A while back when I was “staffing” the Lake Country Museum & Archives one Saturday afternoon, a very pleasant couple entered the Museum. Upon greeting them I discovered that the lady had once taught school in this building when it was the Okanagan Centre Elementary School.
The then Miss Koskimaki (now Mrs. Elaine Armstrong) taught the Primary grades (Grades 1, 2, 3). She recalled that the Intermediate grades (Gr. 4, 5, 6) were taught by Mr. Williams.
In 1957 Miss Koskimaki was fresh out of teacher training. She remembers teaching the Richards triplets as they entered Grade One, and she identified other students whom she’d taught, students whose photographs grace the Museum walls: Sharon Koyama, Phyllis Kobayashi and Lynne Gunn.
She recalled also that she had rented an upstairs room at Mrs. Carter’s home. Nellie Carter1 was the caretaker of the school but she also worked in the packing house and rented rooms in her home for the local teachers.
Elaine and her husband enjoyed recalling old times as they toured the Museum, especially in the school area of the Anne Land Room in the Museum. We enjoyed having them visit and chat about old times at the Okanagan Centre School.
Some weeks after this visit I received a packet in the post from Elaine. In it were the following photographs and “Miss Koskimaki’s” reminiscences.
Elaine Koskimaki Armstrong reminisces in February 2016:
“As I looked at the photo of ‘my’ class, I remembered something about each of the students. They were all well-behaved, and a pleasure to teach. I believe that Dr. Audrey Kobayashi in one of the articles online is the same little Audrey I taught in Gr. 1 — she was really a bright little girl.
I enjoyed organizing the Christmas concert that year. As I recall, Lynne Gunn was Mary, and Vernon Chamberlain, Joseph, in the Christmas story (all done to music). Lynne had a lovely, sweet singing voice. The girls performed a “Star Drill” and marched in a pattern while I played “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” on the piano.
The children’s parents were very helpful in making costumes and props.
I also remember the large “Mac” apples the students brought for me, also the handbell that I rang to summon the children in from recess or lunch hour.
As I was to be married that summer, the residents of Okanagan Centre gave me a “surprise” wedding shower!
Okanagan history is very important to me, as my great-grandparents were pioneers in settling the North Okanagan. My father was born in Three-Valley, BC, and my mother was born in the town of Mara, where I grew up with my brother and sister. My maternal grandfather, Mathew Caddon, worked on the S. S. Okanagan on Okanagan Lake, but unfortunately died in 1924 from typhoid fever.”2
1 One of the rooms at the Lake Country Museum and Archives is called the Nellie Carter Room, named after this same woman.
2 Mrs. Elaine Armstrong, née Miss Koskimaki, primary teacher (Grades 1, 2, 3) at Okanagan Centre School in 1957-1958.
3 Student list from back of class photograph.