A look back at the Class of 1920

A century ago, Mount Allison students also faced hardships and uncertainty

Class of 1920

By Aloma Jardine

In the fall of 1916, 43 students arrived at Mount Allison, members of the Class of 1920. Over the next four years the class would face unimaginable struggles and live through events so significant they are still remembered and talked about 100 years later.

FIRST WORLD WAR

Within two years, nearly half the young men in the class had enlisted. Of the 16 who signed up, five —  Rolfe McKiel, Terence Lockwood, David Mott, Bert Cooper, and Ralph Snow — were killed, all but one — David Mott — in the last three months of the war. Mott signed up for the Royal Flying Corps and died in a training accident in Texas when a strap broke and he fell out of the plane he was flying. He was 18. The names of all five are inscribed on the Mount Allison memorial plaques, which hang in the Wallace McCain Student Centre.

Another member of the Class of 1920, Carlyle D. Fuller, was also a member of the Royal Flying Corps. During training Fuller was involved in a mid-air collision. The other aviator died, and Fuller was paralyzed from the waist down. He survived the accident and returned to his hometown of Yarmouth, NS, where he died at age 53.

Most of the remaining enlisted men — Russell Cahill, Austin Taylor, Ronald Purdy, Reginald Roach, Arthur Pentz, John Carter, Reginald Barraclough, Harold Bishop, Shirley Ellis, and LeRoy Fenderson — completed their studies at Mount Allison. 

SPANISH FLU

In the midst of watching their classmates go off to war, the Class of 1920 also had to cope with an influenza epidemic that swept around the world in 1918, leaving an estimated 50 million dead.

Mount Allison was fairly lucky; the worst wave of the flu in Sackville appeared to arrive in the fall of 1918. At that time, there were four separate institutions: the University, the Ladies’ College, the Commercial College, and the Academy, for younger students. 

In the fall of 1918, the Record reported 23 cases of the flu in the University Residence, but “was able to meet the invasion and grapple with it without any loss of life… fortunately we have never had more than five or six down at one time so that the pressure upon our hospital accommodation had not been serious.”

The Ladies’ College, on the other hand, had about 40 students sick at one time, and the College was closed for a time and students were sent home. The Academy had about 20 cases at one time, but was able to stay open.

On the heels of the flu came the news that the war was over — the very next article after reports of the flu in the Record is an account of victory celebrations among Mount Allison students, which began on Nov. 7 — four days before the official end of the war on Nov. 11.

“So unrestrained was the jubilation that it was nearly the middle of the week following before the students could really settle down to hard work,” the Record notes. 

Sackville celebrated with a parade on Nov. 11, in which Mount Allison students marched carrying a banner with the names of 53 classmates who had died in the war.

IMMIGRATING TO THE U.S.

More than a third of the class ultimately immigrated to the United States — mainly to New York and the New England states. Many stayed connected to Mount Allison through their local alumni associations.

Their careers were varied and interesting.

Walter Clark worked with the Vulcan Radiator Company in Hartford, CT and invented and patented a heat transfer unit.

Russell Cahill worked in New York as a lawyer, while Austin Taylor became a research chemist with a pulp and paper company, first in Maine and later New York. Kathleen Rand married a man from Georgia and they ran a variety store in Alabama.

Alice MacPhail immigrated to New York in 1927 and lived there for the rest of her life. She became a nurse and lived to age 93. 

Massachusetts was a popular destination for members of the Class of 1920. George Bacon was a doctor in Boston, George Bowlby an osteopath in Arlington, and John Carter a dentist in Worcester. Addison Fisher, at least at one point, was an insurance salesperson, and LeRoi Irving worked as a bookkeeper and later a bottled beverages salesperson in the state. 

Eleanor S. Palmer (Mount Allison University Archives, Hilda McNutt fonds) Several graduates moved to the U.S. to teach. Eleanor Palmer, who lived to the age of 95, taught at a prestigious private school, still in existence, in New York. Constance Young taught first in Trinidad and then in Detroit, MI after earning her master’s at Columbia University. Mount Allison awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1984. Gerald Palfrey was an industrial arts teacher in Los Angeles and Logan Clarke began his teaching career in the U.S., but ultimately moved back to Canada and taught in Dartmouth, NS until his death at age 50.

Charles Robertson appears to have been working as an engineer in Chicago, but died there in 1930 at the age of 35. Dale Farnham also worked as an engineer, first with the Montreal Heat and Power Company and later with an electrical products company in New Jersey.

Fred Winters earned a coveted teaching fellowship at Yale University, where he did post-graduate studies in mathematics. He continued to live in the U.S. after graduation, at one point working in research for a telephone company.

Daniel Glengyle Deale, like many Mount Allison students at the time, including classmates Harold Bishop, Reginald Roach, and Arthur Pentz, became a minister, serving mainly in New Jersey. His wife, Jessie, unusually for the time, was also a minister, and their only son, Alan, followed in their footsteps, studying at Harvard Divinity School. Deale served in the U.S. Army and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Roach, Pentz, and Bishop all served at churches in Nova Scotia. Mount Allison awarded Pentz an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1950 in recognition of his contributions.

MAKING THEIR MARK

Helen Ruth Humphrey, who earned her BA in 1920, was also awarded an honorary degree from Mount Allison in 1977, along with her brother, John Peters Humphrey, who authored the original draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After Mount Allison, Humphrey earned a BA from Oxford University and then taught English, first at Victoria College, predecessor to the University of Victoria, then at the University of British Columbia. Humphrey was a close friend of artist and writer Emily Carr and was one of the first who encouraged Carr’s writing after her health made painting difficult.

Roy Smith also continued his education after leaving Mount A, earning an engineering degree at McGill University. Smith moved to Sarnia, ON where he worked with Imperial Oil, a job that would take him all over the world.

Fred Greenough moved to Saskatchewan and became a high school principal. He earned his BEd from the University of Saskatchewan in 1943 and continued to teach in the province until his retirement. Wilfrid Mosher, who earned an engineering certificate at Mount A in 1918, moved to Quebec and worked in the pulp and paper industry. Reginald Barraclough, the class valedictorian, worked as a salesman at a millinery company in Toronto right after graduation and later moved to Montreal. LeRoy Fenderson practised law in Dalhousie, NB, until his death at age 52.

Kathleen Eaton was one of five siblings who graduated from Mount Allison between 1902 and 1922. Eaton was a second generation Allisonian — her mother Bessie graduated from the Ladies’ College in 1879 — and Eaton’s daughter, Ruth Schafheitlin, went on to earn her BA at Mount A in 1950.

Margaret Laura Black, the eldest daughter of Frank Black — who then owned what is now Hammond House on the Mount Allison campus —  married Douglas Weldon from Moncton, NB. The couple settled in London, ON and lived out their lives there. 

Some members of the class were nearly impossible to track down. Nothing could be learned of Helen Hayes, John Smith, John Fowle, John Stoddart, and Max Piggott.

LIVES CUT SHORT

In addition to the five young men who died in the war, a number of other members of the class died tragically before their 50th birthdays. Harold Bishop died at age 44 of a heart infection. Walter Clark was also only 44 when he died and John Carter was 41. Catherine Young, sister to Constance, married and had at least two sons, but died at age 48 after a gallbladder operation. Shirley Ellis, who survived the First World War, died in a boating accident on Lake Utopia, near Saint John, NB, at the age of 40.

By 1950, more than a quarter of the class was gone.

CLASS OF 1920 IN PICTURES

The Mount Allison University Archives has a significant number of photographs of the Class of 1920. Many of these are thanks to Harold Bishop, who donated a number of keepsake photos to the Archives.