Aberdeen High School, where Frye graduated in 1928, is now Centre Culturel Aberdeen, a place where the francophone community has come together to share in the creation, performance, and exhibition of Acadian art. It’s a nice irony that what was all English in Moncton in the 1920s is now mostly French. In Frye’s time there was no French language high school in Moncton, and the French were thrown into the English system. Several francophones who were students at the time of Frye remember his helping them with their English essays. “He was an uncommonly soft touch,” John Ayre says (p. 43), “for anyone who genuinely wanted help with assignments. […] This was a central character trait quite directly connected with his Methodist background: if someone deserving asked for help, he gave it. It was both a strength and a bedevilment all through his later life.”
The back and forth, the up and down, the ‘creative tension’, between francophone and anglophone communities is what mainly sets Moncton apart. When Frye returned to Moncton in November, 1990, a few months before his death, to give a talk at L’Université de Moncton, he was so pleased to see that Moncton was now home to an institution of higher education of such quality. The auditorium at Edifice Jeanne-de-Valois was completely packed with people thrilled to see the great man’s return. When someone in the audience, hoping to create some linguistic tension of his own, asked Frye if he understood French, Frye replied that he had trouble understanding any language his hearing was so bad. Thus he sidestepped the language issue, which was an issue, perhaps, for just this one person.
Because Moncton is a bilingual city, it’s natural that the Frye Festival, set in Moncton, is bilingual. From the beginning the festival has made every effort to bridge the gap between the language communities. It’s an ever-narrowing gap, with more and more Anglophones learning French and respecting the French fact and most Francophones, while fighting threats to language and culture, perfectly at ease speaking English. Interpenetration has been built into our festival from the beginning. We live and breathe Frye at that level, and practice his approach to conflict.