In the early 1940s, Margaret Russell (now Crystal) and Nina Rae (now Eddy) went to school together at Two Creeks School.
Back then, one teacher taught Grades 1 to 6 on the main level and another taught Grades 7 to 11 in the second floor classroom of Ross Consolidated School, as it was formally known, near the community of Two Creeks, north of Virden on PTH 83.
After they finished their schooling, Margaret and Nina went their separate ways and lost track of each other.
Nina joined the Air Force in 1952 and Margaret took a correspondence course in Brandon and did office work before she settled on an acreage near Virden and had a family. Margaret now lives in White Rock, BC, and Nina is in Kingston, Ont.
With so many years and miles between them, they never thought they’d meet again.
In 2017, their story took an unexpected turn. Margaret and Nina had both stayed dedicated subscribers to the Virden Empire-Advance over the years, and one day last December Margaret saw a memorial in the paper that caught her eye.
“I saw Nina’s ad in memory of her mother. I was so excited and knew right away it was her name! Since I’ve been reading the Advance, I’ve been watching every issue to see if I recognize someone I know…
“One of the staff members was able to connect Nina and me by written correspondence.”
The staff member who connected the two long-lost friends from opposite sides of the country was the Empire-Advance’s Nancy Johnson. She reached out to Nina and shared her contact information with Margaret.
Since then, the two have had several long-distance chats to reminisce about their school days at Two Creeks.
It was digital media rather than print that shook Margaret’s world a second time last year when she learned that Two Creeks school had burned down.
“My daughter called me from another room and showed me a story on her iPad, that three businesses in Virden had been set on fire overnight, and the same night one or two people had set fire to the Two Creeks School and it had burned down.
“We were both devastated because my daughters and I had visited Virden and the school earlier that summer,” just two months before the blaze destroyed the 102-year-old building.
In fact, Margaret and her two daughters spent quite a bit of time exploring the grounds around the building, taking pictures and remembering school days from eight decades before.
“I can attest that the school was still in immaculate condition, not a brick out of place! I wished we could have seen the inside so my girls could see what a country school looked like.”
The brick structure was torched and destroyed by an arsonist on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2017. Two people were arrested, one was found guilty and sentenced to three years in jail earlier this year.
As far as Margaret and Nina’s story goes, they may never actually be able to reunite in person. Nina hasn’t been well and Margaret says she thought about taking the Greyhound Bus to Kingston to see her old friend, but “it’s going out of service in October.”
If the trip can’t happen, the next best thing is to exchange recent photos by mail and keep in touch by phone.
Margaret and Nina have a request for readers of the Empire-Advance:
“Nina has asked me to question any previous Two Creeks people who are still in the local area if they would be willing to correspond with us?”
If interested, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Virden Empire-Advance, Box 250, Virden, MB. We’ll forward it to them.