Bowness School in the 1930s

By Dorothy (Wallace) Short

The principal, Graham Semmens, taught grades V to VIII, and Evelyn Roberts was in charge of grade I to IV. Mr. Semmens was an excellent teacher, with a good understanding of how to teach several grades. He expertly shared his time for teaching each grade, stopping now and then to give instructions such as "Grade VII, get out your arithmetic books and start Chapter 5". Also, he did his best to get his pupils involved in many activities.

With the first snowfall he encouraged us all to go out for recess, and taught us a new way to play "Fox and Geese", laying out a course that went round and round in concentric circles, like the elements on an electric stove. He was so good at organizing this game that whenever we had fresh snow we entreated him to come outside and join us, when he no doubt had many things he wanted to do instead during the recess break.

Bowness SchoolWhen spring came he encouraged us to collect wildflowers and bring them to school for identification. He kept a running list in the corner of one of the blackboards. But perhaps what he did best was tell us stories on Friday afternoons. One year he recounted orally the entire book of "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. This was so popular that during this time you could hear a pin drop in the room as, week by week, we followed the exploits of Jean Valjean.

Looking back, I have many fond memories of those years. Learning in a largely "rural" school, with multi-grade classrooms teaches students how to work on their own, to be self-starters, and to be resourceful in the interests of all the students. Many of us made friendships that have lasted to this day. We all have memories of an era that is gone.

The histories of the Bowness Schools are told in the Society’s first book, “Bowness:  Our Village in the Valley”.

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