Some Selected Memories

by Joseph Stewart Ralph

I started teaching in a one-room school at Bareneed, Conception Bay, in 1953. That year, a polio epidemic delayed the opening of school until sometime in October. The polio vaccine had not yet been discovered. I had 18 students in grades primer to Grade VI, and two students in grade X. We all had a successful year, and I saved enough of my salary of $86 a month to go to Memorial University in September, 1954.

Bareneed was close enough to my home in Clarke’s Beach for me to commute daily on a bicycle, until school closed for the Christmas holidays. Then I boarded at Bareneed with Mr. and Mrs. Beecham from Christmas until Easter when I went back to commuting. Room and board at that time was $30 a month, and any weekend I wanted to go home, Mr. Beecham would drive me out to Coleys Point on his horse and sled so that I could catch a bus to Clarke’s Beach. I would get a taxi to take me back on Monday morning for $2.

My training to be a teacher at Bareneed had consisted of six weeks at the C-License summer school held at Prince of Wales College on LeMarchant Road in St. John’s. In the spring of 1953, I had given up my $150 a month job with the Post and Telegraph's to go to summer school to become a teacher. Summer school confirmed my belief that teaching was an exciting thing to do and a lot of fun. In later years, I used to say, only half in jest, that I did not know enough to do any real damage in the impossible teaching position I found myself. With about 40 lessons to prepare for each day, I spent hours every night preparing and marking but I thought that was the way things should be and did it cheerfully. In fact, out of my meager salary, I bought a typewriter, a Royal Portable Quiet Deluxe, and a desk for use at home in preparing lessons.

In one of my summer-school classes I had been told that a teacher should “lay down the rules” early in the school year. So, soon after school started, I wrote up and posted a long list of rules. Unfortunately, I had written some rules covering things that the students would never have done - like, no climbing trees to get to the toilet roof and then jumping off. This had been great fun at one of my former schools but hadn't arrived at Bareneed until I wrote that it shouldn't be done! Long before I retired in 1993, I had changed all the rules to one simple one; “Treat others the way you wish to be treated yourself”. I built up a lot of good memories and only a few bad ones in the 40 years from 1953 to 1993.

(Reprinted with permission from RTANL)