Memories of life at University College from the 1860s to the 1960s, in quotations by or about UC alumni and faculty. Compiled by the UC Librarian from books available at the UC Library.
"THIS NEW PLACE": Sir Daniel Wilson, professor of history and English at UC (later president of UC and U of T)
"As to the place, people, and the duties of the College, I like them all. I am surprised how well I can adapt myself to this new place — new in every sense, plank roads, venerable stumps of the primeval forest still lingering in by-roads and streets, frame houses, shanties, etc., etc. The people are most kind and hospitable, indeed I have to fight against their kindness as I must stick to my work. The latter is hard enough, and will be all this winter, but I have really a fine set of students. I find also that I have something to communicate to them, and this being the case I go on with heart and good will."
— Daniel Wilson [letter to his wife, November 1853]
Source: Langton, H.H. Sir Daniel Wilson: A Memoir. (Edinburgh: T. Nelson, 1929), p. 62. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
FOUNDING OF THE UC LIT: Sir Daniel Wilson, professor of history and English at UC (later president of UC and U of T)
"I have been engaged this week in helping the students to constitute a College Literary and Debating Society [the University College Literary and Scientific Society], and mediating between them and Dr. McCaul [John McCaul, then president of University College], who had very nearly knocked the whole on the head by some of his stupid and martinet interference, just for the pleasure of exercising a little brief authority. Now however the young gentlemen are fair set agoing, in high spirits, and likely to work well together. The result I anticipate will be to give them a fresh and more lasting interest in the College, a thing greatly needed here."
— Daniel Wilson [diary, 1854]
Source: Friedland, Martin L. The University of Toronto: A History, 2nd edition. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), p. 47. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
LATIN, GREEK AND SNUFF: Sir William Mulock (UC 1863), politician and judge
"[William Mulock] and J.M. Gibson [...] matriculated together and were the first students to enter the Residence of University College, which was opened in the Fall of 1859. [...] During his freshman year young Mulock attended lectures regularly and listened attentively, as most freshman do, to the words of wisdom that flowed from the mouths of the College professors, foremost amongst whom he remembers Dr. McCaul, who gave instructions in Greek and Latin and also some lectures on the principles of Logic. The old doctor impressed his students particularly by his choice language and pleasant stories, interspersed with occasional pinches of snuff."
— W.J. Loudon
Source: Loudon, William James. Sir William Mulock: A Short Biography (Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada, 1932), pp. 37-38. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
PERFORMING ANTIGONE: Ralph Connor (UC 1883), novelist
"During our second year under the inspiration of Professor Maurice Hutton, the distinguished head of the classical department, and of Professor Ramsay Wright, a brilliant scientist, both Oxonians, the [University Glee Club] with great daring undertook the production of Sophocles's play Antigone with music. It was the first time a Greek play set to music had been done in the original in modern times. In this production [my brother Gilbert and I] were both fortunate enough to have a place in the first quartet, Gib in the bass, I in the tenor. [...]"
— Ralph Connor [Charles Gordon]
Source: Gordon, Charles W. Postscript to Adventure: The Autobiography of Ralph Connor (New York: Farrar & Rinehart Incorporated, 1938), pp. 43-44. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
A MELANCHOLY GRADUATION: Ralph Connor (UC 1883), novelist
"In 1883 [my brother Gilbert and I] graduated from the university. How large a place that institution had made for itself in my heart I never knew till after I had written my last examination. I walked out through the door under the noble Gothic arch and made my way on to the beautiful green in front. Then I turned and looked at the noble building, one of the finest on the continent. It was a perfect day in early May, the trees in Queen's Park were at their best. I was suddenly stricken with an acute homesickness. It was a shock to remember that the varsity was no longer mine, I was no longer of it. I belonged to the great mob outside. I walked slowly down that green toward the School of Science and turned once more to look at the scene before me. There lay the campus, vividly green, the scene of many a hard rugby battle, and beyond it the university, calm, grandly magnificent with its fine old façade of Gothic mullioned windows, every window tricked out with its funny-faced gargoyles, the whole now softened with green splashes of ivy. No longer mine. I lay with my face on the greensward, homesick and desperately lonely."
