Epilogue: Last Things First

Epilogue: Last Things First McGill University

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Home > McGill News > 2001 > Spring 2001 > Epilogue: Last Things First
Last Things First

Every three months, I relive my years at McGill. When the mail brings my quarterly copy of the McGill News, it starts a chain reaction of events that is both routine and exciting and consumes the better part of my day. I lay the magazine flat on my desk and leaf through it slowly, not reading the articles as they come up but reading only the titles, call-outs and captions. I leaf through at a deliberate pace, making my way to my ultimate destination: the obituary pages at the back of the book. This may seem morbid to some of you younger graduates, but wait till you're 81, too.

The column of grim tidings that interests me mainly is "The 1940s," which, sadly, is the most populous these days. Next, if the obit of a listed graduate in that column is followed by Medicine'41 or Science '43 or Engineering'42, I skip over it, even if it's in the time span of 1940 to 1944, the latter years of my time at McGill. If I'm in a good mood, I may whisper a fast "God Rest" under my breath. But if I run into a name followed by Arts'42, I'm nailed. And if it happens to be someone I knew or loved or despised in those days, I'm crushed.


Right away, out comes Old McGill '42. I turn to the well-worn pages of my class and pinpoint the graduate who has just left this vale of tears. I read through the vital statistics of his life before graduation. I gaze into his headshot, full of the youthful hopes and aspirations that characterized us all then and recall salient details of my association with him: my classmate, my rival for the attentions of a girl, my friend. A grief floods my heart. Then, since Old McGill is open, I turn the pages to the RVC section and rummage through the portraits of the beautiful young girls I knew or loved or despised. Bittersweet memories overwhelm me.

Inevitably, I turn back to Arts, back to page 20, and there's Panos, James George, staring me in the face, and I refuse to look into a mirror the rest of that day. What youthful demeanour, what determination to catch the world by the tail, what exultation shine in his eyes! "The unexamined life is not worth living" is the phrase James George Panos has chosen to define his outlook on the future. I read the summary of his activities, even though I know them like the back of my hand, concluding with "Yehudy, author of Yoohooditties, on the Daily." There, I pause.

That last morsel of information is the paramount attraction here. I earned a BA that year and an MA a couple of years later, and both are a source of accomplishment and pride to me, but what I look back on with most fondness from my years at McGill is the column I wrote for the Daily. It dealt with the foibles of college life in a lighthearted style. I called it, aptly, I think, "Yoohooditties," but for some strange reason by-lined it "Yehudy." Why, I'm not sure. I'm not Jewish, and certainly my own by-line would have made me a bigger fish on campus.

I suspect that a popular song of the day titled "Who's Yehudy?" may have had something to do with it. At any rate, it was great fun writing that column, which served as a basis for whatever literary success I may have attained since without being Ernest Hemingway. Unfortunately, I don't have a single tearsheet of the columns now: they've been blown away by the winds of passing years, like autumn leaves.

Old McGill '42 is understandably replete with student military activities. McGill was at war. The yearbook is dedicated to Lt. General A.G.M. McNaughton, Commander of the Canadian Army overseas, himself a graduate. Like the McGill News, it carries an already lengthy "In Memoriam" page of McGill students fallen in the line of duty. And it carries many pictures of COTC (Canadian Officers' Training Corps) activities on campus.

What it does not carry is a picture of me in the King's uniform, albeit an oxymoron. As an American citizen, I could have stayed out of the COTC program, and in good conscience. I worked my way through school as Clerk of the Greek Consulate General on Stanley Street. My duties there included close collaboration with the Royal Canadian Navy to keep Greek cargo ships loaded with supplies for embattled Britain moving without a hitch. But uniforms were proliferating on campus, boys in uniform had better luck with co-eds, and I could bend an elbow with my peers at the Army & Navy Club, somewhere in the vicinity of Drummond and Dorchester Streets. So, no regrets.

Then I take one last, furtive look at "The 1940s" column in the obituary pages of the McGill News, as if to make sure that my name is not yet included, and go on to read the articles on happenings at my alma mater, this time among the living.

Jim Panos is a retired travel agent and freelance writer who lives in Port Washington, N.Y. Happily, McGill University Archives retains copies of the McGill Daily so we can provide "Yehudy" with samples of his early work.

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