COLUMN SIX: Five generations of teachers

Grant and Evelyn Black. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Special to the VOICE

This is the story of a family which, during the last five generations, has had five members who became elementary school teachers covering almost 150 years. The earliest one started teaching around the time of Canada’s Confederation in 1867 and the last one retired in 2015.

My name is Grant Black and this story takes place almost entirely in southern Ontario.

My wife Evelyn and I (the 4th generation teacher) both attended Hamilton Normal School in 1950 and 1951 and began teaching in Caledonia and Welland. We were married in 1952.

In 1953, my grandmother (the 2nd generation teacher) was clearing her Springfield house (north of Aylmer) to retire in nearby St. Thomas at a hotel. She gave us most of her antique furniture, including a bedroom dresser. Inside one of the drawers we later found some pages that were old school attendance register pages dated June 1867 and September 1867. On those pages were beautiful handwritten script lists of pupils’ names. The teacher’s name on the June 1867 page was “Mary Grant” and on the September 1867 page was “Mary Chambers.” Mary Grant had married Ralph Chambers in July 1867 a few days after Canada’s Confederation occurred. Mary Chambers (the 1st generation teacher) was my great-grandmother.

Mary Chambers was a teacher in a rural school in Malahide Township just east of Aylmer, and had grown up in Sheffield, a small village on Highway 8 near the border of Hamilton and Cambridge. Ralph Chambers (my great-grandfather) was a farmer in Malahide Township.

Their first child, Anna Romania Chambers (the 2nd generation teacher), was born in 1868 and she was my grandmother on my father’s side. She also became a teacher in a rural school in Malahide Township for several years, but stopped teaching when she married Malcolm Black of Springfield (my grandfather) in 1891. Springfield is a small village a short distance north of Aylmer.

Romania and Malcolm Black had three sons who were born in the 1890s and a daughter, Kathleen (Kay) (the 3rd generation teacher) who was born in 1908.  Kay attended Normal School either in London or Stratford. Around 1930, she moved into my father’s home in Humberstone (now part of Port Colborne) and taught at Dewitt Carter School for nearly 15 years.

She retired in 1944 when she married Canby Minor of Wainfleet. Kay moved to St. Catharines and later to New Jersey in the United States.

My position is in this story is that of the 4th generation teacher. I taught two years in Port Colborne and then in Thorold Township starting in 1957. Thorold Township joined Welland in 1960. My first principalship was in Thorold Township in 1959 for three years at Glendale School. In total, I taught for 34 years and was a principal in Welland for 25 of those years before I retired in 1985.

The 5th generation teacher in this story is our daughter, Kerry Black. She attended Western University Faculty of Education with a degree in French and German. She later taught French full-time at the elementary level.

Kerry started her teaching career in Gravenhurst and then Brantford in primary and senior schools. She ended her career in November 2015 after teaching at three different schools with the Peel Board of Education (Brampton and Mississauga). She married in 1991 and lives in Etobicoke and winters in our former condo in Florida.

This brings us to the end of the history of the Black family of five generations of teachers over almost 150 years. The present millennial generation of four grandchildren have completed or are completing their university education, but none are presently teachers. We can only hope that one grandchild may become a teacher in the future to carry on the tradition.

My wife Evelyn and I celebrated our 65th wedding anniversary on August 16, 2017. My great-grandmother (the 1st generation teacher) and great-grandfather had their 64th wedding anniversary in July 1932. (Canada also celebrated its 65th anniversary on July 1, 1932.)

This article is dedicated to my wife, Evelyn, who was also a teacher with Niagara South for decades. She passed away Nov. 29, 2017.

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