— Ralph Connor [Charles Gordon]
Source: Gordon, Charles W. Postscript to Adventure: The Autobiography of Ralph Connor (New York: Farrar & Rinehart Incorporated, 1938), p. 45. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"LADY APPLICANTS": Sir Daniel Wilson, president of University College (later also president of U of T)
"Posted to-day letters to five lady applicants demanding admission to the College. I say very decidedly No. But the Attorney General may be weak enough to say yes; and Parliament is master. But I have great faith in the power of steady passive resistance, notwithstanding a strong-minded madam's declaration to-day that she would force us to submit to woman's demand for her Rights."
— Daniel Wilson [diary, Sept. 26, 1883]
Source: Langton, H.H. Sir Daniel Wilson: A Memoir. (Edinburgh: T. Nelson, 1929), p. 111. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
BACHELOR QUARTERS IN THE CLOISTER WING: H. Rushton Fairclough (UC 1883), classics lecturer at UC
"It was in October 1887 that I entered upon my work as Lecturer in Greek and Ancient History in University College, Toronto. [...] I had [...] taken a suite of rooms in the residence, which formed one side of the College quadrangle. [...] My youngest brother, George, had by this time entered College, and he occupied these rooms with me. I felt very proud of having my own bachelor quarters. [...] Our sitting room had a large stone fireplace, set in a corner; and opposite this we installed a piano, which George could use for practice, as well as for the entertainment of both ourselves and our friends. The college steward and servants ministered to our physical comforts, every morning bringing hot water to our rooms, laying the fire, polishing our shoes, and making our beds.[...] Thus we lived in what must have seemed to many a state of comparative luxury. I say 'seemed,' because, judged by present-day standards of comfort and healthfulness, the old picturesque Residence was in a deplorable state. Its sanitary facilities were very imperfect, and the whole place was alive with rats, so that, if one woke up in the middle of the night, he was likely to hear swarms of the rodents running up and down the stairs which divided the various houses from one another."
—- H. Rushton Fairclough
Source: Fairclough, H. Rushton. Warming Both Hands: The Autobiography of Henry Rushton Fairclough (Stanford University Press, 1941), pp. 85-86. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
THE FIRE OF 1890: H. Rushton Fairclough (UC 1883), classics lecturer at UC
"Early in 1890 our peace was disturbed by what seemed at the time to be an irreparable calamity. On the evening of Friday, February 14, the annual Conversazione of the Literary and Scientific Society was again to be held in University College. [...] Our President, who was now Sir Daniel Wilson, for he had recently been knighted by Queen Victoria, had invited to his home for dinner a number of friends who were later to accompany him and his family to the college for the gay function. My wife and I were among these guests. Shortly before dessert was served a servant whispered a message in the ear of our host, who at once arose and left the room. A few moments later the same servant came in to tell Miss Sybil Wilson that the college was on fire and that her father had gone to the scene. It was a terrible yet fascinating spectacle which confronted us on reaching the campus. On this cold winter night the spacious grounds were covered with a mantle of white. Here had already assembled hundreds of people, arrayed in evening dress, who, instead of enjoying the music and gaiety within, were to spend the evening in the open air watching fiery flames leap upwards above the corniced roof and noble central tower, then pass relentlessly from room to room of the majestic Norman structure. The whole eastern half, embracing the Library and the Convocation Hall, was doomed from the first, and the heroic efforts of firemen, students, and other volunteers were confined to saving the western half, which included the natural history museum, a few lecture rooms, and the college Residence. [...] At a late hour a number of us returned to the President's house and discussed the evening's tragedy. The destruction of the Library, with its thousands of volumes, would be most keenly felt by all; while some of us, whose offices had been devastated, had to face personal losses as well, for it was in them that we had kept academic robes, lecture notes, and our most-used books. Sir Daniel was the most cheerful member of the group. Already offers of accommodation had come to him from neighboring schools and colleges; the Prime Minister had assured him of the Government's desire to help in the crisis; and his immediate ambition was to have lectures continue the following week without the slightest break. In this laudable aim he was successful."
