Verbena (Girls) Dormitory Exhibit


The Dormitory Exhibit Room depicts the living space of the young women who resided at the Verbena (Girls) Dormitory around the 1930s. An apple crate bedside table, a washstand, and a small partition for privacy demonstrate the modest living conditions of the time.

Circa 1930’s

Prior to 1933, high school classes were held in the basement of the church in Dickson, AB. However, without accommodation, it was difficult for students who lived a distance from Dickson to attend school. In 1933 the Verbena (Dickson) Dormitory School was opened providing opportunity for rural students to attend classes and have a place to room and board. The female students lived at the dorm whereas the male students attended classes at the dorm but boarded on nearby farms (helping with chores to cover the cost of board).

A large room and a lean-to, on the main floor, were used as classrooms. At breakfast and suppertime, the homemade desks were placed in a long row and covered with oilcloth to make a table. The male students ate their morning meal at the dormitory and all students would make sandwiches for their lunch meal.

Upstairs there were five bedrooms. The bedrooms were sparsely furnished; a single bed and a cot, or a double bed and a cot were generally placed in these bedrooms. Two girls shared each bedroom but three girls shared the large south room. An apple crate was used as a bedside table and another crate was used for a washstand. A partition was used for privacy and the girls’ hung their clothes from pegs on the wall. Light was provided from a coal oil lamp. The girls were responsible for bringing their own linens and towels.

In 1938, a new high school was built in Dickson. The dormitory was no longer used as a school but continued to house students until 1959 and during the latter years, male students were also housed at the Verbena Dormitory. The large room on the main floor was then turned into bedroom space.

In 1959, consolidation brought together 12 school districts at a new school built in Spruce View AB, only 4 kilometres from Dickson. Bussing became available for rural students, once the school in Spruce View opened, so the need for the dormitory no longer existed.

The Dickson High School Dormitory (Verbena Dorm) provided an opportunity for many central Alberta students to achieve a high school education and inspired many to attend post-secondary education. This was quite an accomplishment for students from what was then, a relatively isolated rural area.