History is like a scavenger hunt.  It rarely presents itself in any sort of tidy and immediately appreciable way, choosing rather to leave its prints scattered in every direction of possibility.  As if someone took the whole story, tore it up into tiny pieces and released it into the air, to be carried by the currents of time until finally coming to rest where they may, much like the leaves on the monstrous maple tree in my backyard in a typical west coast windstorm.  And while my grumpy neighbour is likely to return all of my maple leaves together in an unceremonious lump by our shared fence, it is up to all of us who care about the past to go out and find the pieces, one by one, until we are able to rewrite the stories for ourselves.

Today we take some time to visit one of our favourite spots, the Metchosin Schoolhouse museum, as we continue our photoblog series “Olde School“.  When I was a schoolgirl, things were quite different than they are today.  There were no computers or video games so we were left to entertain ourselves with things like books.  Some books became part of who we are today, stories that left indelible marks on us and helped shape our view of the world, while others were just great stories.  And while I have always had a tendency toward non-fiction, I must admit to making a slight concession when it came to Nancy Drew.  Always finding herself in the middle of some great adventure, she could always find the clues and piece them together to finally solve the mystery.  She was savvy and fabulous and I wanted nothing more than to be her.  Except, well, a real person, but one just like her!  So today, in true Nancy Drew fashion, let’s put on our thinking caps and pull out our magnifying glasses and delve into another great adventure together as we try to piece together the early days of the community of Metchosin, using only a handful of seemingly unrelated artifacts to solve the case!

Old Book - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Old Book – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

This bible is one of the items left behind by Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher.  She was the first school teacher at the newly constructed Metchosin School in 1872.  Just as relevant to the colonization of Vancouver Island as the Hudson’s Bay Company, the introduction of Christianity played an enormous role in shaping the communities that exist today.  Undoubtedly, countless hours were spent by Mrs. Fisher reading to her students from this worn bible, its familiar words reaching far across the miles as they tried to make sense of their new lives.  And while it may have been a handful of Catholic Priests who introduced the concept of formal religion to the island, today it is a veritable melting pot of many different beliefs, each one contributing their own unique thread to the diverse and vivid tapestry.

Old Book - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Old Book – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

As peaceful and idyllic as Vancouver Island is, it was not exempt from some of our collective “darkest hours”.  This ration book and meat tokens tell a sad tale of strife, despair, and loss.  But they also tell the story of perseverance, strength, and love. Families torn apart by the ugliness of war turned to hope for comfort, and those whose hope was snatched by the cold fingers of loss turned to each other.  Out of the fear came courage, and out of the hatred came love.

Old Book - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Old Book – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

Of all the artifacts in the museum, this one speaks directly to me.  Today it seems every child has a cell phone attached to their hand!  Sharing pictures, messages and even video is at the touch of a button.  But when I was a kid, no one could conceive of a telephone that allowed you to see the person you were talking to, much less one that fit in the palm of your hand, but we all had an autograph book.  A bragging book of sorts, it enabled the average person to prove that they had, indeed, experienced extraordinary moments.  Signed by as many “famous” people as I could collect, mostly famous in my neighbourhood anyway, it went everywhere I did just in case I should bump into a random movie star or rock-God, or find some tiny treasure I could scotch-tape to the page.

Old Book - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Old Book – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

Some books are interesting because of the words they contain, and some are interesting for no other reason than the finger prints they bear.  Not being naturally gifted in working with numbers, seeing any book on the teacher’s desk with them left me with feelings of wanting to flee.  But this one, being old enough not to be of any immediate danger to myself, simply intrigues me.  The names and numbers, not pointing to any particular meaning, only fuel more curiosity, as the tattered pages and frayed binding attest to busier days.

Old Book - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Old Book – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

This card may be small and unassuming, but it tells of a much bigger part of the story of Metchosin, and of Canada in general.  During the years between 1940-1946, all Canadian citizens aged sixteen years and over had to register with the government, under the authority of “The National Resources Mobilization Act”.  After filling out a form similar to our current Census forms, each adult was issued this card, which had to be produced to any authority asking to see it.  While today it would seem inconceivable to have to produce “papers” to authorities in Canada, many of these cards still exist as families have passed them down as keepsakes.  At the time they were issued, the government used the information to assess potential “human resources” for the war effort.  In an ironic but happy twist, the forms are now used by families tracing their genealogy.  What started out potentially tearing families apart, eventually ended up helping them find one another!

