A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Frontenac County Schools Museum in Barriefield with hopes of finding information on the history of the schools in the Swamp Ward. Initially planning on spending an hour at the museum, I ended up staying the entire morning going through materials on Robert Meek School.
The museum houses toys and books that look like they’ve received a lot of love and attention over the years. There is also a staged Anne of Green Gables era classroom — complete with well-used desks and slates from a one-room schoolhouse. Surrounded by the museum artifacts as inspiration and aided by Board of Education minutes from 1921, when the school board approved the purchase of a piano and decided on paint colours, an image of Robert Meek School formed in my mind.
However, what really brought the school to life was becoming familiar with the people who filled its halls every day — the teachers and students. Booklets held together by construction paper and butterfly clips, made by Mr. Grant’s Grade Seven class, have been filled with typed poems about anything from Christmas to sunsets. The booklet is not dated, but a student’s poem about the death of John F. Kennedy suggests it was created in the early 60s.
While the poetry by Mr. Grant’s class made me feel familiar with some Robert Meek students, I felt that I was getting a truly exclusive look into the school through the scrapbook of Miss Kathryn Baker, a Grade Two teacher at the school in 1943. Miss Baker’s scrapbook is thick with pasted-in clippings from The Whig Standard about World War II and sailboat races, personal letters from friends overseas, and notes from parents explaining their children’s absences from school. Seeing the snippets of Miss Baker’s life was an intimate experience, but it also left me wondering what the scrapbook meant to her and why she chose to keep the things she did.
I’m looking forward to learning more about Robert Meek School. If you have any information or would like to speak to us about Robert Meek School please contact me.
— Lauren Luchenski