A TYPICAL TEEN
A YEAR IN NORTH DAKOTA
During her thirteenth summer, Lillian's aunt came to visit and while she was there, invited Lillian to come home with her to take her Grade Seven year in Velva, North Dakota where the school had more facilities and was open the whole year. She was already an avid student so she jumped at the chance. There was a library available and her passion for reading went into high gear. Her Dad (Eddy) loved books, and she had read one of his called The Lamplighter countless times the winter before. To have a whole library at her disposal was beyond her wildest dreams! She began reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and blew her nose a lot so that the tears wouldn't be noticeable. (It still wasn't appropriate to show one's emotions.)
She soon realized that while she had scored top grades in Velhaven School, she worked very slowly. There had been only she and her brother in the same grade and her attention had been fixed on correctness, not speed. So, for the rest of that year her major task was to learn to work more quickly. She was so excited at her new school, that she seldom got really homesick until it was nearly time to go home. It was her first experience with electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, and central heating. She made a number of good friends there, and developed a warm relationship with the Lutheran minister.
When the year ended, she went home ready to start Grade Eight at Velhaven School. While she was certainly glad to be home with her family, she missed the facilities and opportunities she had enjoyed the year before. Her aunt invited her to come back and finish her schooling in North Dakota, but Hulda wasn't having any of that. She knew that if Lillian did go back there, they would pretty much lose her. Lillian was deeply disappointed, but she accepted her mother's decision.
In December of that year, primarily because of Lillian's desire for a better education, the Jacobson's sold the farm and moved to Radville, where the school was open all year. Their house in Radville was right across the street from the school, and wonder of wonders, that house had a dumb waiter in it, much to the delight of the children! Lillian's sisters remember that there were something like twenty-seven children in their block, and that the Jacobson house was the place to go. That was when she met Clarice Hurlburt, who was also in Grade Eight. They were baptized at the same time in 1926, and became bosom friends, a friendship they both still enjoy. Any confusion about the two Clarices, her friend and her sister, melted as they became Big Clarice and Little Clarice .
She took both Grades Nine and Ten during the year of 1925/26 and did very well. She soon learned to love history and algebra, and while she liked all of her teachers, she revered Mr. McKay, her history teacher. Another teacher, who was her first teacher there in Radville, strapped students for making more than three mistakes in spelling, and she made up her mind then and there that she would never punish a child for something he couldn't do.
Mr. McKay, on the other hand, was very fair, punishing disobedience, and expecting work to be completed, but not losing his temper or yelling at students. He never punished anyone for not being able to learn, and he was always willing to help the student who had difficulty. His work was always well-organized, and he used the blackboard often and well. He became her model of the ideal teacher, and in fact, during her first years of teaching, she was more apt to use these methods of his than ones she learned at normal school.
She was an exceptionally industrious student, and even as a teenager she slept little, often working very late into the night. Although she did well in the sciences, she really did not like them. But she was pretty competitive and worked harder in those classes because she was so determined to beat the boys.
She was at the top of her class throughout high school and got some early teacher training helping other students with Algebra. The teacher instigated this of course, and it benefitted Lillian as well as the students she helped. When she was in Grade Twelve, she tutored a Grade Eight student in mathematics, and charged fifty cents a lesson. She earned enough to buy herself a sweater!
School was always a pleasure for her. In Grade Twelve, she took ten compulsory subjects, including three sciences. But there was no language offered, which she needed to be admitted to university, so she took Latin by correspondence. The Governor-General's medal was given to only one graduating student chosen from among all of the students of all the small schools in the province. She was the recipient of that award in 1928.
There were no extracurricular activities in Radville School in those years other than oratory, and she was too timid to participate in that. This lack during her high school years became a boon to all of her future students, who had many extracurricular activities to choose from. Her evenings were generally spent either studying or reading for pleasure.
Although she was often very difficult to get up in the morning, she hated being late for school, and this laid the foundation for one of the multitude of practical jokes she and her friends were always pulling on each other. Signe Jelsing boarded with the Jacobsons when she was in Grade Ten, and one morning she ran up the stairs calling to Lillian that it was a quarter to nine, and she was going to be late! Lillian, panic-stricken about being late, absolutely flew, and was on her way out the door when Signe told her it was only 8:00 o'clock.
