‘Things happened to me (there) that never happened again during my days teaching'
By Lyle Carter
Marg (Brownell) MacKenzie's 41-year teaching career ended many years ago and included many stops along the way.
But it was the Truro resident's sixth teaching assignment that generates the most interest and it took place at the old hall in Brookfield during the mid-1940s.
"Now, that's an interesting story," said MacKenzie, a native of Scotland who was raised in Northport, Cumberland Co. "It was during (the Second World War) that I started and I taught there for two years. I was also the school principal."
At the time, Brookfield barely rated as much more than a village.
"There was little traffic or activity on the main street in 1944, 1945 and 1946," said MacKenzie, a graduate of the Nova Scotia Teachers' College in Truro. "It was really nothing more then a mud road."
The old hall/school house was located near the crossroad in the village centre, near Geordie Hamilton's garage and the old Co-op store.
Besides being the school's principal, MacKenzie taught 44 students from Grade 7 through Grade 11.
"My first year teaching in Brookfield I travelled in a milk truck," she said. "The driver would pick me up in Truro at 6.30 a.m. On his way back through from Halifax, around 4.30 p.m., he'd pick me up and we'd head for Truro. It made for a long day."
And in a building that had seen better days.
"It was a rundown building that was never built to be a school," MacKenzie said. "There were two floors and I remember students telling me, ‘I feel the wind on my neck.' We were good at keeping the fires on and in the winter time I'd use a three-unit rotation to give everyone a chance to spend time beside the register to get warmed up."
MacKenzie also found herself being very tired due to the work overload.
"I had to try very hard not to fall asleep," she said. "Finally, I got help from Dr. Ross in Truro. He insisted that the lunches I ate at Erma Lesley's be cut way down. This helped."
Another interesting experience involved hitchhiking.
"Because of meetings and other reasons I was not always able to catch the milk truck back to Truro," MacKenzie said. "I had to hitchhike. My friend Marge Henderson really looked out for me. Marge insisted that I not hitchhike alone. She'd come and stand with me and I put out my thumb. When someone stopped, Marge would open the door, check out the driver and if she felt it was safe, I'd get in."
During her second year in Brookfield, MacKenzie taught 27 students attending Grade 9 through Grade 11. She also made an important purchase.
"I bought my first car," MacKenzie recalled. "It was a secondhand Dodge. Travel became a whole lot easier."
MacKenzie said she really enjoyed her two years teaching in Brookfield.
"I have so many memories such as the excitement when the war ended," she said. "I recall exceptional students who did marvelous things in life. Things happened to me at the old hall that never happened again during my days teaching."
The old hall dated back to the 1800s and originally housed The Order Of The Sons Of Temperance. With concerns regarding the abuse of alcohol, the Warning Bell Division, No. 455, received it's charter in Brookfield Sept. 23, 1879.
In 1937, it ceased to function and the building became the community hall. Six years later, crowded classrooms and overworked teachers resulted in the building becoming a school. The arrangement continued until 1950 when the new Brookfield Rural High School opened.
In 1961 the late Danny MacDonald and his wife Audrey purchased the property. They dismantled it and used some of the boards and studs in the construction of their new home, which they moved into during 1962.
The house Audrey MacDonald lives in, located where the old hall once stood, is the first house on the right when traveling from the lights in Brookfield towards Upper Stewiacke.
Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.