Friday, March 23, 2012

Remembering the Farm: Cavell, Leipzig and School Prayer

The one-room school in the now disappeared community of Cavell, where my father almost completed grade 8 and I completed grade 7, is now a museum in Wilkie, a small town about 15 minutes away (30 minutes when I was a kid).  My sister (who never attended Cavell) took pictures when she was there lately.  I was looking at them on FB, stole the two below and it got me thinking about my school days and the then non-issue of religion in schools.

My father was hunting crows eggs in the spring of his grade 8 year, fell out of a tree and broke his arm, so could not write the final exams.  The teacher gave him his grade on condition that he NEVER return to school. I managed to complete Grade 7. They closed the school in June of 1960 along with several other one room schools and we were bused to now disappeared community of Leipzig about 7 miles away where I took my Grades 8 to 12..

Leipzig was a Catholic community, mainly of Volga Germans and others from Germany directly.  There were a few Lutherans in the mix, I believe as there was a Luthern church in town. The Saskatchewan Mother House of the Sisters of Notre Dame was located in Leipzig and the Sisters were our school teachers.  The school was a Catholic school in the Public School system because the vast majority of kids were Catholic.  Religion was taught from 3:00 to 3:30 and we heathen Protestants could do our homework under the watchful eye of one Sister Martina.

Cavell was just a regular public school while Wilkie had a Catholic School under what was known as a Separate School Board and a public school under the Public School Board.

I had often wondered about the fuss today about so-called Christian Schools, where parents don't want their children going to a public school.  I finally realized that in my father's and my time in our part of Saskatchewan there were only Christian Schools - either Catholic or Protestant, with Protestant being the default public school type. Because there were no other religions in rural Saskatchewan.

Religion was not taught per se in the "Protestant" schools as in the Catholic schools but certainly the values were, more indirectly than deliberately.  And looking through my father's old readers and even my Grade 7 and 8 readers, there were excerpts from the KJV Bible which were taught as literature.

At Cavell, if my memory serves me correct (and I hope someone can verify as I am old and my memory sometimes recalls things that didn't happen), in the morning we stood at our desks and sang Oh Canada and said the Lord's Prayer (long version).  When we went to Leipzig, we gathered in the hall in the morning and sang Oh Canada and said the Lord's Prayer (short version).  It was not a problem for our parents because we all to a greater or lesser degree, subscribed to some version of Christianity.

I suspect that this held true for all parts of Canada at some time in their history.  However, as more people moved to Canada from all parts of the world, unless they were Catholic, their kids ended up in the Public School system effectively diluting the Protestant only make up.  So we have public schools with Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, JWs, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and two dozen other kinds I have never heard of along with people who don't believe in any kind of God or gods.

It is no longer one size fits all.  The world has changed and we have to change with it.  If there is going to be prayer in the schools, then everyone has to divide up into their own groups and pray their own prayers or else no prayers at all. Christmas is THE most important festival season in the Christian world.  School Christmas Concerts used to have bits and pieces about Christmas - carols and mangers and such.  Not any more.  I kind of miss it but recognize that public schools are for all students and must take into account the beliefs of all students as best as possible.

The folks that are hostile about all this, claiming an attack on Christianity etc., are just trying to sound righteous.  What they are really upset about is that the demographic make up of our country has changed and they don't like it.  But rural schools were simpler 50 years ago, I will admit.


  1. It was not very much different at Wascana School in Regina (a public school). We sang O Canada, said the Lord's Prayer (and sometimes sang God Save the Queen). I was was a year ahead of you.

  2. At public school in the 1960s we sang O Canada and/or God Save the Queen at morning exercises in the main hallway with all the classes marching in and out in lines (our principal was in the military.) But I don't remember saying the Lord's Prayer at school unless we did in individual classrooms depending on the teacher.

  3. Pretty much the same in the U.S. as well up until 1961 or 62 when prayer was taken out of public schools. We would recite the Pledge of Allegiance then the Lords prayer (can't remember short or long).
    Your classroom looks pretty much the same as ours except our desks were individual and movable. And I'll bet you even remember the smell of the place. Who could forget that?

    1. In Leipzig School our desks were individual and moveable too. Classroom smell varied by time of year. In winter the smell was coal and wood fired furnace in the basement. IN summer it was dust from the fields. Mondays it was the smell of weekend cleaning.

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