One time she really was late for school. Very late! She had spent the night with Lavine Jelsing at her boarding place and they had stayed up very late talking and eating bread and jam. (Lavine remembers that they ate a whole loaf of bread.) It was well into the wee small hours before they finally fell asleep and when they woke up it was the middle of the morning. Horrors! They made their appearance at school at noon; went to the principal with suitable humility and apologized for their tardiness. He not only didn't punish them, he hadn't even noticed they were absent! Lillian wasn't sure whether she was more relieved that he wasn't angry or chagrined that he hadn't missed them.
Much like teens of all eras, Lillian thought her mother could be smarter and less strict! One time, when she was fifteen, she dearly wanted to go a certain birthday party, but wasn't allowed to go - because there would be boys there! She could do pretty much what she liked at home, but was strictly regulated about where she could go, with whom and what time she had to be home.
Hulda did trust the young men from the church, though, and Lillian became good friends with several of the young preachers who came by and often stayed at the Jacobson home. She remembers particularly Roy Whitfield and Wilfred Orr, who were like brothers to her.
On the other hand, Lillian considered her Dad to be clever indeed, probably because he rarely interfered, and basically let her live her own life. Actually, he was very intelligent, and although he had only a Grade Nine education, he helped her with her high school physics. His Grade Nine, by the way, was much more than the average prairie farmer of the time had. His formal education, of course, was enhanced by his great love for books and reading.
Education was highly valued in this family. Most people in the district did not even finish Grade Eight, and Lillian was the first of the whole Torkelson clan to go to high school. She became the role model, and both of her sisters, Eleanora and Clarice, followed in her footsteps and became teachers also.
Clarice was about four and Lillian sixteen when one of the two baby brothers died. He had lived only seventeen days. All three girls were delighted when their baby brother was born and sad when he died. Both of her sisters remember how very upset Lillian was and how she insisted on going to the burial. It was early March, a cold and stormy day, and the burial was to be in the family plot near Beaubier, about thirty miles away.
Hulda didn't want Lillian to go, but she was adamant and could not be talked out of going. "It was, she said, " My way of honouring my wee little brother". There were a number of local people at the burial also, in spite of the dreadful weather. Wilfred Orr took the service, and he and her Dad buried the wee boy. They served lunch back at the house after the funeral, which caused quite a stir because that had never been done in Radville before.
Clarice remembers a number of things about Lillian as a teenager, particularly how Elvin and Wilfred used to tease her. One incident was shortly after Hulda had a baby and Mrs. Cassidy was there helping out. Lillian did not like cats, and the boys teased her with one so badly that when she became hysterical Mrs. Cassidy took a broom to the boys for pestering Lill so.
Another time the two boys teased Lill about being fat, and she quite believed them, although she weighed less than a hundred pounds. It was quite a while before she could accept that she really was not fat, and that they had just been pestering her.
She realized as she got older, not only what a clever woman her mother really was, but also how very much she relied on her. Because it was so important to Hulda that Lillian get a good education, she constantly ran interference for her, exempting her from household chores and making her study time top priority. Clarice (Little Clarice that is) remembers what lengths Mother would go to in order to safeguard Lillian's determination to get an education. It always bothered Hulda that she had so little education, especially when her younger sisters who were better educated were sometimes rather condescending towards her. She was going to see that her daughter got the opportunity she never got!
Clarice said, "Mother worshipped the ground Lill walked on - If she needed rest, Mother wouldn't wake her if the house burned down.- - - whatever Lill said, went." Eleanora confirmed this, and while you could anticipate that there might have been some resentment develop over this, there was none. Perhaps the reason is because, as a friend commented, "When Lillian was growing up, nothing was too good for her. Later, as an adult, she turned that around and nothing was too good for Mother, or Clarice or Eleanora, or their children." The sisters are all devoted to one another, and enjoy sharing the pleasure of one another's accomplishments.
LILLIAN THE DRIVER!