—- H. Rushton Fairclough
Source: Fairclough, H. Rushton. Warming Both Hands: The Autobiography of Henry Rushton Fairclough (Stanford University Press, 1941), pp. 95-96. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"A FRIGHTFUL CALAMITY": Sir Daniel Wilson, president of U of T and UC
A frightful calamity. Last evening I looked on while our beautiful university building was helplessly devoured by the flames. It is terrible. Thirty-three thousand carefully selected volumes have vanished. The work of a lifetime is swept away in a single night.
— Daniel Wilson [diary, Feb. 15, 1890]
Source: Friedland, Martin L. The University of Toronto: A History, 2nd edition. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), p. 149. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"A SCHOLARSHIP OF A HUNDRED DOLLARS": Stephen Leacock (UC 1891), humorist and political scientist
"[Stephen Leacock] had no money to go to the University of Toronto save a scholarship of a hundred dollars, which his mother eked out to the requisite sum from her own income of eighty dollars a month. Tuition in those days cost forty dollars a year, and to this must be added three dollars a week for food and lodging in a boarding-house; washing came to twenty-five cents a week, and books cost about ten dollars a year; Leacock reckoned that it took three hundred dollars to see a student through the eight months of college. Because of his status as a scholarship holder, he was allowed to telescope the first two university years into one, but that left him with no degree and the necessity to earn money. So he did what so many ambitious young men did at that time; he took the three months of training that would qualify him as a high school teacher [. . .]."
— Robertson Davies
Source: Davies, Robertson. Stephen Leacock (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970), pp. 12-13. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
“THE LADIES ’91 HAVE SUGGESTED”: Stephen Leacock (UC 1891), humorist and political scientist
"Evidently the young Leacock showed some of the charm for women that the older man was to abound in. The Varsity, just before his twenty-first birthday, carried this sly comment: 'The Ladies '91 have suggested that the male portion of the Senior Modern Language Class furnish himself with a chaperone.'"
— Ralph L. Curry
Source: Curry, Ralph L. Stephen Leacock: Humorist and Humanist (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959), p. 51. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
THE UC LIT: Howard Ferguson (UC 1891), premier of Ontario
"During his years at University College, Howard [Ferguson] was an active member of the Literary Society [University College Literary and Scientific Society] and served on many of its committees. In the fall of 1890 he represented the Arts undergraduates at a McGill dinner but unfortunately overdid the festive aspects of the occasion. When it came time to report to the Lit on what had transpired in Montreal, he was in a fluster, not knowing what to do. Harry Cody came to his rescue. 'Tell them you forget,' he suggested. Howard did so and brought down the house."
— Peter Oliver
Source: Oliver, Peter. G. Howard Ferguson: Ontario Tory. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), p. 13. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
CRAMMING FOR EXAMS: Stephen Leacock (UC 1891), humorist and political scientist & Howard Ferguson (UC 1891), premier of Ontario
"[A crisis] occurred a few short weeks before graduation when Howard [Ferguson] faced an examination in mathematics. Here was a weakness he shared with language major Stephen Leacock, who was again his roommate. The facile Leacock suggested a solution. After much scanning of the catalogue, he decided that a credit in ethnology would serve equally well to get them their degrees and was more to their taste. Howard was always willing to defer to Leacock's judgment in matters academic, although the necessary exam would have to be written the following day. 'Leacock hurried to the library and discovered that Sir Daniel Wilson, principal of the university, had written two books on the subject.' He brought the books back to their room and they spent the night reading aloud to each other. Each was content to graduate with a third in ethnology."
