After three years of intensive study, my grandmother Velma Jane Moore graduated from Dalhousie University in May 1918. This photograph is part of a collage of the Class of 1918 that I found in the Dalhousie University archives. I chose it to head this post because it is not included in the photographs I have from her college days, and when I first caught sight of it on my computer screen, I thought it was a picture of me! (It gave me a bit of a turn, in fact.)
The Dalhousie Gazette devoted the entire June 1918 issue to the graduating class, which now comprised only twenty of its original seventy-two members due to the World War.1 In addition to convocation, commencement events included class day exercises, Senior outings, and several teas: a “dainty” one hosted by Miss Frances Jean Lindsay, the librarian,2 a “soul-thrilling” one hosted by the wife of Professor Murray MacNeil, which also included a contest and dancing,3 and a third one with a wartime “hooverised menu,” hosted by the Alumnae and presided over by the lovely Louise Power.4
I was very pleased to see how Velma and her classmates were fêted at the completion of their baccalaureate education. This stands in direct contrast to my own graduation from Old Dominion University in 1982. My graduating class was so large that commencement was held in the Norfolk Scope arena. The ceremony went like this: Git up, School of Arts and Letters. I hereby graduate you, School of Arts and Letters. S’down, School of Arts and Letters.
Class ’18 Girls’ Walking Party
On May 2, the girls of the senior class set out for a picnic at a local natural landmark called the Rocking Stone.5 This large boulder is one of many picked up and deposited by retreating glaciers in the northeastern part of North America some 20,000-26,000 years ago.6 Rocking Stone was so-named because it was deposited in such a position that it could be moved from the bottom by applying a lever or rocked by someone sitting on top of it.7
I’m sure that Velma would have joined the girls’ walking party, as she enjoyed being out in nature and picnicking. The girls first took a streetcar to the Northwest Arm section of Halifax, where they stopped to take photographs at the Arm Bridge.8 I found this picture of the Arm Bridge in Sketches and Traditions of the Northwest Arm, published in 1908:
Once they’d taken enough photos, the girls continued on foot to find the Rocking Stone; however, only one of them knew where it actually was, and the group became separated.9 The unguided contingent happened upon a soldier who pointed them in the right direction, but they were waylaid once again looking for milk for their tea.10 Luckily, they found “a meek-looking cow and obtained the necessary lactic fluid.”11 After they’d eaten, they found the Rocking Stone and “like the lotus eaters, wished to stay and dream, but the cameras were a continual nightmare.”12
I expect that the impulse behind all the picture-taking was to preserve their last days together as Dalhousie girls before they all went their separate ways for careers or marriage. The account of the day ends with the girls’ yell, which would not be befitting for grown women to utter, even at a class reunion:
As a side note, I got the impression from my readings in the Gazette that all the best class yells (which were obligatory, apparently) had already been taken by previous classes by the time the Class of 1918 rolled onto campus. To wit, the official class yell for the Class of 1918:
The Orpheus Party
Another of the events was an Orpheus Party, which involved a “merry group of Seniors and their guests” going to see a silent movie playing at the Orpheus Theatre.15 I’m not so sure Velma would have gone along with that merry group. My impression was that they would have been a bit too boisterous for her comfort.
A spokesperson for the group penned the following review for the Dalhousie Gazette:
When we arrived, a fair damsel on the screen was sitting at a table going through most heart-rending facial contortions and rubbing her cheeks or ears, we were not sure which. All became sympathetic at once feeling sure that the maiden was suffering either from toothache or earache. However, she apparently recovered and to our surprise we saw her strolling round a desert with a person who might have posed for a cigarette poster. The picture ended with violence and final happiness . . . 16
In a subsequent article in the Gazette, I learned that the movie the group had seen was Robert Hichens’s Barbary Sheep.17 That writer declared the movie “rather uninteresting and not calculated to edify,” which was all right because no one paid attention to the screen anyway!18
A motion picture critic of the time had a different take on the leading lady’s acting ability: “There is a continual conflict of emotions in the character and Miss Ferguson brings out both feelings with a skill that has seldom been approached by actresses used to the camera and its exorbitant demands.”19 Toothache or earache, indeed!
