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Interview #456: Chapman, Emily E. (1994)

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00:00:01–00:16:48 EC discusses differences between the U...

EC discusses differences between the U.S. and Canadian educational systems. After graduation from high school, she took classes at the McDonald Institute. During WWII, the school was converted to an anti-aircraft factory.

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00:00:01

BT

That’s my fault. That’s the feedback. This is Barry Teicher of the Oral History Project. Today is March 9, 1994. I’m in the home of Miss Emily Chapman, who lives on [Wobben?] Hill Drive, I believe.

EC

No, just [Wobben?] Hill.

BT

Just [Wobben?] Hill, in Madison. Mrs. Chapman was one of the Madison people who responded to my query in On Wisconsin. And since she is a Madison resident, I decided to, I elected to interview her in her home, rather than by mail.

Mrs. Chapman, let’s start off, first of all, talk about your date and place of birth. And briefly describe your childhood and early your early years of school.

EC

Well, I was born in January 19, 1921, which makes me seventy-three years old now, in Paris, Ontario, Chapman. And my middle name is Elizabeth. And I was called Betty most of my life. I attended, we moved a lot. [laughter] My father was a salesman. And we moved—I lived in Paris, Branford—this is all in Ontario – Hamilton, then to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and then to Toronto, and to London. And in London I was in first grade. The rest of the time I was young. [laughs]

But in, in 1928 we moved to Hamilton and my father got out of the salesman business and became part, he started a hosiery mill. He had been a traveling salesman for something called Real Silk Hosiery. And I lived in Hamilton until I was married, which was in 1942. So I spent most of my life in Hamilton.

In Hamilton I attended, in London, in first grade, I was in a school called Ryerson. And in Hamilton, I went to Earl Kitchener school. And they had a different grading system. In London, you went first, second, third, fourth, up to eighth. In Hamilton, you went junior first, junior second, junior third, you know, junior, seniors, up to your final, like what would be eighth grade would be senior fourth. And they had a system of education there where I guess, if they thought you were pretty bright, you mostly skipped the senior grades. And I went from first grade in London into junior second in Hamilton. Then to junior third, junior fourth, and senior fourth. So--

BT

You skipped seniors one, two and--

EC

Three. Yeah. So when I went to high school, I was eleven years old. [laughter] But there were quite a few other--

BT

I was going to say, was that common, or--

EC

Yeah. No. There were, there were girls that I had gone to school with that were the same age that I was.

BT

Now were these boys and girls schools?

EC

Oh, yeah. Oh, I should tell you, grade school was very interesting. Earl Kitchener. They had separate doors for girls and boys. And I was mad, because the boys’ door was closest, a whole block closer to where I lived than the girls’ door. But you went in separate doors. And the washrooms were separate, you know, the girls’ washroom was on the end with the girls’ door, and the boys’ washroom was on the end with the boys’ door. And all through grade school and high school, we had, of course, boys and girls in the same class. But the girls always sat in one half of the room, and the boys sat in the other half. There was a definite division down the middle.

BT

That’s interesting.

EC

And we were, generally we were seated in alphabetical order. And there were, as I recall, we had over forty kids in the classroom. Almost every room I was ever in. Because we had six rows of seats across, and at least seven or eight rows back. So that we had large classes.

BT

Did the teachers distinguish between the boys and the girls in terms of favoring one over the other? Or were they all pretty much treated the same in the classroom?

EC

We were pretty well treated the same, as far as I could tell. There didn’t seem to be any obvious interest in one sex or the other in school. We also were very well behaved. [laughter] In grade school, if we got a little rowdy, the teacher would say, “Hands behind your back.” And we all put our hands behind our back like this and sat there till she said we could stop it. [laughs] And there was an occasional time in grade school, I remember in junior fourth, the teacher was a Mr. Watson. And I remember that he would, once in a blue moon, haul one of the boys up from the back of the room. And he’d hold their hand out and they’d get a whop on their hand for misbehaving. But in general, there was, I wouldn’t, I don’t think there were any discipline problems in any of the schools that I went to in Ontario.

BT

So you continued through high school?

EC

Through high school. And I went to Westdale Secondary School which was combination school, academic, tech and commercial. There were three separate tracks. And there was no compulsion to go on any one track. You decided which track you wanted to go in. And academic was a five-year course. Tech was a four-year course, and commercial was a four-year course. And I really enjoyed school a lot. And I loved math, and I loved physics.

