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Welling recalls first schoolhouse

Posted on March 27, 2014 by Westwind Weekly

Back in 1902, when the irrigation ditches were still being freshly dug and settlers were moving into the Westwind area from all over North America, the hamlet of Welling was just getting started.

One of the first things the quickly growing, at that time, site needed was a schoolhouse for all the children moving into the area. Priority was placed on the school before anything else, and once it was finished it even served as the first church.

“I’ve been here (closer to all my life),” said Welling native Bob Bullock, whose family was one of the first original settlers to come to the Welling area and settle. “Back in 1902 was when most of the first settlers like the Bullocks and the Wildes and the Chipmans came to this area.”

Yes the LDS settlers from Utah brought their experience North and built the irrigation system through Welling, Magrath, Raymond and Stirling. The opportunity to come to Canada and built a system much like they already had at home, offered new monies and land to those who were willing to come.

“My family has been here for four generations – including my kids,” said Bullock, who added his four children were schooled in Magrath as the school in Welling was demolished just after Bullock himself finished Grade 12.

“I went to school in Welling until Grade 12, and that’s the first time they took kids out of Welling and started sending them to the Magrath schools.”

All of this happened around the time Bullock was 17 years old, around the year 1951.

“My uncle was on the school board and we weren’t too happy with him, I remember. But (the board) had decided it was just more efficient to start sending the kids from Welling to a bigger school (in Magrath) than try to keep the two schools going,” said Bullock, explaining that the school in Welling was very old and worn by the time demolition came.

“Our school was getting pretty old as it was built pretty early on. But they kept it for awhile for people who wanted to use it for making hoppers for grain augers and things like that.”

Although Bullock has spent almost his entire life in Welling, he did leave for a brief period around the 1970s to serve a mission in the southern United States.

“I moved back in 1973 and that was about when the building was demolished,” he said, adding that nothing has been erected in its place since.

“There was kind of a teacher’s dwelling there for awhile, and it was just bulldozed awhile ago, but one of the other teacher’s homes in still there.”

One of the fondest memories Bullock holds from his days in grade school was that of being given permission to miss class, in order to help build an outdoor, community skating rink.

“the principal at that time – I think it was Dale Earl at the time or Laura Nelson – but they let us out of school to help build a skating rink for awhile, on a farm adjacent to the school,” he said. “Then we would flood it and even play a little hockey on it at night.”

Trouble always seemed to find a way to the youngsters in Welling when it came time for Halloween though, Bullock said as he recalled his time “doing things he shouldn’t have been.”

“They told us if we didn’t stop doing things up at the school on Halloween they would give us a nice half a day vacation – so needless to say nothing happened to the school after that,” he joked.

‘One of the unique things about the school was we taught two classes in the same room. So if the Grade 7s were learning math and the Grade 8s were learning Shakespeare it could get confusing.’

The building was also used as a meeting place for church until residents within Welling were able to construct a proper church.

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