Lillian developed somewhat of a reputation for herself as a driver when she was in her teens. The summer she was sixteen she spent some time at the Orr's home in Hoffer, and one night a carload - Mr. and Mrs. Orr, Nellie, Wilfred, Lillian and her brother Elvin, who was working with the Orrs, decided to go to Blooming for a church service. During the service it started to rain - heavily! The road was pretty bad, graded up high but with no gravel on it. But they didn't start back to Hoffer until after dark because they were enjoying visiting with the Jelsings so much. It was very hilly country and they soon discovered that the rain was collecting in the valleys making them very muddy.
When they got stuck in one valley, the three men got out to push, and as Wilfred got out he said to Lillian, "You slide over and drive as we push." Her Dad had never let her learn to drive. The only time she had ever driven was when Wilfred had let her, so she was pretty scared. But they did get out of that mud hole. The men climbed back in the car and off they went up the next hill and down into the next valley where they got stuck again. Again the men pushed and Lillian drove; this time though, they decided that instead of getting back into the car, Lillian would drive the rest of the way home, while the men would just stand on the running board so they could jump off quickly whenever they needed to push.
Of course the men got very wet and muddy doing that, and Lillian drove with her heart in her throat. When they were about a half mile from their destination in Hoffer the road improved and no more pushing was needed. To the best of her knowledge, the men all jumped on the running board, and off she sped. Unhappily, Mr. Orr wasn't on the running board and they were nearly back to Orrs before she realized that. No one suggested going back and someone said, "Dad will get home soon.", but Lillian felt guilty and was sure he wouldn't like her anymore.
They were all sitting around the table drinking tea when in walked Mr. Orr. Nobody said anything, but Lillian didn't sleep very well that night. The next morning he was just as friendly as ever. She figured he must have just accepted her as a foolish teenager. It always bothered her though, that she been too timid and embarrassed to apologize.
Another time when Wilfred was at the Jacobson home in Radville, Lillian's mother asked her to go downtown and get some things for her at the store next to the pool hall. Big Clarice went with her. In those days a driver's license wasn't necessary, so when Wilfred offered her his car, she gladly took it. What he neglected to tell her was that he'd been having some problems with the brakes! And what she did was drive a little too fast. The place where she wanted to park was on a bit of a downward slope, and as she approached, she suddenly realized the car wouldn't stop! It proceeded right up onto the sidewalk, finally resting up against the pool hall. The group of men standing outside the pool hall scattered in every direction.
One of the tires was ruined, so she got her groceries, and trudged home, stewing about what she was going to tell Wilfred about his tire. She was definitely a woman of few words that day. When she came into the house he was sitting talking to her Dad; she walked up to him, handed him his keys and said, "Your car is downtown." He didn't say a word, just took the keys, got up and went to get the car. When it finally came out exactly what had happened, her Dad was angry about the destroyed tire and said he hoped Wilfred would never let her drive his car again. And it was a while!
It was probably later that same year, though, when she drove again, this time a truck. But this time, she wasn't alone. In fact she had the truck full of kids who were going to a church picnic in Brooking. Wilfred had to take a load of elderly ladies in his car and Lillian says, "I guess he thought the children would be less afraid of my driving than the women would!" Again Dad was upset with her. He had known she was driving the truck, but not that she had it full of kids! Sound like the '90s '?
~One last teenage driving story. J.C. Bailey was in Minton at the Jacobs home but his car was in Ceylon, so he asked Wilfred to get it and bring it down to him. Wilfred asked Clarice and Lillian to go along to drive his car, so he'd have a way back to Radville. Lillian was happy to go, assuming Clarice would do the driving. But Clarice couldn't go because her family had other plans, so Wilfred came to Lillian and said, "Carlos wants his car, so you'll just have to drive mine down to Minton." This was a brand new car, and had a new way of shifting gears. She said, "I can't drive this car, I don't know how to shift gears." "That's easy," he said, "I'll show you." As they rode together the thirteen miles to Ceylon he showed her how to shift gears and handle this new car of his. He left her with "You'll get along alright." If Wilfred said she could do something, she would always try it, so off she went.
