New book ‘Tales of the Mindemoya Old School’ published

Joanne Smith holds up a copy of the recently published book, ‘Tales from the Mindemoya School.’

MINDEMOYA—A Mindemoya couple, (along with the support of many other people who attended or have recollections and tales of the school building and contributed their stories), has published a new book, “Tales From the Mindemoya Old School.”

“It was really fun to put this book together,” stated Joanne Smith, who wrote a few of her own stories and transcribed the stories other people would provide her. As well, many people forwarded their own written stories for the book. Her husband, Jim, helped with arranging the many photographs in the book and layout. “Everyone who joined in this by providing stories or photos was very positive.”

“The book brings the building and the people who went there to life and for those that don’t know the history of the building, it provides a little bit of the personality of the school and the characters who attended school there,” said Ms. Smith.

“This little book is dedicated to all who have shared their stories and their love for this grand old building,” the book dedication reads. “These memories and dreams have created a place much more than bricks and stone. Their passion to preserve this historically significant building will be their legacy and ours for generations to come.”

“Jim and I have been working on this book for the past two years,” Ms. Smith told The Expositor. She attended the school as a child while Jim spent his first year of high school in the building.

“We want to preserve the history of the building,” said Mr. Smith. “There is 100 years of history there, and we thought it would be good, historical speaking, to put this together and have it published.”

“The book is full of memories, and the stories are wonderful,” stated Ms. Smith. “For instance, I was able to get information for a story from my uncle (the late Allan Tustian) about when he went to the school, and which he had also used in his biography. Another story was from the late Bert Hill who wrote his own story about the school and the building. Harold Dewar wrote the story, “The Best Four Years of My Life.”

A lot of people who provided stories for the book brought up the Christmas concerts and the many other events that took place at the school, the day World War Two ended, the teachers they had while they were in school, along with the lifelong friends they made, some of the  pranks that students would play on each other, academic and sports achievements and much, much more.

“When I contacted people to ask them about their recollections of the school, they would either write their own stories and send them to me, or they would tell me their stories and I would write them out,” said Ms. Smith. “We were able to find photographs from the Central Manitoulin Historical Society.”

“Allen McQuarrie of Gore Bay visited us one day, and gave us a copy of the first yearbook for the school, 1923,” said Ms. Smith. “It’s the neatest little book, and has a leather cover on it. There is a great picture of Farquhar Anglin’s grade nine class in the book.”

“The yearbook was a gift from Allen, he thought we should have it for the book,” said Ms. Smith. “He was so delighted we would use it and it was nice of him to think of us.”

“In the book, there is a glimpse of downtown Mindemoya in the 1950s, and I described the businesses and places on the road and the characters around then,” said Ms. Smith.

The book provides the evolution of school busses used to transport students to school, including a horse drawn buggy with a pot-bellied stove in the middle. There are also stories of the drivers themselves. 

Mr. Geiger was the Department of Education School Inspector for all schools on Manitoulin Island. “Kids thought that when he showed up, that they were being inspected, but it was the teachers who he was inspecting,” said Ms. Smith.

Ms. Smith pointed out leeks figure prominently in the book, “if you went into school after eating a leek you would stink to high heaven and could get kicked out of class.”

While he never tried it, Mr. Smith recalled that students would eat a leek before going into school to try and get kicked out of school.

“When I started at the school, if you had eaten a leek, you could get kicked out of school for the day, or everyone would be made to eat leeks, or you might have to stand in the cloakroom for the whole day,” said Ms. Smith.

The Smiths are members of the Friends of the Mindemoya Old School (FOMOS), and Ms. Smith said, “I have wanted to do this book for a while now. Mindemoya has changed so much over the years. We think it is important for people to remember how wonderful the school building used to be and share the many wonderful stories that people have of the building and the people who attended the school, the teachers, custodians and bus drivers. When I called people for their stories and what they remembered, they were all excited about providing information.”

Ms. Smith pointed out the Mindemoya Old School did not have a Kindergarten class. “Students who attended the school started in Grade 1, like I did, and I was there for eight years. Eventually the school was getting too small and couldn’t accommodate all the students. Grade nine of the school was in the nearby community centre, in the basement. Teachers had to go from one school to the community centre, and a lot of time, this is when all heck broke loose when students had a few minutes without teacher supervision.”

She noted Mrs. (Kay) Morrow was probably the most beloved teacher of all. “There is a lovely story about her in the book.”

“There is a great picture of Norm Morrell when he became principal of the school at 21 years of age.  In the photo, there were four women (teachers) around him. The school had managed without a man as a principal for a long time. One of the things he did during his time at the school was encourage having school sports teams travel to other locations on the Island to play other schools,” said Ms. Smith.

Ms. Smith noted that there are about 100 stories in the book. She had contacted many people in the community and other areas to collect stories for the book. “It would sometimes take a while to get people comfortable enough to open up. So, for example, I would call someone and ask them, ‘do you remember any of the Christmas concerts the school put on?’  And when I posted on Facebook that we were writing this book, because of this I connected with people who I wouldn’t actually know from places like British Columbia who would call or contact me about their stories of the school.”

“We’re hoping that local people will be interested in the book,” said Ms. Smith. “We belong to the Friends of the Mindemoya Old School (FOMOS), and so, once we cover the costs of having the book published (300 copies were printed), we will be donating the rest of the money made from the sales of the book to the FOMOS cause.

The 107- page book was printed by O.J. Graphix Inc. of Espanola. Copies of the book are available at The Manitoulin Expositor for $25.