— Peter Oliver
Source: Oliver, Peter. G. Howard Ferguson: Ontario Tory. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), pp. 13-14. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"A FLIRTATIOUS, OFTEN TEASING MANNER": Bessie Mabel Scott Lewis (UC student, 1889-1891), school librarian
"In the decade after 1884, most male students responded to the growing number of women in their classes by adopting a flirtatious, often teasing manner. Bessie Mabel Scott, who attended University College from 1889 to 1891, described how the men would reserve the front rows of benches for 'their sister students,' and the women would march down the aisle of the lecture hall 'to the classic strains of "Where are you going, my pretty maid?" or in tones of deepest pathos "You are lost and gone forever, oh my darling Clementine."'
— Sara Z. Burke
Source: Burke, Sara Z. "New Women and Old Romans: Co-education at the University of Toronto, 1884-95." The Canadian Historical Review 80, no. 2 (June 1999), p. 228. Find this article online via U of T Libraries.
"HENCE ACCORDINGLY": Pelham Edgar (UC 1892), English professor
"Sir Daniel Wilson was President when I began my courses in University College. We spoke of him commonly as 'Hence accordingly,' a phrase of frequent repetition in the occasional lectures on history or English that we heard from him. "
— Pelham Edgar
Source: Edgar, Pelham. Across My Path (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1952), p. 17. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
A CLASS ROOM DISTURBANCE: Pelham Edgar (UC 1892), English professor
"George Paxton Young died at the opening of my second year. I had intended to combine philosophy with my moderns course — we were allowed a pretty wide choice in those days — but a single lecture from him was all that I achieved. The University today can boast of a diversity of brilliant talent on its staff, but it can display no such impressive figures as the venerable President [Daniel Wilson] and Paxton Young. I have a recollection of some violent class room disturbance in the famous number 8 with its tiers of seats that ran from floor to ceiling. There is a corridor picture in my mind of two antique figures, with waving hoary beards, dragging a heavy hose with intent to turn its nozzle on the rioters. This was almost the last public appearance of Sir Daniel Wilson and George Paxton Young."
— Pelham Edgar
Source: Edgar, Pelham. Across My Path (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1952), pp. 20-21. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
STUDYING BIOLOGY: John McCrae (UC 1894) & Prof. Ramsay Wright
"After achieving the highest marks in his second year exams, John [McCrae]’s course now involved more intensive study under Robert Ramsay Wright, the first of several outstanding men who were to influence him. Wright, the Professor of Biology, had been educated at Edinburgh University. […] A gifted linguist, classicist and musician, Ramsay Wright was a genial, debonair, energetic and immensely talented man who placed great emphasis on laboratory teaching and developed a large teaching museum at the University. John McCrae was among the students who flocked to his superbly presented and illustrated lectures at which the ambidextrous professor intrigued his audience by being able to complete two blackboard drawings simultaneously. […] Hardly any wonder then, that John had written, 'I like Ramsay Wright’s lectures best of all.'"
— Dianne Graves
Source: Graves, Dianne. A Crown of Life: The World of John McCrae (St. Catharines, Ont.: Vanwell, 1997), p. 21
Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"SENATOR REX": William Lyon Mackenzie King (UC 1895), prime minister of Canada
"Mackenzie King did well at the Berlin High School, and in 1891 he went on to University College at the University of Toronto. His father was a graduate of the University and a member of its Senate. The new freshman apparently made some ill-advised reference to his latter distinction, which produced a rude comment in the student paper, The Varsity, concerning the son of 'Senator Rex' of Berlin. Claiming that he had been misrepresented, King brought the affair before a meeting of his class, which, he assured his parents, accepted his version and cheered him to the echo. The permanent result of the incident was the nickname 'Rex,' by which those who knew him best called King until the end of his life."
