From Peace to War: Memories of Douglas Todd, 1937-1941
Douglas Todd as an undergraduate
(Credit: The Totem 1939-40, p. 100)
Douglas Todd today
Douglas Todd is the sixth child and fifth son of Professor O.J. Todd. He was educated at University Hill High School, and took an honours degree in Latin and French at U.B.C. in 1941. He subsequently taught his subjects at several high schools in British Columbia, and now lives in retirement in West Vancouver.
I was born in Northfield, Minnesota, where my father taught at Carleton College briefly before coming to U.B.C. He was unhappy working at this sectarian college, and when someone at Harvard drew his attention to the opening at the new university in Vancouver he decided to return to the Pacific Northwest (he had previously taught in Walla Walla). Although Father loved Harvard and its magnificent library, and would liked to have been closer to it, he remained loyal to U.B.C., even turning down a job offered him in 1923 at Bowdoin College, Maine, at a salary of $4000.
My earliest memories are of the Fairview campus, where my father had an office in one of the wooden "shacks," and my elder brother played rugby where Vancouver City Hall stands today. We lived not far away on 19th Avenue. I can recall Audrey Mildmay singing at our house. She was then just the daughter of my father’s whimsical colleague, Aubrey Mildmay (later Sir Aubrey when he inherited the title), but became famous in England in the 1930s as the first prima donna of the Glyndebourne Festival.
In his first year at U.B.C. my father discovered what would become a life-long passion: football, which he always refused to call "soccer," and persisted in distinguishing from "American football" which he jokingly liked to call "armball." He just happened to see a game in progress at the Cambie Street grounds one day as he was riding by on a streetcar. He got off to watch, and so began the love affair that would culminate in his becoming the President of the Dominion Football Association. One of his prize students, Malcolm McGregor, excelled in that sport as a goalkeeper. I can see Malcolm now, yelling at his full-backs in one game to protect him from a demon striker.
In 1923 Father made an extended trip to Europe, and went on to Egypt and Palestine (as it then was). I have kept his detailed diary, and would like to transcribe it one day. He took the boat Giuseppe Verdi from Boston at the end of April, visited Sicily first, then Greece, then went on to Crete, where he met Sir Arthur Evans. On May 28 he had lunch with Evans in his house near the Palace of Minos, took a siesta, then joined the great man for tea followed by a tour of the site. As a parting gift Evans gave Father a cup from the Middle Minoan period which I have now donated to U.B.C. I am told that it will be the first piece of Minoan pottery in the collection at the Museum of Anthropology.
Sir Arthur Evans' gift to O.J. Todd: a Middle Minoan (ca. 2000 B.C.) conical cup.
Credit: A.A. Barrett.
On his way back he spent time in the libraries at Paris and Oxford, and inspected papyri at the British Museum. He was always reading a Greek text during his travels, though he also recorded oddities around him in painstaking detail. Here’s an interesting entry from May 11: Sighted the region around Carthage this morning. Shortly before that a small bird, called by someone an Italian quail, flew aboard almost exhausted and was caught and put in a basket by an Italian woman. Just before dinner two old ladies from the 3rd class, a thin one 73, a stout one 69, danced. When the stout one got tired she would go gunning with a toy cap-pistol. Out of sight of land most of the time. No boats. Finished [Aristotle’s] ‘Politics’ and re-read Dem[osthenes] 1st Phillipic and 1st Ol[ynthiac].
In the late 1920s my father was busy on his index to the plays of Aristophanes, and all the children pitched in to help him. I think that I was assigned the conjunction KAI/, and would read out the references from John Williams White’s index while Father checked them against the text. But he never forced his scholarly interests on his children. He would occasionally say things like "Old Aristotle would approve," but he didn’t expect that his brood would follow in his footsteps.
In January 1931 we moved to our house at 1866 Wesbrook on the U.B.C. Endowment Lands, and my father and I cut a path through the bushes from the house to the campus. In his study there was a fireplace with an inscription in capitals above it.
Inscription on Study fireplace at 1866 Wesbrook
"He looketh both before and after" (Iliad 3.109)
It was taken from Book 3 of the Iliad, where, just before his duel with Paris, Menelaus asks that Priam rather than his frivolous sons come forth to seal the pledges. As Menelaus says (at line 109), when an old man is present, he looks "both behind him and in front" (A(/MA PRO/SSW KAI\ O)PI/SSW; these were the words in the inscription) — my father’s warning perhaps to his own sons.
When I became an undergraduate I had to take a Latin course with my father, and he found this a little embarrassing. He was generally uncomfortable teaching large groups, and much preferred reading with small classes. (As a shy and retiring individual, he also found the administrative duties of Head of the department a trial.) His teaching loads were always rather heavy, usually consisting of four courses a term.
Of course, I knew the other instructors in the department: Geoffrey Riddehough (who taught in a gown), Pat Guthrie, and Lemuel Robertson. Lemuel, though a tall man, had a high-pitched voice. I can remember arriving late for one of his classes in which there was also a young lady from New Westminster. Lemuel screached: "Todd," — male students were addressed by their surnames in those days — "if someone from New Westminster can get here on time, surely you can when you live only a few hundred yards away!" I was also taught by Miss Jean Auld, who was briefly an Instructor in the department, and later handled the Latin correspondence course for the provincial government.
Two of U.B.C.’s legendary teachers in those days were both in the English Department: Freddie Wood and Garnett Sedgewick. Wood taught me in English 1 and Sedgewick in English 2. My father had known Sedgewick at Harvard, and they both had offices on the same corridoor on the second floor of the Arts Building. I remember being cheeky with Sedgewick on one occasion. He hailed me in theatrical style: "You, dragon’s blood, do you have a match?" I replied: "Do you have a cigarette?" He gave me one, and I then said "I’ll have to get you a match from my father’s office." Sedgewick later complained to my father about the impudent fellow he had for a son.
The war made a difference. Two of the players on my football team were of Japanese origin, and were deported from the coast to camps in the interior and beyond.
The UBC Senior Soccer Team 1939-40. Standing on the far right is Prof. O. J. Todd (Honorary President). Second from the right in the front row is Douglas Todd.
(Credit: The Totem 1939-40 p. 166)
When the scare over Japanese submarines started, my father was conscripted as an A.R.P. warden. Although I was medically exempt from military service I still had to do drill once a week. On Saturdays after classes there was also drill for students in the C.O.T.C. (The Canadian Officers Training Corps). I can remember Pat Guthrie and "Capt." Geoffrey Riddehough in uniform. My father thought that the war had a beneficial effect on students’ study habits. In those days you could be "bounced" (i.e., expelled) from the university at Christmas if your grades weren’t good enough, but when you could then be immediately "bounced" into the army, there was an incentive not to slack off during the first term.
They were happy days. I particularly recall my father’s love of tennis, and how during the thirties he won the mens’ doubles faculty tournament six years in a row with Dr. W.F. Seyer of the Chemistry Department.
Profs. O. J. Todd and W. F. Seger in the 1930s.
(Credit: Douglas Todd)