Page 1

Chapter 1 A sneak peak of the Saint John’s history book ... 85

Chapter 5: Going It Alone 1983-1995 Resurrection in Alberta (1983-89) Ontario (1983-89)

Manitoba (1983-90)

Alberta continues: building a home on the Saskatchewan (1989-95)

Reflection: Battle of Maldon, by J. Waikle


Chapter 6: The Closing Years


For this book to be a success we need you to show your support. If you are interested in this project, please fill out our form to pre-order the printed book. Changing programs Staff and Company What was it all for?

Reflection: The Discarded Image, by T. Byfield


Chapter 7: Saint John’s School of Alberta - Milestones Behind the scenes: fundraisers, boards, committees Parents and supporters

Staff: Company of the Cross members

Awards and trophies Parliament

Student achievement and scholarships Canoe trips


Chapter 8: The Legacy Memorial section

S.E.A.R.C.H. (A History of Christianity) Mother Earth Charter School The Legacy Trust Fund




“ ... these elements clicked in place for them and St. John’s became a formative experience which has remained with them for the rest of their lives.”



Great Deeds

An Introduction

For 50 years, from 1958 to 2008, St. John’s Schools of Canada offered a program in boys’ education at three schools across Canada that seems staggering by normal standards – 30-day canoe trips that crossed the continent; daily chores such as washing floors, maintaining vehicles, running a farm and constructing a 12,000 sq. ft. building; academics like a grade nine program which required reading ten novels and ten history books by adult authors like Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens.

(Left) St. John’s boy rowing on Lake Winnipeg during the 1957 trip from Winnipeg to Norway House. This was the first cutter trip for the St. John’s students.

From today’s perspective, this school philosophy seems like a nightmarish round of chores, discipline and suffering. For some of the over 3,000 boys attending St. John’s it was. But for many others, these elements clicked in place for them and St. John’s became a formative experience which has remained with them for the rest of their lives. This book is a look back at some of the main stories of these schools – what happened, the uniqueness of this 50-year program in boys’ education.

In one of the school’s favourite novels, The Lord of the Rings, the wizard Gandalf tells Frodo how a ring of immense power has come into his hands. He cannot tell the whole story, he explains: “That is a chapter of ancient history which it might be good to recall; for there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly vain.” This then is our attempt to recall some of the story of St. John’s – great deeds, not wholly in vain.

Beginnings |


“... Or was there something more central to life? If the Christian story was true, then nothing else in life mattered.�



Great Deeds

Chapter 1 The Beginnings 1956-1965 The early cell group with Ted and Virginia Byfield (centre) Eric and Nancy Cox (far left) and Shirley Hogue (top right).

Frank and Ted: A powerful friendship creates a unique school The St. John’s philosophy of education began with the powerful friendship between two men who talked and argued endlessly, fought together and laughed together. It was their laughter that brought together a group of volunteers and boys who created a unique school. Frank Wiens was a teacher; Ted Byfield, a newspaper reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press; they met at St. John’s Cathedral in north Winnipeg in 1956. Ted Byfield had been an adult convert to Chris-

tianity. He was drawn to Christianity by some of his childhood experiences and an ingrained ability to talk, argue and think things through to logical conclusions. These conclusions had led him and his wife Virginia to a decisive moment in 1952: “We saw our lives stretching out in front of us,” he recalled: “For me, the Free Press; for Ginger, years of diapers. Or was there something more central to life? If the Christian story was true, then nothing else in life mattered.”

Beginnings |


Ted and Ginger were drawn to St. John’s Cathedral in Winnipeg’s north end, near where they lived. Through the early ’50s, Ted and others formed “cell groups” – small groups meeting in each other’s homes, discussing theological questions, strengthening each other’s faith. The cell groups resulted in many others joining the Faith, some becoming priests and some, like Ted, working to live their Christianity in their lives. One particular area was singing in the Cathedral choir – at that time a traditional Anglican choir of men and boys -- sometimes up to 25 boys. Frank Wiens was a Winnipeg teacher. He’d grown up on a Manitoba farm during the Depression. The son of German-Mennonite immigrants, he had been strongly influenced by Harry Cartlidge, an Anglican priest who ran a boys’ club with camps, gatherings and stories from the years he’d spent as a missionary in northern Canada. Frank left home to enter the Anglican college in Winnipeg and hardscrabbled his way for several years through university as a railroad worker and miner, becoming a teacher at Sargent Park School in 1953. He was raising his own young family with his wife Nancy. He wanted an adventurous program for his eight-year-old son, Robin, and so, in 1956, enrolled him in the St. John’s Cathedral cub pack. Cubs at St. John’s Cathedral also had their voices tested for the choir. Robin qualified; so did his Dad, who was a sought-after tenor. Both entered the choir. And thus, Frank met Ted. Ted remembers Frank’s first day in the choir, “a pixie-like face with twinkling eyes.” Ted and Frank walked home that night after choir, feeling an instant bond of “philia” – what the Greeks called brotherly love. The two complemented each other. Ted was logic and questions and the spark of new ideas. Frank was passion and drama and often talked of what he called “heart.” They shared a love of strong singing, strong argument and strong beer. They loved arguments in beer parlours—arguments that began with the table loaded with beer and the famous Ukrainian Kolbassa sausage made in Winnipeg, and ended with them poking each other in the



