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Hills Community Hall

Updated: Feb 14

This little building in Hills, on the east side of Highway 6, began life in October 1934 as the Hunter Siding school.

An earlier Hunter Siding school opened around 1932. According to George Markin’s history of Hills, published in the Arrow Lakes News on Dec. 16, 1981 and reproduced at http://www.doukhobor.org/Hills.html:

The first school was opened in a log cabin on the property of Marc DuMont, with his daughter, Rosalie, as teacher. The class consisted of about 12 pupils, including the children of the CPR section foreman at that time. Mr. DuMont came to Hills Siding from the Castlegar area with his wife and seven children and started up a sawmill operation shortly after, where a number of men from Hills Siding were employed. A one-room schoolhouse was built soon after and averaged 20 pupils throughout the year.

Rita Moir’s The Third Crop, p. 51, says Mark and Elizabeth DuMont “supplied the Doukhobor men with lumber from the mill to build it, and Rosie had a classroom for her students. The school was small, as schoolhouses were back then. The students entered a vestibule from the side, requiring them to turn sharp left to get into the main room.”


This item about the school appeared in the Arrow Lakes News of Nov. 1, 1934 (as quoted in the same paper on Oct. 27, 2004):

The new school building at Hunter’s Siding was opened for classes on Monday of last week. Miss Lily DuMont is in charge and there are 12 pupils. The new building is 18 feet by 24 feet, is compact and neat and a credit to the community. School has been conducted by Miss DuMont for three years, previously in one of the buildings on the DuMont farm. The new structure is beside the road in full view of motorists.

Lily was a sister to Rosie, so apparently both taught there. I have also come across two references from 1934 suggesting Elizabeth DuMont was the teacher. That was Lily and Rose’s mother, but the story goes on to suggest she was assisted in preparing a Christmas concert by her sister Isabelle. Isabelle was actually another sister to Rosie and Lily, so I am at a loss. Rosie then arrived in 1935 from a teaching assignment in Rock Creek to take over.


According to Moir, because Hunter Siding was a little too far north from where most of the kids lived, in 1943 John Makortoff used his two horses to haul the school down the highway on log rollers provided by the DuMonts. Two DuMont sons, Carl and Paul, along with John’s son Bill, rolled the logs while Alec Poznikoff used his Caterpillar to haul the building into its present location.


I found this clipping in the Nakusp Silver Standard of Feb. 6, 1947, which gives us some insight into the life at the school and in the community.

HUNTER’S SIDING SCHOOL NEWS
By E.R. and V.M. Gr. IX
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Poznikoff of Hunter’s Siding have returned from California. They had a very enjoyable trip.
Mrs. S. Zeebin is home from Grand Forks where she has been visiting for the past two months.
Miss Alice Vanin of Hills is remaining in Grand Forks where she has secured a job.
Mrs. M. Dergavoseff and son returned home to Creston after visiting friends at Hill’s for a week.
Mr. Pate Sabinkoff from the prairies is staying with his cousins, Ely and Bill Perepelkin.
Misses Ann and Olga Markin have been to Nelson on business.
Mr. and Mrs. B. Babkaioff of Thrums visited at Hunter Siding and took care of the Poznikoff ranch while the owners were away in California.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnnie Malakoff gave a house-warming party for the young folks of Hills and Hunter Siding.
For a few days last week the weather here took on almost blizzard proportions. After the windstorm passed, it snowed heavily and steadily.
Last week the junior pupils of Hunter Siding school held a verse-writing contest, the subject being Winter. The following two poems were chosen by the other pupils as being the best:
THE SNOW AND SUN
The pine is covered all up with snow
The birch is standing bare
But the birds are happy in the air,
For the sun is shining down below
— George Markin, age 13, Grade V

WINTER PEACE
The lovely path that leads through the wood,
Where often in summer, so happy I stood,
Is covered with crisp soft snow
And the trees are bending their heads down low
— Fred Chernoff, age 11, Grade V
The following pupils got honorable mention: Polly Poznikoff, Violet Zeebin, Fred Makortoff, Grade V; Johnnie Reibin, Vera Perepolkin, John Chernoff, Grade IV

Later that year, the building nearly met a bitter end, according to these clippings from the Spokane Spokesman Review of Nov. 8, 1947 and Nelson Daily News of the same day:

The 1945-46 public schools report indicated Mrs. Papov (or Papove) earned $1,250 for the year, which is $14,729 today.


In The Third Crop, John Makortoff’s daughter, Ann Deakoff, told Moir how students taunted a teacher they didn’t like, “a 50-year-old Anglo who didn’t like little Doukhobors. They had taken an instant dislike to him, much preferring their previous teacher, Rosie DuMont, who had since left for another calling.”

Seeking revenge one fall day, they sneaked off to the creek, pulled out skunk cabbages and beat each other with the large, stinky leaves. They returned to their hot classroom reeking of skunk and sat staring at the teacher like the passive dummies he considered them to be, as he gave them hell. They stubbornly defied him, and he gave in, releasing them early that Friday afternoon.

(The book has some neat class photos from 1938 and 1942. The Arrow Lakes Historical Society also has a photo of students from the school in a parade at Nakusp in the early 1950s.)


The school apparently closed in 1949 or earlier. School board minutes of July 18, 1949 indicate that trustee Neil Tattrie was requested to “meet parents and ratepayers of Hill Siding area respecting the re-opening of the area school and report at the next regular meeting.” But I don’t know what the outcome was.


According to George Markin’s memoir, in 1950 the process of moving students to New Denver began, and the first three Grade 10 pupils travelled there. Within a few years, all grades were going to New Denver and the school was converted into a community hall. A few more resolutions from the school board minutes:

March 19, 1953: That permission be granted to the Hills Community Club to use the Hills School building as a community club on the understanding that adequate repairs be made to the building and that a report be filed with the secretary of the school board regarding the condition and use of the building at reasonable intervals.
Sept. 17, 1953: That the Hills school property be offered to the Hills Community Club for $150.
Oct. 19, 1953: That the chairman and secretary treasurer be authorized to sign the deed transferring the Hill Siding school to the Hills Community Club for $150.

Later the building was acquired by the Hills Doukhobor Society. Today the hall is sometimes referred to as the Hills Doukhobor Hall, as distinguished from the Hills Fire Hall and Recreation Hall next door.


As a result, Ann Deakoff explained to Moir, the entrance was moved from the side of the building to the front so that during funerals, pallbearers would be able to move the coffin straight into the hall rather than having to make an awkward sharp left turn.


The grounds of this hall were the birthplace of the Hills Garlic Festival, which within a few years outgrew the space and was moved to New Denver.


Rosalie DuMont, aka Sister Carmel Joseph, died at age 93 after a long and very interesting teaching career. This is her obituary from the Chilliwack Progress of Oct. 7, 2003, which mentions her time teaching at Hunter Siding.

Updated on Feb. 13, 2024 to add items from the school board minutes, the Nelson Daily News clipping, and to further confuse the issue over which DuMonts taught there!

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Fascinating story! I'd read the account in "The Third Crop" but love the pictures and additional information. Obviously Sister DuMont was a wonderful lady.

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Thanks Greg

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Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
Feb 16, 2018

Whoops, my mistake! Now fixed.

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Lovely article on the hall in Hills B.C. Just one correction, a John Deakoff is mentioned, I believe it should be John Makortoff, my grandfather and my mother Ann Deakoffs father.

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