Nordheim Disappointments

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inspired by Louise Falconer’s story called Rosebush

My first teaching position was in northern Manitoba in a small 8-grade one-room school called Nordheim (north home in German).

The first disappointment was when we arrived, penniless, the secretary treasurer told me the school district had no money. He assured me however that the general grocery store in Winnipegosis gave credit!

My father was a life-long teacher from whom I thought I had learned all there was to know about teaching. However when the inspector arrived and listened to my self-confident presentation all he gave was a criticism: that there was no all-day teaching schedule posted on the bulletin board. Needless to say I was disappointed.

The school had no books. No library. No text-books. No dictionaries. One map on the wall. No sports equipment. No strap, not that I needed one – the students were well behaved. No piano. No music. No water. Two rickety out-houses. A big pile of wood outside cut for the free standing stove.

So. It came to me perhaps we could stage an Auction. Perhaps we could raise some money for books, sheet music and sports equipment. I had a great manual filled with projects young boys and girls could do to make something that might be salable at a school auction. I bought lumber from the Winnipegosis lumber yard (on my own credit) and Susan my wife brought cloth. Friday afternoon was project time and we began to build things. The only piece I can remember 65 years later was a shoe shine stand. And we did make one. It consisted of a strong wooden container for shoe polish boxes, rags and shining cloth. On top was a stand cut like a boot to position yourself for shining your shoes. Although the carving was not pretty it turned out to be strong and durable.

We advertised the Auction loudly for weeks hoping all the fathers would come out and bid on what their boys had made. I volunteered myself as auctioneer. But no one bid. There was dead silence. I brought the price down and down. One father even went so far as to ridicule the construction, offering that he could have done better himself. He forgot it was kids not older than 10 attempting a project. Nothing. Finally I entered the bidding myself so as to encourage the poor students who had worked so hard to make something. I still have that shoe shine stand. It still works as well as it did in Nordheim.

The next year I thought we might try an outdoor picnic style of game with the intent of raising money for school supplies. We organized various races and games but the finale was supposed to be a kind of lottery. I hung a large black curtain across the corner of the school yard attached to two corners of the school house. Behind this curtain would be someone ready to attach a piece of candy or chocolate to a fishing line that would be suspended over the curtain. Participants would have to pay one cent to play the game. You could win a stone or bundle of grass or a wrapped candy or chocolate bar. I thought this should be quite popular. But it wasn’t. None of the parents ventured into this great unknown. Again I had to come up with my own pennies to play the game. (I had already bought the candy and chocolate bars). That was my final disappointment. We moved back to Winnipeg the next year.


Nordheim Disappointments

Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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