Great Deeds

chest, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” “When Ted and Frank got together, it was like two ends of a magnet,” recalls Keith Bennett, a young student who was involved with the early cell groups. The arguments focussed more and more on what young kids growing up really needed. As well as their own young boys, Ted and Frank had taken on the job of running Sunday school for the choirboys. Both felt the boys were missing something ...adventure, challenge, something physical. It was becoming a world where kids no longer had chores to do, no longer felt that contact with nature and the frontier that had nourished previous generations. They had memories of how their own boyhood challenges had shaped them. Frank remembered the hard work of a prairie farm but also the adventures of the outings with the boys’ group to which he’d belonged. Ted particularly remembered his two years attending Lakefield Preparatory School. Lakefield headmasters encouraged boys to make contact with the primeval wilderness around the school. Rapidly developing his own gifts as a promoter, Ted had once organized a crew of fellow students to row an old navy cutter they christened the “Horny May” up and down Lake Katchewanooka. Remembering these experiences, Ted and Frank’s idea was born – get a rowing cutter and have the choirboys row it around the inland sea that formed the southern basin of Lake Winnipeg. It wasn’t such a crazy idea. Lake Winnipeg was an hourglass-shaped lake whose small southern basin was dotted with dozens of summer cottage communities. Ted had already fallen in love with the lake, encountering the vibrant Icelandic communities around Hecla. Ted and Frank acquired an old rowing cutter from the Navy League. In the spring of 1957 they repaired it with a crew of volunteers that included the new mayor of Winnipeg, who owed Ted a favour. For two weeks that summer, Ted and Frank and eight choirboys rowed the cutter on a 300 mile trip around the lower lake, camping for several days at different locations.

“Ted and Frank had taken on the job of running Sunday school for the choirboys. Both felt the boys were missing something ...adventure, challenge, something physical. ”

(Right) Boys on Lake Winnipeg approaching the Red River 1957.

Beginnings |


On the 1958 Berens River trip, high winds and choppy water drove the cutter crews to shore.


“Scariest Night Of My Life” Art Marche was one of Frank’s grade 9 students at Sargent Park and came to the weeknight and weekend classes part-time school with his best friend Jim Foster. He remembers learning a whole new vocabulary: “valid” and “invalid” arguments, organizing statements into “syllogisms,” and studying the intricacies of formal logic. But more than anything, he remembers the young group’s epic rowing program in the summer of 1958. Senior boys would attempt, not just the southern lake, but would row a further 100 miles into the remote northern lake to the isolated community of Berens River. Rowing on the northern lake turned out to be make or break for the fledgling organization. Several times the boys were forced to a standstill by wind and waves. Parents began to worry. For many days, all contact was lost. Ann Henry worked for Winnipeg’s other newspaper, the Tribune, and had let her son, Tim, go on the adventure. The Trib ran an article denouncing the trip and hired a plane to find the missing boys. Meanwhile, the cutter had reached a point about 30 miles from Berens River. The boys rowed all day but didn’t make it. Ted decided they’d carry on through the night, looking for the lighthouse that would guide them into the river mouth.



Great Deeds

Photo taken by a Winnipeg Tribune photographer in 1958 at Barrens River Manitoba. Ted Byfield (far right) and Keith Bennett (far left) and 14-year old St. John’s Cathedral choir boys “triumph over the lake”.

