Stories about the legendary Sackville teacher Helen Beale entertained members of the Tantramar Heritage Trust on Wednesday at the historic Anderson Octagonal House on Queens Road.
Helen Beale, the much-loved teacher who imparted English grammar to generations of schoolchildren, is included in the forthcoming book People of the Tantramar by local historian Charlie Scobie.
“We had to have a photo of her wearing one of her nice hats,” Scobie said. “Helen and her sister Jesse, the ladies as they were sometimes called, every spring they would go back to Prince Edward Island to buy their hats for the season.”
Scobie said Helen, known locally as Granny Beale, began teaching in Sackville in 1920 under her maiden name Craise.
“In 1928, she married Herb Beale,” Scobie added, “and immediately lost her job.”
He explained that at the time, female teachers were required to resign when they married.
“However, she was able to resume her teaching when the rules changed, but not until 1955,” Scobie said. “I think she had the last laugh because she didn’t retire from teaching until 1975 when she was 74 years of age and got the New Brunswick Teacher of the Year award when she did.”
Audience member Bill Snowdon remembered that Helen Beale did return temporarily to teaching in 1930 when the kids at the school in Wood Point were so unruly that the teacher quit in mid-year.
“Mrs. Beale came down and took over and long story short, the kids behaved,” Snowdon added as the audience laughed. Later, he said Granny Beale would “go right to the home of the parents of kids who acted up.”
Scobie said that the beloved CBC broadcaster John Fisher (Mr. Canada), who is also in the book, once said that he owed Helen Beale a great deal for teaching him correct English when he was one of her students in the 1920s.
Scobie said his book, which is due to be released in September, tells the stories of 47 “amazing people” who lived and worked in the Tantramar area from the 17th century onward.
” No person who’s still living is featured in this book,” he added. “If you want to get in the book, you have to be dead.”
He explained that each entry will have a picture of the notable person with no more than 850 words of text as well as a photo of something in the community that is linked to that person.
Scobie said the only two federally designated Persons of National Historic Significance from the area are in the book, but stumped many members of the audience when he asked who they were.
Someone guessed George Stanley, designer of the Canadian flag and someone else called out the name of poet Charles G.D. Roberts, but Scobie said that although both are included in his book, they have not been designated as historic persons.
It emerged gradually that the two were Mary Electa Adams, the first principal of the Mount Allison Ladies College who set high standards for the education of women and Grace Annie Lockhart, the first woman in the British Empire to earn a university degree.
Scobie said he has been urging Mount Allison University for years to put up a plaque honouring Adams outside the entrance to the campus chapel opposite the one for Lockhart, but so far, to no avail.
“Mary Electa Adams paved the way for Grace Annie Lockhart and there’s a close historical connection, which you will find when you read the book,” he said as the audience laughed.
Scobie said it will cost $10,000 to publish the book. He has raised several thousand dollars so far, but will need up to $6,000 more by mid-July when the book will be printed.
He appealed to members of the public to purchase advance copies for $22.50, a discount from the regular price of $25.00 if the book is ordered before July 31.
To view the online order form, click here.
The book, published by the Tantramar Heritage Trust, will be officially launched on September 21 at the Sackville Town Hall.
To see a complete list of the people included in the book, click here.