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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 21, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta Saturday, April 21, 1973 TK! IFTHMIBGE HCRAID _ People of the south Chris Stewart Looking ahead with a full life behind The Voice O One -By. OR. FRANK S, MORtlY "What Is It like to have a school named in your honor and your portrait hung in the main I asked retired school principal Roy I. Baker of Coaldale. "I'm naturally pleased and a little honored too, but to tell you the truth I don't think about it he said. "I'm actually very proud of all the Coaldale schools (Kate Andrew's, John Davidson and St. Joseph's) not just my namesake." Mr. Baker, who served as principal of the school from its opening in 1950 until his early retirement in 1954, was on hand for the' cornerstone laying cer- emony and the official opening when the late Harry Balfour, Beer's distant cousin, deliver- ed the and school teacher Miss Edna McVeety di- rected the large costumed pag- portraying the variety of ethnic groups comprising this interesting town. A desperate overcrowding sit- uation at the Coaldale Consoli- dated School had precipitated the new school's construction. The influx following the Second World War only aggravated the squeeze which had earlier forced authorities to seek classroom space in almost any accommodation available in town. For years four rooms had been used (with the heating and lighting leaving a tot to be two classes were housed in the public li- brary, one class in the Mennon- ite church basement and two classes in a primary school south of the main building. As the overcrowding intensi- fied the teacher load became increasingly heavy. Over 40 pu- pils to a classroom was com- mon with one c'ass having 52. With the pressing need for a new school stymied due to lack of funds, the Coaldale school district finally decided to join with the Lethbridge division to procure the necessary money for the much-needed elemen- tary and high school in Coal- dale's east end the school named in Baker's honor. Mr. Baker, now 79, whose poor (he suffered from both a liver and heart condi- tion) had necessitated his early retirement in 1954 re- grets the decision was neces- sary. He had assumed the prin- ciT3alship of the Consolidated school with its bulging enrol- ment and overcrowding in 1939 coping with the many accom- modation innovations a room here and a room tiiere --'sad was onlv beginning to enjoy the commodious arrangement of the R. I. Baker school when re- peated hospitalizations forced his resignation. "What do you think of early I asked him. "Should it be the aspiration of today's middle "It isn't what it's cracked up to be. I don't like it and I would have much preferred to have taught until I was 65." he an- swered. "It's a bit difficult to feel you are useful following retirement. After years of in- volvement you are suddenly un- Involved not needed, in other words and th% is quite an adiustment. It become both a personal and social cptastroohe if a person has fril- ed to develop interests other than his job." To Mr. Baker, whose gener- al health has improved since giving up his prinapalship, the lack of outside interests has never been a problem but he has missed his contact with kids. He served as both treasur- er of the Coaldale public li- brary snd as a member of the library board for a number of years, is a member of the lethbridpc Historical Sodetv, the United Church choir, the chtrch session, a-nd served as envelone steward Ul last year. He and wife are on hand for every musical production staped at the Yates and particularly enjov attend- ing the KiwanJs annual musical festivals. His schedule would lire many a younger person. Mr. Baker Ms as- sociation with the Lethbridse School division for several years by handling, for the tea- chers, the iromapemOTt of Blue Gross. He and his wife are in- vited freouenth? bv the princi- pals of the John Davidson and St. Joseph's schools to attend soecial functions such as Christmas and soring concerts. Mrs. Baker retired as librari- ?n-custodiaji in 19S6. The town library built as a community project, officially ooercd on Oc- tober 30, JM8. was funded by bott the CoaWale cmrocil and iwal efforts such as auction sales. Part the was donatted and dining the librar- ies' first year it was financed bv the oonrnranily council. This downtown library filled an ur- gent need as the town's only resource centre prior to the in- clttsicm of libraries in the fc'wls. The active member- ship has increased since the opening of the new centennial library in 1967. Mrs. Baker actively support- ed her husband in various school projects. As president of the home and school in 1951 she spearfieaded a community arts and crafts festival netting (despite severe weather) for a piano for the auditorium of the new R. I. Baker school with a money-making Christ- mas carol festival, believed to have initiated the custom in neighboring towns, complet- ing the required amount. Land- scaping the new school .grounds with hedges, trees and peren- nials was another satisfying community project. As a retired veteran educator li'ving next door to the John Davidson elementary school Mr. Bsker has amrole oppor- tunity to compare today's de- portment with that of yester- year but he isn't a critic as one expect. Instead he prais- es today's putrils. tenchers and principal Peter Slemko. "So much school spirit steins from the he says. "His enthusiasm for hockey, football, music and extra cur- ricular interests is a prime fac- tor in creating school suirit. If the principal lacks enthusiasm it shows very badly." This ex-math and science feels teaching is easier thn ba'ng a principal. "In teaching you develop a close contact with your pupils. You miss this as a principal but then you get to know all the school's pupils and this is grati- fying." He admits he wouMn't want to teach today at least with- out going back for a refresher course and he definitely wouldn't want to teach in an ocen area school too much confusion. (A number of prin- cipals, of course, wouldn't agree with him on that.) He disagrees strongly with B.C.'s new ruling to abolish the strap. Used with restraint he feels it is necessary, but should be administered only when oth- er methods fail. As a principal he used the strap very little never re- ceived a parental complaint. "How else can one cope with lawlessness in the school if a teacher lacks permission to be he asks. "In many cases keeping a pupil in after school is a weak correctional measure and accomplishes nothing. The teacher must have the liberty 'to exert discipline when necessary.'' Born in Lindsay, Ontario, he came west to Calgary in 1903 where he received his school- ing. His first teaching position was at the one room Dogpound school, 25 miles northwest of Calgary, followed by a term at the Washington School near Carmangay. He joined the 187th Battalion in Calgary in 1916 but following the heavy casualties of Vimy Ridge was transferred to the 3lst. He earned his BSc. at the Uni- versity of Alberta following the war and in November 1924, after graduation, married Frances Stubbs, correspondence clerk in the registrar's office at the university who, while com- plentiut; Master's degree had been enrolled in Mr. Bak- er's English classes. Mr. Baker taught at the Crescent heights High School under the princi- palship of his neighbor William Aberhart. whom he remembers as "a very good principle who exercises excellent discipline." Mrs. Baker taught at both the Priddis and Riverside ele- mentary schools in Calgary. Coming to Coaldale from a 12- year principalship in Champion was "like coming to an eastern city there were so many lovely Baker re- calls. "The scfcoolgrounds were beautifully It was a growing centre, full of young families representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds, where- as Champion had a preponder- ous of older, settled families. The Bakers occupied the old teacherage. built in 1908 as a Methodist parsonage, and re- puted to be one of the oldest houses in town. The Methodists bad been holding services in a one room school with the min- ister occupying tlte parsonage before a switch of ownership saw the school board and Meth- odists trading the school at the corner of Wb street and avenue for the parsonage at 2TO8 I9tfa street. The school {now the church) was added to repeatedly with parts of it integrated into what is now the Coaldale United Church "Cws was tine only Jwufe tn OoaWalc with runwmg walcr." recalls Mrs Baker. "We had to purchase our drinking water, delivered in barrels by horse and buggy, in Chatnwon. Here in Coaldale we had sn irrigation ditch running right past our property providing us with plenty of irrigation for