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Our life and school days in the sunny Okanagan

Reminiscences of Clara Hallam (née Bailey)

The John A. Bailey family, John and Emma, who resided in Summerville, Oregon, followed friends to settle in Westbank, where they lived from 1895 until 1901. Clara was the fifth Bailey child, born on April 1, 1896. The Baileys relocated and lived for two years in “South Okanagan” [Okanagan Mission] until the family moved to Wood Lake, as Lake Country was called, in 1903. The Baileys were part of an early settlement of Fir Valley, located up the Beaver Lake Road to the east of Winfield. Clara’s reminiscences are recorded in her booklet “Our life and school days in the sunny Okanagan,” a short excerpt of which is reproduced here.

“In all of the History of the Okanagan I never read anything about our little Duck Lake School. The neighbours got together and built a one room school by volunteer labour. The trustees were Jeremiah Clark, John Bailey and John McClure. The school was built on the side of the road going to Beaver Lake and opposite where the pipeline comes out of the Canyon. I am quite sure that the school opened in the fall of 19051. Pupils enrolled were Perry Clark and Freda C[lark], Harry, Lorrena, Fred and Jessie McClure, James, William, Phoebe, Clara, Wess and Aaron Bailey, Charlie Simpson, Annie, Harvey and George Simpson, Angus, Oliver, Julia and Emily MacDougall.

The teachers’ names were first Effie Etheridge boarding at Baileys, then at Uncle Bill Lewis’. We didn’t have cars or drive-ins to go to then. Miss Etheridge and a Mr. Osborn that was staying with aunt and uncle Wm. Louis decided to have Sunday School in the summer and singing school at the same time and he used to teach the older ones short-hand.

Second teacher was Constance Williams, boarded at Clarks. She taught two years and was more party minded. We had the largest house so the partys were there. She loved to dance and with the Clarks all musical we had some good old dances. The Clarks and the McDougalls were the musicians or anyone that could play. My husband Louis [Hallam] was the caller, or Howard Welch or Earl Rice, any one of them could call of a square dance. Rices always drove from Mission Creek up or came on horseback, or the Harrons [Hererons] from Ellison and Spencers, McKinleys from Dry Valley. Bob and Florence Riddle rode down on bicycles from Grand Prairie or Westwold here. They were threshing on the Commonage near Vernon, so when they heard there was to be a dance they went on down. And the Olds from the Commonage. The O’Neals rode down on horseback once and got lost on the way it was so dark, but they got there. We used to have a good time sleigh riding. One night we drove up to the Bovees to a dance on the Commonage near Vernon, that was in the wintertime [and] the snow was very deep that winter. We got up near their place and the horses got stuck in a drift and we got upset, piled us all out in the snow.

Third teacher was Miss Francis Paggett boarded at Clarks. We still went to partys and had them but she wasn’t as full of fun as Miss Williams. We went to quite a few skating parties she like to skate.

And Charlie McKay was our last teacher there I think he taught two years too. That school closed about 1909. And our sports was skiing, skating, dancing and sleigh riding.”

Duck Lake School 1909
Standing Left to Right: Hughie McClure, Annie Simpson, Clara Bailey, Phoebe Bailey, Emily McDougall, Charlie McKay (teacher), Oliver McDougall, Wesley Bailey.
Seated Left to Right: George Simspon Aaron Bailey, Harvey Simpson, Jesse McClure.2

1 Mrs. W. R Powley in her “Early Days of Winfield, BC” writes that the Duck Lake school was built in 1899 but Clara Hallam’s claim is supported by another reminiscence, that of Freda Alberta Sommerville, (Clark), who wrote that her family moved to the Winfield District in 1903. She wrote: “It took three years for us to get a school, the men of the district put up the building and the government supplied the teacher. It was Duck Lake School. It was up on the range just above the pipeline. That is where I finished my schooling which was grade 8.”

2 If this photograph was taken in 1909, Clara was fourteen, her older sister, Phoebe was sixteen, Wesley twelve and Aaron eight years of age. Photo source:  Ferne Jean in from SLATES to BLACKBOARDS to COMPUTERS. A History of Public Schools in the Central Okanagan by The Educational Heritage Committee of the Central Okanagan Retired Teachers’ Association, 1999, p. 56.


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