Portage Heritage Museum

Story of the old log school - 1928

In 1928 with the influx of families to the community there were a number of children and no school facilities. When the people of Cranberry Portage approached the government about providing a school for the community, they were told that if they could put up a school building the government would contribute towards the cost of hiring a teacher. Members of the community met and it was decided to have fund-raising events and approach the local businessmen for donations.

The first fund-raising event was to be a dance. In his book, Cranberry Portage, Frontier Life At the crossroads of the North, Patterson wrote the following:

The orchestra for the dance consisted of two white musicians, a fiddler and a banjo player. Old-time dances were ripped off in a dizzy succession, hobnails clattering in time with the silent moccasined feet. The frame supporting the canvas walls creaked and lurched as flying bodies whirled against it. Ruth (Patterson's wife) and the fiddler's wife were the only white women guests, the balance being Cree maidens from nine to ninety, so men tied bright bandanas about their arms and took the place of ladies.

"Boy, is this wallflower's heaven!, Ruth laughed. "No sit-outs here. Why don't you get your banjo?"

Banjo playing was a doubtful talent I had acquired in the sanatorium, and I was reluctant to experiment before such a crowd. But dancing was too strenuous for me, so when Baldy's banjoist, the visiting son of a prominent Cranberry gambler, yelled for help, I took over. I'd do it just for the evening, I explained. But was I out of luck. Pete Rod, a slim young Dane, inform up the line to pick up the mail, promptly informed Mrs. Sauna of my talent, thus permanently settling the question of music for school dances. Overnight I became the leader of a one-fiddle, one- banjo band that later would grow in size, volume, and northern fame to become the 'Cranberry Husky Howlers.'

The money that was raised at this first fund-raiser was used to purchase supplies to begin the school. The local tradesmen made considerable donations for supplies such as logs and lumber. A couple of men acted as supervisors for the building, and under their direction volunteers put up a one-room log structure. The men volunteered their time and effort were often not community members themselves. They were railway construction workers on their days off, prospectors taking a break, pilots waiting for a freight load, or someone who just found himself with some free time on his hands.

In a very short time the building was completed and the first desks were locally made and then came the task of providing books and finding a teacher. More money was raised, books purchased and a teacher hired with the community paying a share of her salary, and the government paying the other portion. A school board was elected to oversee the function of the school."

This system remained in effect with the locally elected school board managing the affairs with the Provincial Government offering very little assistance until Frontier School Division accepted the responsibility for the education of Cranberry's local students.