— Charles P. Stacey
Source: Stacey, Charles P. A Very Double Life: The Private World of Mackenzie King (Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada, 1976), p. 18. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"MY BLOOD FAIRLY BOILED": William Lyon Mackenzie King (UC 1895), prime minister of Canada & William Dale, Latin professor at UC
"[William Lyon Mackenzie] King's most memorable moment as an undergraduate and his first real taste of political action occurred in his final year, during the great student strike of 1895. To protest the university's firing of William Dale, a popular professor of Latin, and the administration's censorship of The Varsity and the Political Science Association, the students voted to boycott classes until the Ontario government convened a public inquiry in to the university administration's questionable actions. The day Dale's dismissal was announced, the students voted to walk out of classes. At a boisterous rally, King delivered a passionate speech denouncing 'the age-old cult of tyranny,' as journalist Hector Charlesworth, who attended the gathering, later remembered. In his diary, King enthusiastically noted that when he first heard the news about Dale, 'I was that excited that I could not keep still, my blood fairly boiled. I scarcely ate any lunch.'"
— Allen Levine
Source: Levine, Allan. King: William Lyon Mackenzie King: A Life Guided by the Hand of Destiny (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2011), pp. 37-38. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
THE MAJESTY OF SHAKESPEARE: Arthur Meighen (UC 1896), prime minister of Canada & W.J. Alexander, English professor at UC
"As a specialist in mathematics [Arthur Meighen] had most to do with Professor Alfred Baker and the urbane and talented A.T. DeLury, one of the most popular and respected instructors on the campus. But the man who made the greatest impression on him was Professor W.J. Alexander of the Department of English at University College. Meighen had been reading Shakespeare for several years and had already found in his works an inexhaustible source of pleasure. When Alexander read Shakespeare aloud to his class, however, the power and beauty of the language, the insight into human motives and emotions, the majesty and force of the drama were revealed as never before to the enchanted youth. Alexander could establish a kind of spiritual communion between a receptive listener on the one hand and the poet and his characters on the other. His lectures remained in Meighen's mind as among the few truly memorable experiences of university."
— Roger Graham
Source: Graham, Roger. Arthur Meighen: A Biography (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Co., 1960), pp. 18-19. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
FRONT CAMPUS: William James Loudon (UC 1880), physicist
"The original idea of [architect Frederick William] Cumberland was to have a lawn in front and to the south of University College, hemmed in by shrubberies, with winding roads at the east and west: thus giving approaches from which the College would appear to the best advantage. This idea was carried out for some years but finally, about twenty years ago, Art was sacrificed for Utility, the shrubberies at the south of the lawn were removed, and a road was cut from College Street, straight in front of the main entrance, thus destroying the beauty of the lawn, making it much smaller, and presenting to the eye a bare front of stone. The God of Utility will probably soon require that this short road shall be prolonged straight to the front door of the College, thus dividing the lawn into two equal parts and reducing the time used in describing the arc of a circle to a minimum. Some years ago, about 1892, a number of reformers proposed this very thing and, in addition, suggested that the main road in front of the College be continued through to St. George Street. John Squair was the chief of these reformers, although, latterly, he was strong in favour of Cumberland's original idea. In fact, the last time I saw him, we were standing at the corner of College street and the 'Street without a Name,' and, looking up towards the main building, John deplored the destruction of the original beauty of the lawn. When I reminded him of his former suggestions, he only laughed and said that he had grown wiser with age and that it was never too late to learn.
— William James Loudon
Source: Loudon, W.J. Studies of Student Life, volume 5 (Toronto: Macmillan, 1928), pp. 241-242. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"A FAINT AROMA OF GODLESSNESS": Vincent Massey (UC 1910), diplomat and governor general of Canada
"By every family tradition [Vincent Massey] should have gone to Victoria, the intellectual citadel of Methodism, which had recently, and somewhat reluctantly, moved from Cobourg to Toronto to become a college in the University of Toronto. The Massey family was closely associated with Victoria. [...] He was still a serious young man, outwardly faithful to his Methodist upbringing. But he was beginning to chafe under the Massey burden of moral earnestness and loyalty to the firm. His choice of University College, the provincial college that had no official religious ties, and about which there still hung a faint aroma of godlessness, was a declaration of independence, a clear indication that he did not intend to follow in the family footsteps.
