Imagine yourself as a student here at X nearly 90 years ago. What would the world look like? Obviously, many of us never expected the world would look as it does now in 2020 – masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing and all. I often wonder how someone would have engaged with university in the context of having lived through other hardships like World War 1. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of talking with a woman named Maureen. A fellow alumnus herself, she took the time to speak with me about her Aunt, Mary Melita Ford. Known as Melita all of her life, she would have attended StFX in the late 1920’s. In my conversation with Maureen, I began to contextualize what X would have looked like for her aunt back then.
Melita would have attended StFX when the residences were separated by sexes. At this time, most of the women in attendance were from the Antigonish area, and lived in what was then a female-only residence, MSB. Maureen recalls that her aunt always said that the building was ‘strictly guarded by the Nuns. Though the supervision was quite a lot stricter for women back then, Melita seemed to have no shortage of fun. In fact, Melita’s social life was said to have flourished at StFX. Her yearbook states that,
“Melita Ford is undoubtedly the most popular girl at StFX. Her friends number a legion.”
Maureen recalls that Melita always attributed her time at X as being the best time of her life. Maureen says that the friends Melita made at StFX kept in contact throughout her life, and would always be considered as an important part of her life.
Melita’s yearbook from 1931 was discovered by Maureen and her family while cleaning out her aunt’s house after she unfortunately passed away several years ago. Given that Melita was such a strong supporter of StFX, Maureen’s family felt that it was fitting to donate the discovery to StFX to be archived. I did manage to find the yearbook that she herself owned, which clearly states that Melita had quite the aptitude for dramatics. As part of the Dramatics Society from 1927 to 1931, she was noted to have, “great natural wit and fluent ‘line’” which kept “audiences in convulsions for hours”.
Her program at StFX was Sciences, as she was known to excel at Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. Maureen recalls that she taught Senior High Mathematics following her time at StFX. Back in 1931, a Bachelor of Education was not necessary to become a teacher. Prior to her education at StFX, Melita had attended 'Normal College', which would have sufficed to be able to teach, though she continued her education through to StFX as she had a thirst for learning.
Often, I find myself asking people at the end of each interview if they got an X-Ring as I have learned that for so many Xaverians, it is a symbol of pride. An interesting aspect of Melita’s StFX story is that, although she did receive a X-Ring, Melita’s looks quite a bit different than the patented X-Ring all of us wear now. Most likely, Melita received the X-Ring which was designed by Zita Cameron in 1928. This would be the ring which ours is based off. In 1942, Willie “Locker” MacDougall designed the ‘X-Ring’ as we all know it, off of the earlier 1928 design.
In 1975, Maureen would find herself being part of the third annual StFX Feast Day, participating in an X-Ring Ceremony of her own following a degree in Nursing. Years after her aunt had attended StFX, she too lived in MSB – still guarded by the Nuns. Maureen recalls that her time at StFX was also enjoyable, but it was her aunt, Melita, who cherished her time at StFX the most.
Source: The U – History of the X-Ring by Greg Coulas (Alumni of 2012) and StFX’s 1931 Yearbook