Heritage Highights: The day the school house burned

The school that burned was situated on the north side of Dead Horse Creek.

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By George G. Froese – On June 30, 1977 the Burwalde School #529 officially closed. The school building, teacherage and garage were all sold. The children needed to transfer to schools in Winkler. This scenario happened many times, over the next few years. Today there are no more one or even two room school buildings being used.
The normal drone of classroom work suddenly stopped on January 21, 1937 when someone noticed that flames were coming out of the hot air register at the rear of the classroom. All the children rushed outdoors.
When realizing that the building was not ready to collapse and that it was a cold winter day, all rushed back into the building. We donned our winter clothing and grabbed books and equipment in our desks and rushed outside with these items.
During this activity some students were noted to grab handfuls of snow and rush into the building and throw these on the flames with negative results. Some of us also rushed to the well, but unfortunately it performed as normal and would not provide water.
By this time we had a fair pile of books in the snow and someone possibly the teachers, Miss Dora Suderman and Miss Mary Loewen, suggested we carry them into the teacher’s residence. This was done and it was decided that it was unwise to re-enter the school. We could not be sure how solid the floors were at this point. We circled the school but due to the dense smoke could not see into the classrooms.
The immediate solution was to break some windows on each side of the school to permit the smoke to escape. We did this with great enthusiasm but of course this gave the flames the necessary oxygen to really progress, and by the time any of the neighborhood adults arrived the school was completely engulfed in flames.
Some of the small children were observed to have tears in their eyes, but we Grade 9 grown- ups, with great show of bravado scoffed at this and suggested that it was time for great cheer! It was all very exciting and more so when we learned that two adults would stand guard all night in case a wind should rise and sparks spread to the teacher’s residence.
In retrospect I believe few really mourned that old relic of a building with the rusty metal siding and the oily floors which raised bubbles on your new overshoes. It did, however, provide us with the first real excitement of our lives during a very routine uneventful period of our lives.
George G. Froese was a Burwalde student in 1937.

Heritage Highlights, supplied by the Winkler Heritage Society, introduces readers to the people, places and things that still impact us today. The Winkler Heritage Museum is located in the Southland Mall and is open Tuesday to Friday, 12 to 4 p.m., Saturdays 10 am – 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday evenings. The Archives located in the Winkler Centennial Library are open Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m.. For appointments call archivist Ed Falk at 204-325-8929. The Stones and Stories binders are on display at both locations. Come for a visit!

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