“That was the scariest night of my life,” Art Marche remembers. “The minutes turned to hours, the hours turned to the whole night, and we couldn’t see the light.” Before dawn, Ted pulled the boat close to shore and pulled a tarpaulin over everyone so they could get some warmth and sleep. When they awoke, he stiffened everyone with a swig of scotch whiskey. Now with the morning light, they made it into Berens River. When they arrived, they staggered around the dock, on sea legs that hadn’t been ashore for over 24 hours. The nuns at the hospital swept the boys up and put them to bed. They slept the clock around. Art remembers the clean sheets and awakening to the smell of fresh baked bread. Ted phoned in a story for the Free Press. The airplane from the Tribune found them. Tim Henry was removed. But the reporter and photographer sent to expose the trip found the boys hale and hearty and anxious to finish. The photographer tried to get the kids to lie down exhausted for a picture, but Ted, always conscious of the right spin, gathered the boys in a group, having them clench their fists and show their muscles. Then they turned for home. As they came down the southern lake, cottagers and boaters were coming out to greet them. By the time the choirboys were rowing up the Red River towards Winnipeg, people were lining the riverbank cheering. “It was like the whole city was there,” said Art. After two weeks, exhausted and grimy, the boatload of 13 and 14 year olds “shipped” their oars for the last time amid flashbulbs and ovations. “CHOIRBOYS TRIUMPH OVER LAKE” read the next day’s headline in a repentant Tribune. St. John’s Cathedral Boys’ School had been born.

Beginnings |


Frank Wiens teaches an early class at the weekend parttime school 1960. (A young Frank Felletti holds his hand up for a question)

“I learned more about boys in that two weeks than I’d learned in ten years of classroom teaching,” said Frank. Ted took photos of the boys rowing and wrote articles for newspapers. They produced a brochure. Ted’s cell group had discussed a speech by Christian writer Dorothy Sayers called “The Lost Tools of Learning”. Sayers, best known as a classics scholar and writer of mysteries and plays, argued for a return to the three primary stages of classical education – grammar, logic, rhetoric. Ted, Frank and members of the cell group be-



Great Deeds

gan implementing some of the ideas in classes on weeknights and weekends. They started to dream of doing even larger trips for boys who would be older than the choirboys. Thus Frank recruited older boys from his classes at Sargent Park School.

“I learned more about boys in that two weeks than I’d learned in ten years of classroom teaching,”

1961 junior students practice in the cutters on the Red river. Photo taken by then student Mike Maunder. Boy (centre) braces feet on a stretcher.


Mike Byfield’s memory of how the “stretcher” became St. John’s form of discipline Mike Byfield was a seven-year-old rower on that first trip. He recalls how corporal punishment became part of the St. John’s methodology: “It was a hot day. One of the boys, fairly mischievous, felt he’d had enough of rowing and really was just dragging his oar through the water. Dad cajoled him along but it became clear he wasn’t going to row. Dad had no particular experience with kids, but he did remember how the teachers at Lakefield School had dealt with this kind of thing. We braced our feet on a strip of wood called a “stretcher” and Dad suggested that if he didn’t start pulling a little harder, he’d bend him over and whack him on his seat with the stretcher. That’s what happened and that was the birth of one tradition at St. John’s.”

Beginnings |


The part-time school The rowing trip to Berens River and its accompanying publicity marked the birth of St. John’s as a part-time school. There were heated meetings at the Cathedral as factions in the church wondered what was happening with this runaway program. Churchman Derek Bedson helped guide the school through. In November, 1958, the Cathedral passed a motion, with consent of the Archbishop of Rupertsland, creating St. John’s Cathedral Boys’ School. The school was separate from the choir, part of the cathedral with a connection to the diocese. They began recruiting boys from all over the city, growing in 1959 to about 40 boys. Junior boys (aged eight to 11) came Tuesday nights, Friday nights and Sunday afternoons to the parish hall for choir and classes: Latin, German and poetry. Senior boys came Friday night for classes, slept over at 66 St. Cross Street (a property owned by the cathe-

dral and leased to the school), did manual work on Saturdays (principally building the St. Peter, a 40 ft. sailboat) and spent Sunday at morning church, choir and classes. Their classes included composition, logic, Greek, German, public speaking and rhetoric (ie. debating). In the summer of 1959 there was a junior rowing trip on the Red River, a sailing trip and an attempt by seniors to finally row the entire length of Lake Winnipeg and reach its northern tip. Frank and Ted were often a volatile pair, and no incident shows this better than the argument they had near the start of the trip. They paddled from Winnipeg all night to cover the 55 miles to the mouth of the river. When they got there, the lake was calm, and Ted was all for pushing on. Others were exhausted. They built a fire; cooked some food; the argument raged. Finally, summoning up the imagery of “Moby-Dick” Frank yelled: “Alright Ahab. We’ll go af-

“They began recruiting boys from all over the city, growing in 1959 to about 40 boys. “

1959/60 The sailboat St. Peter with Frank Wiens at the helm. The St. Peter was built by students and staff at the Carling O’Keefe Brewery warehouse near the Redwood Bridge in Winnipeg.



Great Deeds

Red River’s spring break-up.