Nervously, she started out ahead of him at Ceylon, envisioning all kinds of problems. One thought kept persisting, "Supposing I come to a hill and can't get up?" These were poor roads and there were many hills between Ceylon and Minton! She didn't think she was going very fast (the average speed of cars was 25-35 mph), but she did notice in her rear view mirror that Wilfred in Carlos's car was beginning to lag farther and farther behind her. She realized that one thing she hadn't found out from Wilfred was how to use the brakes, or as she puts it," I didn't know how to stop the crazy thing!". So she just kept going, got to the Jacobs farm quite a little bit ahead of Wilfred, and somehow managed to get the car stopped. When Carlos asked where Wilfred was, she nonchalantly answered, "Oh, he'll be along."
A GROWING FAITH.
There was no Lutheran church in Radville when the Torkelsons moved there in 1924, so Lillian began going to the United church. She got quite involved in CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training), and won a special recognition award. In March of 1926, not long after she turned fifteen, a preacher came to town, whose teaching was so different, especially about baptism, that some in the community said, "That man should be hung!", so Lillian, her Dad and Signe Jelsing decided they needed to go and hear him!
She had been brought up to have a deep respect for the Bible, but this was the first sermon she had ever heard that asked the question "What must I do to be saved?" The preacher used charts and quoted scripture, and she was convicted from that first sermon that he was right. That preacher was H.A. Rogers and he preached every night for five weeks. Bro. Rogers originally came to Radville because his niece, Celia Buckingham, was working there. For those thirty-two nights he preached, there was an average attendance of a hundred and fifty. There were twenty-eight baptisms during that meeting, and seven Christians who had migrated from South Dakota placed membership.
Lillian's Dad was baptized during that meeting. There was no church of Christ meeting in Radville at that time, but by April a congregation was established. Her mother, dad and sister started attending, but she did not at first, because she was so attached to the wife of the United Church minister. When that family left Radville a few months later Lillian began attending the Church of Christ with her family.
Bro. Rogers came again in July to hold another meeting (just three days this time!), and at the conclusion of that meeting, on July 13, 1926, Hulda, Lillian, Clarice Hurlburt and Ethel Rogers were all baptized. She calls July 13 her special day because it was not only the date of her new birth into Christ, it was also the date of the realization of one of the most persistent and enduring of her dreams, the first day of the first summer Bible school in Minton in l931.
Clarice and Lillian were at almost every church service there was. There was a Bible study every Friday night in a room over the store, entry by outside staircase! Because it was primarily a rural community, not all of the members were able to get into town for those weekday meetings. But old Bro. Cassidy was always there. Some winter nights, it was too cold for most, but Bro. Cassidy always arrived first, built the fire and had a service, even if it was all by himself. Sometimes it was just he and the three girls, Lillian, Clarice and Lavine Jelsing, although sometimes Lavine wasn't able to be there either, because she was working for her board. Many nights Bro. Cassidy bought a cup of coffee or other treats for the girls. Lavine remembers one night when even Bro. Cassidy wasn't there, it was just the three girls. They went ahead with the Bible study on their own and "of course it was Lillian who led us".
Old Bro. Cassidy was a great example of faithfulness to the girls. In addition to his faithful attendance he committed himself to contributing one dollar a week to the church, no matter what. Some weeks he didn't have a dollar; on those occasions he would put an I O U on the collection plate, to be redeemed as soon as he had the dollar.(And it always was.) It was several years before Lillian realized that one dollar wasn't the prescribed amount for everyone to give.
Like all teenage girls, friends were very important to Lillian. Her closest girlfriends were Clarice Hurlburt and the Jelsing girls, Signe and Lavine. Clarice also lived in Radville, and the two girls became so inseparable, the mothers commented that they were grateful they were both girls! But it wasn't love at first glance.
Clarice describes Lillian's entry into Radville school life. "She came in, took Grades Seven and Eight together and knew everything. We were all so jealous of her we called her Louis Joseph Papineau, because she'd given a speech about him in school." It wasn't until after the two girls were baptized the same day that they became such close friends. Then they were together all the time, at one house or the other, or out walking.
Both girls remember well Lillian's first experience on horseback. The two girls had spent a few days out at Clarice's aunt's ranch. Clarice was experienced and always rode bareback; Lillian had only a halter, no bridle, and very little experience. That horse did pretty much whatever he wanted, which was mostly gallop! She couldn't get the rhythm, so when the horse when up, she came down. Her body remembered that ride for a long time!
