Veni, Vidi, Vici
By Elayne Tignor Vick, 4/17/2003
"Veni, vidi, vici" is about all I remember from a high school Latin class. I donít know if public high schools still teach Latin, but it was offered in 1954 when I was in the ninth grade, giving students the privilege of learning a language incontrovertibly dead. The venerable Edith Austin and Mildred Walker taught it, along with Spanish.
Coming to the eighth grade directly from elementary school, our class was squeezed into the old Denison High School along with ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders for one year while the ďnewĒ high school was being completed on south Mirick. The following year, as a ninth grader, I can remember my amazement when I was offered a list of courses, all fairly standard stuff except for Latin. Why, I had to take that! What fun! And many of my classmates thought the same thing. However, when Miss Edith Austin walked into our class the first day, we had second thoughts pretty quick. Too late.
However, along with a lot of hard work, we still managed to have fun that year. Besides the challenge of finding ways to cheat on tests (declension of Latin verbs was hard) and write reports on the Punic wars, we dyed our motherís sheets all colors of the rainbow and held a toga party in the gloomy, damp high school basement cafeteria, all of us lounging around on pillows, carefully chaperoned, with ivy leaves in our hair and gold eye shadow (the boys) and drinking pop out of fake gold goblets (the girls).
The great event of our Latin year, however, was attending the Junior Classical League Convention held in Galveston in the spring of 1955. In preparation of this event, we had the opportunity to begin corresponding with pen pals from other Latin clubs in Texas. The idea was to have friends to look up when we arrived in Galveston, to share Latin knowledge with, I presume. I wrote to three boys. Better to have a little insurance, I figured.
So in April of 1955, a Greyhound bus left Denison for Galveston with around 30 Latin and Spanish students along with Misses Austin and Walker. Those brave women Ė we have to admire their courage and fortitude.
In Galveston we had rooms in the elderly Hotel Galvez on Seawall Boulevard (which, by the way, has since been restored to its former glory), boys on one floor, girls on another, to be on the safe side. Those rooms must have really been crowded since each girl took along about a dozen fluffy crinoline petticoats. Our uniform in those days included a wide skirt with "can-cans" underneath. Most of us also took Kodak Brownie box cameras. We all brought home lots of silly photos, and thatís what has stirred my recollection of this trip.
Convention events have faded from my memory, but I do remember taking my one and only ride on a roller coaster at an amusement park on the Galveston beach. Of course, our teachers told us specifically NOT to go to the beach. And of course, thatís exactly where we headed as soon as we arrived.
I remember that Miss Austin wore a hat the entire trip. I bet she was one of the few women dressed in a "church" hat who ever toured the Battleship Texas. We stopped off there on the way home.
If anything improper happened on that trip, I didnít know anything about it. Just the fact that we were away from home was quite a story, even if we did have two old-maid schoolteachers accompanying us. Everyone got home safely, but the tales told around school afterward were of a wild time. After all, "veni, vidi, vici" is Latin for "we came, we saw, we conquered."