A Typical School Day
By Harold Greyeyes
Saskatchewan Archives Board S-B70
A photograph of the students and staff of the Battlefords Industrial School taken by D. Cadzow
I went to the Lebret Residential school from 1936 to 1944. I graduated from grade eight and took my high school as Duck Lake. I should have gone on to university. I had the chance. One day the priest went to the front of the class and talked to us about the advantage of joining the priesthood. Then he asked those of us who wanted to go on to college and learn how to be priests. Well, neither I or anybody else raised our hands.
Fr. DeBretange was the principle. He was a retired colonel from the French Foreign Legion. His second in command was Mr. Tuck, a retired RCMP sergeant. They were tough but fair. Their discipline was harsh but positive. They taught me many lessons that have stood with me over the years. With these men you always knew where you stood. They ran a full program and we didn’t have time to make trouble. Those few boys who tried were squashed, usually in such a way that all of us could see what happened.
Our school day started at 6:00. We had fifteen minutes to go to the washroom, wash, fold our towel, put the soap away, make the bed and stand at attention beside our beds. At 6:15 we said our prayers, got dressed for breakfast (shirt, tie, and best pants). At 7:00 we went to the chapel for mass and confession and at 7:30 to the playroom for breakfast. The food was good. We had porridge or Sunny Boy cereal with brown sugar or syrup and milk. After breakfast, we changed to our chore clothes, milked the cows or did other chores such as mopping floors or dusting.
Then we had a little bit of playtime, changed back to our classroom clothes and went to classes at 9:00.There we stood as attention beside our desks and sang O Canada. The first class was religion. In this class, we were told that the Indians were savages, that our parents were smart because they had sent us to this school and that we owed our good fortune to God and out country. At 9:30 we worked at the 3 R’s. This lasted till noon with a 15 minute recess at 10:30. Recess was always exactly fifteen minutes.---- no more, no less.
At noon we had a lunch till 12:30 and then organized recreation till 1:30. At 1:30 it was back to the 3 R’s, another recess and school was out at 4 PM. After school we went to different activities. I was involved in music. We had a good school band and marched in a lot of parades. Others did some baking, woodworking, gardening or drama. We used to put on big drama productions. I once played the part of Prince Charming in Snow White because I could sing. After these activities it was time for chores again so we had to change back into our chore clothes. Then we had supper at 6 PM. we had lots of food and it was good.
From 6:30 to 7:30 it was organized recreation again. We had to change into our recreation clothes. From 7:30 to 8:30 it was study time and halls were quiet while we worked at our books. We had to sit at a table. We couldn’t lay down. Then it was prayers and off to bed a 9 PM.
The days were well organized and very full. We never had any time to fool around. This schedule carried on till the day before Christmas. Christmas and Boxing days were holidays. They were free time. We were never allowed to speak Cree or any other native language. Our parents could come and visit us. They had a separate building nearby where they stayed. We went home for July and August and boys over twelve could stay home longer to help with the harvest. When school started in the fall the little kids would cry for a month because they were so homesick. (as told by Jack Funk)