From The Souvenir Program, January 15, 1951
Bridgedale School District No 5 Parish of Coverdale is to be congratulated on the fine new modern school plant now ready to take its place in forwarding the education of the youth of Gunningsville and in providing a splendid meeting place for the whole community, young and old.
Schools do not just grow like mushrooms, trees or weeds. They must be planned, and in the planning goes the efforts of many people, the Department of Education at Fredericton, the deliberations of members of the Provincial Governments, and finally the monumental task entrusted to the local school Boards, the Trustees, Secretary, and other interested residents.
To these mentioned, and particularly to the present School Board consisting of Mr. Harold Rooke, chairman, Mr. Clifford Dysart, Mr. G. Smith, trustees, and Miss Sue Fullerton, secretary, as well as Mr. L. Higgs and Mr. Edward Dobson, former trustees, must go the Oscar for their splendid work in piloting this great undertaking to a successful conclusion.
While we have today this splendid monument to further the education of our youth in the district, we must not forget the hurculean efforts of our forefathers of earlier days, in providing fine education for all children. In the early days money was not so plentiful as now. Government grants were small and scarce, and upon the property owners of the day fell the cost of education almost entirely. It was as great a sacrifice to provide a small one-room school and pay a teacher then as it is today to provide this splendid building and staff it.
To illustrate, let us go back seventy-nine years ago to this year 1872, and look at the first school records available. We find that at that meeting, at which F.A. Steeves was chairman and G.F. Steeves acted as secretary, a motion to appropriate the sum of $80 to fit up the inside of the school house and hire a teacher for one year. The motion was lost, and a resolution passed that no money be spent that year.
The next record appears relating to a meeting which was held on May 6, 1872, and $50 voted for school purposes. The year 1873 was either more prosperous, or school needs greater, as the sum of $65 was voted. In this year first appears a record of teacher contract. At a special meeting held on October 25th, a contract was made with Mary E. Trites for the winter term at $50. it would seem that the school year consisted of a winter and summer term, the summer term from May 6th to October 31st, and the winter term from November to May 1st. Apparently no thought was given to Christmas or summer holidays.
The next record appears in 1874 when, at the January meeting, Mr. E.S. Outhouse (a bachelor or widower) living in the home now occupied by Mr. Thomas Nowlan, was appointed trustee. His first and apparently only duty recorded was to vote fifty cents to buy a book for the Secretary to use a school record.
The following year, 1875, must have been a satisfying one to the district ratepayers, as the total school assessment was the magnificent sum or $48.97. The trustees had on hand $6.60 and received a County grant of $20.17, making a grand total of $75.81 on hand to meet school obligations. It is not recorded during this period whether Mary E. Trites stayed on for three years, but in 1876 a Miss Bishop received $38.83 for teaching school, probably for what was known as the winter term, as Millidge Steeves was paid $42 for wood for school fuel.
Records for 1877 are very vague, but a financial statement does show that the percentage paid to the Secretary amounted to $1.07.
At a meeting in 1882 it was decided that the Trustees ascertain the cost of a new school building and school grounds. In April of 1883, $350 was voted to run the school for the summer, to buy grounds for a new school and to pay for the building same, the new building to be erected on the opposite side of the road from the old one. (This site was apparently not picked, as the new school was eventually built just east of the old one.)
New grounds were purchased (the site of the present McQueen house) at a cost of $25 and a contract for the new school let to Risdon D. Jones for $450. No record appears as to the opening of the new school, but in December 1888, appears an item of $60 for a dozen desks, while the teacher's pay amounted to the princely sum of $30, just half the cost of the desks.
Records from 1888 on for a number of years are not very clear, but from information gleaned it seems that tax assessments and school appropriations were slowly increasing, but still remained very small and insignificant compared to today. The district remained stationary as to growth of population and school requirements. It might be noted, however, that conditions were a far cry from what we have today - no paved roads, no cars, no snow plowing in winter, etc.
The pupils and teachers of this period must have been of hardy stock. Several of our teachers at that time walked daily, winter an summer, from Moncton to the old school house. Both teachers and pupils found their way on foot through mud in the spring and fall and deep snows in winter. No such luxuries as school buses, fathers' cars, etc., were in evidence, and they got their schooling the hard way. Their drinking water was carried in a tin pail from a farmer's pump, set up on a shelf in the school room and ONE tin cup provided for all to drink out of.
The school room was heated with a large box stove in which huge chunks of hard wood were burned. The building was unplastered, with no storm windows. On cold days with a roaring fire in the red-hot stove, pupils near the stove were almost roasted, while the ones at the back and sides almost froze. But through it all they thrived and absorbed the three R's, and many went on to good positions, teaching, preaching, business and farming. Many are today footing their share of the bills for this new and modern school.
During the early years of the nineteen hundreds, school teachers' salaries show very little increase. At this time a janitor who furnished his own fuel to keep the building warm was paid a total of $17.50. The teachers of these years included Miss Agnes Thompson, Miss Maude Hopper, Miss McNaughton, Moses Milton, Reuben Gunning, several Miss Steeves and Miss McLeod. A good number are still living in Moncton and vicinity, while others have passed on.
It will be noted that reference has been made to some periods when no school was provided at all during the year. This apparently happened quite frequently, and on one occasion, probably around 1900, the School Board of that day refused to provide a school in the District. This did not please the ratepayers, so the late Joseph McClure, Sr., got in touch with the Superintendent of Education at Fredericton, who advised him to call a meeting of these resident ratepayers, elect a new School Board, and vote money to hire a teacher and run a school. The Board was elected, and Mr. McClure as chairman, the late Winthrop Bishop and one other as trustees, School was opened and has been provided without a break since.