Friday, 28 November 2014

Macdonald College Classmates, 1920

Images from the archives of L.C. Gagnon

My grandmother, third from the left, at Macdonald College. Perhaps at Easter?

A Short Discussion of 1920s Demographics

Inscription in Mabel Rodger's 'yearbook'.
There might be a grim aspect to the playful jest about 'boys' in this yearbook inscription.

When my grandmother was getting her First Class Model Diploma at Macdonald College in 1919 and 1920, soldiers were still returning from the Great War 1914-1918 in Europe. Canadian soldiers had been 'voluntold' to march east to the Rhine - after the November 1918 Armistice - as part of the effort to attenuate any remaining industrial might the German Empire might be able to show to the world or its citizens. This delayed their return to Canada. As it was, the crush of Empire soldiers waiting to be repatriated from Europe overwhelmed the fleet of ships available to carry them. 

Looking in the Canadian Encyclopedia, I was surprised to learn that when the last pre-war census was taken in Canada - in 1911 - there were 113 men for every 100 women in Canada. Some of this might be accounted for by the 'exploratory' immigration of single American males across the line to the burgeoning Canadian west during this period. As well, there was also the long-standing pattern of immigration from the British Isles by adventurous males in search of better opportunities in one of the Empire's 'dominions' where 'social class' didn't matter as much.

In contrast to the 113:100 male:female ratio before the war ... after the war ... as my grandmother's cohort of graduates of the Macdonald College teachers program were approaching the age of 30, they had faced greater than normal competition in finding male spouses. In the Statistics Canada population pyramid for 1930 below, notice the large 'bite' the Great War had taken out of the population of young men between the ages of 25 and 35.

Why is the female population similarly decreased in that age group? The returning soldiers brought the 'Spanish' influenza back with them and it was particularly lethal to young adults. About 50,000 Canadians - the total for both sexes in the 20 to 45 age group - were killed by the 1919 flu pandemic.

In 1916, Canada had had a population of  8 million. In the Great War, 625,000 Canadians had served in the armed forces. Over 60,000 were killed and 173,000 were wounded. (During my 1960s elementary schooling in Lachine, a teacher told our Grade 5 class that survivors of World War One poison gas could be found 'just down the road' at the veterans' hospital at St Anne's - just across the tracks from Macdonald College.)

Usually, 'wounded' in the Great War described physical wounds. However, the effects of what are called 'Operational Stress Injuries' today ... 'Shell Shock' back then ... and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, generally ... were seldom properly understood or treated or recorded as a long-term disability.

The teachers would have plenty of boys to teach during the 1920s, but healthy 'boys' to marry were in shorter supply. Then, in the 1930s, these young adults had to experience the preventable scourge of the Great Depression.

Back to happier times at Macdonald College

Macdonald College Campus c1950, from: College pamphlet 
The skewed image above comes from a pamphlet from my father's time at Macdonald College. I have not corrected the angle so no details are lost from the edges of the photo. The Montreal to Toronto highway is barely visible. I have not yet found a similar image of the grounds as Mabel Rodger saw them in 1920.

A brief official history follows, taken from my father's Macdonald College Student Handbook of 1951.

Mabel Rodger (right) and classmates at Macdonald College in 1920.

A gathering of Macdonald College students, c1920.

Macdonald College c1920. The gentleman operating the 'church key' is not identified.

... nor is the beverage identified.

Off campus activities. Notice the drinking water pitcher  and the box camera.

Time at the beach, including tooth brushing.

Another view at the beach.

Here is a list of the Macdonald College students who signed Mabel Rodger's 'yearbook' in 1919 and 1920. Most were in her teacher training program, but there are also some notes written by students in the science program. All locations in the list were in Quebec - unless otherwise noted. I made an effort to search and check names when the signatures were difficult to read.
  • Ella Dow, Port Daniel Centre
  • Estella Primerman, Stanbridge East
  • Lillis Baker, Stanbridge East
  • Winifrid Horner, Bordeaux
  • Sara Gardner, Quebec
  • Katie A. Taylor
  • Flossy Brundage, Bury
  • Bernice Parsons, Coaticook
  • Grace Mitchell, Montreal
  • Jean Laurie
  • Esther Hoffman, Montreal
  • Sara M. Sargeant, Waterloo
  • Alice Hunter, Bondville
  • Edna N Gilbert, Lime Ridge
  • Helen Thomson
  • Peggy McCanimmon, Inverness
  • Marjorie Godfrey
  • Edith Hunter
  • Dorothy M. Roberts, Granby
  • Mary I. Fowler
  • Sophia Towne
  • Mary I Gilbert, Huntingdon
  • Hattie Giles
  • Doris Hammond, Lachute
  • Jean Campbell
  • Flora MacLeod, Gould
  • Helena Rodgers, Lachute
  • Irene Hawley, Clarenceville
  • Frances Patterson, Bolton Centre
  • Ruby Millar, Lachute
  • Edith L. Bryant, Bolton Centre
  • Dulcie LeDain
  • Edith Wheeler
  • Helen Johnston
  • Dot Cullen
  • Lillian Greig, Allan's Corners
  • Muriel P. Code
  • Isabel C. Nesbitt
  • Freddie Southwood
  • Frances E. Rogers, Hopewell Hill, NB
  • Goldie Louis
  • Dorothy Nicholson, Newcastle, NB
  • Jean McLaurin, Vankleek Hill, ON
  • Maud Barnes, Montreal
  • Dorothy E. Browne, Sherbrooke
  • Mabel H. Ellicott, Montreal
  • Briney Kirshner, Montreal
  • Marjorie James
  • Tina B.C. Donaldson, Montreal West
  • Alice Goldstein, Montreal
  • Maybelle Hodgman, Birchton
  • Flo Soles, Knowlton
  • Helen Hall

Mabel Rodger, Teacher, at East Settlement, early 1920s