In June of 1942, after three years in Oungre, Lillian had managed to
save seven hundred and forty dollars, enough money to take a year
off from teaching and complete her university degree. When she
finished her studies the next spring she had forty cents of that money
left! She managed to get work in an insurance office between winter
and summer classes and that tided her over.
She decided on the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg because
there was no congregation of the church in Saskatoon. She had taken
summer classes in Saskatoon and had enjoyed going to the
tuberculosis sanatorium each Sunday to break bread with Sis. Olson,
but when she was going to be gone for a whole year she really felt the
need of the fellowship of a congregation.
Early in July she set off by train from Lake Alma. No one was
meeting her, so when she arrived she set off on foot to find a place to
stay. She got a tiny room in a hotel and when she went to the window
to look out, she discovered it was no window at all, simply a facade.
This prairie girl, used to the wide open spaces, felt like she was in a
prison cell and still remembers the awful closed-in feeling she
experienced. She had no idea how to maneuver her way around town
and felt very much alone.
The next afternoon she was more than relieved when Margaret
Bodnar, her good friend Alice's sister, arrived to help her get settled.
Margaret took over and Lillian was happy to let her. First they took
the streetcar out to the university, saw the registrar, got her summer
course of studies determined, then got a list of possible boarding
places. She found an adequate place on Broadway Ave. and plunged
right in to her studies. It was a superb and enlightening year for her
educationally, spiritually, socially and aesthetically.
OPENING UP HORIZONS
Spiritual and Social
She started attending the Burnell St. congregation of the Church of Christ because she knew the Beamish family. She was warmly greeted and often had Sunday dinner with them. She had a wonderful time with her Christian family that year. Margaret went to church with her pretty regularly, and they are still good friends.
She thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship of that congregation. Nearly
every Sunday night the young people gathered for a singsong at
Beamish's or somewhere else. It was at least a half hour walk from
Beamish's back to where she was living, and there were many late
nights when she made that long walk home, usually alone. Although
she shakes her head at the prospect of doing such a thing in today's
society, she never once considered it a daring thing to do.
In the fall, after summer classes concluded, she transferred to United
College in downtown Winnipeg, and moved in with Harold and Pat
Pennock. She loved it there and stayed with them as long as she was
in Winnipeg. She walked to the university from their house every
morning for her eight o'clock class and stayed all day until five,
studying in the library when she wasn't in class. She wanted her
evenings left uncluttered so that she could be free to socialize.
She was particularly charmed by little five year old Aynsley Pennock
who had such a vivid imagination her parents were worried about her.
They asked Lillian for help, so she told Aynsley the story of the boy
who cried, "wolf". Aynsley loved it, and said, "Tell it again!" which
Lillian did, over...and over...and over again..
Educational and Political
She majored in English and history that year. She enjoyed her classes immensely; in fact, she has never taken a class from which she didn't get a great deal of pleasure. She particularly wanted to take a class from Dr. Arthur Lower, a noted historian, but because of a conflict of class schedules she had to get his permission. When she went to him his gruff responses were, "Why do you want to take Government Four?" - "What did you do before you came here?" - "A woman school teacher" - "in Government Four?" - "They never do very well." But he did let her in and perhaps because she felt challenged by his comments, she was at the top of the class at the end of the year. She felt like she had "upheld the honour of all women teachers".
She appreciated most and got the best grades in her mathematics class, possibly because she had been enjoying teaching it for so many years already. One exam was so long she didn't think she could finish it, but she worked so furiously and finally it was done. She walked home as usual, but she was so worn out she was sick to her stomach. A few days later, as he was giving out the grades, the professor said, "Some of you did very well; I never really expected anyone to finish!"
Other courses were more of a struggle for her. French was new to her
and while she passed the course, she didn't do particularly well.
Objective psychology was also difficult. One night, just before a
major exam she opened her book to review her notes and she felt as
if her brain froze; the back of her head actually felt icy cold. She
could read the words, but none of them penetrated to her brain. She
decided that what she needed was sleep, so she went to bed.
