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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Lasting First Impressions of a Prairie Settlement

By David and Sue Flower

In July 1998, Schuler celebrated its 75th anniversary. Twelve hundred people joined in the celebration but they found a Schuler changed dramatically in the last year. In July 1997, the last train hauled grain from the two remaining elevators and, one year later, the sentinels marking the settlement in this vast prairie were no more. Now the only indication from the highway of a community a mile or so to the east is a green road sign.

The work of Schuler's early settlers seemed so transitory to us when we returned last summer. Inevitably, we thought, the prairie would claim back its own and the community established with such pride would gradually disappear. The elevators are gone. The rail line is gone. Only the school provides an anchor for the community; and with the callousness of the economic restructuring of the 1990s even the school might not survive.

We are not country people. We were raised in small towns in the north of England. For two years in the mid sixties, we taught in a community near Manchester, where as many people lived as in the whole of Alberta. Yet now when we are asked where we're from, we inevitably answer Schuler, Alberta, for 1966 was the year that we became "Canadianized."

Schuler and the prairie were not at all what we had been led to expect. We had been told that the prairie was dry and dirty, with a movie-style, depression-like clapboard settlement on a hill with wind and sage brush blowing constantly.

At the crest of a small rise on graveled Highway 41 in August 1966, the trip clock on our brand new maroon Chevrolet Bel Air indicated that we were nearly there. To our right, we saw a cluster of white houses with red and green roofs, four grain elevators, and what resembled a blue lake. This could not possibly be Schuler. But it was, and it was the beginning of our love of the prairies that continues to this day.

We'd responded to an advertisement in The Times Educational Supplement for teaching jobs with Medicine Hat School Division #4 and had been assigned to Schuler. We could not find the town in any of the atlases in the school where we taught. None showed anything in southeast Alberta but a black dot for Medicine Hat with black, red, and blue lines passing through it, indicating a railway, a road, and a river.

We had a Canadian colleague who had an aunt working as the librarian at the Canadian military base at Ralston, about 20 miles west of Medicine Hat on the Trans-Canada Highway. She got us a description of the area around Schuler.
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Reprinted with the permission of David and Sue Flower and Legacy (November 1998-January 1999): 24-26.
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