Claire circa 1928
I was lucky enough to purchase a copy of “Celebrating the Centennial The Church of the Good Thief 1894-1994“. It contains a wealth of family history as well as stories about the Village of Portsmouth. One of the chapters outlines the “Chronology of St. Michael’s School“. “ The first record of a separate school in Portsmouth dates back to 1850 when one was established in a frame house on Richard St. near the waterfront. The next school, on McDonald St was built in 1859. A subscription list was put out at the time to which many citizens, both Catholic and Protestant, contributed…… The subscription list was carefully preserved by P.M. Beaupre, whose grandfather, Edward, was one of the original subscribers and an officer of the local school board. The recording of donations was in pounds, shillings and pence.” P.M.Beaupre is Claire’s father. And of special note, Edward Beaupre was P.M’s father, NOT his grandfather. This is a perfect example of why researching the past can be so tricky.
We then fast forward to 1925, which is about the time young Claire would have started school. “In 1925 the building was enlarged to accommodate junior classes. Prior to this time the junior students had been taught in a nearby house, which was also the home to the Sisters of Providence who taught in the parish”. The house they are referring to is behind the Church of the Good Thief. Less than a decade ago, that same house came up for sale. I was living in Vancouver at the time and joked with my husband that we should buy it. He said he wouldn’t take the chance because we would probably be struck by lighting as I was a fallen away Catholic!
1934 Until 1934 the school had two schoolrooms and two teachers. From 1911 onward, teachers had been provided by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, who by this time resided at St. Mary’s of the Lake in Kingston. The Separate School Board had requested the sisters to teach at St. Michael’s School the pupils from the orphanage at St. Mary’s of the Lake.
After graduating from primary school, Claire then attend The Notre Dame Convent at the corner of Bagot St. and Johnson St. in Kingston. She had many stories to tell about her education with the nuns. My favourite is when Claire and her all female classmates approached one of the younger more “progressive” nuns to ask if the nun would approach the Mother Superior to obtain permission for the graduating class to hold a dance in honour of their graduation. This had never been done before, and to even ask was considered outrageous. The class said they would make all the decorations. cover all the expenses of the entertainment and even pay to have the gymnasium floor redone after the dance. After many sleepless nights, and much toing and froing, permission was finally granted. I guess the young nun was pretty persuasive because the Mother Superior even declared that the other nuns could stay up late, bedtime was usually 9:00pm, to see the girls in their dresses etc. The whole Convent was thrown into a hive of excitement and activity. After months of preparation and anticipation, the big day was only a week away. Everything was ordered and arranged, all the dresses were made and all the corsages were ordered. And then in one moment it all came crashing down. One of the older nuns had overheard two of the girls talking about their dates. Practically fainting on the way, the nun went straight to tell the Mother Superior what she had heard. The decision was swift and final…the dance was cancelled!!!! In all the planning and preparations, no one had thought to mention to the nuns that there would be boys attending. As far as the girls were concerned, that was a given. But of course, the nuns saw it differently. The idea that men would be walking the halls of the Convent was just too terrible to contemplate. No amount of pleading could change the Mother Superior’s mind. The dance was cancelled and there would be no more discussion. It was a very disappointed graduation class that year. I know the younger generations reading this story will be baffled, but that’s just the way it was in 1930’s!
In Claire’s day, they had different terminology to describe the various grades. It was something like Junior Matriculation and Senior Matriculation. If any of my followers remember the correct names and to which grades they referred, I would love you to share in Comments. Thanks.