When Barb Thomas and her parents first moved to the Cariboo, they lived in the old North Bridge Lake School, a log building on a small ranch with cattle and other animals. She grew up doing household and farm chores.
“After I finished Grade 10 at the Bridge Lake School in 1963, I went to school in 100 Mile House for Grades 11 and 12. My father or another parent would drive us to the dormitory in town on Sunday night. The roads were terrible so it took a long time. We had to be there at seven o’clock. That wasn’t a house rule but a kids’ rule because we got to watch Bonanza. We didn’t have televisions at home.
“The dormitory kids were from all over. I remember John Jefferson who came from Puntzi Mountain and kids from other places. I was an only child and I was overwhelmed by all of those girls.”
The dormitory building was one-storey at the time and Thomas made a sketch of it. The rectangular section of the building nearest the trees was where the students ate, watched television and did homework in the evening. There were two wings. The closest wing to the parking lot was divided into bedrooms for the girls. The boys’ wing was at the back of the property. Mrs. Leman, the matron, had a room next to the kitchen. Kitty Carroll was the cook.
As well as television, the dormitory had other modern conveniences.
“There were about 20 or 30 kids. There was a large bathroom in each wing with three shower stalls,” Thomas said. “Showers! Now that was amazing. Not like at home where you might be the last one in the tub.
“We all had to do chores. We swept the floors, cleaned our rooms and did the bathrooms. Down in the basement was a wringer washing machine. That was a real treat! There was no washing machine at home, it was all done by hand. Sometimes there’d be a boy down there doing his laundry and that would be nice.”
After breakfast, the students walked across the yard to the junior-senior high school, which later became 100 Mile Junior when Peter Skene Ogden High School was built. After school, they were allowed to go downtown as long as they were back for supper. Study time was from 7-8 p.m. and they watched television until 10 p.m., depending on what was on.
“They were good about it. If there was something special we knew we wanted to watch the next night, we could give up an hour or so the night before,” Thomas said. “Sometimes on the weekend there would be something special going on and we would stay Friday night. One time we had a fashion show. This girl who owned a dress shop in town brought all the clothes. We came out of our rooms and walked around the tables, just like we were models!”
In her second year, Thomas worked at what is now the Fireside Diner after school and on Friday nights, she was allowed to stay at the dorm. If she stayed over, someone had to pick her up on Saturday morning.
Being teenagers, Thomas and her friends rebelled a little.
“Getting out was easy,” she laughed, “but getting back in was something else. There was an alarm on the door that would ding in Mrs. Leman’s room. You had to bribe the girl in the last room near the fire escape to unplug the alarm and let you in. We didn’t do much when we were out. The fun was in getting away with it. Discipline was doing extra dish duty. Not too bad when there were boys working too.
“I have such good memories of my time there. What I would really like to do is to tour the building before they tear it down. There are a lot of us who would enjoy doing that.”
The dormitory building is easy to spot behind the junior school, beside the playing field. Its two stories are neatly boarded up. Its students’ stories are still being told.