They also remember the chocolate cake Lillian made to leave for Clarice's cousins that same trip. It came out of the oven with a big bulge on top. Their solution to that situation was to make a double recipe of icing so they could make it level. They weren't there when the boys cut into it, so they never did hear how they enjoyed it!
Lavine reminisces about her teen years with Lillian:
Lillian and I were both in Grade Nine when I came to Radville for school. Signe had been there the year before and was already good friends with the Jacobson family. Signe and Lillian had both become Christians and I was very opposed to this new church. I was very indignant with them because they had deserted the Lutheran church.
But I became very good friends with Lillian, visited with her often and started attending church with them, although I was still indignantly opposed. Lillian came faithfully to visit me at my boarding place; we began studying the Bible together, and gradually she was able to teach me. I was baptized by Wilfred Orr in a huge galvanized trough at Jacobsons.
In spite of what Lillian herself says about her intellectual ability, Lavine insists that she has always been a person of superior intellect. When Lillian was moved into Grade Ten during their Grade Nine year, it meant they didn't get to spend as much time together at school, but they continued to get together after school.
There was no radio or television to entertain, and good girls didn't dance or go to many movies, but life was wonderful. In some ways Lillian was pretty serious as a teenager, yet there was always lots of laughter when she and her friends got together. She was more timid then - much of her adventurous spirit developed later. Recreation consisted primarily of long intimate walks with close friends and going to church - at least five times a week! A group of young people would go to different small communities for Bible studies.
She and her girlfriends spent long hours talking about pretty much the same kinds of things girls today talk about, their dreams for the future, books they were reading (rather than movies they were seeing), and of course, boys. They each had a vision of their own Prince Charming,.(never someone they knew of course). As they got a little older, they even gave names to these ideal men, and each could describe what he looked like.
Dating was quite different for teenagers then. Even if you did have a very special friend, you went out only in groups. It was not appropriate for a couple to go out alone together. Lillian had led a very sheltered life and was, by her own description, quite immature. She was not allowed to go to house parties, as many other young people did, and her associations were primarily with her close girlfriends, who were similarly innocent. The only movies she'd ever been to were a few westerns, and at the age of fifteen her favourite hero was Tom Mix.
It was her custom to do all of her homework by Friday so that she'd be free to be with her friends and go to Bible studies on the weekend.. She usually attended three studies during the week and then two or three more on Sunday. Clarice, and sometimes Lavine Jelsing, went along as well. Wilfred taught, and they simply studied the Bible; each study different. As they travelled in the car, they would sing hymns, and play a scripture search game. Wilfred would quote a scripture and they would figure out where it was from. With all that practice, they got pretty good at it.
Wilfred's car had no heater and so it was very cold travelling to Bible studies in the winter. One bitterly cold winter day though, even his car wouldn't go, so instead, he came to pick up the girls in an enclosed cutter to go to a study in Brooking. Everything was an adventure!
Another time, (summer, this time!) a group of them decided to go to a three day meeting in Ogema. In addition to Wilfred and the girls, Bro. Cassidy and Lillian's mother went along. The girls figured the car was too crowded, so they decided to ride on the running board. They stopped once to eat their basket lunch and then set off again across the dusty prairie. The girls, nicely dressed when they started, were, by the time they got there, completely covered with dust - on their clothes, in their hair, even in their teeth. Another adventure!
The summer after she completed Grade Eleven Lillian was visiting at the Orr home in Hoffer, and when Wilfred needed to go to Montana to pick up J.C. Bailey, she simply went with him, with no thought to the propriety of the situation. She did think about it later though, when Wilfred and her brother Elvin wanted to take her and Clarice to Regina, and both of the girls' mothers refused. While her mother never did say anything to her about her trip to Montana the previous summer, she strongly suspected that if she had been at home, she never would have gone to Montana!
THE BOOK WORM
With Lillian's first delightful introduction to fiction, the Anne Of Green Gables series, she had found the make-believe world of the novel and she soon began to read everything she could get her hands on. And her dream world brought new dimensions into her life; that make-believe world of books became almost more real for her than her real world. Much of her time was spent living in that imaginary world, until she started going out with her group of friends from church.