— Claude Bissell
Source: Bissell, Claude. The Young Vincent Massey (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1981), pp. 30-31. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"NOT YET SMOTHERED UNDER THE WEIGHT OF NUMBERS": Vincent Massey (UC 1910): diplomat and governor general of Canada
"University College in my time was really a non-collegiate body — it had no residence and little to give it the cohesion of a community, but it did include in its faculty some persons in the best academic tradition. They were talented men, highly individual, often eccentric in their habits. Standardized practice and overwork had not yet threatened academic life with uniformity. Our professors were good teachers and possessed for the most part very personal qualities. We were able to know them; the contacts between teacher and student were not yet smothered under the weight of numbers. We were spared the dreary and futile machinery of compulsory lectures and the 'credit' system."
— Vincent Massey
Source: Massey, Vincent. What's Past Is Prologue: The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, C.H. (Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada, 1963), p. 18. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"THE LADIES WITHDREW TO THEIR OWN PRIVATE WORLD": Arthur R.M. Lower (UC 1914), historian
"Between men and women students there was not much general association. By the fourth year, a male student was probably calling a few of his women class-mates by their first names, but most of them were still just people sitting in the same class-rooms. There was no casual mingling in the seating. Few activities were conducted in common. There were separate reading-rooms in the library. Between classes the ladies withdrew to their own private world off the East Hall; none of them was ever seen talking to a male student in the corridors. Of course women were ladies in those days. This meant that in University College, that co-educational institution, I lived in a man's world, a monastic world. So did most of the other men I knew."
— Arthur R. M. Lower
Source: Lower, Arthur R. M. My First Seventy-Five Years (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1967), p. 44. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"OLD LITS AND UNIONISTS": Arthur R.M. Lower (UC 1914), historian
"The chief field for the cultivation of the art of public speaking was in the meetings of the University College Literary and Athletic Society. When I was a student this body no longer had much remaining of its literary and athletic duties. Instead a 'party' system had grown up -- 'Old Lits' and 'Unionists', the members of which managed to find enough in current college events to fight about. I cannot remember what distinguished the parties, nor the one to which I belonged; I became leader of one of them, too -- probably because few other people were willing to waste their time that way! In my last year, to the consternation of the university authorities, it was decided to introduce the national parties into 'The Lit'! Family background made me a Conservative, a role that I have not played since those days. One of my lieutenants was Howard Green, later to become Mr. Diefenbaker's Secretary of State for External Affairs."
— Arthur R. M. Lower
Source: Lower, Arthur R. M. My First Seventy-Five Years (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1967), p. 55. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"ACADEMIC STUDIES LOST, HANDS DOWN": Andrew Allan (UC student in the 1920s), radio drama producer
"At the University of Toronto, in the late 1920s, my life was torn three ways: by theatre, by newspaper, and by academic studies. Academic studies lost, hands down. My academic career was marked by an exquisite lack of distinction. Theatre was represented by the University College Players' Guild, and by Hart House Theatre — which, in those days, although on the campus, was not part of the university. Newspaper was represented by the Varsity, the undergraduate daily, on which I started as a reporter, proceeded to masquerade as Drama Editor, and finally became boss Editor."
