Katie’s School Days

Doris and Katie Hacking, Wolfe School classroom
Katie Hacking (very back with bow in hair) in a classroom at Wolfe School circa 1916. Photo credit: Ruth Crookall, family collection

A mini preview of a current project I’m working on … my Nanny Katie Hacking’s early 1900s education and teaching career. Catherine Louisa (Katie) Hacking taught in Tofino and Clayoquot Schools from 1929-1934. Katie grew up in the Municipality of South Vancouver and attended schools there from 1914-1927, then trained as a teacher at the Provincial Normal School in Vancouver.

Katie Hacking 1928
Katie Hacking about the time of her Normal School graduation in 1928. A rare photo of her wearing glasses. Photo credit: family collection

Though libraries and archives are in ‘lockdown’, this hasn’t stopped me — in fact, I’ve been able to find almost all the materials I need thanks to digital historic documents. The UBC Library Open Collections “Sessional Papers” collection has copies of the Annual Reports of Public Schools in British Columbia. These reports include details of schools, teachers and classes, in addition to school inspector reports (very useful for seeing the growth of the South Vancouver schools). Also in the Open Collection are annuals for the Provincial Normal School and curriculum for BC public schools. A real bonus was discovering digital copies of the “British Columbia Readers”, Beginner Reader and First Reader, adopted by BC public schools in 1915, the year Katie began Grade 1.

BC Reader First Reader - 2
British Columbia Readers First Reader, 1915. Photo credit: University of British Columbia Library Open Collections.
BC Reader First Reader - 3
British Columbia Readers First Reader, 1915. Photo credit: University of British Columbia Library Open Collections.

I’ve also discovered some great resource websites: Vancouver School Board’s Heritage website has historic photos of schools. The Homeroom, a website developed in 2011 by Vancouver Island University and Patrick A. Dunae, is full of useful articles on BC education history. On The Homeroom, I’ve recently discovered a transcribed copy of the 1928-1929 curriculum for Provincial Normal Schools. This document is contemporary to the time Katie attended and gives a real insight into the very rigorous 1 year teacher training program at the time.

Once Katie started teaching in Tofino, I’ve been able to track her teaching certificate level (initially a 2nd class, upgraded to a 1st class after additional summer school) and her level of pay, class size and grades taught. But it wasn’t all hard work — Katie was having fun too. News items in The Daily Colonist from the 1920s and 1930s also give an insight into school plays and vaudeville performances — see my story “The King of the Cannibal Isles”.

I’m currently compiling and processing all of this valuable primary source information and look forward to sharing it later. But it’s not all staring at a computer! I’ve also been walking and cycling all over Vancouver to see places connected to Katie’s school days, such as General Wolfe and Van Horne elementary schools and John Oliver High School. Plus, of course the Normal School, now part of the City Square Shopping Centre, where I shop at Kin’s and Dollorama! A great way to get exercise, get groceries and do some history!

Sir William Van Horne School
Sir William Van Horne School in mid 1920s. Photo credit: City of Vancouver Archives
Provincial Normal School Vancouver, from a photograph in the Annual Report of the Public Schools of the Province of British Columbia, UBC Open Collections.