Tom Carson’s prize essay Each spring, the spectacle of the Red River’s spring break-up took place right out our front door -- great slabs of ice grinding and heaving as we watched from the bank (or sometimes from the ice). Tom Carson was a sparkle-eyed grade eight who arrived at the part-time school in the winter of 1961. He was failing in his regular school, smiling his way through classes and falling into a rough crowd. Tom had to write an essay for Ted’s class about the break-up. It was the first time he’d cared about a writing assignment, trying to pull the words from his own direct experience. He wrote a great essay. He submitted it back at his regular school. It was so good that his teacher took it to the principal. He was called into the principal’s office and accused of cheating. “I was prouder than I’ve ever been.”

Beginnings |


Early group of part-time students snowshoeing in Manitoba winter 1961.

ter your white whale.” Eleven days later they made it to their destination at Norway House. That Christmas, the school presented its own carol service for the first time. On the cover of the program were the faces of many of the boys who had rowed to Norway House and other destinations. But there were also pictures showing the growing army of volunteers being drawn to the work: Don McIntyre, who served as school doctor and who instituted the Sunday clean-up inspections that became legendary as “Mac” inspections; Manfred Jager, a newspaper reporter friend of



Great Deeds

Ted’s who taught German. There were dozens of volunteers: craftsmen like Bill Purves and Paddy Hutton who helped make possible projects like the St. Peter; others who had been part of the cell groups, Wes Harvison, Shirley Hogue, Eric Cox; parents like Ralph Hedlin and Hugh Parker; and many others basically drawn in by a fascination for what was happening. The volunteers widened the school’s programs and made them deeper and richer. In 1959, the school added snowshoeing. As well as building the 40-foot sailing ketch St. Peter, they built smaller

(Right) Boys choir in the basement of St. John’s Cathedral Church parish hall 1960.

Beginnings |


1959 part-time school junior students having a snowball fight in St. John’s Park on the banks of the Red River, near St. John’s Cathedral Church and 66 St. Cross Street.

dinghies. The school was attracting a growing number of boys -- many of them doing well in school and looking for enrichment; many doing poorly and needing extra discipline. For all of them, the school offered discipline, winter and summer adventures in the outdoor program and enriched classes that stressed memorizing great poetry, logic, public speaking, detailed discussions in religious studies, and the basic religious experience of practicing and performing in a choir. It was always the hope that these activities would draw boys to the greatest adventure of all -the Christian Faith. The most significant milestone came on a rainy and cold Holy Saturday in 1961, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. A group of about a dozen braved the elements to erect a six-foot white cross in front of an old set of buildings three miles north of Selkirk. Through the support of many friends, particularly Derek Bedson, who had strong federal connections, the school had acquired a nominal 20-year lease on the old Dynevor Indian hospital, a federal property that had lain derelict for years. The part-time school moved onto the property a month later. Boys explored endless nooks and



Great Deeds

crannies in the huge central building, with barn and outbuilding and had the run of 640 acres of prairie bush. The school’s boats were moored on the Red River flowing past the front door. For the first time a farm program was possible. Boys, staff and volunteers spent much of that spring burning off the fields, hauling out and burning the old mattresses and converting the rambling old buildings into classrooms and dormitories. The next year, 1961/62, was the final year of the part-time school. It would substantially be a new group of boys who would take the vision of the fulltime school forward, but they would owe much to the approximately 140 boys who had formed the part-time school. From the unknown boy who initiated that first stretcher, to Tom Carson whose story appears on the previous page, they had all played a part in creating the very first beginnings of the St. John’s legacy.

“The next year, 1961/62, was the final year of the part-time school. It would substantially be a new group of boys who would take the vision of the full-time school forward”

Father Turney and student Rob Davis at the new Dynevor site 1962.


Father Turney sets the example The first person who actually put his faith into action and move out to Dynevor was Father William Turney, a retired priest who donated his meagre pension to the school and moved onto the property in the summer of 1961. “God would provide,” said Father Turney. He lived through the final year of the parttime school in his “cottage”, welcoming boys of the part-time school each weekend as they arrived from the city. He taught classes with gentleness and grace. As boys of the school snowshoed that last year of the part-time school, they knew they were getting close to the end when they reached the “Father Turney Road,” the dirt road that ran past his cottage. Father Turney died in the summer of 1962, just as the full-time school was preparing to open. Although most boys in the full-time school never knew him, the name of the road stuck. Finally, in 1995, one of those boys, Don Forfar, became Reeve of the municipality and formally named the road as generations of schoolboys had called it -- the Father Turney Road.

Beginnings |


Saint John's History Book: Chapter 1 Sneak Peek  

This is a sneak peak of the first chapter of our SJSA History Book.

Saint John's History Book: Chapter 1 Sneak Peek  

This is a sneak peak of the first chapter of our SJSA History Book.