The next morning when she awoke the frozen feeling was gone and
she felt quite refreshed. But, when she got to the university and the
exam papers were handed out she skimmed through the paper and
said to herself, "I don't know the answer to even one of these
questions!" She decided that she had to write something because
"after all, the teachers who are going to grade this have to have
something to read!" She remembers smiling and thinking, "I'm just
going to write long answers of whatever comes into my head in
relation to the question." She found one question that she maybe
knew some little thing about and she put her pen to the paper and just
started to write.
The first sentence or two were very difficult and didn't have much to
do with the topic, but then the strangest thing happened, her thoughts
started to flow (as did her imagination!), and just by writing, thoughts
began to come to her mind that really were related to the question!
Once she had answered one question her brain seemed to wake up. So
she tackled another question and by the time the three hours were up,
she had written many, many pages and something about every one of
the questions. She was grateful to get 65% on that test and a C on the
She learned a very valuable lesson that day that she has tried to pass
on to her students ever since. The direct lesson is to do as she did -
simply start writing...something...even if it doesn't make much
sense at first. Often the juices will start to flow and your recollection
of what you've studied will return. The same lesson at a little more
subtle level is "If something seems impossible to do, start out anyway,
and you may be amazed at what you can accomplish."
She took advantage of occasions outside the classroom to expand her
learning also. One of the ways she did this was by going to lectures
of all kinds. She listened to a reporter describe his last days in Berlin
before the outbreak of World War II. She heard the president of
McGill University talk about the Atlantic Charter and she even
attended a Conservative Party convention. She had never voted
conservative in her life but she was always interested in government
and history. This was the convention when they debated adding the
word progressive to the name of the party.
Music and Art
Winnipeg was a great music city, and next to church activities, she most enjoyed the opportunity to hear good music performed live. She was impressed by the Winnipeg Music Festival, a two week long competition in all areas of both instrumental and vocal music. It was considered the best and largest in North America for many years. She was attending United College (University of Winnipeg), which was easy walking distance to the Winnipeg Auditorium where the festival was held, so whenever she had a spare period during the festival that spring, she would slip over to hear the music. She also took some friends along with her to the final concert, which was a full evening's presentation of the best of the winners.
She discovered The Winnipeg Symphony that year, whose concerts
were plentiful and magnificent, and she revelled in the great music of
the masters. She particularly enjoyed performances of Gilbert and
Sullivan operettas. She saw two of them that year, The Yeomen Of
The Guard and The Gondoliers and with those performances began
a fondness for Gilbert and Sullivan that has brought her pleasure
throughout her life.
She also renewed her exploration into art appreciation. It formally
began with an invitation to all the French students to visit the home
of their professor, Dr. Victor Leathers. He owned and had on display,
a large collection of reproductions of European art. One room in his
home was filled, floor to ceiling, with these framed reproductions.
His collection was so large that he changed his gallery every few
One day she saw an advertisement for some art lectures and
persuaded some friends to go with her. They went to twelve first class
lectures, the total cost - two dollars! Dr. Leathers managed to
persuade the Winnipeg School of Art to give some non-credit lectures
at United College, another outstanding event.
It surprised her to discover that people in Winnipeg didn't seem to be
as knowledgeable about or as involved in what was going on
nationally and internationally as she was used to in rural
Saskatchewan. She began to realize that a big city tends to become
ingrown and focused on civic matters. Her professor in Government
commented, "If you want to know what's going on in the world, go
some place where a group of farmers are gathered and listen to them
Before she knew it the year was over! It had been such an enriching
time that she thought she might like to live in Winnipeg some time in
the future. Of course, once she'd been away for a few years she
reconsidered, "No, It's too big. I'm a country mouse". She knew
before the term was over that she would be going back to Wawota as
principal and she was very glad to be returning to a place where she
had previously been so happy. When summer school classes ended
in August, she went home to Lake Alma before returning to Wawota.
She loved being at home with her family for those few days. When
she was younger she had always been eager to get away for new
experiences but now she appreciated home more and more; she
especially appreciated her parents. She was so thankful for their
good, honest, clean-living, Christian lifestyle and so proud of them.
They were poor, but they lived in decency and they were good