Remembering Dennis Groat
Pat Hall SABCI 1952 Ė 1957
In Grade 10 I found out that some kids were taking a subject called Latin! I was so incensed about the fact that I had not been told about the existence of Latin at Beck that I went right to the top. I told our principal, Mr. Armstrong, that I had been cheated! He looked alarmed at the notion and asked how I had been cheated. When I explained to him that no one had ever mentioned the existence of Latin, he looked slightly relieved and bemused. I told him that I had to take Latin because from what I could figure out, it was another language. He very patiently explained to me that the course had started in September and seeing as this was late December, I probably would not be able to take it. I replied that I could certainly start it in January. He even more patiently explained that since all the kids in the class had been studying Latin since September, I would be at a decided disadvantage starting in January. I replied that I thought Iíd be okay.
Seeing as he was getting nowhere fast with my reasoning ability, he called in Mr. Groat. When Mr. Groat saw my enthusiasm, he smiled so sweetly and reassured Mr. Armstrong that I would be fine. He would just give me some special lessons over the Christmas holidays and I could enter the class in January. I was so happy, even though I was still not quite certain just what Latin was.
We spent quite a few days over Christmas with my private lessons, which of course were free. I was too clueless to know that normally private tutors are paid for their work. And I took Latin for the rest of my years at high school and in first-year university and absolutely loved it. I taught it for years in high school too.
He made Latin so interesting with his little stick figures on the blackboard, fighting all the Roman wars. He had us memorize declensions with special emphasis, pretending we were saying crazy things. Iíll never forget ďhic, haec, hocĒ because we had to sound really angry when we did that one. We learned rhyming Latin phrases that did not make any sense in Latin, but sounded so great from the English point of view that we couldnít stop laughing as we chanted them.
In Grade 11 Mr. Groat casually mentioned one day that he had studied Classical Greek in university as well as Latin. I jumped at that. I asked him why he had never told us that before. He couldnít really come up with a good answer for that one and so the wonderful man ended up tutoring me in Greek at his home because, of course, Beck didnít offer Greek. He made one condition: I had to come up with another person to study Greek with me. I coerced my trusty friend, Bev Eynon, and we had Greek classes for years. I wrote the Grade 12 Greek exam at Beck and took Greek in my first-year university as well as Latin. He laboured over special Greek exams for me after teaching all day. What a guy! Of course he didnít charge me for all those Greek classes and in my clueless state it never occurred to me that he should be paid for his efforts.
The one thing that really bothers me is the fact that I donít think I ever really really thanked him for all the wonderful work he did for me.
Copyright Pat Hall 19 July 2004
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