110 Years of History: The Story of a One Room School
By Allan Goddard
Located about 6 km north west of the Village of Breton stands the Funnell Community Centre. The building was originally the Funnell School. On January 25, 1912 the Funnell School District #2638 was established to provide for the educational needs of the children in the area. Just a year before, several African American families had established the community of Keystone, and one of their first priorities was to establish a school.
From existing records at the museum, it appears that it took until 1913 before a teacher was hired and classes started. We know that the school borrowed eight hundred dollars for the purpose of building and furnishing the school in November of 1912, and a further three hundred dollars in 1913 to complete the school.
The School District was named for Richard Funnell who had homesteaded in the area in 1907, just a year after the Dominion Land Survey had been completed. While the school is named in honor of Richard Funnell his name only appears a few times in the school records which have survived. It doesn’t appear he was ever part of the School Board.
The local school board was responsible for assessing and collecting local land taxes for the purpose of operating the school. As with many local school districts, the financing of a school was a daunting and continuing challenge. Often the school was closed due to cold weather, lack of a teacher, or funds to pay the teacher. It wasn’t uncommon for the next teacher be hired while the previous teacher was still owed money. By 1930, as the Depression deepen, and with no money in which to pay the school taxes, the land owners would often provide wood to heat the school to offset some of the taxes owed to the school district. During the 1930s, the timbers on which the school had been built deteriorated and the school inspector threatened to condemn the building unless the foundation of the school was repaired. With donated materials and labor, the school was raised and a cement foundation and new floor installed with credit given to taxes owed.
Numerous teachers taught at Funnell over the years. The last teacher was Gwen Hooks who started teaching in1946. The Funnell school operated until 1954, with declining enrollment and the start of centralizing one room schools the children of the area were bussed to Breton for school.
In 1958, a local group called the Breton Farmers Union of Alberta took over the building to use as a Community Centre. This group lasted a couple years until the community formed the Funnell Community Club. Since 1960, the building has served as a community centre. Over the years, numerous renovations were carried out and an addition added to the original building. Card parties and dances were held along with bridal showers, for brides to be from the community. From 1931- 1981 a local group, the Funnell Mothers Club, raised funds for improvements while it operated as a school and then for the community. One of the premier highlights over the years has been the annual Christmas Concert. Many memories could be told by this building. The Funnell Community Centre is likely one of, if not the, oldest building in Brazeau County which is still located on its original site serving the community.
Stay tuned as my next article will delve into Richard Funnell and his story.