Tag Archives: cuban missle crisis schools

A “Where Were You?” Moment

Last week we had one of those “Where were you?” moments in life. You know the kind.

Miss Toews' Grade Four Class at Kornelson School

Miss Toews’ Grade Four Class at Kornelson School. I’m third from the left in the back row.

Where were you during the Cuban Missile Crisis? I was hunkered down under a wooden desk in my grade four classroom on the second floor at the old Kornelson School in Steinbach. The sirens wailed and we all ducked. We had rehearsed this many times before. We waited for the signal from our teacher Miss Toews that we could come out from under our desks and make our way home as quickly as possible via the routes we had practiced walking during previous drills.

My Grade Five Class in 1963 with our teacher Mr. Klassen. I am second from the left in the second row.

My Grade Five Class in 1963 with our teacher Mr. Klassen. I am second from the left in the second row.

Where were you when you heard President Kennedy had been shot? I was on my hands and knees in my grade five classroom at Southwood School painting a plaster of paris map of Canada. Someone from the school office came to give my teacher Mr. Klassen the news and he turned on the radio so we could listen to the media coverage while we worked. We had just come back to school after the lunch hour.

Dave is between his parents. His brother John is far right in the back row.

Dave is between his parents. His brother Paul is on the far left in the back row.

Where were you when the first astronauts walked on the moon? My husband Dave remembers. His older brother Paul was turning the family car onto the road that led to their farmhouse and was hit by another vehicle. Dave heard the crash and ran outside to see what had happened. He had been glued to the television screen ready to watch that first step on the moon, but as he raced to the site of his brother’s accident he missed it.

Mitchell School

Mitchell School

Where were you when you heard about the Twin Towers’ collapse? I was sitting at my desk in my classroom at Mitchell School. My grade four students were at music class. Another teacher came by and told me to turn on the radio. I did. That’s when I heard what was going on. I started to cry. I remember how hard I had to work to get a hold of my emotions so that when my students returned from their music lesson I would be calm and they wouldn’t be able to see how upset I was.

Where were you last week when you heard that a soldier had been shot in Ottawa guarding the war memorial? I was at the Winnipeg Art Gallery waiting to give a tour to a group of high school students. One of my fellow guides got a text message from a family member who works on Parliament Hill.  My colleague shared the news of the possible terrorist attack with the rest of us. 

There are certain events in history that remain etched in our minds. The events may be different for different people, but they resonant with us in such a way that we never forget the moment we heard about them. Of course there are situations like that in our personal lives. I won’t ever forget exactly where I was when I heard my grandfather had died from injuries in an accident, or the circumstances surrounding my husband’s proposal of marriage to me. But those aren’t moments I shared with millions of other people. The shootings in Ottawa last week were.

Hopefully the event will remain one that stands out and is remembered by us all, because it will be so unique, something that will not become a regular occurrence in our home and native land.

Other posts about remembering……

Where Were You ?

Remembering Sai Wan

Remembering the Children of Sichaun

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Filed under Canada, History

The Old School House- Kornelsen School Memories

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach

Look at the size of this class! 40 grade three students and I’m one of them, second from the end, in the second last row, on the right. We didn’t have professional photographers coming into our little white schoolhouse in Steinbach to take our pictures and so our teacher Mrs. Kihn arranged us in orderly rows on the school’s front steps and snapped this photo of her large class and had copies made for her students. She signed the back of each one of the forty photos in the beautiful cursive script she’d taught us…………..

June 21, 1962- Best Wishes M. Kihn. 

Mural in downtown Steinbach of Kornelson School. I attended grades three and four there.

I was in Steinbach this week to have lunch with a friend and noticed this street mural painted by an artist named Davey Penner. It shows the tall, black-roofed clapboard building where I went to school in grades 3 and 4.

Kornelsen school was built in 1911 when the town’s citizens decided that rather than just having private church schools taught in the German language the community also needed a public school where English was the language of instruction. 

The school was named after Gerhard E. Kornelsen (1857-1933) photographed here with his wife Anna.  Gerhard had been a teacher in a Mennonite school in Russia and continued on with that profession in Steinbach when he joined some of the first immigrants to settle there. His son Gerhard G. Kornelsen who was born in 1878 was also a teacher in Steinbach for a time but eventually resigned because he didn’t have official teaching credentials.

Miss Mary Kornelsen, a daughter and granddaughter to the two Gerhards who’d taught in Steinbach was the principal of Kornelsen School when I attended there. She was also the grade one teacher and had my younger sister Kaaren in her class.

Miss Kornelsen had taught in the Steinbach area for many years and after she retired she even wrote a book called Give Me This Mountain about her teaching career. 

Miss Toews’ Grade Four Class at Kornelson School

Ms. Toews was my grade four teacher and we were the last class to graduate from the kindergarten to grade four Kornelsen school in 1963. In 1964 the school was torn down to make way for Steinbach’s new Civic Centre. As you can see our class is about half the size of our grade three class. I imagine some students had already been sent over to Southwood School where I would also go the following year. In this picture, I’m in the last row third from the right-hand side. I’m surprised but I can still recognize and name sixteen of my fellow students. 

Old photo of Kornelson School from the Manitoba Archives

I have some vivid memories of Kornelsen School. The years I attended 1961-1963 were at the height of the Cold War and of course, the Cuban Missile crisis was in October of 1962.  We used to have drills where the town randomly blew a siren that normally went off only at noon. Some days when that happened we practiced hiding under desks. Other days we had to hurry home as fast as we could. Older students were always in charge of younger ones. I was assigned to make sure my little sister Kaaren got home safely as well as a girl named Cathy who lived right along the route to our house on the #12 Highway. 

In grade three we made a recipe book for our mothers for Mother’s Day and in grade four I memorized the poem The Song My Paddle Sings by Emily Pauline Johnson and recited it with great passion on parents’ day. I can still recite that poem. Math was the bane of my existence but Mrs. Kihn made that easy because she had tins of colored pegs we could use for counters and I remember Miss Toews staying after school with me one day and working with me at the blackboard till I had mastered long division. 

I remember a yo-yo expert coming to do a show for us on the schoolyard one noon hour and all of us going home to beg our parents for money to buy a yo-yo at the Steinbach Five Cent to a Dollar Store.

I liked going over to my friend Penny Peters’ house to play after school because her family lived in the upper story of the Tourist Hotel which her parents operated and her Mom would bring us burgers and fries from the restaurant kitchen for supper. 

What next? I’d love to hear from other people who were students at the old Kornelsen School. I wonder what they remember about their years of education there. I’m glad the school’s been immortalized in a mural. From 1911-1963 it played an important role in the community and in the lives of the thousands of students who attended there. 


Filed under Childhood, Education, History