Autobiography of a Salvation Army Teacher in 1955 at Little Heart’s Ease

by Betty (Barnes) Stringer, 2021

Uncle Steve Price and Betty (Barnes) Stringer.

I was born on Father’s Day, on June 19, 1938 to Abe John and Emma Barnes of Grand Bank where I attended the Salvation Army School. I was 17 years old when I graduated. A high school graduate at that time was considered an adult. You were now on your own with no thoughts of staying at home.

No! it was not get out and earn your own but expectation were different for boys and girls.

The girls were expected to get married but the boys received more attention because men were the wage earners. The girls were expected to stay home and keep house while the boys pursued careers. What was I going to do with my life? Would I pursue nursing, teaching or would I go into service with some family?

Three of my friends and I, on the advice of our teachers, applied for summer school. Once summer school was completed, we received a probationary teacher contract. The education system was run by the different denominations at that time. So when we finished our six weeks training, we would get an appointment to teach somewhere on the island of Newfoundland.

Excitement ran high as we waited to hear about our appointment. We had never been away from home, and were eager to start this new phase of our life. Brigadier Brown, the Superintendent of Salvation Army School at the time, appointed me to the school at Little Heart’s Ease. I had never heard of such a place and certainly didn’t know where it was on a map.

The day after Labour Day week-end, I caught a taxi in Grand Bank and headed to my first teaching position and into the unknown. The ride was five hours over a gravel road and I was dropped off at the train station at Northern Bight. Let me say that six weeks of summer school did nothing to prepare me for the reality of taking on 40 children in Kindergarten to Grade 2.

The school was a two room building with a potbelly stove in each room located in a Y -shaped intersection half way down a hill known as the Barrack’s Hill. At the top of this hill was the old Salvation Army Church that was known as the Barracks. The children were required to bring a junk of wood or two, to help keep the fire burning during the day.

In our school was my class and in the adjoining room was the principal who taught the higher grades. Further down the road, about where the Salvation Army Quarters is today,  was another one-room school that housed the elementary grades. At that time the Salvation Army Officers were Captain Neville Butler and his wife, Fronie. They were both teachers and taught the other grades.

The first year, 1955-56, I boarded with Jonah and Claribel Dodge. Let me tell you, I was homesick, I thought I would die. It was much harder to communicate with home in those days. There was only a couple of phones and they were all on the same line known as a party line. People could easily listen in on what you were saying. There was no electricity and I had never experienced darkness like that before. There was only a shadow of light from the lamps.

However, I wouldn’t give into my homesickness. I figured if I left and went home, I would never leave home again. So, I had to conquer my homesickness and I am proud to say I did it. I went home for Christmas and when I returned, I never experienced home sickness again. So I was now growing-up.

That school year, the road was only down below Little Harbour and the crew was working on the road that fall. I began enjoying being on my own. My salary was a grand total of $91.45 per month and that kept me going. I had to pay my board, buy clothes, pay the church, and keep money for travel. I have to say, “I was not very good with money at that time but I soon learned.”

The first time I went to Little Heart’s Ease, I was picked up at Northern Bight Train Station by George Barfitt of Long Beach. As we drove down the Arm, it seemed that we were going deeper and deeper into the woods. Having come from a town with no woods, only what could be seen in the far off distance, I had never experienced seeing so many trees. It seemed like we were going deeper into a green forest. We finally arrived over the bumpy, pot-holed, gravel road. My new life was about to unfold.

I really enjoyed my new independence and the children were so good. I loved all of them. I was embraced by the people and they invited me into their homes for meals. I made new friends and being a new teacher in a small community, I was somewhat of a celebrity. That may sound vain but that’s the way it was. At that time the teachers were next to the officers and if the officers were away for any reason, the teachers were expected to keep the church open and conduct the services. It was a big responsibility for a young person, who was as the saying goes, “too green to burn.” As the year slowly slipped away, I grew stronger and became more mature and responsible.

We had school inspectors that visited at least twice a year with no warning. I dreaded that. He would stay in your room all day and observe your teaching. He would inspect your methods of correcting students workbooks and test. Then he would tell you what could be done to improve. He would evaluate your teaching skills of delivering your lesson. Then he would tell you what you could do to improve. Your teaching skills in your first year of teaching were not very good but you learned by your mistakes and improved over time. All in all, my first year was a good experience and I would not have changed anything.

Aunt Jessie Price

I was appointed back for a second year in 1956-1957. I was more than willing to return. That year I stayed with Aunt Jessie and Uncle Steve Price. Even though they were not my actual Aunt and Uncle,  it was the way you would pay respect to an elderly person. Needless to say, I was very happy there.

My social life improved. I joined the Salvation Army Home League and I enjoyed meeting women from the community.

In 1956, I met my future husband, Lindsay Stringer. We were married in 1960 and had three children but my story of teaching doesn’t end there. We continued to live at Little Heart’s Ease.

The old school that I taught in along with the elementary school was built. In 1968, I was fortunate to get a teaching position for grades 5-6. Major Stella Russell was in her last year of teaching and she was the principal. The following year she retired and her son, Bill Russell, took over. She had the vision that someday the new school would become an inter-graded school and all students irrelevant of religion would attend. She was instrumental in creation of such a school that became known as the Inter-graded school. Today is a K-12 school known as Southwest Arm Academy.

Her son, Bill Russell, became the principal. I was offered another position teaching grade 5. My two sons and daughter were now attending the same school.

Needles to say, there was no comparison between conditions of 1955-56 and 1968-70. Marie Jacobs and Alma Whalen were teaching in the K-6 section, along with myself. The atmosphere between teachers was easy going and very enjoyable. The two years went by quickly. The students were well-behaved. They were all so respectful and well mannered. They were raised to respect teachers.

Times were changing and so were the qualifications for teachers. I had not gone back to upgrade my teaching qualifications and had no advance education other than my summer school. My teaching career came to an end. In between 1955-1968, I had taught one year in Bonavista and three years at Grand Bank. I have no regrets. I have excellent memories of my days as a teacher. I am now 82 years old. My husband passed away in 2015 and I now live in Clarenville. I go down often to visit  my husband’s grave and take the opportunity to visit with family and friends who live there.

In closing, I have to say, “Little Heart’s Ease was and always will be ‘home’ to me.”

Class photos from 1956-57