— Andrew Allan
Source: Allan, Andrew. Andrew Allan: A Self-Portrait (Toronto : Macmillan of Canada, 1974), p. 55. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"THE ALL-MALE LIT HAD NEVER INVITED A 'LADY' SPEAKER": Bora Laskin (UC 1933), chief justice of Canada
"In his third year [Bora] Laskin also served on the executive of the UC Literary and Athletic Society. Thanks to its interdenominational character, the University College 'Lit' was one of the few social clubs on campus where religious integration was close to being a reality. In his year on the executive Laskin was joined by fellow law students Sydney Hermant and Nathan Pivnick. As 'literary director' Laskin was responsible for planning a series of speakers[...]. The most popular speaker was Agnes Macphail, the sole woman MP in the House of Commons. In her address to the students in November 1932 she 'flayed pet Canadian institutions,' arguing for increased state control over finance, trade, and industry in order to remedy the horrors of the Depression. The occasion was historic: the all-male Lit had never invited a 'lady' speaker before, but her presence 'met with the approbation of all' [Varsity, November 2, 1932]. "
— Philip Girard
Source: Girard, Philip. Bora Laskin: Bringing Law to Life (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, for the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2005), pp. 54-55. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"ANXIOUS TO ASSERT MY OWN FREEDOM": Claude Bissell (UC 1936), president of U of T
"I had chosen to go to University College. By upbringing and by religious background, I should logically have gone to Victoria, which was affiliated with the United Church; but my family had no firm convictions on such remote questions as the choice of a college, and I was anxious to assert my own freedom. [....] The decision to go to University College was a wise one for it meant I would encounter an English department at the height of its powers, and English was to be my main interest. I suspect that rarely on this continent has there been assembled in one place a group of teachers of such diverse and splendid power."
— Claude Bissell
Source: Bissell, Claude. Halfway up Parnassus: A Personal Account of the University of Toronto, 1932-1971 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), pp. 4-5. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
A DIVERSE STUDENT BODY: Alan Jarvis (UC 1938), director of the National Gallery
"In September 1934, Alan Jarvis entered University College, or "UC," the largest and only secular institution affiliated with the University of Toronto. It was a key choice because much of an undergraduate's life revolved around his or her college. [...] [About half of UC's undergraduates] hailed from Toronto and like Jarvis, a majority of them lived at home throughout their studies. Nevertheless, the student body was more diverse than this fairly narrow catchment area suggests. Half were women, while UC's secularity attracted a substantial number of Jewish students. Similarly, the students' socioeconomic origins encompassed the offspring of professional families with long traditions of university education, those like Jarvis, whose parents' success had propelled them into the middle classes, and a smaller group of scholarship students from more humble backgrounds."
— Andrew Horrall
Source: Horrall, Andrew. Bringing Art to Life: A Biography of Alan Jarvis (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2009), p. 27. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
LITERARY OPPORTUNITIES: Miriam Waddington (UC 1939), poet and essayist
"In 1936, [Miriam] Waddington left the shelter of her family and moved to Toronto to attend university. During her first year studying science at the University of Toronto, she lived in a yellow brick house on Hazelton Avenue owned by sisters Birdie and Angela Donald and was given room and board in exchange for grocery shopping and cooking. In her second year of university, Waddington transferred out of science into the arts. Undergraduate studies in English opened the literary vault for Waddington. [...] Toronto also offered valuable literary opportunities. She worked on the Varsity, the campus newspaper; befriended other poets, including Margaret Avison and Raymond Souster; and studied under Miltonist A.S.P. Woodhouse and poet Earle Birney."
— Ruth Panofsky
Source: Panofsky, Ruth. "Introduction." The Collected Poems of Miriam Waddington: A Critical Edition, vol. 2 (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2014), p. xviii. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"THEY WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN WELCOME": Miriam Waddington (UC 1939), poet and essayist
"Once long ago I lived in a tall narrow house on Hazelton Avenue. It was there I learned to cook. Hazelton in 1937-38 was not the street of boutiques, art galleries, and million-dollar condominiums it is today. It was an old residential Toronto street. [...] I was then an out-of-town student in the second year of my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. Before World War II Jewish girls didn't usually think of living in residences such as Whitney Hall for the simple reason that they would not have been welcome there. At that time my family was living in Ottawa, a city that had no university of its own. My parents decided that they would pay my fees and give me a monthly allowance so I could study in Toronto. I had rented a room in the fall in a rooming house near the university, but when I returned from a student conference in Winnipeg that December I found that my landlady had packed my things and rented my room to a man because, as she said, men were less trouble."
