Happy birthday, East Chilliwack elementary

The rural school celebrates 125 years of educating local students next week and invites public to join the party

Dayna Derksen

In 1890, students rode to school on horses — not bikes.

Climbing a tree would earn young boys a harsh punishment, and there were certainly no co-ed lunch hour games. And at the end of the day, it was the students who cleaned the classroom.

Those are just a few of things students at East Chilliwack elementary have learned over the past three months, while researching their school’s long history. Next week, the school will celebrate 125 of education. It all began in 1890, when settler Chas Brown donated one acre of land to the newly created East Chilliwack School District. Farmers worked together to clear the site, and lumber was brought in from Popkum Mill.

Later that year, the one-room school was finished.

A handful of Grade 4 and 6 students were selected to work on a commemoration project. Their hard work will be fully unveiled during next Tuesday’s open house and celebration, while some of their efforts are already on display in the school’s hallway.

The Grade 6 students explained their project to The Progress this week, and are inviting the public to come take part in their open house next Tuesday. Their presentation doesn’t simply chronicle a school’s history. It also highlights how society has changed through the decades.

“If a boy played with a girl, you’d get three lashes,” explains Dayna Derksen, while playing a game of cards would result in 10 lashes.

“And for every three feet you climbed up a tree,” adds Miles Rose, “you’d get one lash.”

If that weren’t bad enough, they’ve also learned that for some students the punishment was doubled at home once their parents heard of the misbehavior.

Yes, those were different days. Mrs. J. Brannick and Miss Mary Jane Wallace were among the school’s first teachers, and the rules stated they could not visit ice cream parlours.

“I don’t understand why,” Derksen says.

For Vanessa McRae, researching the project has shone a light on how different life is today.

“You see how it’s changed and progressed over the years,” she says. “You see the discipline and how it’s changed.”

For Rose, it was a chance to learn a little about social politics.

“Back in the 1800s there were two Chilliwacks, the farm and the city,” he explains. “The people in the farms didn’t want to sponsor and pay taxes for the streetlights and buildings in the city.”

And so when it came time to build a school, it was completed by local farmers.

There was one teacher, one room, and no principal. In fact, the first principal didn’t arrive at East Chilliwack until 1944. It was in the ‘60s and the ‘80s that the school seemed to become more modern, he adds.

The students have broken the timeline of the school down into decades, and will have key points of history on display in the library during the open house. They’ll also be sharing their new, vast knowledge as the school’s new historians. They searched far and wide to bring as much information together as possible. They interviewed current and past staff, dug through back rooms to find old artifacts and books, and searched The Chilliwack Progress online archives.

They learned of families who had all recent generations attend the school for their early learning, and they gained a new appreciation of their school.

“There’s just great people here, and the teachers are nice,” said Paige Cousins.

Especially because there are no lashings.


• East Chilliwack Elementary’s 125th birthday, which will include a cake shaped like the original schoolhouse with hitching posts, will be held on Tuesday, May 12. Presentations begin at 12:30 p.m. in the gymnasium and the public is invited to attend.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Handgun pointing complaint draws strong RCMP presence at Chilliwack residence Wednesday night

One in custody after brief standoff involving Emergency Response Team and canine unit

Iconic Chilliwack store passes clothing racks on to downtown neighbours

Chilliwack Mission Thriftstore given racks and fixtures as downtown store closes for good

Exercise and cancer to be explored via webinar

UFV’s Dr. Iris Lesser to lead Zoom event for cancer patients and supporters

Overnight closures for Vedder dike gates this summer rather than full closure

Working with anti-dumping and angling advocates, City of Chilliwack came up with compromise

Fiscal statement from the feds lacked clear plan for economic recovery: MP Strahl

While Conservatives backed emergency supports, it’s now time for ‘transparent plan to guide recovery’

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Mayors welcome rideshare expansion to eastern Lower Mainland

As of Thursday, Lyft is now offering service throughout Metro Vancouver

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

Most Read