Porto Bello Junior School Celebrates A Century

Pipestone Flyer

    Porto Bello was one of the multitude of one-room schools which introduced the rural children of Canada to “reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic” until after World War II.  Ten miles west and a mile south of Millet, it was built in 1914, and lays claim to fame in three areas: its unusually high student population in a number of years, its early conversion to a strictly elementary school, and the outstanding success of a number of its students.

    The 100th ANNIVERSARY of PORTO BELLO JR. SCHOOL will be celebrated on JUNE 8, 2014, with registration at 12 noon followed by a POT LUCK LUNCH at 12:30 pm at the school.  All planning to attend are asked to e-mail marilynsned@yahoo.ca  by MAY 20th, 2014.

    Porto Bello School opened in 1914 with seven students, on land donated by Mrs. Eva Sheets,  but it was 1916 before an area was cleared for a school yard.  In 1937 a teacherage was built, and in 1938, the school was enlarged to the west and a cloakroom was added.  Soon the old Pipestone School was moved a couple miles west of the original school and became Porto Bello Senior School for grades 7 to 11.  In the early '50s, Porto Bello Schools closed with students taken by bus to Pipestone Central School.  The Porto Bello Society was then formed to purchase the school and retain it as a Community Centre.  In the 1960s, the Curling Rink was added.  It is well used for events such as an Annual Picnic, card parties, meetings, workshops, 4-H activities, polling place, and rental events.

    The first of its 26 teachers was Beth Johnston, the last was Mrs. McManus.  One of the favourites was 17 year old Irene Mikeljohn, who later married Bob McLeod, and is now living on Vancouver Island.  

    The probable record enrolments were 48 in 1938 and 54 in 1939.

    A dollar went much farther when Porto Bello School was built.  The original school, barn and outhouses were built by Harry Beaton and Clyde Cunnigham for $135 with lumber supplied by E. P. Bennett Lumber Company of Millet for $550.  The later addition and cloakroom cost $400 when taxes were 11 cents per acre, or $17.60 per quarter section.  Transportation was less, too, with children walking to school or riding a horse.

    Approximately 255 students attended Porto Bello School.  At the last school reunion in 1984, there were around 300 people in attendance.  They came from all across North America and from all walks of life.  Graduates include doctors, teachers, engineers and a millionaire, as well as many successful farmers.  One of the students, John A. MacDonald, noted that none of his schoolmates have been in jail, and that there were no drugs or smoking at high school in his time.

    Remember that the Centennial Celebration is June 8th with confirmation of attendance requested by May 20th.