Mr. W.W. McCabe

The grammar school students now had their own room in the common school, along with the junior scholars.  Mr. McCabe was headmaster of the whole school, but the total responsibility of the secondary students was his. There were not many of them at first.

After he had been there for part of the first year, the school trustees were forced to act about the overcrowding in the junior rooms. It was reported that one room, measuring 17ft. by 19ft. and 12 ft. high had ninety three on the roll.[1] They could not have all attended at the same time. The average attendance was low, children were being kept at home, the bad ventilation was affecting their health and contagious diseases were prevalent.[2] Plenty of complaints were being heard.

After much discussion and planning to keep the cost as low as possible, it was decided to build an addition on the southwest corner of the school. It was a two story white brick section measuring 40ft. by 38ft. this made the whole building long and narrow when it was completed. The old part was remodelled to make more classroom space. The lighting was improved, as it was described as having been poor in the old school, although it was thought to have been adequate when the building was first erected.

There were separate entrances for boys and girls; each had a small gable built over it to improve the outside appearance. The walls inside were plastered and whitewashed. There was also a separate room for the convenience of the teachers. There was no inside plumbing at that time or for many years to come.

Mr. McCabe’s classroom was on the second floor. It was 30ft. by 36ft; the ceiling was 18ft. high at the centre sloping down to 12ft. at the sides. The seats were single with the new style metal legs, instead of the older wooden ones. Every seat in the school was fastened to the floor. The Hall Foundry, here in Oshawa, did the metal work of the new seats. As far as was possible, Oshawa firms and workmen did all the work. The seats in the old part were double with the old style wooden legs.

People were beginning to be ventilation conscious in those years and had found out that carbon dioxide gas was poisonous. The best ventilation system known at the time was installed in the school. In each room were registers which could be “opened or closed by the teacher at pleasure and the unwholesome heated air was allowed to pass from above and the more deadly gases from below.” Each room had a wood stove; these were also fitted up with ventilators. The whole building was completed in December, 1864, at a cost of $3000.

The water supply was from a well or wells on the school ground. An enamel cup was fastened to the pump by a chain, for the use of the pupils.  The cup had a habit of disappearing mysteriously. When the second addition to the school was completed later on, copper tanks were installed in the halls in convenient places to hold the drinking water. Only one cup was provided with each tank for the use of the pupils. No one ever thought of such a thing as it being a hazard to good health.

The following was reported in the Vindicator.  “A diligent servant, one of the school trustees, took a quiet snooze to himself at the board meeting on Tuesday afternoon and woke up just when the question of a new pump and well was brought up.  We can’t say there was any connection between the subject of the discussion and the waking, but a pump is a suggestive thing at such a time.”  Perhaps a dowsing of cold water in his subconscious mind, eh?  It must have been a dull meeting compared to some of them.

In July 1865, Professor Young, government inspector for Upper Canada, made his half yearly inspection. It was careful and thorough. He said the discipline and efficiency were the best in the country. That spoke well for Mr. McCabe seeing that the school had only been established for such a short time. He complimented the trustees on the condition of the school building and the furnishings, especially those of the grammar school room. It was superior to any other such room in the country. Parents were urged to visit the classes during working hours. Well-done Oshawa!

[1] The following .PDF shows the number of children enrolled per class and school as of October 2010.

[2] The following .PDF discusses the current opinions and findings on communicable diseases in the classroom.


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