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Pat Gee

Pat Gee-1919-2014

I fell in love when I was 9 years old. Our family had just moved to Penticton,as my father was a B.C. Provincial policeman and a neighbor invited me to her dance recital.I had never seen dance in any form before and I was absolutely enthralled. I was 9 years old and the heavenly sight of chipmunks, bunnies, fairies in tutus,clowns and children dressed in national costume doing their thing took my breath away! I know now that it was ballet, tap and character dancing. So home I came with the one idea of taking dance lessons. It was in the 30's and policemen's salaries weren't the greatest so my parents didn't jump at the idea. However with much cajoling I made it. Then to Chilliwack where I went to Miss Jean McCulloch's Academy. Finally when I was fifteen I met Miss Marie Lavoie who later became a good friend. The King family moved again...by the way,at this time in my life I was Patience Valerie King.

It was 1935 and my career was about to take shape. I met dear Miss Mary Pratten who was brought up in England and very much of the "old school". Tap dancing was in vogue as it was the Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers era and Miss Pratten was trying to teach tap from a book of instructions. Her pupils were having much difficulty following the slow instructions as she read them to us. I had been taking tap in Vancouver from the great tap teacher, Ted Cawker, so I was dismayed at what was happening. One day I began muttering under my breath and the next thing I knew, Miss Pratten was asking me to leave the class! Later she confronted me and I told her I couldn't learn tap that way and needed the step demonstrated. The next day she offered me a job as a tap teacher for her classes. I taught all that year. In September Miss Pratten said she was planning to open classes in Armstrong, B.C. and Lumby, but there was no mention of renumeration. I had graduated from highschool and wanted to start earning a little, so I talked my mum into going with me to see Miss Pratten. After a cup of tea my mum asked for her plans for me and she said she would pay my expenses such as bus fare, accommodation and meals. And that was it! Miss Pratten told me that I would have to apprentice for several years. She had apprenticed for 13 years! As we wended our way home I told mum I wouldn't do it for nothing. I told my mum that I'd open a school of my own- which I did. I rented a small hall called The Band Hall in Vernon, bought a second-hand record player (the old wind-up kind) and was ready to go. I worked hard calling all my mother's friends to try to recruit their children for lessons. It was slow at first but by the second year I had 75 pupils. Then Miss Pratten moved to Kelowna and I moved to the larger Scout Hall. I hired an excellent pianist who could play all the current pop tunes and the young people flocked to my ballroom dance classes. I charged 25 cents and they each paid me at the door. I also opened a class in Armstrong and was hired as the Ladies' Instructor for the Pro-Rec classes in Vernon and Armstrong. In 1939 my father was transferred to Kamloops B.C. where he was staff Sergeant in charge there. My parents felt I should come with them but I was reluctant to leave my pupils. Finally I decided,"Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

It wasn't easy to start again but there was a Catholic School in Kamloops called St. Ann's Academy. I asked if they might be interested in dance training for their boarders and I was invited to tea. In fear and trembling I sat in a circle of nuns all in their habits. They offered me a job with very small renumeration but I would get a business course for free. So I was happy and was there for several years.

At the same time I opened a studio under Galloway's Drug Store. I taught classes there for a year or two and began putting on entertainments for various groups.I remember every Christmas we went to Tranquille School for the Handicapped to entertain and they loved it. We also were invited to perform at the local movie theatre called The Empress.

During this time I met Richard Alston James Gee and he swept me off my feet. We were married on July 30, 1942. Eight years later in 1949, Maureen Alana Gee was born and two years later our second child was born. We called her Janice Louise. When Maureen was four years old I thought she might like to begin dance lessons but there were no teachers at that time. I decided to teach her myself. I phoned a few friends to invite them to join us. Well, I didn't anticipate how many calls I would get! At first I taught them in a neighbor's rumpus room, then the next fall I opened a studio downtown. We finally decided to build a larger home and include a real studio with proper sprung floor. We moved in around 1956 and I had over 150 students studying ballet, modern jazz, tap and highland dancing. Every summer I went off to study in the U.S.A., Banff and Vancouver to add to my knowledge.

During the next few years I taught in two Summer Schools of the Arts, entered hundreds of competitors in various dance festivals and became extremely busy. I decided to hire some extra instructors since I had opened three new studios.My pupils performed in concerts, high school productions, music festivals and had many, many awards.

My own two daughters were winning as often as any. Jan chose to take a great interest in tap and jazz and Maureen loved the ballet, jazz and national dance. Both my daughters had a turn at teaching some of the younger children and then they were off to the University of British Columbia.

And so time marched on. I was exceedingly busy, and I was tired. It was 1971 and Jim and I decided to retire. We moved to Victoria, then the Parkesville and to Qualicum. When Jim passed away in 1999, I decided it was time to move to Vancouver to be with my daughters.

For many years I was still teaching seniors or other retired folk mostly as a volunteer and was still teaching at Kerrisdale Seniors Community Centre as a member of the Seniors Choir when I turned 87. I finally had to retire from that too and I said Amen to a happy and successful career.