COLLEGE LIFE IN THE EARLY YEARS
from "Geology at Acadia - the Early Years", by R.G. Moore
The town of Wolfville will commemorate its centenary in 1993, and around town there are many indications of the impending celebration. It's a good time to reflect on what it was like for students at Acadia before the town incorporated.
The qualified student coming to Acadia in the early years of its history would likely have been the son of a middle class property owner and would have attended an academy previously - if not the local Horton Academy, then one in Fredericton, Pictou or Windsor. If he had travelled from Halifax, he would have arrived here in the fall by the twice-weekly stagecoach on the Great Western Road, stopping overnight in Windsor. From Parrsboro or Saint John, he would have arrived on a schooner.
Once here, the student would have found life quite regulated. A bell awakened him at 6 a.m. Classes started after prayers and breakfast in the Academy boarding house and after he been checked over by a monitor. Classes were held in a formal classroom, the library or the museum. One hour was allotted for lunch, and classes resumed until 4 p.m., when he again met for prayers. Evenings were devoted to study either by candle or whale oil lamp, or later by kerosene lamp.
On Sundays, students were expected to attend the church of their choice (or as specified by their parents). Lectures and Bible studies were also given in Academy Hall on Sunday afternoons.
Daily life also involved many chores. As there was no janitor for at least the first 25 years, students were responsible for routine cleaning and maintenance. Wood had to be sawn and split for stoves, and carried to all rooms. Another chore was the ringing of the bell at 6 a.m. A popular trick was to turn it upside down and fill it with water. Many students also worked on the College farm. Even in winter cows had to be milked, and horses, cows, chickens and pigs fed. A visitor would have found it difficult to tell if the principal business of the college was farming or education.
There was little in the way of organized sports. The first outdoor rink did not appear until 1881; baseball and football started in the 1870's. Cricket was the first organized sport, played as early as 1860 on the college grounds about where University Hall now stands. A dancing class began in Wolfville in 1867, but it was not until 1884 that a university choral group was started, and 1899 until an orchestra was organized.
There was no student common room (other than the reading room), so that any games other than high jinks must have happened in the student rooms. Making music, singing, and charades were popular. Shenanigans occurred on Cabbage Day and at Hallowe'en, and internal mischief was probably common. There used to be a gap between the east and west wings of the college to let natural light down from above. This gap was bridged by a plank, which was frequently used as an escape route for students when a professor was reported on the stairway. There are no records of anyone falling into the chasm.
A major event in college life was the annual junior expedition, instituted by Isaac Chipman. The third-year students embarked on a schooner from the wharf at Mud Creek and sailed to sites of geological interest - Partridge Island, Cape d'Or, Ile Haute, Five Islands and Joggins. The students examined and sampled the fossils, minerals and rocks, and subsequently wrote a report of their findings. In this way, many good specimens were added to the Museum collection that could be used for future teaching purposes.