|Fred Sloman (2003)
Very few people have ever given more to the community nor been a greater part of the community than Fred Sloman, the teacher who devoted 39 years of his life on board CN’s School on Wheels car, from 1926 to 1965. During that period he taught children in isolated regions of Ontario. Most of the students taught by Sloman were the children of railroad workers and others were recent immigrants and Cree.
With his wife and five children living with him on the car, Sloman also
brought the outside world to each community when he arrived with the school
car. Not only was Sloman a teacher, he also helped bring a sense of community
to each town he visited. Every evening, the teacher and his wife volunteered
their time to give informal classes to the parents of the students. Sloman
taught them to speak English and basic living skills, such as how to complete
income tax forms and order from a store catalogue. His wife helped the women
write letters to family overseas and instructed them in sewing, hygiene
and child care. Sloman also ran movies for the communities and organized
bingo and card nights.
Northern Ontario in those days was a land of hardships and deprivations,
and Sloman diligently shared his knowledge with the locals and made a
real difference in their lives. He not only passed on knowledge, but also
instilled in his students the importance of education and giving back
to the community, which they in turn have passed on to their descendents,
who now make up the strong, tightly knit communities of modern northern
Ontario. Fred Sloman, whose dedicated and diligent career touched the
lives of so many, is a worthy addition to the Heroes of the Canadian Railway
Hall of Fame in 2003.
Photo: Penny Auger