Teacher's hostels

By Clarence Dewling

Teachers Hostels were products of their times and their end was linked to their times as
well.

Let me explain.

Just after the mid part of the 20th. century there was a sharp rise in the school
population of the new and ‘Happy Province’. The government of the day was proud to
build and open and operate big and brighter schools throughout the province. It
appears that  bigger schools were destined for the bigger towns. And to these bigger
towns there migrated a host of teachers to staff the plethora of Regional and Central
Highs and other schools. The old idea of finding enough Aunt Sophies to board the
school master or marm was becoming more difficult. Houses were smaller, the lady of
the house was often working outside the home, and times were better and income from
a boarder or two was not as vital.

To solve the teacher-housing problem the various school boards of the larger towns
were often reduced to enter the housing markets. Houses, both attached and detached
were often provided for married teachers, especially if they were administrators.

What about the unmarried (read single) teachers? They could almost be classified as
itinerant. (Teaching positions were so plentiful that teachers often moved every couple
of years) So for that reason and because they returned to their parents’ home or to
Summer School every summer they hand no desire to plant domestic roots in the town
in which they taught.

To attract and please those teachers the Boards acquired Teachers’ Hostels. Generally
the Board would hire a full-time Cook/manager and a part-time assistant. These two
ladies, and they were always women, prepared three meals per day, left out some
things for snacks at night and cleaned the rooms as well as the general gathering
areas.

The original teachers hostel in Gander was on the Army Side, near Bob Chaulk’s store.
It was always referred to as "down on the Army Side". Then Building 45, quite near the
old Hospital became vacant and the School Board took that over & set it up as a
teachers hostel. It was on the same street as Duffy’s Tavern, which was used as a
small school  Names of streets did not play an important part in our lives in those days.

 In Gander, It is not hard to believe that the building was one of these military quarters
left over from the war period. Like all other such buildings hither and yon the outside
was covered with that dark greenish felt-like siding. It was ‘H’ shaped and the H joined
two long wings if rooms that opened off long corridors. Doors were situated at the ends
of each wing, two opened on the street. Although there were no set laws one entrance
was designated for women and the other for men. Because there were fewer men, the
men’s entrance was also used by the hostel employees and the delivery people.

Each teacher had his/her private room with its locked door its big window and a
gigantic radiator that generally worked. There were two bathrooms - one for each sex.
The H-way housed a rack for out-of-season clothes and the one telephone. If one
teacher developed too many in coming calls s/he could rouse the ire of the others.
Such use could block in-coming calls and cause a lot of answering the telephone for
the same person by someone whose room was nearby.. Sometimes the answerer
would walk to the other person’s room and rap on the door; at other times, to show
displeasure, a name would be yelled out from the H-way.

Then when the town became a reality, the building which was occupied by Customs
Employees as apartments became vacant and the school board had that one cut into
three sections and brought from the American Side into the town & located it on
Elizabeth Drive. There it was reconstructed and taken over as the teachers hostel. This
was all done free labour. [Them was the Days]. The first family to move into the new
hostel was Chris & Marg Hancock..

But times changed. Young people desired to have their own pads. Apartments sprang
up as income units in private houses as well as in apartment buildings devoted to
single or small family living. (Both the Boarding Missus and the Boarder were free and
independent of each other.) Soon it was not unfashionable for unmarried couples to
live together; not even if they were School Board employees. Shades of boys and girls
 fishing together.

With the rising cost of incorporated real estate and its upkeep, the hostel idea died a
natural death.

Thanks are extended to Mr Lloyd Jones of Gander for his helpful memory. Lloyd is the husband of Emily (nee Samson) who taught at Duffy’s Tavern.