The railway children’s education in northern Ontario

Little Known Stories Series

raiway schoolsThe school on wheels began as an experiment, a joint venture between the Department of Education and the railway in 1926. Both CN and CP co-operated with this venture and there were a number of routes throughout Northern Ontario, each one having about six one-week stops at each designated siding. The children of that area would attend school for 3 to 6 days. They would be given enough studies to last until the school car returned the following month.

They travelled by foot and by canoe and on skis and snowshoes. One story tells of two young boys aged 9 and 11 who travelled 20 miles by dog sled and who then built a small lean-to shelter of pine bows to stay in overnight. It was -40 degrees.

The people of the north loved the school car. They were eager for their children to learn.

Fred Sloman was the teacher on the school car that ran from Capreol to Foleyet making two other stops along the way at Westree and Tionaga. After returning from the war he became a teacher and eventually taught in a small school in northern Ontario.

He then served on the school car for 40 years during which time he and his wife Cela raised 5 children. The Sloman’s dedication to the people far exceeded that of being just teachers, they became part of each settlement and friends to hundreds of people.

He then served on the school car for 40 years during which time he and his wife Cela raised 5 children. The Sloman’s dedication to the people far exceeded that of being just teachers, they became part of each settlement and friends to hundreds of people.

They welcomed the people into their home on wheels and often provided free meals and medical care, as well as the only source of entertainment around often in the form of a bingo. Mrs. Sloman helped the women by writing letters and sending orders to Eatons and Simpsons. She taught sewing and dressmaking and talked to them about hygiene and childcare. The Slomans became explainers and interpreters of the Canadian way of life.

The school car education came to an end in 1967. Fred Sloman’s car was found years later in a Mississauga, Ontario rail yard, burned out and terribly vandalized with a tree protruding through the roof. It has since been restored and is now on display in Clinton, Ontario.

 

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