Mackenzie Howse is at the little red schoolhouse in 150 Mile House this summer

Little Red Schoolhouse history lesson

One of the most historical treasures in the Cariboo is now open and accessible to the public.

One of the most historical treasures in the Cariboo is now open and accessible to the public.

Thanks to a grant received by the Greenbelt Trails and Heritage Society, the Little Red Schoolhouse on the highway in 150 Mile House is open this summer for fun tours, events and activities.

Offering guests the chance to travel back in time is Mackenzie Howse, who was born and raised in the area and has a passion for sharing the incredible history of the area with visitors, tourists and residents.

“It makes my day when I get to see other people enjoying what I enjoy,” she said. “We’re open to the public so they can visit history: immerse themselves and see what it was like for students in the late 1800s.”

She said that many people here have never seen the inside of this little schoolhouse and having it open all summer will change that.

“Visitors, tourists, local families — there’s something here that will tug a memory, bring a smile and give a great glimpse into this area in the gold rush days,” she continued.

In elementary school Howse had the opportunity to visit the Little Red Schoolhouse several times.

“I loved it! And when I started working here I found the old slate I used to use,” she said. “All the slates had names on them, name of kids who actually went to this school and to the school in Barkerville.

“It appealed to me — all kids like to dress up and we’d put on costumes, bring a sack lunch and go back in time for a day.”

In the one-room classroom there were kids ages five to 15. “There could have been a couple of kids a year or two older if they had to repeat a grade, and the teacher would have been as old as the oldest students,” she explained. “Sometimes the older students helped with the younger ones.”

An average teacher was 17 or 18 years old: mostly young women. “They were required to be single; you could not be courted or leave this city without permission of the school board,” she added. “You had to wear a minimum of two petticoats and you were required to be able to set a broken leg in an emergency; you were not allowed to loiter in ice cream stores and your dress could not be more than two inches above the ankle.”

She said that besides local residents, there have been visitors from places like Thailand and Switzerland, adding that the most common question she gets asked is how long the school was open. “They’re surprised when they find out it was open from 1896 to the late 1950s: nearly 60 years.”

Coming up at the Little Red Schoolhouse are themed weeks in August: music, food and kids. Howse also said a Greenbelt Trail and Heritage Society Facebook page for the schoolhouse summer activities will be up soon.

Howse, who returns in September for her second year at UNBC majoring in biology and minoring in biological anthropology, said she’ll look back and remember the Little Red Schoolhouse and the people who came through here and loved it. “It’s a little tiny gem in the Cariboo,” she said.

For more information about the summer program at the Little Red Schoolhouse, pick up a brochure at the Tourism Discovery Centre or at the schoolhouse; if you attended this school and want to share your story please stop by the schoolhouse or e-mail mhhowse@gmail.com.

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