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.

In Search of Velma Brown [Moore]: Another Assumption, Another Rethink

Velma Moore is third from the left.

Among my grandmother’s photographs in The Family Archives is this one taken with a group of girls from Dalhousie University in front of the Provincial Normal College (PNC) in Truro, Nova Scotia in 1918. Based this photograph and the fact that my mother’s history of the Moores indicated that Velma attended high school in Truro, I assumed that Velma attended the Provincial Normal College prior to matriculating at Dalhousie.

Thus, on my recent trip to Nova Scotia, one of my stops was at the Little White Schoolhouse Museum in Truro, which has an affiliation with the Normal College.

Little White Schoolhouse Museum, Truro, Nova Scotia, July 2017

Site of Provincial Normal College (now Colchester-East Hants Public Library), Truro, Nova Scotia, July 2017

When the museum attendant remarked on all of the pictures I was taking, my husband explained my interest, and the attendant invited us downstairs into the archive room–my first foray into a physical archives room with living, breathing archivists. I knew for certain that Velma had been attending school in Truro in 1915, but the archivist was unable to find a record of her attendance at the Normal College in class photographs for the approximate years or in the actual enrollment or graduation records. (The enrollment records consisted of 3 X 5 index cards, one for each pupil, filed in a wooden card catalog with brass fittings. Quaint, eh?)

After leaving the archivist with my e-mail address, I went back to the group photograph that had sent me to Truro and discovered that I must have made an unwarranted assumption in thinking that the girls had all attended the Normal College.

Girls from Dalhousie, Acadia + Mt. Allison at Normal College – Truro

If the normal college model in Canada at that time was the same as it was in the U.S., it wouldn’t have made sense for someone to go into a two-year post-secondary program right out of grammar school. The kicker is that I was already familiar with the normal college model, but I made the assumption and moved forward with it anyway!

Needless to say, I did some additional research on secondary education in Colchester County in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It appears most likely that Velma graduated from  Colchester County Academy. I’m not finding a source of digitized Nova school records that isn’t behind a paywall, so my next stop will be my local public library.

In Search of Velma Brown [Moore]’s Childhood: Economy, Nova Scotia, 2017

I’ve just returned from a week in Economy, Nova Scotia, continuing my search for the childhood of my maternal grandmother, VELMA BROWN [MOORE]. What I remember from the 2007 trip to Economy Point with my mother is that much of the landscape gave the sense of being largely unchanged since Velma was a child at the turn of the 20th century. Ten years later, this impression is unchanged. Economy Point Road, where the Moore homestead was located (2nd driveway on the left) is still unpaved. The marshland is still marsh, the meadows are still meadows, and Cove Road, the site of many Moore picnics and clamming expeditions, is still a vast wasteland of mud at low tide.

Yet Velma’s childhood was still nowhere to be found.

I’d brought my mother’s history of Velma’s life with me on the trip, and as I reread it in the evenings, still searching for clues, I began to realize that Velma’s story does not reside in her childhood in Economy Point. Velma’s story, where I will find what made her the woman she was, lies in her education. That being the case, I’m going to let my mother tell the story of Velma’s childhood, and I will develop a research plan to discover as much about Velma’s education as I can:

Velma Jane, the second child of GEORGE BAXTER and MARTHA [FAULKNER] MOORE, was born on 16 April 1897 at Economy Point, Colchester County, Province of Nova Scotia, Canada. She was named “Velma” after the heroine of a book that a neighbor was reading. Both parents are descended from some of the early settlers in Economy.

I am piecing together this narrative from Velma’s genealogy notes, Moore family trees copied from the genealogy of Eric Moore, a very distant cousin, History of Economy, N.S. by the Economy Historical Society, and other information I could find.

. . . .

Velma was the fifth Moore generation in Canada and was born in the Moore homestead. . . . [She] didn’t talk much about her childhood, but lessons learned in growing up on a farm stayed with her. She learned how to mend clothes and sheets to extend their lives and to recycle clothing by making new clothes from an old garment. She learned to work hard and preserve food for the winter.

Velma grew up surrounded by a large extended family. There were lots of aunts and uncles from Baxter’s five siblings and Martha’s eight. Velma mentioned Uncle Dan, who was DANIEL MOORE, Baxter’s uncle and son of ROBERT NOBLE MOORE. Uncle Dan made furniture, including my bed stand/sewing cabinet . . . .

. . . .

Velma grew up near the water in Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay. She liked marsh greens and always had some when we spent summers in Economy. The greens turned her teeth green. She helped [my sister] and me acquire a taste for dulse (seaweed),1 which is now too salty for me. The Point road goes out to the Cove where the family went clamming and had picnics. . . .

Velma started her schooling in the one-room school house in the Point Section of Economy. At that time, there were five schools, one in each section of Economy. I don’t know the age for starting school or the number of grades offered. Education was very important to the family. They observed what happened to girls who didn’t get additional education. They married young, had lots of babies and and lost their teeth and figures. Thus, Velma continued her schooling in Truro, which is about 34 miles from Economy. I don’t know when she went there or or how many grades she attended. I know she was there in October 1915 when her brother, Fred, wrote her from England where he was stationed in World War I. She lived with Aunt Addie during the school year and went back to Economy for the summer.2

1My mother carried on the dulse tradition when we spent vacations at my grandparents’ summer cottage in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

2Katharine Brown Gauffreau, The Ancestry and Life of Velma Jane Moore Brown (unpublished manuscript, 2013), 3.