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Walter Rolling Online

Walter Rolling, 1937. Courtesy of King Township Museum.
"He was a friend of little children, a man among men, loved by his friends and respected by all."
Aurora Banner, June 18, 1943


Walter Rolling was born on May 31st, 1873 in Laskay, Ontario which is in King Township. He was the second oldest child of Benjamin Harris Rolling Jr. and Sarah Elizabeth Britton. He had five siblings.

Walter was a well educated man. He attended the Strange School as a boy, the closest school to Laskay approximately a one and a quarter mile walk away. It has been noted that Walter was an outstanding student. His public school teacher was Elizabeth Tinline.
For high school, he attended the Aurora High School, which he started in 1892. At that time, fewer than 10% of public school students enrolled in high school, for which they had to pay $4.00 per term. In 1892, the high school had just moved to a new building on Wells Street in Aurora. Over 100 students had registered that year. The single most common profession chosen by Aurora High School graduates at that time was teaching. After high school, Walter earned his Third Class Teaching Certificate from the Newmarket Model School. Notices were posted in the Aurora Banner about the students' graduation.
Elizabeth Tinline 1870. Courtesy of King Township Museum.

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Aurora Banner
August 18, 1893
Aurora Banner
December 22, 1893
Aurora Public School
Courtesy of King Township Museum
Walter's High School Class Photograph, 1892
Courtesy of King Township Museum.
Walter's first teaching job was at a school in Aurora. Here are Walter's recollections of those first few days of teaching told to the Toronto Star in 1937:
Kinghorn School Room, 2004. Courtesy of King Township Museum "I took the place of a teacher who left town in despair after the class had gotten entirely out of hand and had actually partially disrobed her. When I arrived, the principal asked me if I had a club with me. When I expressed surprise, he took me aside, gave me a wagon wheel spoke, which I slipped up my sleeve. I had to use it quite frequently in those eight days, too. After I showed I meant business I had no trouble at all. When I started to teach at Kinghorn I found my Aurora experience had gone ahead of me, and the pupils were quite afraid at first."
On January 3, 1895 Walter started teaching at the Kinghorn School, S.S. #23, a one room school house which he succeeded Ms. Alice Ferguson. Walter's first year salary was $295, where as Alice was being paid $310 per year. By his second year, Walter was making $310 per year. To help compensate his salary, Walter held other part-time jobs, such as selling tombstones for a company in Orangeville.

In 1897, Walter attended the Toronto Normal School (link to education document) where he received his Second Class Professional Teaching certificate. In 1910, the board of the King City School, S.S. #2, offered Walter the senior teacher's position, with a salary of $600 a year.
Walter Rolling with winning students James Gray and William Walter, 1932. Courtesy of King Township Museum.

At first he accepted the position, but then rescinded in favour of Kinghorn. Walter offered a "fifth class" at Kinghorn, which was equivalent to grade nine for the students who were not able to go to Aurora for high school. Children came from miles around for that class since it was not offered elsewhere nearby. On Walter's 1917 teacher's evaluation, it was stated: "There are few schools in the Province that have been able to do as good work as this one. It has maintained a very successful Fifth Class for many years, while the majority of schools never have a Fifth Class pupil." Walter was very proud of his students and did not have a single failure in his class for thirty years. In 1932 and 1933 two of his students, Jimmie Gray and Billy Walker, won the Toronto district oratorical contest at the Toronto Normal School. Then in 1935 and 1936, second place for oratory was won by Douglas Kyle and Doris Hollinshead.

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Toronto Star
January 21, 1933
Toronto Star
January 13, 1932
Walter was considered a good teacher, but strict. One of Walter's past student, Mrs. Busby remembered that students often had to stand in the corner. He would use the cane on the boys if needed, but not on the girls. If the boys were really misbehaving, they were locked in the old bell room, where it was very dark.

Walter described his approach to teaching as follows:
"I used the strap very seldom but when I did use it the recipient knew he had been strapped. I found that it was better to reason with a pupil and put him on his honour than to gain a point by force. I always tried to instill in my pupils the idea that they were part of the school and that they must work with the teacher, not against him. When you give a child responsibility he will invariably measure up."
Some of the most fondly remembered school activities were Arbour Day when students cleaned up the school yard and planted some of the sugar maples that used to surround the school yard. Afterwards, they were taken to the woods for an outing. The students had an end of school picnic at Lake Wilcox, and always attended the Rural School Fair, which was held every September. The school topics that Walter was most enthusiastic about were oratory, arithmetic, spelling, and geography. Kinghorn School Grounds, 2004. Courtesy of King Township Museum.

Walter retired from teaching on June 30, 1936. On this day he was presented with a gold watch, but a true celebration of his teaching and dedication to the community was held one year later on June 16, 1937, when they celebrated Walter Rolling Day.

Doris ((Hollinshead) Willoughby, one of Walter's last students, described him as a teacher to the King Weekly in 1995:
"Certainly, I think he was fair. He was strict. We had to behave. We got a really good education there. If Mr. Rolling ever encountered racism, it didn't bother him. I don't think he ever thought much about it. If things hurt him, he didn't show it. We went all over with him and never ran into any problems."

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Kinghorn School 1901.
Courtesy of King Township Museum.
Kinghorn School 1909.
Courtesy of King Township Museum.
Kinghorn School 1912.
Courtesy of King Township Museum.
Kinghorn School 1920.
Courtesy of King Township Museum.
Kinghorn School 1924.
Courtesy of King Township Museum.
Kinghorn School 1929.
Courtesy of King Township Museum.
Aurora Banner
June 25, 1937
Walter's Retirement Letter
. Courtesy of King Township Museum.

