A Bird's Eye View of Teaching in the Late 1940s

by Olive Sanger

At the end of summer school in 1948 I was given my first teaching position. I would go to a two room Church of England school on the South Coast. My salary was to be $50 a month and “Board” was arranged at $25. Of course, there would be “augmentation”.

No roads connected the Avalon peninsula to the South Coast at that time so to reach my destination, I had to first travel from Brigus Station to Argentia by train and there connect with the coastal boat SS Baccalieu.

A severe hurricane delayed our departure from Argentia for two days and when we did finally sail the seas were still quite “choppy”. The voyage across Placentia Bay took two hours longer than usual and I experienced my first (and thankfully only) encounter with seasickness.

The town to which I was assigned was quite prosperous and predominantly Roman Catholic. They had a resident priest, a convent, and a rather large school by that period's standards. Our schools were in close proximity, and we were often invited to participate in special events. One event which really stood out was the annual Mardi Gras!

The priest was elderly and had served there for quite some time. He could frequently be seen walking around town and always wearing his cassock. Our children often went out of the way to meet him and say good morning. The boys were always tipping their caps. Remember when boys did that?

Our rector lived in another town, not far “as the crow flies” but to reach us he had to, literally, circumvent the entire Burin Peninsula. This was over a one lane dirt road. Thankfully there were few cars because if two vehicles met, one would likely have to “back up” a considerable distance to find an area wide enough to pass each other. As a result, the rector's visits were usually overnight on a once-a-month basis. Thus, it became the teacher's responsibility to attend to all other church events.

The principal was also the Lay Reader, holding services twice every Sunday. I was organist /choir director. Frequently at that time, getting a specific teaching position partially depended on your musical abilities. When there was a death in the congregation, our choir (and we had a robed one) was expected to attend the “wake” and sing appropriate hymns. On the afternoon of the funeral, school was closed because the principal had to conduct the service while I provided the music. Handel’s “Dead March in Saul” was always the postlude.

All in all, it was a wonderful period! It was also the year in which after much debate, we entered Confederation 1949.

(Reprinted with permission from the RTANL)