The Valley I Loved

by A.M. (Nan) House

It was a rural peaceful scene. The fields ripening with vegetables, the sparkling streams winding through the meadows, and the usual farmyard noises all provided a dream-like haven midst the realities of war.

This describes the Codroy Valley in the forties. (Where else would such tranquility prevail?). It was here that I embarked on my teaching career.

As the train slowly approached the station, it was probably the look of apprehension on my face which prompted Professor Shaw to approach me and ask me if I was a first-time teacher. He offered me some advice which I followed to the day I retired. He said, “A teacher in a classroom should try to keep a step ahead. I call this step ‘distinction’.”

In this valley I came to love, I was particularly happy with my first teaching assignment, although today I ask myself, was this ‘distinction’ step the correct approach? Were we all wrong in the 30s and 40s?

In the midst of this peace in the valley, the occasional sound of planes was a grim reminder that all was not right in the world. About this time, the sinking of the Caribou on October 13th, 1942 was a realistic factor which concerned us. War was right on our doorstep!

In this little community, spearheaded by a few dedicated volunteers, supplies of knitted and homemade clothing were shipped overseas via the Newfoundland Red Cross. However, despite the rumblings of war there prevailed a happy atmosphere in the area. Most of the people were related, and a real sense of concern for one another seemed to be evident in every facet of living.

I remember trying to make conversation with an elderly lady who apparently had difficulty expressing herself in English as she was of French origin. I must have succeeded to some extent, for later when someone asked her what she thought of the teacher, she replied, “Mrs. Skoo… I like her, she is full of ASK,” meaning I was inquisitive, and I certainly was! Here was a new world opening up to me.

Gaelic, the language of the Scots, was also in evidence and there was no shortage of Scottish music. The children were enthusiastic and interested in school and so were the parents. This provided a very rewarding situation for me. Those were happy days.

I still enjoy meeting some of my former pupils who helped to make my first year of teaching a memorable one, and when they say, “Hi Mrs. Skoo,” I know what they mean.

Reprinted with permission from RTANL