In Search of Velma Brown [Moore]’s Education: Thank You, HathiTrust!

Picture of exhibit at Little White School House Museum, Truro, Nova Scotia

I hit the mother lode of sources this weekend in my search for my grandmother Velma’s  education in Nova Scotia in the first quarter of the twentieth century. After a circuitous route through Google Books, WorldCat, EBSCOhost, and, I finally found what I was looking for in HathiTrust: full-text versions of the Journal of Education put out by the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

Oddly enough, has full-text digital editions of the same journal (which were digitized by the University of Illinois1); however, you have to purchase a subscription to to be able to access them. I’ll leave any further pondering about the complexities of mass book digitization projects to archivists and cultural historians. (I got sidetracked by an interesting article about the demise of the Google Books digitization project in The Atlantic.) Moving on . . .

Each edition of the Journal of Education includes listings of the students in the various school districts who passed provincial examinations and the credentials they were awarded.  Velma’s name was listed in the editions for the inclusive years of her secondary and university education (1912-1918), with the exact specificity I’d been looking for. Moreover, I found the contextual information I wanted to know about curriculum, instructional methods, teacher training, and even educational philosophy (surprisingly progressive). Having this contextual information about the education system Velma went through is critical to understanding how her education could have shaped the woman she became.

However, given how far removed I am in place and time, I don’t understand most of what I’ve found! It’s going to take me some time to read and synthesize the journal mother lode before I can understand and articulate the significance of the information pertaining to Velma. That being the case, I’m going to take a brief hiatus from this blog to get that work done.

See you in a couple of weeks with the first installment of Velma’s education!

1HathiTrust, “Catalog Record: Journal of Education,” HathiTrust Digital Library, accessed August 20, 2017,

Mrs. Wheeler’s 6th Grade Class: 1967-68

1967-68 was not a good year to be in the sixth grade at Enosburg Falls Elementary School. It was Mrs. Wheeler’s first assignment as a brand-new teacher, and right from the start, the boys in the class took it into their heads that it would be a grand adventure to make her days in the classroom as miserable as possible by being as rude, disrespectful, and disruptive as possible in as many different ways as possible, to include stuffing worms in the pencil sharpener.

The only way Mrs. Wheeler could keep any kind of order in the class was by reading Cheaper by the Dozen aloud to us. I liked being read to, but I couldn’t understand how or why the world order of the classroom could be turned completely on its head, and the grown-up was powerless to stop it.

At the end of the school year, in June of 1968, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was shot.  I clearly remember Mrs. Wheeler bringing the school television into the room the next day so that we could follow the news reports of his condition. As various neurologists explained the nature of his injuries, Mrs. Wheeler expressed hope that he would live, but even as a sixth-grader, I knew there was no surviving that kind of damage to one’s brain.

Mrs. Wheeler did not return to Enosburg Falls Elementary the following school year. Time went by, and her class grew up. Then Columbine happened, utterly inconceivable to children whose idea of disrupting the world order was stuffing worms in the pencil sharpener.

Note: Since I tried to get cute in an early post by heading a damaged photo of my great-grandmother “Evidence of a Serial Killer?” I should explain that I Xed out two of my  classmates’ faces to indicate that they had moved away and were no longer in my class. No animosity intended.

Treasure Chest Thursday – Archives, Superintendents’ Reports, Seagulls!












I’ve made some progress in my search for my grandmother Velma’s early education in Colchester County, Nova Scotia in the first quarter of the 20th century. After much fruitless searching for specific school records on the one hand and more general histories of Canadian education on the other, I decided to try looking for a repository of digitized Canadian books. This took me to the Internet Archive, where I found The Annual Report of the Superintendent of Education on the Public Schools of Nova Scotia for the Year Ended 31st July 1900.  Velma was born in 1897, so this report wasn’t for an applicable year (c. 1902-1916), but a look at the table of contents revealed that it was the right resource because it listed the names of pupils who had received diplomas that year and the schools which had issued them. I’m still in the process of locating digitized copies for the applicable years. (And, boy, are my eyes tired.)

I’ve made better progress with Velma’s post-secondary education at Dalhousie University in Halifax.  Browsing the Dalhousie University Library Archives yielded a treasure trove of sources, including brief character sketches of Velma and her classmates; catalogs with the expected degree requirements, along with some unexpected university life requirements; and the 1918 graduation issue of the student newspaper, Dalhousie Gazette. (I’m being very disciplined in refraining from grabbing all of the Bright Shiny Objects beckoning to me. All in good time, my lovelies, all in good time.)

Now, for the Real Treasure . . .

This oil painting of seagulls wheeling against the sky is one of my most treasured possessions. The painting hung in every bedroom I slept in as a child, and it has hung in every home I’ve lived in as an adult. Velma painted it for me in 1957 after I became entranced by the seagulls when she looked after me at her Cape Elizabeth cottage the week my brother was born. The black-and-white photograph below was taken during that visit. The elderly woman next to me is my Great-Great Aunt Etta (ESTHER LEILA MOORE, 1875-1962) from Economy Point, Nova Scotia.


Sibling Saturday – We Killed the Battery, George!

The Rev. Elliott F. Gauffreau is the man in the middle.

These photographs show a youth group outing my father led when he was curate at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Attleboro, Massachusetts from 1959-1961. However, the story is what you don’t see in the photographs: my brother George and me waiting in the car.

Daddy had brought us along for the picnic, and when it came time to pack up the picnic gear and distribute the youth group kids among the various vehicles, he walked us to the parking lot to wait for him in the car (presumably so we wouldn’t be in the way).

Being moderately obedient children, we didn’t object and waited patiently in the car–for all of about three minutes–until boredom set in. When was Daddy coming? Why didn’t he come? What could be taking him so long?

I don’t remember which one of us dared the other to honk the horn. I won’t blame this one on George; it was probably me. Honking the horn was something that WAS NOT DONE in our family. Why? Because like everything else in the adult world, THE HORN IS NOT A TOY. I think the Boy Who Cried Wolf was brought into these discussions as well.

Of course Daddy came back to the car to tell us to stop or we’d wear down the battery. So we stopped–until we started again.

When it came time to leave–yes, you guessed it–we’d killed the battery, and the car wouldn’t start. After discussion among the male members of the group, it was decided to try and jump start it. (Luckily, the parking lot was at the top of a hill.)

Daddy put the car in neutral, the boys pushed the car to get it moving, and off we rolled down the hill. Daddy popped the clutch, the engine caught, and George and I shrieked with delight at this exciting new way of starting the family car–and why didn’t Daddy start it that way all the time? It’s a testament to the kind of father he was when he pointed out quite logically that the car would not always be parked on a hill with a group of boys at the ready to push it.