Glen. With all the things that had to happen for you to meet Harry Nickel, it was meant to be. As one who went toa one room school house, this brings back memories. Too bad about the barn, but a lot of these big old barns have reached their sell by date. Hope all is well and that this darn snow stops soon. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Allan. We’ve met a lot of interesting people in our travels to out of the way places. Rarely have we encountered anything less than a warm welcome. Speaking of warm, I’ve shoveled my driveway more times than I can remember and it’s only November!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is crazy weather but I guess we knew we would pay for the nice fall. It is supposed to be -23 C tomorrow morning with a windchill of -34C. How can it be both cold and snowy? Stay warm. Allan

        Liked by 1 person

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