I had an unusual physics teacher. We all had to take the same classes. We had, courses. We had, I think maybe two electives. If we were in academic, we had to take all the courses that were necessary to go to college. That’s all there was to it. But you could take, for instance, physics or German. And I decided I’d rather take physics than German. And Mr. [Gillen?] was our physics teacher. And in third form-- that’s what we called them, we didn’t go by grades there, we went first through fifth form—in third form he sort of browbeat us, nursed us along. We had a quiz every morning. He sort of spoon-fed us. Then when I got into fifth and was taking what was advanced physics, he said, “You are now college aged young people. I am just going to expect you to do everything on your own. I’m not going to correct you. It’s up to you!” [laughter] And he was, well, in both of his classes, ever home room when you were in a home room, you had, we had homeroom parties, and homeroom treasure hunts, and homeroom this, and homeroom that. And since we usually attended all our classes together through the year, we got to know each other pretty well. And it was really, it was very interesting.

Both influences, my mom and dad never, they went to business school, or business college. That’s where they met. And my two brothers, I had two older brothers, eight and ten years older than I, or than me. And they both were, I was almost an only child. They went off to University of Toronto and got electrical engineering degrees in what was then called the School of Practical Science, which was an engineering degree.

Our high school stuff was very heavy on math. And I have a list of all the credits I got for high school. And then I wanted to take math and physics. [laughs] I wanted to go to University of Toronto and take math and physics. Well, we suffered a financial setback in the family. And my mother said to me, “Betty, it wouldn’t hurt you to learn how to cook. Why don’t you go to McDonald Institute?” And it was only twenty-five dollars a semester for tuition, and twenty-five dollars, I think, a semester, for room and board. So it was affordable. And I thought well, I don’t have the money. [laughs] And my parents would send me there. So I said I would. But they wouldn’t let me in. I was too young. [laughs] So I stayed a sixth year at Westdale, and took all kinds of interesting things, like architectural drafting and business lettering. And got, finally completed my senior matriculation Latin, which I had dropped Latin because that was one teacher I didn’t like.

But one of the things, the teachers that we had, I remember my high school teachers a lot more vividly than I remember the teachers I had in the university.

BT

Isn’t that interesting.

EC

The very first, when I was in first form, and I was in the geometry homeroom, and Mr. Stiles, a little short redheaded guy, posed a couple of problems to us and said, “Now here are some things that mathematicians have been trying to solve for centuries. So I’m going to give you one of them and see if you can solve it. Can you trisect an angle? Oh! [laughs] I worked on it and worked on it. Of course, I don’t know anybody that can do it, using, you know—But he, and then he was one that passed around saying, “What are you interested in being when you finish school?” And at that time, I wanted to be an architect, which was, I still like drawing things.

But anyway, I enrolled then at McDonald Institute. And this was a two-year course for an associate degree in home economics. And we went three semesters a year. And we had, it was the same type of schooling as high school in the sense that we didn’t, we were in school all day from, you know, 8:30 or 9:00 until 4:00, 4:30. And you maybe had one spare period a day. And in our schools, we took a lot of subjects and took them for the whole year. I mean, you would continue for the whole year. There were no semester, yeah, there was. Home economics was a semester. And I think there were a couple of ones that weren’t. I don’t think they even got credit for it. [laughs] But you, and in fact, a lot of the subjects in high school, you continued year after year, going through the same subjects, just getting more and more.

All our exams were comprehensive. In other words, you went back right to the beginning, all your knowledge. And never had a multiple choice or a true/false exam, ever, until I came to the University of Wisconsin. [laughter] We had essay exams. And we had to, we had to sort of really know what we were, what we’d been taught. And it was, I think it was very good discipline.

So, anyway, I graduated from Guelph in May of 1940. We were kicked out a month before we were supposed to be because of the war. And they were turning over the home executive committee school to air force chef training.

So then I worked a year in an anti-aircraft gun factory.

BT

That must have been interesting.

EC

Uh huh. And I used all the math I’d ever had. I worked as a machinist and an inspector, and did (lay out?) work. And I worked twelve-hour shifts, and two weeks days and two weeks nights. And that was, I wouldn’t have been able to do it if my mom hadn't made my lunch, done my laundry. [laughs] Because I had an hour ride on the streetcar to the factory and back.

And I was married in 1942. My husband was an instructor at the University of Guelph, which is where I had been going to school. I met him and we fell in love while I was a student and he was a student. He was in the ag school, OAC. It’s now the University of Guelph. He was a senior when I was a, we were called juniors and seniors. We weren’t called freshmen, because we were only there for two years. when I was a junior, he was a senior in his four-year course. So at any rate.

And several things I did after I was married, I was, worked at the [Calendar?] Foundry doing inspecting and drafting. So my course in drafting in high school did well by me. I learned inspecting and [that’s lay out?] because in using machines, when I was working for Otis-Fensom in Hamilton.

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