Old Book - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Old Book – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

This tiny bit of paper was the genesis of every trip made by those fearless, or foolhardy enough, to cross an expansive and dangerous ocean into a strange and unknown future.  The golden goose, as it were.  The Holy Grail.  Written in language devoid of any feeling, it is the sum total of every dream, every nightmare, every hope, and every prayer of those brave enough to cast aside the comfortable, and throw all caution to the wind as they made their way here to face the laborious task of etching out a homestead on landscapes they had never seen and could scarcely imagine.  It is a testament to the courage, dedication, and hard work that it took to cast the mold for the beginnings of what would become the community of Metchosin.

So there you have it.  A story of faith, of love and courage, of hard work and hard times.  A story of a bunch of multifarious characters, drawn together by the same dream and the same cause.  An unlikely group of people who chose to call themselves neighbours and friends.  The story of Metchosin.

There is no greater story than the one that surrounds you.  Wherever you call home, someone was there before you and they left footprints.  Footprints that, when sought out and followed, start to form a path.  How much of the mystery you solve depends directly on how far you are willing to follow the path.

Thank you so much for joining us today!  Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments as we love to hear your stories as well.

Until next time!

Warmly,

Mrs. Toad

References:

Library and Archives Canada website

Metchosin School Museum Society




  1. avatar ken bello says:

    Thank you, Mrs. Toad. Well written and, as usual, beautifully photographed. I am fortunate enough to work (as a volunteer photographer) for a museum staffed with wonderful people who love history.I can’t say enough about them.

  2. avatar Jim Denham says:

    Absolutely awesome! These relics carry so many stories with them and your images and words have presented them so well! Bravo Mrs. Toad!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you kindly Jim! I must admit, we are pretty lucky to have a friend with ties to these great little museums. I could spend all day just poking around!

  3. avatar Averil says:

    Mrs Toad you write so eloquently. You do certainly have a great gift. I like looking at antique items but I have never really warmed up to history. I like my own family history which is part of the whole I know. Slowly but surely my daughter and husband are making myself learn it more as they are both such history buffs.

    Thank you for this wonderful post and photos. Superb!!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments Averil! There is truly no greater history than that of your own family. I’m sure your daughter and husband will give you the history “bug” in no time!

  4. avatar Margaret Roper says:

    very well done!

  5. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    When I follow someone’s blog, it is usually about the photos, but in your case, I look forward to the story you Toads weave as much as the photos. Great story Mrs Toad. Keep them coming.

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you from the bottom of our hearts Len! Your friendship and support mean the world to us.

  6. avatar Edith Levy says:

    I just love reading your posts. Beautifully written Mrs. Toad and wonderful images. So much history behind all of these objects.

  7. avatar LensScaper says:

    Wonderfully told – you have the knack of weaving history around a set of documents and books, that brings that history to life. Great set of images to accompany the text too. Your posts really are a joy to read, Mrs Toad.

  8. avatar Averil says:

    Hi, good news!

    I have nominated your blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

    The rules of that award are at:

    http://mphocus.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/httpdearkitty1-wordpress-com/

    Congratulations!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Wow! Thank you so very much Averil, that was awfully kind of you and we really are honoured. I see there is some “techno” stuff involved, so I will pass this on to Mr. Toad. Thanks so much again!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Hi Averil, thank you so much for this kind consideration! We’re very thrilled that you thought of us in this light! We’ll take a close look at this in the next week or so and do our best to contribute to the community! Thanks so much.

  9. avatar Jim Nix says:

    these historical close-ups are just great, nicely written and shot!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you very much Jim, my favourite moments are spent at these wonderful little museums. Knowing that the artifacts come from local families just makes it all that much more personal. Have a great day!

  10. Great post, love the texture and detail, superb

  11. avatar Rick Louie says:

    Wonderful memorabilia and shots! I agree that I never had a cell phone in school. Wonder how much better adjusted and how much more our kids would learn if owithout the distraction of cell phones.