Sibling Saturday: We Didn’t Need No Stinkin’ Training Wheels!

When my brother and I were kids in the early 1960s in Edgartown, Massachusetts, having a bicycle of one’s own and learning how to ride it were major life goals.

How we craved the freedom a bicycle represented, the physical sensation of freedom! Riding a bike would be the closest we could get to flying. (Our attempts to use an umbrella to fly off the patio wall like Mary Poppins had ended in failure, and we were too fearful to attempt jumping off the roof of the garage, like a certain neighbor boy of legend.)

Our parents didn’t have the money to buy us new bicycles, but our father managed to find two used ones for $5.00 apiece, a blue one for me and a red one for George.

When it came to learning how to ride a bicycle, Daddy was philosophically opposed to training wheels. They fostered an unhealthy dependence, he believed, on a crutch that actually delayed the development of the skill, in addition to making a simple process unnecessarily complicated.

So Daddy taught us how to ride our bikes the old-fashioned way. He grabbed hold of the seat and ran, yelling, “Pedal your feet, pedal your feet!” Then once we got going, he let go. Wobble, wobble, crash! Wobble, wobble, crash! Wobble, wobble, wobble–look at me, I’m riding my bike! 

Speaking of bicycles and childhood, one of my all-time favorite poems includes a bicycle as a metaphor for the fleeting nature of childhood.  “On Turning Ten” is  by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. I hope you’ll give it a read!

In Loco Parentis at Dalhousie

This photograph from The Family Archives prompted another question about what college life would have been like for my grandmother Velma Jane Moore when she attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1915-1918. The back of the photograph reads, Le Marchant St – Halifax – where V.M.B lived with Prof. Clarence Moore’s family when at Dalhousie, so of course I wanted to know why she would have been living with the family of one of her professors. Was it some kind of special arrangement, or had it been the norm?

Once again, the Dalhousie University digital archives provided the answer, this time in the Calendar of Dalhousie University for 1916-1917:1

The Alumnae Association opened Forrest Hall as an experiment to “alleviate the difficulty of finding sufficient boarding places for our girls attending college.”2 However, the house was small, with an average of only 12 girls living there at any given time.3 Forrest Hall was closed in 1917 due to financial conditions related to the World War.4

Reading further in the schedule, I found particularly interesting the following notice about a requirement for students to report their intended places of worship to the University President:6

I think it would be safe to say that in the first quarter of the twentieth century, the President’s office (if not the President himself) was serving in loco parentis for the young men and women pursuing a university education at Dalhousie. I expect that would have brought some measure of reassurance and comfort to Velma’s parents, George Baxter and Martha, back on the Economy Point farm.

Clarence Moore

Clarence Moore was a Dalhousie assistant professor of biology at the time Velma attended.5 I don’t have a record for that name in the Moore genealogy, but when I asked my mother recently about the name, she indicated that a branch of the family had settled in Halifax, so it’s likely that he and Velma were related. His name is now on my research list.

The Clarence Moore House Today?

When my husband and I took our trip to Nova Scotia in July of 2017, we tried to locate the former Clarence Moore house on LeMarchant Street with no success. Too much appears to have changed. The house may in fact have been torn down. This is the only one with the bay windows on the left:

I’m on the hunt for the house number of the Clarence Moore residence. However, my usual sources–HathiTrust, Google Books, Internet Archive, and Family Search–have come up dry. The Nova Scotia Archives has the applicable years of the McAlipine’s Halifax City Directory; however, they’re on microfilm only. I won’t be getting back to Halifax any time soon, so I’ve contacted the Nova Archives with a research inquiry.


1 Dalhousie University, Calendar of Dalhousie University: 1916-1917 (Halifax, Nova Scotia: W.m McNab & Son, 1916), 11.
2Dalhousie University Digital Archives.
3Dalhousie University Digital Archives.
4Dalhousie University Digital Archives.
5 Dalhousie University, Calendar of Dalhousie, 21.
6Arnold W. Thomas, ed., The Canadian Almanac and Miscellaneous Director for the Year 1913: Containing full and authentic Commercial, Statistical, Astronomical, Departmental, Ecclesiastical, Educational, Financial, and General Information, 1913 ed. (Toronto: Copp, Clark Company, 1912), 477.

Cross-word Craze

I found this Christmas card among my grandmother Velma’s papers. I’d known that cross-word puzzles were very popular in the 1920s, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a cross-word Christmas card. “Ronald” was my grandfather, but there is no indication whether the card was to him or from him.

Frederick Lewis Allen wrote about the cross-word puzzle craze in his social history of the 1920s, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s:

     Within a month this odd-looking volume [THE CROSS-WORD PUZZLE BOOK] with a pencil attached to it had become a best seller. By the following winter [1925] its sales had mounted into the hundreds of thousands, other publishers were falling over themselves to get out books which would reap an advantage from the craze, it was a dull newspaper that did not have its daily puzzle, sales of dictionaries were bounding, there was a new demand for that ancient and honorable handmaid of the professional writer, Roget’s Thesaurus, a man had been sent to jail in New York for refusing to leave a restaurant after four hours of trying to solve a puzzle, and Mrs. Mary Zoaba of Chicago was reported to be a “cross-word widow,” her husband apparently being so busy with puzzles that he had no time to support her.1

If you have an interest in what daily life for the average American was like in the 1920s, I highly recommend Only Yesterday. In addition to the informative content, it’s a fun read! Here is a link to a digitized version on the University of Virginia’s website: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/allen/cover.html.


1Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s (New York: Harper & Row, 1931) 159.

Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors

As someone new to sticking to the facts of her family history rather than fictionalizing them, I have had occasion to run into questions of fair use and copyright in writing this blog. What information can I excerpt and cite, and what resources, particularly photographs and documents, can I actually reproduce for my blog?

As I’ve learned from becoming part of the Geneabloggers TRIBE community, there is a difference between attribution and copyright. That being the case, I was pleased to see the following resource in publishing expert Jane Friedman’s most recent newsletter: Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors: Common Scenarios with Guidance from Community Practice, put out by the Authors Alliance.

For anyone looking for resources for blogging and publishing, Jane Friedman’s website is a wealth of information: https://www.janefriedman.com/.

“Decorating Dalhousie”

James MacLeod Teaching a Night Class, Dalhousie University, [191-?]

1st Alternative Title for This Post: “Kid, Don’t You Have a Test to Study For?”

2nd Alternative Title: “Prof, Don’t You Have Papers to Grade?”

One of the questions I had when I began my research into my grandmother Velma Jane Moore’s education was what campus life would have been like at the time she attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (My curiosity had been piqued by photographs in The Family Archives, including several snapshots of men in academic gowns standing around in the snow.)

I was fortunate to find that Dalhousie’s online digital archives include scanned copies of the student newspaper, The Dalhousie Gazette from 1915-1918, when Velma attended. What better reflection of campus life than the student-run newspaper?

“Decorating Dalhousie” was the leading article of the May 18, 1916 edition of The Dalhousie Gazette. Initially, the intent of the article appears to be commentary on the way in which the recently-built science building and library on the new Studley campus reflected the character and tradition of the University:

Dalhousie, it must be borne constantly in mind, is a little sister of Edinburgh, and the Dalhousie tradition is overwhelmingly Scottish. Strictly in accordance with that origin and that tradition, the new Dalhousie rising at Studley is architecturally severe. Indeed the features of of the two new buildings are rugged plainness of rough stones and the honesty of straight lines. The Laboratory has even been denounced for its resemblances to a jail or a factory; the only concessions to a sense of the beautiful are the pillared porches of the two entrances. All has the air of “Caledonia stern and wild”.1

Science Building, Studley Campus

In Dalhousie, the essentials have always come first, the beef and the potatoes before the mustard and the pudding, the mathematics and classics before the “music, French and washing, extra.” This does not imply that that extras are not valuable, or that they should be omitted altogether. Dalhousie has her two new massive buildings at Studley, perfect fortresses of learning to the eye, capable of standing a siege, “pensive citadels” as Wordsworth might call them; . . . 2

I found the preceding passage interesting and enlightening; it seemed to describe a place where Velma would have been comfortable, given her upbringing on the Economy Point farm and her affinity for hard work. Moreover, my own memories of her are that she was not a woman who suffered fools gladly.

However, “Decorating Dalhousie” then takes an unexpected turn and begins to suggest ways in which the severe aspect of the new campus might be softened and beautified:

Concrete is not romantic, but it offers wall spaces and ceilings, ample and virgin-white, which simply cry aloud for the brush of the artist. In the Physics lecture-room, for example, how fine it would be to see the walls covered with Burne-Jones’s “Six Days of Creation!” The dreamy Celtic angels with their wonderful wings and divers spheres might perhaps arouse the dullest to the notion that there was something more in Physics than strings and strains and stresses, measurements, formulas and examinations.3

In the mathematical room, there should of course be a fresco of Archimedes in the sack of Syracuse, so intent on his geometrical problem that he paid no heed to the plundering soldier who was about to cut his throat. This would point to the obvious moral of concentration, regardless of the consequences.4

By the time I reached the apogee of this flight of fancy, my reaction was pretty much, Kid, don’t you have a test to study for?:

Those lunettes, (or whatever they are called)–those semicircular spaces over the windows of the Big Lab–are just the place for portrait busts of the Scientific Professors done up as Della Robbia bambini. I seem to see them all in while and blue majolica, swathed and swaddled more or less (to symbolize the toils of laboratory work) and stretching out their little hands in benediction over all who shall enter the doors beneath them.5

The only byline I could find for “Decorating Dalhousie” was a set of initials: A. M. M. I checked the masthead of the Gazetette to see if I could identify this student was who wasting time writing fanciful drivel to amuse his classmates, all of whom should have been studying for tests or writing papers. There were no names that matched A. M. M. Then I saw the name Archibald MacMechan under a poem that immediately preceded “Decorating Dalhousie.” Of course! I’d see his name in The Family Archives. Archibald MacMechan was Velma’s English professor:  A. M. M.

I therefore believe this august gentleman to be the perpetrator of “Decorating Dalhousie.”

 

Postscript: From everything I’ve seen in the Dalhousie University archives, Dr. MacMechan was an accomplished and well-respected member of the academic community. In poking gentle fun, I mean no disrespect.


Photograph of James MacLeod teaching a night class Dalhousie University Archives, [191-?], PC1, Box 12, Folder 48, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

1“Decorating Dalhousie,” The Dalhousie Gazette XLVIII, no. 11 (May 18, 1916): 1.

Photograph of Dalhousie College Studley campus, [after 1915], PC1, Box 38, Folder 52, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

2“Decorating Dalhousie,” 1.

3“Decorating Dalhouse,” 1.

Image: Edward Bourne-Jones, Six Days of Creation, 1870-1876, Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, MA.

4“Decorating Dalhousie,” 1.

Image: Death of Archimedes in the sack of Syracuse, http://www.art.com.

5“Decorating Dalhousie,” 1.

Image: Andrea della Robbia – Glazed terra-cotta reliefs of swaddled babies, Gallery of the Ospedale degli Innocenti.