In 1937 Mr. and Mrs. William B. Johnstone, members of the Church of Christ meeting at Omagh since 1851, a small village near Milton, Ontario, conceived the idea of inviting young people from the city to spend a short vacation on their farm, so as to provide Christian companionship for their own children; to help youth come to know God as Creator of all things and Father of all men; to help develop a faith in the Bible as the word of God; and to develop standards of right and wrong, based on Christian values.
They arranged for Mr. and Mrs. Alex Stewart to assist, and Mr. Stewart, minister for the Church of Christ then meeting on Bathurst St. near College St. in Toronto, Ontario, taught the Bible classes. Miss Grace Johnstone taught a class in singing. The students numbered 25 that year. They ranged in age from early teens to late 20's. Girls were housed in the large farm home; boys in a nearby building. Young people from Omagh came each day by car, bringing with them their visiting city cousins. This brought the total student body up to 38. There were seven baptisms. Meals were cooked in the "summer kitchen" and served at one large table in the spacious kitchen. Classes were taught in a large building near the house. School began at 9:00 a.m. with chapel, followed by classes running to 11:30 a.m. and resuming again at 1:30 p.m. through to 3:30 p.m. Memory work was a daily class, and of the utmost importance. Chapters of the Bible were memorized.
Sunday services at the church building at Omagh were a highlight. Afternoon services were held at the school. Visitors and students ate their noon meal, provided by the Omagh ladies, on the lawn in the shade of the house. Dessert most often, and considered a real treat, was home-made ice cream. Mr. Harold Walker from the Sanford Avenue congregation in Hamilton made the ice cream and it came packed in dry ice.
Evening services were held three nights a week at the Omagh church building - which was a very unique building. Each row of seats was one step higher than the previous one. The congregation "looked down" on the speaker. Of course, the favourite seat in the building was the highest one - and so coming early had its advantages. Visitors were many.
Tuesday evening was sports night, when many rousing baseball games were played. Thursday evening was concert night. This brought many happy scenes to view; a hilarious group on the lawn watching some skit, or listening to a song.
Saturday afternoon was a good time for hiking down the Sixteen Mile Creek. Supper was cooked outside.
The croquet lawn was never idle a moment after classes. Oh yes, and swimming; many good splashes were enjoyed in the creek.
The school lasted three weeks.