The critic did concede, however, that the plot was “rather bare and slim . . . . It presents in brief the old story of the busy husband, the neglected wife and the other man–this time a native of the desert.”20
Class Day Exercises
Class day exercises held in the MacDonald Library the day before convocation provided the graduates with an opportunity for reflection and celebration in a formal setting. The program began with a roll call honoring the members of the class who were serving in the military, including the three who had been killed in action; an address by a Dr. Fraser Harris; the valedictory address by Ernest Parker Duchemin, whom we met in a previous post; two solo performances (presumably singing) as the entertainment; and readings of the class history and the class critique.21
The class prophesy predicted that Velma “went as a V. A. D. [member of a Voluntary Aid Detachment] to England, where her kindness and sympathy did much to cheer her patients.”22 This prophesy must have been a reference to Velma’s work in the hospital wards after the Halifax explosion of 1917.
The class critique, consisting of brief character sketches of the graduates, was read by Lois Smith,23 one of Velma’s friends whom we met in a previous post. It must have been particularly meaningful for Velma to hear her critique read by a close friend:
Velma Moore is not very well known outside of her class. Her college is brilliant. In addition to her class work, to which she devoted the greater part of her interest, Velma always found time to do her bit in affairs of the class and the college in general. Loyal and generous Velma’s friendship is one that is highly appreciated by those who enjoy the privilege of it.24
Next post: Convocation!
Image of Velma Jane Moore, Composite photograph of Dalhousie University Arts, Science and Engineering class of 1918, PC1, Box 26, Folder 40, Climo’s Studio, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
1E. P. Duchemin, “Valedictory,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 14.
2“Class ’18 Entertained,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 2.
3“Orpheus Party of Class ’18,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 10.
4“Social Notes,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 13.
Photograph of Mary Louise Parker, 1916, PC1, Box 13, Folder 32, Climo’s Studio, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Image of F. J. Lindsay: Photographic collage of the Dalhousie University Arts and Science faculty and senior class of 1903, PC1, Oversize Folder 30, Gauvin & Gentzel, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Image: Crowd at Spring 1999 Commencement, May 8, 1999, photograph, rg32-082-001-085.jp2, ODU Photographic Collection RG 32, Special Collections and University Archives, Old Dominion University Perry Library, Norfolk, VA.
5“Class ’18 Girls’ Walking Party,”Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 2.
Image: Notman Studio, “Rocking Stone”, Spryfield, ca. 1895, photograph, “Rocking Stone”, Spryfield, ca. 1895, Halifax and Its People / 1749-1999, Nova Scotia Archives.
Image: John W. Regan, Bridge and Roads at the Head of the Northwest Arm, 1908, photograph, Sketches and Traditions of the Northwest Arm, McAlpine Publishing Co., Halifax, Nova Scotia.
6Jane Hutton, “Erratic Imaginaries: Thinking Landscape as Evidence,” ed. Etienne Turpin, Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Time, Science and Philosophy, last modified 2013, accessed August 26, 2018, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/o/ohp/12527215.0001.001/1:12/–architecture-in-the-anthropocene-encounters-among-design?rgn=div1;view=fulltext.
7Hutton, “Erratic Imaginaries,” Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Time, Science and Philosophy.
8“Walking Party,” Dalhousie Gazette.
9“Walking Party,” Dalhousie Gazette.
10“Walking Party,” Dalhousie Gazette.
11“Walking Party,” Dalhousie Gazette.
12“Walking Party,” Dalhousie Gazette.
13“Walking Party, Dalhousie Gazette.
14“History of Class ’18,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 4.
15“Orpheus Party,” Dalhousie Gazette.
16“Social Notes,” Dalhousie Gazette.
17“Social Notes,” Dalhousie Gazette.
18Peter Milne, “Barbary Sheep,” in Selected Film Criticism 1912-1920, ed. Anthony Slide (Metuchen, N.J. & London: Scarecrow Press, 1982), 11.
19Milne, “Barbary Sheep.”
Image: “Elsie Ferguson,” Moving Picture World, September 1, 1917, 1331.
20“Class Day Exercises,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 2.
21“Class Prophesy, 1918,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 12.
22“Class Day Exercises,” Dalhousie Gazette.
23“Critique of Class ’18,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 10-11 (June 18, 1918): 8.
24“Critique,” Dalhousie Gazette.