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!

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:

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: