By the 1950s, a pupil could obtain the "highest standard of education" up to the first year of university right in Chapleau, according to an article by Lyle McAdam.
He added: "... let me tell you thats this is an advantage not accorded to many pupils in towns the size of Chapleau."
Lyle was the son of Mr. and Mrs. W.R. McAdam, and after his death, Mr. McAdam sent an article he had written on the history of education in Chapleau to the Chapleau Post.
He wrote in the article "Since education is one of the most important duties of the present day and since Ontario holds foremost place in its method of education," he decided to do article on its history in Chapleau. The newspaper article is included in the Richard Brownlee papers but there is no indication if it was published elsewhere.
About 1886, a school was started in the vestry of the first Roman Catholic Church which was situated where Collins Home Furniture store at Lorne and Birch streets is today.
The article noted there were 15 to 20 pupils and each paid a monthly fee. "Instead of modern seats, they had long home-made desks and benches, each of which seated three, possibly four pupils. Each pupil didn't need a separate desk in which to keep his or her books because exercise books in those days were very costly and most pupils used only a common slate."
This school closed down and in the Fall of 1889 "a big tent was pitched" beside the present Trinity United Church where the Manse was later located.
"When Winter came a huge box stove was set up in the centre, while the snow was banked up as high as possible outside.
"In the Summer, it became very hot in the tent, as one can readily imagine because even yet one becomes uncomfortably hot in school. To overcome this, the teacher took the pupils, boys and girls alike, back to about where Lansdowne Street is now, but small trees and set them up on the sunny side of the tent for shade."
I just can't resist -- no snow days back in those days, or heat days either!
This school closed and it wasn't until May 1891 that Chapleau's first public school opened. It was located on Pine Street across from where Chapleau High School was eventually located. Lyle wrote that it had 19 students but by 1893, attendance had increased to 100 and another room was added.
The old desks were discarded and "new" double seats were installed. "On the teacher's desk the old handbell rested, and last but not least. the water pail and its little tin cup stood on a chair in the corner. In t hose days pupils couldn't go into the hall for a drink and incidentally, for a short or perhaps long chat."
I can't help but wonder if the handbell was the same one used at the public school during my years as a pupil there from 1947 (I think) to 1955.
He noted: "The girls took turns in the sweeping and dusting the rooms while the boys took turns keeping the fire on. Often ink bottles would freeze and then were placed on the stove to thaw. At times the cork of one would blow out and the ceiling would be spattered with ink.
"One boy put a small cartridge into the stove to try and scare the girls when it exploded. It is needless to say he did scare the girls -- and some of the boys as well."
By 1901 that school was deemed to be too small, and a new building which eventually became part of the old CHS on Pine Street was constructed. It had four rooms in the beginning. In 1910 a separate school was opened where Cedar Grove Lodge is today.
By 1914, the year the Town Hall was opened, and a "continuation" (high school) class was held in it.
By 1922, the former public school building on Pine was under construction and opened in February 1923, and the separate school was expanding too. The old public school down the street became the high school. By 1925, it was added to and renovated and became an "up-to-date" high school which served the community until 1966 when it was relocated to its present location.
Lyle McAdam's article is consistent with other reports on early education in Chapleau including one by George Evans, in Snapshots of Chapleau's Past; a major report by J.M. Shoup, and 'Pioneering in Northern Ontario' by Vince Crichton.
Pine Street became the education centre of Chapleau -- now all those schools have been relocated. Photos are from the Rene Hackstetter and Gemma Ouellet Collection, and thanks to Margaret Rose and Bobby Fortin for the Richard Brownlee papers. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org