Mum did not need to make a second call to breakfast on this morning. Cliff and I were both up and dressed before she had finished cooking the pancakes. Cliff had on a white shirt with a red plaid tie and his dress pants.
I was wearing a red velveteen dress that I had picked from the Eatons Catalogue. I had watched the mails for days, waiting for that package to arrive and worried they might substitute a green one. Mum tied a big red bow in my hair and made some waves with the crimping iron.
We were so excited about today being the Christmas School Closing Programme.
Cliff was to give the welcoming recitation. He kept saying it over and over. I was the leader for a part of the musical drill. I kept marching around the kitchen practicing my turns. I had heard Mum go over Ken's recitation, "T'was the Night Before Christmas" so many times that I knew it off by heart. When I think about it, I am amazed at how calm Mum kept through all this commotion before breakfast.
Everyone arrived at school dressed in their best clothes. During the morning, we had our final practice and waited impatiently for one o'clock to come.
The room soon filled to capacity with relatives and friends. We lined up for the singing of "God Save The King." And then Cliff stepped forward and gave his ‘Welcome' without a mistake.
As the old wind-up record player squealed out Jingle Bells, I led my group through the Musical Drill. I knew that Mum was watching my every move and hoping I wouldn't make an error.
Just as the programme was ending, we could always count on the stomping of feet in the cloakroom to announce the arrival of good Old Saint Nick.
Santa's voice sounded a lot like Wilfred Hanlon's for the years I was in grade three, four and five. In grade six, seven and eight, Santa Claus took on the mannerism of Buddy Titus.
Before the visitors left they were asked to sign the School Register and then everyone went merrily out the door.
It was not until I started teaching that I became aware of the work that went into keeping the register and the stress it caused. It was to be kept in the top drawer of the teacher's desk. It was the first thing the inspector reached for when he visited the classroom.
In September, I would sit with fountain pen in hand and carefully record the name and particulars of each student. Twice a day, the roll was called. I had to be ever so careful in making those neat little strokes to show the child was present or a letter symbol to signify the reason for the student's absence.
Many a dark cloud hung over a teacher at this joyous Christmas Season as she balanced the Register. It was my understanding that the Register was sent along with the Return Sheet to the Minister of Education's desk at the end of each school year. Since so much emphasis was put on ‘keeping' the Register, I felt certain I would lose my licence if I did not meet the expectations of the powers to be.
Ethel E. Morrison, formerly of Titusville, phoned me a short while ago and asked me to drop in to see her as she had a gift for me. As Harold drove me to visit her, I kept wondering what this present might be. Can you imagine my surprise, when she handed me the Register of Titusville School for 1956 - 1957 that I had so carefully filled out in my first year of teaching? It had not been sent to the Minister of Education's desk for his eyes to scan but had been taken to the home of the school secretary and from there had found its way to Ethel's attic.
School Registers hold a wealth of information. I particularly enjoy looking at the visitors who signed their names. It is interesting to note the absentees for certain seasons of the year.
Teachers were not only blessed with doing Registers, there were also Return Sheets, which were a summary of the information from the register, to be completed and sent to the District Office. Many of these Return Sheets have been microfilmed and are at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives. The Saint John Free Public Library has several reels of school returns.
Although computers have changed the way registers and return sheets are kept today, you will find lots of information for your family members, in the old handwritten registers and school returns of yesteryear.
98-563 - 98-565
Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff
in Saint John. Send your queries to her at: 47 Jean St., Saint John,
E2J 1J8. Or E-mail her at email@example.com.
(Please put Yesteryear Families in the subject line.) Include your name
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E-mail. Archival columns are on Ruby's website at http://personal.nbnet.nb.ca/rmcusack/.