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This Labrador school is now a recognized heritage structure, and its former students are nostalgic

The Indian Cove schoolhouse was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in fall of 2023. (Submitted by Heritage N.L. - image credit)
The Indian Cove schoolhouse was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in fall of 2023. (Submitted by Heritage N.L. - image credit)
The Indian Cove schoolhouse was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in fall of 2023.
The Indian Cove schoolhouse was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in fall of 2023.

The Indian Cove schoolhouse was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in the fall of 2023. The school is located in the resettled community of Indian Cove, on Great Caribou Island in southern Labrador. (Submitted by Heritage N.L.)

Carl Bradley is 62 years old, but remembers his first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday.

He initially didn't want to go to school, so his mom came and sat with him in the one-room schoolhouse in Labrador's Indian Cove. When he arrived, his teacher handed him a View-Master, a toy that looks like a pair of binoculars that presents 3D images.

He was so engrossed with the photographs that his mom left his side and went home, without him noticing.

"That was my very first memory of school," said Bradley. "The first few minutes."

It's one of many fond memories Bradley has at the Indian Cove schoolhouse in southern Labrador, a place his family had a part in building and restoring.

In the fall of 2023, it was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Surviving resettlement

The school is located in the resettled community of Indian Cove, on Great Caribou Island in southern Labrador.

It has white clapboard and trim, large windows that go along one side of the school to let as much natural light in as possible, and a potbelly stove — features that make it a charming and nostalgic structure, says Dale Jarvis, the executive director of Heritage N.L.

"This one is a bit of a treasure," he said.

Listen | Carl Bradley shares heartwarming stories from Indian Cove with the CBC's John Gaudi: 

Jarvis said the school was a great candidate to gain designation status as a registered heritage structure because Heritage N.L. often doesn't receive designation applications for buildings in Labrador.

The school is also rare because it was built in 1940, making it a pre-Confederation building. It also survived a resettlement — oftentimes, buildings don't withstand resettlements, falling into disrepair.

Jarvis said it's likely that 20 to 30 children attended the school at its peak. He said teachers were hard to come by in the small, rural community, something Bradley remembers vividly.

Carl Bradley, 62, he vividly remembers his first day of kindergarten at the Indian Cove schoolhouse.
Carl Bradley, 62, he vividly remembers his first day of kindergarten at the Indian Cove schoolhouse.

Carl Bradley, 62, he vividly remembers his first day of kindergarten at the Indian Cove schoolhouse. (Submitted by Carl Bradley)

He doesn't recall going to school in Indian Cove during the winter. A teacher would typically come to the community in September and stay until October, and then return again in April or May and stay until June. Teachers would move back and forth between Indian Cove and neighbouring Mary's Harbour.

Bradley said a lot of families resettled in 1964 and later, but his family stayed in the community until 1969, when they eventually moved to Mary's Harbour.

His family has deep roots in the community, and profound connections to the little white schoolhouse. His brother helped paint the school's walls and fixed up the roof, while his father helped build the school's charmingly lopsided front porch.

He said the porch isn't falling down. His father told him there were some measuring mishaps when it was first built.

The Indian Cove schoolhouse was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in fall of 2023.
The Indian Cove schoolhouse was designated a registered heritage structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in fall of 2023.

Carl Bradley, a former student at the Indian Cove schoolhouse, says there are hundreds of names scrawled across the school's small blackboard, from former students or the many tourists who have visited it over the years. (Submitted by Heritage N.L.)

Something that stands out to Bradley in particular is the blackboard. Scrawled across the small black surface are hundreds of names written in white chalk, from former students or the many tourists who have visited the schoolhouse over the years.

Bradley said his name is on there somewhere.

Jarvis said having a designation opens the building up to the possibility of maintenance funding.

Bradley hopes potential funding can be used to ensure the building is properly restored and preserved for years to come. It's a special place — a Labrador treasure, something that grounds a resettled community to its roots.

"For all of us with connections to Indian Cove, we always was proud of the school and looked after it," he said.

"I mean, it's in fantastic shape for the age before there was any major renovations done to it."

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