Monday 20 June 2016

A funny thing happened to me on my way to the schoolhouse . . .

Anyone that reads this page knows that I like to track down old schools. I stumbled across some Google Images of a school at Chailey, Alberta. Some quick research showed me nothing on Chailey. Google Maps pointed out where I should find it. It should be north of Minburn, Alberta on Township Road 524 and Range Road 95. So on June 18, 2016 I ventured forth on my quest.

Usually when I find a school in the middle of nowhere I am the only person there. It is rare that I run across anyone else. In fact I never run across anyone else. This time as I was creeping up on my destination I could see a lot of cars in the distance taking up what parking was available and lining part of the gravel roads. There was a barbeque going ot be set up and some games. The schoolhouse was restored and it was completely open. There had to be at least fifty people if not more.

I parked in an empty spot across the road from the school and noticed a church through the trees that I did not know was there. I knew there was a school, I did not know of the church prior to my trip. The church came first. I took a quick look at the church and could not determine what denomination it was. So I asked a couple that was older than me by a car if they could tell me. I thought they likely knew since they were attending an event there. I still did not know what the event was. The gentleman told me that I should be talking to someone else and called a guy over. The guy that came over had to be six foot six and older than me. I wish I was better at remembering names.

He asked what I was after and I told him I was interested in some information about the church and the school. Well then I was informed that I should be talking to the President of the Chailey Historical Society which was someone else. I believe it was his wife that I was introduced to. I was asked what my connection to the area was. I had to tell them I had no connection to the area. I am just interested in old schools, churches, abandoned spots, and places that interest me. She was delighted that someone totally outside of their area came just to see their school and church. It turned out that the event was being put on by the Chailey Historical Society itself.

I was escorted inside where I had a lovely chat with her and she showed me a book of old photos of the church and school. The school operated from 1910 to 1953. Both the school and the church had to be repaired a few times through the years. Alberta weather is hard on places. Someone, actually two different people, took my photo with the President of the Chailey Historical Society.  Then I was interviewed by someone who asked me why I looked up old schools and churches. I explained that it is a hobby and I take photos as a hobby as well. I personally have no connection to one room schools. I never attended one. I never really attended church either. Nor am I a historian. It is not my history but it is someone's history. I am not a photographer of note, just a guy that happens to take pictures.

The interviewer, a very nice younger lady, scribbled a bunch of notes. It never occurred to me to ask why she was interviewing me or what I was being interviewed for. For all I know I might end up in a local paper somewhere. So much for anonymity. 

It turns out Chailey was never more than a church and a school. Various homesteads took turns being the post office over the years. 

These are a great bunch of people that I met and they did a great job. The school has been a community hall for years. They held back on doing more restoration due to theft. The society has some artifacts but they do not want to leave them in the school and risk having them stolen. This is really unfortunate. The Union Jack is a nice touch. 

They asked me to stay for the barbeque. I was tempted however I had a prior commitment to meet a very good friend for dinner in Edmonton. He had to come first.

The flag is not period accurate. It should be the Red Ensign and not the Maple Leaf. Below it is a picture of our Queen. I am not going to complain about accuracy. Finds like this are rare enough. If you are ever lucky enough to run across places like this cherish and respect them.


  1. It is so nice to hear of the local population putting their old schoolhouse to such good use. It must have been such fun to unexpectedly run across such a nice group of folks.

  2. This is fantastic! You were included in the gathering...that's awesome! Did you let them use your camera to take your photo with them as well? I love the story telling portion of this post as well as the photos! Wonderful post it!!!