Holiday Season at Mapleton School

Today we read about hand-made skiis, sewing kits ordered from Eaton’s, and a school room transformed into a fairyland. Enjoy R. Magnusson’s memories of Christmas at Mapleton School in the 1920s.

“By the end of November we started counting the days until Christmas. Our trustees would come over with the Eatons Catalogue so we could pick out our gifts. We were allowed 50c per student for a gift, the teacher made up the list of what each child wanted. I remember asking for a sewing machine and my Mom reprimanded me for asking for such an expensive gift. But you know what, I got it! The boys asked for sleighs, they were worth 75c and they also got what they wanted. When I think of it now T. Eaton Co. were certainly special angels. To many families that was the only gift they received at Christmas time. In the meantime, everyday we spent the afternoons practicing for our Christmas concert. Miss Edith Thompson, our outstanding music teacher for Selkirk and district gave generously for her time to teach us how to sing. She would say “don’t forget to cross your T’s”. For example in songs such as Good King Wencesles looked ou’t”. Miss Thompson was also a trustee for the Mapleton School Board for a number of years. While we were preparing our concert, our mothers were busy making candy bags out of red and green mesh bags with a drawstring of coloured wool. In it would go a Japanese orange, candies and nuts for each child and a few extra for some little children that had not reached school age.

Cover and catalogue pages from The T. Eaton Co.’s Fall and Winter catalogue, 1920-1921. Click on the images to see the prices and descriptions up close. Explore the rest of the catalogue at this link.

When the big day arrived we were given the day off to clean up. Curl our hair with rags or brown paper. The boys went to one of the neighbors for a hair cut. Our dresses were usually bright red, green or red plaid. Our shoes were black patent leather. The school room looked like fairyland. The big tree in the corner and our stage was put up by the trustees, and covered with red or green crepe paper, on the edges it was trimmed with tinsel. Our parents were so proud of us. Santa would come and give our presents from the school board. After the concert out came the coffee and tea, sandwiches and cake. The floor was cleared and the young adults had the remainder of the evening for dancing. Many a married couple today had met at such gatherings.

Mapleton School opened in 1912 in the village of Old England.

Christmas holidays were spent going down to the river bank to the most popular slide for bob-sledding. They came from Selkirk, Libau, East Selkirk and Gonor to sled. The young men spent endless hours clearing the snow banks and icing it up. We went at a terrific speed across the river and then curved and turned on the west bank back to the east side. To keep out the wind and cold the young men built igloos for us to wait in. The other sport was skiing with skis made with loving care by our fathers. The wood was sawed, planed and steamed to curve, harnessed with home-made straps. January was usually a long cold month but it didn’t bother us much. We hurried home, did our chores of carrying wood and water from the school well, feeding the chickens and cows, etc., then back down to the slide. In the summer it was swimming in the old swimming hold by Summer Scales mansion. How many young people today have such happy clean pastimes as we had in our day.”

Read more of Magnusson’s memories from Mapleton School in Beyond the Gates of Lower Fort Garry vol. 1, available for purchase in our gift shop.