As she looks back now, she suspects it could have become quite dangerous to her if she had continued. At fifteen, including her favourite westerns, which she read by the dozens, she usually read one or two books every weekend. She loved books of all kinds, and remembers Mill On The Floss, by George Eliot, and historical novels such as Seats Of The Mighty.
Lillian speculates that perhaps the fact that her life as a child was so barren is the reason she became so obsessed with reading. She read so much that it began to worry her when she was in Grade Eleven, and so at New Year's, she resolved not to read another novel until school was out in June. She knew she needed to put more emphasis on her school work and to quit reading cold turkey was the only way she knew how to do that. She has never forgotten those six months of not reading!
She had a number of problems to deal with during her first year of teaching, and it was at this same time that she was first introduced to Ben Hur . She delighted in that book and it helped tremendously to get her mind off her problems. Later, when she got busy teaching school and doing things with people, the obsession disappeared. In fact during the years she was teaching high school, particularly at Radville and then Western Christian College she had very little time for reading fiction. Now that she is retired, she is once again enjoying being able to bury herself in a good novel.
~In 1928, high school graduation was not the celebration it is today; there simply wasn't any! But Lillian's Governor-General's medal was very prestigious for the whole community, so there was a special presentation when she came home from normal school the following Christmas. Unhappily, it was decided that the presentation would be made at the United Church Christmas concert, and since members of the Church of Christ at that time were opposed to any celebration of Christmas, none of the church folk, including her parents, were there. She was very happy to receive it though, and she was also given a fifty dollar award from the school board; this was the first time a Governor-General's medal had been won by anyone from Radville.
Summers had always been a trying time for Lillian. From the time she was about eight years old, it had been a challenge for Hulda to keep her occupied during the long winter months when there was so little to do. She generally got pretty cranky and irritable, and hard to live with. As she got older she read somewhere that "intelligent people never get bored", and that became a challenge to her. She says, "I was miserable growing up until I learned that it was not up to my parents to make my life pleasant for me, it was up to me." She also added though, that you probably have to be in your middle teens at least before you're mature enough to learn that. Fortunately for Hulda, she did not have the same problem with the other children!
That summer of 1928, her last summer at home before going off to normal school (teachers college), was not much of an exception. After the three day meeting in Ogema, she settled into her usual summer pattern, although there was the excitement and expectation and of a new time in her life in the fall.
In September 1928, when she was not quite eighteen, she made the big move to the Regina Normal School. This was indeed an exciting new adventure for the timid little farm girl from Radville. Tuition for the year was twenty five dollars. Her Dad paid that, but didn't have much more money he could give her for books and other expenses. He did give her another fifteen dollars and brother Elvin gave her twenty dollars, and that is what she survived on until Christmas, when she received the fifty dollars from the Radville School Board. That money had to last her until school was out in June, but money was never an issue for her, and she never worried about it.
Like many other students, she worked for her board and room. She lived with a family who had one little girl and her duties were primarily baby-sitting. She wasn't expected to do much in the way of housekeeping, which was fortunate, because as you remember, Hulda had allowed her to study rather than do housework. The house was large and impressive, and was within walking distance of school. In her eyes it was a grand home; the living room and dining room were splendidly furnished and there was a fireplace! This was another new learning experience, and she eagerly absorbed knowledge about design and decorating and gracious living.
She was thrilled with her expanding horizons from the first day, and remembers many of her teachers with great respect and fondness: One was Mr. Griffin, the English teacher, who talked about the beauty of the English language, and stirred that appreciation in her as well. That was the beginning of her awareness of how many common expressions, such as a little bird told me, came from the Bible. He also loved to quote poetry and it was he who introduced her to Canadian poets. Another teacher she appreciated was Mr. Scarrow, who enriched and expanded her love of history.
And then there was Miss Weir, the home economics teacher, who taught her about personal grooming and style, and about social graces and courtesies. She was a real inspiration to Lillian. Her sisters still remember how things had to change around home, once Lillian had been to normal school! She insisted on proper etiquette, and when company came, the table had to be set, just so!
