standard Chapter 1 – The Early Years … continued

[… return to first part of Chapter 1]

In Lawrencetown, the classes started in the Legion Hall (1950) at the east end of town. The Lawrencetown School used this building as an extra classroom (School on the Hill, Volume 1. Whitman 2007). Classes remained here for the next nine years and Doig (1990) chronicles from personal experience the classroom, the coursework and some entertaining events of that period.

“The single room served for instructor’s office, lecture theatre, student work space, instrument storage, cloakroom and common room for students to discuss past and anticipated social events.” This indicates that any conversations including Major Church were heard by all.

Major Church had three goals for the program, one of these included the statement:

“ At no time was it expected that we would turn out experts in twelve short months, but we did hope to give the student such training, both theoretical and in the field, as would permit him to learn from his own experience the limits of accuracy possible with the working tools of his profession, viz: the level, the compass and chain, engineers transit reading to 1 minute of arc, and also such modifications of the standard of accuracy as might be permissible on any type of work” (Doig, 1990).

Shortly after establishing the course in Lawrencetown, Church became aware of the Hall trust and he began a campaign to convince departmental officials “that there would be a future in the long term for the Land Survey school and, second, that the Hall trust could be properly placed in support of the school” (Doig, 1990). Church’s concern was that he was the sole instructor and indeed the school was known as “Major Church’s School” during the period from 1949 to 1958. The school was a “one-man, one-class affair” Throughout this period, Church maintained his professional connections with the survey associations and organizations.

In 1957, $80,000 from the J.B Hall Trust Fund was applied to the capital cost of a building in Lawrencetown for the NS Land Survey Institute. Construction began in the fall on a two-story brick building with 8,000 sq ft . The land for the new building was donated by the Royal Canadian Legion, Lawrencetown Branch No. 112, and the old Legion Hall was demolished.

Once construction started, the survey class was moved to the Agricultural Building on the Exhibition grounds until the new quarters were ready. Meanwhile Church was not well and it was suggested that he needed a field assistant and the only one he would approve was James Doig of Paradise. James had been in Major Church’s 1956 class and became an instructor in Land Surveying from 1958 to 1968.

Once James Church had retired in 1963, two additional people were hired to replace him, Colonel George Streb who was principal from 1963 to 1968 and Phil Milo (instructor), a NS Land Surveyor and a graduate of Major Church’s program and at that time employed with McElmon and Associates in Halifax. James Doig was appointed principal in 1968 a position he held until his retirement in 1986.

Major James Church died suddenly in June 1967 having had only four years of retirement after 30 years of employment. In the Foreword to Doig’s 1990 Biography of Major Church, John Wightman (Principal 1986-1994) adds the following perspective on the influence of Major Church.

“The author of this biographical sketch and I both had the privilege of working with Major Church and ultimately succeeding him as Principal. We have endeavored to maintain his training philosophy and the teaching methods that resulted in the graduates of his College earning a reputation without equal for technical competence and the work ethic. Students learn by doing, often make mistakes, but learn from these errors, and with sufficient encouragement and practice, develop the confidence and courage to meet the challenges of their chosen profession. I sincerely hope that ‘the Major’, were he able to see the evolution of his original dream as represented by the College today, would be proud of the legacy which he has left, not only in Nova Scotia, but across Canada and beyond.”

The relevance of the J.B. Hall biography is that Hall had a vision of vocational education in Annapolis County, which was subsequently realized by Major Church at the survey school. Together Hall and Church were visionaries who laid down a strong foundation for the College of Geographic Sciences.

“A significant fact to remember is that Major Church found the money, convinced the provincial officials in Halifax of the need, and oversaw the construction, all while maintaining his teaching duties”(Phil Milo, pers. comm., 2012).

By 1962, several one-year programs were offered, for example Photogrammetry in 1960 and Cartography in 1961. The Photogrammetry program, was instructed by Captain Charles Hogg, formerly with the topographic mapping section of the Canadian Army Engineers. The Cartography program recruited as instructor, John Wightman, a graduate of Acadia in Engineering and Geology, with related work experience in the Royal Canadian Navy and with the Nova Scotia Research Foundation. These programs prospered, with graduates in such demand, that within a few years a second instructor was required, and eventually an advanced year of training was added. Other technical institutes took notice across Canada and similar programs were soon started in Ontario and British Columbia, followed by other provinces. However NSLSI/COGS would never relinquish its leadership role in this field.

In 1973 the Government of Canada made a grant to the province of Nova Scotia with the condition that these monies had to be used for educational purposes. The new building was built outside of Lawrencetown, where the College is located today. After the building was completed in 1975, a memorial plaque was set in the corner to Major Church.

One of “the Major’s” quotes remembered by J. Doig, and found at the start of the biography, is:

“Work hard, keep up with modern developments, give your client his dollar’s worth, and enjoy the better things in life.” This perhaps more than anything embodies the philosophy of NSLSI and COGS.