Velma Graduates: Parties & Class Exercises!

Velma Jane Moore, Dalhousie University Class of 1918

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

“Rocking Stone,” Spryfield, ca. 1895

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

Barbary Sheep 1917In 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.

Those Places Thursday: Beaver Brook Falls, Colebrook, NH

Postcard published by The Hugh C. Leighton Co, Manufacturer, Portland, Maine between 1904-1909*

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged my husband into an antique shop to see if I could find any antique or vintage postcards of places in New England associated with our families. I was looking in particular for the hand-tinted ones because the colors aren’t quite natural, which gives the scene a proper feeling of otherworldliness.

The otherworldly scene I found was Beaver Brook Falls, which, for my brother George and me in the mid-1960s, was the real world of pounding water, slippery rock, and the smell of pine so intense we could reach out and grab it. As far as George and I were concerned, Beaver Brook Falls was one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Then one day we spied a couple of men standing in the water at the top of the falls. We were transfixed. How had they gotten there? Had they entered the waterfall and and climbed up some natural stairway under the rushing water? No, our parents explained, there must be a path alongside the falls, and the men had climbed up that way. From that day forward, every time our parents took us for a picnic at Beaver Brook Falls, George and I begged to be allowed to climb to the top of the falls. Our begging was to no avail. Such an undertaking would be foolhardy for the children and irresponsible for the parents.

George and I grew up. Career and family took us out of New England. By the time I returned to New Hampshire after living many years in the South, over thirty years had gone by. Nothing would do but I must return to Beaver Brook Falls and climb to the top. My husband didn’t think it was a particularly good idea, and it became less of a good idea when he saw how eroded the path was, but he went along. I later wrote the following poem about the experience (in a poetry slam workshop, of all places):

Fifteen more years went by, and I found the postcard of Beaver Brook Falls in the little antique shop in Concord. Back I went to the North Country to climb to the top of Beaver Brook Falls once again, this time with the admonitions of my husband dogging my footsteps and ringing in my ears, which I absolutely refused to heed.

Beaver Brook Falls, Colebrook, NH, 7-31-18

Beaver Brook Falls from a Distance

Top of the Falls!


*Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, “The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers,” Dumbarton Oaks Research Research Library and Collection, accessed August 12, 2018, https://www.doaks.org/research/library-archives/dumbarton-oaks-archives/collections/ephemera/names/the-hugh-c-leighton-co

Anyone You Know?

As I’ve been researching additional details about my family history, I’m finding information about various people who touched my ancestors’ lives in some way, which I’m thinking could be of interest to their descendants. I’ve tagged posts in which these people are mentioned and grouped the names on this page below for any descendants who might be looking for them. Clicking on the person’s name will take you to all of the posts in which he or she is mentioned in the text or appears in a photograph. And of course there are the usual photographs of unidentified people from The Family Archives.

Should you happen by this page and find any information of interest about a family member or family friend, I’d love for you to leave me a comment and let me know!

The Halifax Explosion of 1917

Looking north toward Pier 8 from Hillis foundry after great explosion, Halifax, Dec. 6, 1917

“People were packed in our car like flies. Some of them came to the place with noses shot off, eyes put out, faces slashed with flying glass, limbs torn and distorted. One man came in with blood streaming from what was originally his face. On one occasion while we were working around a wrecked building we could see a little baby 50 feet or more underneath a burning mass crying for aid. We could not get within 30 feet of the child and had to watch while it burned to death. Men and women children were lying on the streets and hundreds must be buried beneath the wreckage.” ~Esmond P. Barry, Eyewitness to the Halifax Explosion of 19171

 

I first learned of the Halifax explosion of 1917 from my mother’s biography of her mother, Velma Jane Moore, who was attending Dalhousie University in Halifax at the time of the explosion:

I remember her telling about the awful Halifax explosion. Wikipedia says that on 6 December 1917 the S.S. Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship carrying munitions collided with the Norwegian SS Imo in Halifax Harbor. A fire on the French ship broke out and the munitions exploded. The explosion was the largest man-made explosion until the A-bomb, 2,000 were killed by debris and fires and 9,000 injured. I can see why Velma remembered this.2

 

When my husband and I visited Halifax in July of 2017, we made a point of going to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to learn more. Once we’d finished viewing the Halifax explosion exhibit and learned the full horror of what had happened, I was struck by just how incongruous the following part of the exhibit seemed. The central image of the little girl flying through the air conveyed a sense of whimsy that was really quite jarring.

Image: The Halifax Explosion Memorial Quilt, Collision in the Narrows Exhibit, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 2017

The following map from the Nova Scotia Archives3 shows where Velma would have been on the Dalhousie campus in relation to the waterfront. The blue shading at the bottom of the map indicates the area that was leveled.

Given the distance of Dalhousie from the waterfront, I wasn’t sure whether the campus would have sustained any damage. A search through the online University archives revealed photographs of buildings that had received some relatively minor damage, mostly broken windows. The Dalhousie Gazette reported that two students were seriously injured. One student lost an eye due to flying glass and another sustained injuries to her face and hands.4 Several people in the Law Library at the time of the explosion suffered minor cuts and bruises.5

Dalhousie University Science Building after the Halifax Explosion of 1917

MacDonald Memorial Library after the Halifax Explosion of 1917

The Dalhousie campus community rallied to help the injured:

Within fifteen minutes after the explosion, probably every student in the higher three years was rendering first aid, and the majority of the students from every faculty were assisting in a variety of ways as numerous as the needs they saw. In a few hours most of the medical and a goodly number of the others had found places of usefulness in the dressing stations, and particularly at the Victoria General and Camp Hill hospitals. . . . The fifth year men were at work for hours at a time, doing things in the operating rooms and wards of the V. G. H. of which specialists need not have been ashamed. Students of the fourth year did dressings, gave anaesthetics, and in many ways made practical application of surgical knowledge recently acquired.6

 

In the interest of balanced reporting, there was a brief mention in the article that, “There were a few regrettable actions by the students. A very few failed to do their duty as college men and women . . . ” 7

In addition to the medical students, the young women on campus were singled out for particular mention in two different articles:

Dalhousie girls responded nobly and promptly to the call for voluntary helpers. The day of the explosion many of them went directly to the hospitals, emergency and permanent, where, among the horrible confusion and sickening scenes, they did what they could towards assisting the doctors. Others helped in distributing food and clothing, or in house to house visiting.8

If there is any one class of Dalhousians which, in the writer’s estimation, is deserving of special mention, it is the young ladies of the University, who so quietly went to work, assisting in the dressing of wounds and ministering to the comfort of patients amid scenes of agony and death to which they were absolutely unaccustomed, and which are known to have shocked the nerves of even those accustomed to surgical work.9

 

I was proud but not surprised to find Velma listed among the Dalhousie girls who had provided relief to the wounded in the immediate aftermath of the explosion:

Ward work at the various hospitals: Freda Creighton, Bert Colwell, Merle Colpitt, Anna Creighton, Miss Clark, Marion Doane, Gwen Fraser, Ruth Glasel, Miss Harris, Miss Lindsay, Emmeline and Arabella McKenzie, Christine McKinnon, Sally MacDonald, Jean MacDonald, Christine MacCleod, Nell Melrose, Velma Moore, Florence Murray, Eliphail Nichols, Margaret Pugsley, Jean Ross, Frances Russell, Katherine Tattrie.10

 

However, I found the final article concluding the  Dalhousie Gazette‘s front page coverage of the Halifax explosion to be in poor taste, even for those of the adolescent persuasion:

NOT EVEN T.N.T. COULD STOP THE EXAMS

The Faculty, always so tenderly considerate of the students, felt that, in spite of this catastrophe, it would be shameful to deprive them of the Christmas Examinations, and so, on the twenty-first of January, they played Santa Claus, by presenting us with a series of one hour quizzes. Then, lest we grow blase with inaction, they ordained that lectures should continue through the Examination period. Great was the gnashing of teeth among the afflicted, as the explosion had blown every molecule of many a normally near-vacuum. Everyone agreed that district visiting was much more interesting than the Ablative Absolute, but alas the callous Senate refused to adopt this humanitarian idea.11

 

For Additional Information:

The Nova Scotia Archives has a wealth of primary sources about the Halifax explosion, “including records accumulated by Archibald MacMechan, professor of English language and literature at Dalhousie University, Halifax NS. Immediately following the 1917 Explosion, MacMechan was requested by authorities to prepare an official history of the explosion and was given the title of director of the Halifax Disaster Record Office, 1917-1918.”12 Dr. MacMechan was Velma’s English professor.


Image: W. G. MacGlaughlin, Looking north toward Pier 8 from Hillis foundry after great explosion, Halifax, Dec. 6, 1917, 1917, photograph, Reference no.: W.G. MacLaughlan Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1988-34 no. 14, A Vision of Regeneration, Nova Scotia Archives.

1“Eyewitnesses Tell of the Awful Scenes in Streets,” The Boston Globe (Boston), December 7, 1917, 6.

2Kay Brown Gauffreau, “The Ancestry & Life of Velma Jane Moore Brown” (unpublished manuscript, December 2013), 25.

3“Plan Showing Devastated Area of Halifax City, N.S.,” map, 1918, Reference no.: N.S. Board of Insurance Underwriters Nova Scotia Archives V6/240 – 1917 Halifax loc.4.2.3.2, A Vision of Regeneration, Nova Scotia Archives, Halifax.

4“Casualties at Dalhousie,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 1.

5“Casualties,” Dalhousie Gazette.

Photograph of the Dalhousie University Science building broken windows, MS-2-718, PB Box 14, Folder 23, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of MacDonald Memorial Library after Halifax Explosion / PC1, Box 31, Folder 12, Item 2, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

6“Dalhousians and Medical Relief Work,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 2.

7“Medical Relief,” Dalhousie Gazette.

8“Relief Work among the Women,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 1.

9“Medical Relief,” Dalhousie Gazette.

10“Women,” Dalhousie Gazette.

11“Not Even T. N. T. Could Stop the Exams,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 1.

12Province of Nova Scotia, “1917 Halifax Explosion: Personal Narratives and other materials,” Nova Scotia Archives, accessed July 4, 2018, https://novascotia.ca/archives/explosion/personal.asp.

Friday Funny . . . Sort of

"For Housewives" appeared in the ______ of the Dalhousie Gazette.

I think these tortured rhymes “For Housewives” were a Dalhousie student’s attempt at social commentary on women’s roles in the first quarter of the twentieth century–at least I hope they were!

1“For Housewives.,” The Dalhousie Gazette XLIX, no. 10 (December 3, 1917): 8.

2Images of advertisements for Bon Ami cleanser retrieved from http://www.MagazineArt.org.