From Fairview to Point Grey: Memories of Day Walker Gee 1923-1927
In the late 1980s the Classics Department Newsletter published biographical sketches of Lemuel Robertson, Harry Logan and O.J. Todd, and these elicited an appreciative letter from Mrs. Day Walker Gee. Mrs. Gee entered U.B.C. in 1923, when the university was still on the Fairview Campus, and was a member of the second graduating class from Point Grey in 1927.
Day Walker (1927)
She was Vice-President of the Classics Club in 1926-7, and returned to take an M.A. degree in 1943. After a year of teacher training Mrs. Gee taught Latin at North Vancouver High School until 1951. Initially her Headmaster was John Vergil McLoed, who had been a student of Lemuel Robertson in the days of the McGill University College, and whom Robertson considered to have been, along with Homer Thompson, his most outstanding pupil. Here are some of the memories that Mrs. Gee, who lives in North Vancouver, has kindly shared.
Latin 1 was taught byLemuel Robertson and English 1 by Mary Bollert, who was the first Dean of Women. Latin 1 for 1923-4 covered chs. 1-19 of Bradley, Arnold’s Latin Composition, Cicero: Pro Lege Manilia, and selected orations and letters, and elegiac selections from Ovid. A fourth hour, at which attendance was voluntary, was devoted to lectures on Roman History, for which the textbook was A.E.R. Boak, A History ofRome to 565A.D. English 1 for 1923-4 included Euripides: Electra “in Gilbert Murray’s paraphrase,” Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, Sheridan: The School forScandal, and Ibsen: The Doll’s House.
An Arts Lecture at Fairview in 1919. Credit: UBC Archives (11.1/10/3)
The section of the English course I took was exclusively for women in those days, as remained the case until 1941. Students wore gowns while on campus, and these had a khaki cord on them in honour of the students who had fought in the Great War. I also took a course on Shakespeare from Garnett Sedgewick, who always arrived five minutes late, so that anyone arriving later than him could be justifiably excluded from the class. I had another English course from the legendary Freddie Wood in one of the wooden buildings at Fairview. He had a sarcastic side, and was scathing about people making noise outside the hut, calling them “lazy lizzards” on one occasion.
When the university moved to Point Grey in September 1925 travel time increased. I took a streetcar in North Vancouver at 7 a.m. and the 7:20 ferry across to Vancouver. I walked up to Hastings Street and took the streetcar to Sasamat, and then a bus to the “bus stop” on campus. The whole journey took about an hour and forty minutes. The streetcar would always be delayed when the track changed from single to double.
Point Grey was pleasanter than Fairview, though initially there were only two permanent buildings, the central block of the current Main Library and the Science Building (now Chemistry). The Arts Building (now Mathematics) was a temporary wooden and stucco structure. The classes in the Classics department were very small, and there was good camaraderie between the students and professors.
A special feature of the department was the Classics Club, which always met at the home of one of faculty members. Papers were given both by professors and students. The information on the Club in my 1927 Totem shows that the topics covered included Ancient Finance (on which I gave a paper), Roman Roads, Julius Caesar, the Roman House, Greek coinage and Greek pottery. Dr. Todd gave a lecture on Greek Sculpture, and there was a performance of scenes from Terence’s Phormio.
After graduation I took a year of teacher training. Since my mother had been widowed during the war, following the death at Passendale of my father who had been in the 231st Seaforth Highlanders, there was a problem with finances. It was solved when during my first class there was a knock on the door. It was Professor Lemuel Robertson who had, with characteristic kindness, come to ask me to take two grammar sections in Latin I. He later gave me some of his books.
I spent a year teaching in Victoria before moving back to North Vancouver High School where I had graduated. Here I taught Latin until my retirement. In those days anyone planning a career in medicine, whether as a doctor, dentist, or nurse, was required to know Latin, and wanted to take it at the high school level.