Davis Leather Football Team, 1900. Courtesy of King Township Museum Walter had always had a strong interest in sports. He was on the Newmarket Football Team and in 1893, they won the district championship. He was also a member of the Davis Leather Company's Football Club, which was sponsored by the local tannery in Kinghorn. While teaching, he was also involved in many of the children's sports, including coaching the Kinghorn Girls Baseball team. Walter was a strong supporter of both boys' and girls' sports.
"In the old days, some of the best football players in the school sports were girls and girls were sometimes better than boys on the baseball teams," recalled Walter. "The girls took their part alongside the boys on the teams."

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Kinghorn Girls Baseball Team, 1924
Courtesy of King Township Museum

Newmarket Football Team, 1893
Courtesy of King Township Museum.

1st Marriage: Eva Elizabeth Smith
On June 27, 1906, Walter married Eva Elizabeth Smith at the Smith family home in Toronto. Eva was born on October 20, 1876 in Toronto, the second daughter of George Washington Smith and Elizabeth Jane Campbell, an African-American family. George Washington Smith came to Toronto at the age of 18 or 19 from the United States and developed into a very successful businessman.

Walter and Eva's marriage announcement.
Aurora Banner, 1906.

He owned multiple barber shops and later was a newspaper dealer. Due to his clientele, he became a well-known in Toronto's "coloured colony" and part of the Black, upper class community.

Eva suffered for a long time from heart trouble. On April 10, 1916, she died at her parent's home after this lingering illness

2nd Marriage: Laura E. Clark

On July 12, 1920, Walter married Laura Emily Clark. Laura was born on February 21, 1892 in Uxbridge, Ontario. She was the daughter of Peter Clark and Mary Emily Kennedy, who were of Scottish decent. Laura was a school teacher at the Strange School in King Township. She received her teaching certificate from Peterborough Teachers College and also studied music at Whitby Ladies College. After their marriage, Laura taught music on Friday afternoons at Walter's school.

Walter and Laura's marriage announcement.
Aurora Banner, 1920.

Walter and Laura Rolling, 1937. Courtesy of King Township Museum. In the 1930s, Laura was a society page contributor to the Toronto Star, Newmarket Express-Herald (later called the Newmarket Era), Aurora Banner, and Richmond Hill Liberal. She also worked for the radio stations CKEY and CFGM, and was a representative for the British United Press for 10 years. Harold Lubbock, a past Aurora Banner editor, stated that Laura "was always accurate and showed a great interest in her community." Laura was busiest during the Second World War, when the Toronto Star was short staffed. During that time, she was known to phone in at least three stories a day. "If I was asked to do something I never refused, if I had to go through hellfire and water," Laura stated when interviewed in 1968. Municipal politics were always her favorite subject to report on. One of her more famous stories was when the King City Bank was robbed in 1944, and she was taken hostage. She was known to have said that she "wasn't frightened, just frustrated" because she couldn't get to a phone to call the story in.

Laura was also an active member of the Women's Institute of Laskay, where she held officer positions and sat on committees from the 1940s to the 1970s. She was also involved in the Kingcrafts Society. In 1956, she was the Publicity Convenor and wrote 'A Pair of Working Hands.' Other organizations she was involved in included the Eversley Branch of the Women's Missionary Society and being the secretary of the King City Cemetery.

After Walter's death, she became more involved with journalism. She retired from the Toronto Star in 1965 and from the other papers in 1969. In 1967, she was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal for "service to the nation."

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Aurora Banner
January 31, 1968
Laura Rolling's
Canadian Centennial Medal, 1967.
Courtesy of King Township Museum.

Certificate presented to
Laura Rolling for
'Service to the Nation', 1967.
Courtesy of King Township
Newmarket Era, April, 1978

She died at York Central Hospital on April 11, 1978, and was survived by her sister Kay Clark. She was buried with Walter at the King City Cemetery.

There were no children from either of Walter's marriages.

Member of the Community
Walter became a prominent member of the community, serving on many different boards. He served on the King Public School Board, was the secretary-treasurer for the Eversley Presbyterian Church, and from 1923 to 1943 he was the secretary of the King City Cemetery Board.

Where Did Walter Reside in King Township?
Walter grew up living with his family in Laskay, Ontario. Even as an adult, he continued living in the family home to help out, especially after his father died suddenly in 1897. In 1902, Walter and his mother Sarah sold the family home in Laskay and Walter moved in with Ellen Smith, his cousin in Laskay. Walter lived with Ellen until 1907, when he and his first wife, Eva, rented four acres of land near the Kinghorn School on Concession 5, Lot 4. Around 1910, Walter moved to King City, renting property on Concession 4, Lot 6. He remained there until 1916, when Eva, his first wife died. Then in 1916/17, Walter bought property in King City at Concession 3, Lot 4. This is where he lived with his second wife, Laura, until he died.

Walter died of a heart attack on June 10, 1943. He was survived by his wife, Laura, his sister, Mrs. Florence Lightfoot, and his brother, George Rolling. The funeral took place at Walter's home, with many people in attendance, a sign of the high regard in which he was held. Walter was buried at the King City Cemetery with his parents.

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Toronto Star
Tuesday June 8, 1943
Aurora Banner
June 11, 1943
Aurora Banner
June 18, 1943
Rolling Family grave marker, 2008.
Courtesy of King Township Public Library
Walter Rolling cemetery marker, 2008.
Courtesy of King Township Public Library

Aurora Banner, 1943

To see other articles written about Walter, click here

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