Velma’s Professors: Casual & with Gravitas

When I began going through The Family Archives I’d been entrusted with, lo, these many months ago, I wasn’t surprised to find copies of my grandmother Velma’s graduation portrait in academic regalia among the mementos of her Dalhousie University days. Nor was I surprised to find graduation portraits of her friends, as well as candid snapshots of her and her friends enjoying being college students.

I was surprised to find a studio portrait of the Dalhousie University president at the time she attended, Dr. Stanley MacKenzie. My experience attending college was as a nontraditional student at an urban commuter institution, and, believe me, I couldn’t have cared less who the president of the university was.  The only aspect of campus life that had any relevance for me and my classmates was finding a place to park in a relatively safe area so that we could attend classes and still have a car to drive home in.

Now that I’ve done some research into what campus life would have been like for Velma in 1915-1918, including how small Dalhousie was at the time and the role the president’s office played, I suspect that Dr. MacKenzie would have been a fairly visible figure for the average student.

Velma also saved a studio portrait of English professor Archibald MacMechan, of “Decorating Dalhousie” fame. Given how many articles and poems he wrote for the student newspaper, The Dalhousie Gazette, he also must have been a visible figure in campus life at the time.

In addition to the two studio portraits, I found four snapshots of Velma’s professors, ostensibly on their way to or from class. I was surprised to see that two of them were identified on the back with nicknames: “Eben” and “Jonesy.” I assume students used the nicknames among themselves to refer to their professors. I can’t imagine Velma or her contemporaries addressing a professor by his first name, let alone a nick name.

When I gathered these snapshots to begin planning this post, I was struck by the fact that here was yet another unanswered question. To wit: How did these photographs come to be taken? Did Velma lie in wait for each august gentleman with her Brownie camera in hand and convince him to pose for her? I simply can’t imagine Velma doing such a thing; it seems downright impertinent. I truly hope she did just that!

Life Is Good When the Sun Is Shining, and You Get Paid to Teach a Dead Language

Prof. Howard Murray “Howard” Latin prof

Just What Does Jonesy Carry in That Satchel, Anyway?

Prof. H.P. Jones PdD (“Jonesy”) German prof.

You May as Well Take the Photograph: Reality Is Just an Illusion

Dr. H. L. Stuart, Philosophy prof Dalhousie

Eben Strikes a Pose

Dr. Ebenezar Mackay (“Eben”) Chemistry prof – Dalhousie

And Now, the Same Professors with Gravitas

Photograph of H. Murray, L. L. D., 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 2, Item 25, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of H. P. Jones, PhD, 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 2, Item 20, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of H.L. Stewart (PhD), 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 2, Item 26, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of E. Mackay, 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 1, Item 2, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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!