It was during this year that she started developing her own sense of style. Because her mind had always been so wrapped up in books and learning, she had very little idea of how to dress; she had been quite proud of one outfit she wore, a bright orange dress highlighted by a bright green hat! Usually she had two winter dresses, one navy wool and one red wool. She wore one all week, then put it on the line to air out on Saturday and then wore it again...and again...
Hulda was a talented seamstress and made all of Lillian's clothes, even after she was out teaching. It took Lillian a long time to figure out what colours looked best on her. Her sister Clarice remembers her wearing a lot of grey sometimes brightened with red, but eventually Lillian began to realize that whatever colours were becoming to her, grey wasn't one of them! As with everything else in her life, once she became aware of her attire as a statement of her identity, she met the challenge and developed her own smart style.
Her interest in good music also began during this year at normal school. Normal school was, in her own words, "a marvellous thing that opened the window to cultural riches". She had never before heard either an orchestra or a choir and their power and grandeur was an eye-opening experience for her. She had always loves music, but she had never imagined it could be so grand. This year was also the beginning of her love affair with great art. Her aim for that year was to learn as much as possible without working as hard as she had in high school. She wanted to enjoy this year, and enjoy it she did. As rich as that experience was, though, she says, "I didn't learn many useful methods for teaching in a multi-graded school, but they taught me an enrichment of life that made me a better teacher."
There were seven hundred students there, most of whom had come from city schools. She was intimidated by these sophisticated young people and was, as she said, "scared stiff to get involved in any intramural activities". The only thing she volunteered for during that whole year was to give a public report in history class. She reasoned that if she hoped to be a teacher she was going to have to be able to speak publicly. She still remembers how nervous she was. She had notes, but never looked at them until after she had sat down. They were in tiny shreds in her hands!
She loved morning assembly because of the guest speakers, often well-known people who shared their expertise and experience with the students. She enjoyed listening to Shakespearean actors from England, illustrated talks on Banff and the Rockies from others, temperance speakers from Ontario and a wide variety of fascinating people and subjects. The Literary Society which met on Fridays was also an exciting and rewarding experience for her. This was her first exposure to Drama. It was at one of those Literary Society meetings that she was introduced to the skit, The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter, that she used countless times over the ensuing years.
She realized that she had missed out on a great deal because of her lack of self-confidence, and it became very important to her once she was teaching, to do whatever she could to help her students broaden their horizons and gain confidence. For that reason she always organized an extensive program of extracurricular activities which included sports, public speaking, skits and drama. She found drama a marvellous avenue for shy, quiet students to gain confidence.
There was a Church of Christ meeting in Regina, and for the first six weeks, until she mustered enough courage to tackle the streetcars, the H.E. Forman family picked her up for Sunday morning services, the only time the church met at that time. She thought it was exceptionally good of them to go out of their way to pick her up, because they were a busy family with eight children. She has often wondered what she would have done if they hadn't been so good to her.
She made a number of new acquaintances that year; one, Ellen Black, remained a friend for all of her life. Ellen was also going to normal school and working for her room and board. Soon after they met, Lillian invited Ellen to come to church with her and the two girls started riding the streetcar Sunday mornings. They spent considerable time together that year and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. It was a joy to Lillian when Ellen was baptized some time later. In later years, Ellen gave her sister Frances this sage bit of advice, "Lillian is a good person. If she ever gives you any advice, listen!"
In the Spring of 1929, as her year at normal school was drawing to a close, she was very fortunate to find a position teaching for the next year. Many first year teachers were not so lucky. L.L. Jacobs in Minton who was the secretary-treasurer of the Glen Curren school district, knew her quite well. During her Grade Twelve year, she had regularly accompanied Wilfred Orr to the weekly Bible Study in the Jacobs home. When Bro. Jacobs discovered that their teacher was leaving, he wrote to Lillian in April to send in an application for the position, which she promptly did. On Bro. Jacobs' recommendation, she was hired, and knew even before school was out what she was doing. A rare happening in those days!
She had realized during her practice teaching that her abilities lay primarily in teaching older students; however this was to be the beginning of several successful years in one room schools. The career that had been calling her for so many years was about to begin.
Published in The Old Paths Archive