Mary (Snyder) Jackson
Life and Work
Mary Vina Snyder was born on July 28, 1907 in St. John, New Brunswick. Her family, which included two younger brothers, moved to Edmonton when Mary was young. She completed her high school in Edmonton.
Mary's mother had been raised in a wealthy home and received a privileged education. She believed that it was important her children also receive a higher standard of education. Therefore, Mary was provided with all the cultural opportunities that were available in those early days in Edmonton. She took music, elocution, skating and drama lessons. Mary was also a very good student.
In the fashion of those days, good students became teachers. Mary went to Camrose Normal School in 1924. She came to the Wetaskiwin area and began her first teaching position at Larch Tree School. The family with whom Mary boarded at this time became very dear to her and she enjoyed country life very much.
During this time she met Everette Jackson, a widower who was working as a drayman. They married in 1929 and Mary became an instant wife, homemaker and mother to sons Cal and Don. She always said that she and the boys learned to cook together. Her neighbour, Winnifred Peterson in her book, Knock Knock: Who’s There? wrote in the story These Old Houses, “My next-door neighbor, Mary Jackson, just had a cold-water tap in her old house. Her house was her palace every minute she spent in it. Mary loved children. Many a day, when I had my house in order, I’d be missing my little ones. A quick step into Mary’s kitchen found all three, Eric on her knee, Rita on one side and Gwen on the other.”
In 1932, Everette began a Horse Riding business at Ma-Me-O Beach so their summers were spent there. Mary continued teaching and after Larch Tree taught school at New Norway. Her next position was Pleasant Prairie School where she taught for five years. She travelled back and forth to the school, a total of 10 miles each day on a horse named Kit. If you calculate that each school year was approximately 200 days, and she taught there for five years, Mary travelled about 10,000 miles by horseback! In the above story, Winnifred Peterson also wrote, “I can see her yet, mounting her trusty horse in bitter, cold weather so warmly dressed you could scarcely see one eye.”
Mary also had time for various community activities in Wetaskiwin. She helped with skating classes, Girl Clubs and was also a member of the United Church Ladies Aid. She was involved with the Dominion-Provincial Youth Training Program. This program was a project set up by the “Dominion Parliament” in late 1937 and ’38 for training and development of unemployed young people ages 18 to 30. There were four categories of projects – training projects of an occupational nature, learning courses in industry, projects to combine training with conservation and development of natural resources and physical training programs to maintain health and morale. Each province put forward specific project proposals to meet the need and conditions of its area. In Wetaskiwin, Mary was an instructor in physical training programs. She was able to use her coaching and athletic skills to teach gymnastics and other physical activities.
In 1942, the family bought a farm near Pigeon Lake and started farming while still operating their Horse Rental business in the summer. Mary also began the challenge of teaching at the newly constructed Victory School. A group of parents in the area, concerned by distance and conditions of the roads, felt that their children were being deprived of an education. The Wetaskiwin School board agreed that if land was donated and a school built, they would pay for a qualified teacher providing one could be found. And indeed, much to the surprise of the doubting board, Mrs. Mary Jackson agreed to fill the position. She taught at the school for two years, once again commuting on her trusty horse, Kit. A year later, Victory School closed down and Lakedell opened it doors.
Mary taught at Lakedell School when it opened in September 1946. The school came about because of the concept of centralization. Three schools were moved to the site of the South Pigeon Lake School and the four buildings were placed in a square to form a complex making up Lakedell School. Mary, initially, taught grades three and four in the Richmond School at the site. Centralization also marked the beginning of bussing students to school. Lakedell students were originally transported to school in four vans mounted on the backs of trucks. The roads were often in very poor condition and the students often found themselves walking through mud or snowdrifts. School attendance did begin to show improvement despite the precarious road conditions at that time.
During her years at the various schools where she taught, Mary’s musical background came in very useful. Christmas concerts were always a highlight of a school year and Mary could take music and lyrics and transform them so they were applicable for that year’s concert. She also took pleasure in directing school plays. At Lakedell School, Mary was also involved with the physical education program. She coached skating on the outdoor rink, which resulted in skating carnivals complete with costumes. She taught the students football, broomball, volleyball and softball. On colder days, dance and marching exercises replaced outdoor activities. Mary's encouragement and positive attitude always brought out the best in her students.
Mary taught at Lakedell School for many years before retiring in June of 1965. On her retirement Mary set up an award for students who showed qualities of good citizenship. A deserving student from each grade received a plaque. Following her death, the family began presenting a cash award to a worthy student and continues to carry on this tradition.
In 1952, ten years after moving to the farm at Pigeon Lake, Everette Jackson passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Two years later, Mary married (Jake) Irvine Jackson who was a cousin to Everette. They made their home just east of Westerose.
Mary was very involved with the United Church. The children in her Sunday school class enjoyed singing and often practiced at Mary’s home where they were treated to cookies and juice. Her caring attention and love of music had a positive influence on those young people around her. She also played the organ at church and served as a board member. When the Women’s Association of the Ma-Me-O United Church was organized on January 29, 1957, Mary became the first president. The main goal of the organization was to assist in paying off the church debts. The membership soon became involved in a great variety of other activities including sponsoring events for seniors and children, purchasing materials for the church, providing assistance to hospitals and supplying packets to overseas United Church missionaries. The members also took part in a great deal of fundraising to assist with these ambitious undertakings.
Mary did not have children of her own but she was a devoted and loving mother, grandmother, friend and teacher. She was friendly, pleasant and always smiling. Mary was musically gifted and shared that talent with others. She wrote poetry for many occasions. Although raised in the city in comfortable means, she was totally enamoured with horses and country life. The community and church were important to Mary and she devoted much time and energy to serving them. She passed away on January 13th, 1983 at 75 years of age.
Compiled in 2007.
Compiled by: Viki Ruben and Joey Jackson
Sources: Joey Jackson, Judy Wylie, Donna Browse Mantai, Pioneer Pathways, Jean & Ken Browse, Mary Ellen Herman, Freeway West, Winnifred Peterson