— Miriam Waddington
Source: Waddington, Miriam. "The House on Hazelton." Apartment Seven: Essays Selected and New (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 140. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
THE UC FOLLIES: Tom Daly (UC 1940), documentary filmmaker
"At the University of Toronto, he started out in the classics course, but switched to English literature when he found that he already had studied much of the material that the classics program at Toronto covered. On the extracurricular side, he served on the Hart House Arts Committee and acted in student plays. In his junior year, he produced the 'University College Follies,' whose stars were Lou Weingarten and Frank Shuster, later known as the comedy team of Wayne and Shuster. In his subsequent career [at the National Film Board of Canada], Daly would often draw on his experiences of classical literature, philosophy, and other arts to help interpret a situation, solve an editing problem, or understand a personal dilemma."
— D.B. Jones
Source: Jones, D.B. The Best Butler in the Business: Tom Daly of the National Film Board of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), p. 8. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
LUNCH AT THE LANTERN TEA ROOM: Kenneth McNaught (UC 1941), historian
"The University of Toronto campus in the autumn of 1937 more than met my well-nourished expectations. The creeping leviathan of the 1950s and 1960s had not yet swallowed whole streets. For four years Bev [Argue] and I went several times a week to the Lantern Tea Room — on Willcocks Street, where one of the ugliest of science buildings has now taken the place of old houses and lofty elms. Lunch could be had there for 25 or 30 cents. I very nearly registered at Trinity College in the company of other Upper Canada College chaps. Inside the Trinity quadrangle, however, I sensed too much déjà vu. The floor plan resembled that of Upper Canada, the dustbane smelled the same, and I was being invited to join in a select fraternity. A kind of inverted snobbery — which I mistook for egalitarianism — overtook me. Across the campus I registered in University College — the 'godless' college,' but also the one to which my father had been attached."
— Kenneth McNaught
Source: McNaught, Kenneth. Conscience and History: A Memoir (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1999), p. 22. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
ICONOCLASM AND AN APPETITE FOR DIVERSITY: Mavor Moore (UC 1941), playwright, actor, director and arts administrator
"I had registered at nonsectarian University College precisely because of Father's connection with Trinity, the Anglican centre; and I had taken a room in the Victoria residence only because there were none left at UC. If it must be one crowd or another, I told myself, better the eclectic United Churchers than the pietistic Anglicans, the dour Presbyterians, or the tyrannical Catholics. If there had been a Buddhist residence, I would have gone there. Near the entrance to University College, a Neo-Romanesque edifice from the 1850s, I found a legend: 'Here was realized a major nineteenth-century aspiration: the establishment of a non-denominational institution of higher learning supported by government.' This inscription suited my iconoclasm and my appetite for diversity. But it also showed that a government could do for the community what self-seeking factions would not."
— Mavor Moore
Source: Moore, Mavor. Reinventing Myself: Memoirs (Toronto: Stoddart, 1994), p. 55. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
IMMERSED IN THEATRE: Mavor Moore (UC 1941), playwright, actor, director and arts administrator
"[Mavor] Moore received the Colonel Reuben Wells Leonard Bursary, which provided the financial means for his studies at University College at the University of Toronto in English Language and Literature. […] He was a busy student and immersed himself in theatre, even though this took his attention away from scholastics. In addition to his classes, Moore joined the Players' Guild and that first year acted in Winterset by Maxwell Anderson and The Rope by Eugene O'Neill. He joined the Historical Society and found himself on the editorial board of The Undergraduate. […] Moore's outside work proved detrimental to his scholastics. At the end of the academic year in 1938, he failed all examinations. Perhaps the university felt a sense of familial solidarity because Mavor's grandfather had been a professor there, or maybe [his mother] Dora [Mavor Moore]'s popularity in the community held some weight, or maybe they recognized his potential, because Sir William Mulock, Chancellor of the University of Toronto, offered Mavor a bursary to continue the next year. There was a condition. The young man had to change his course of study to philosophy with an English option."
— Allan Boss
Source: Boss, Allan. Identifying Mavor Moore: A Historical and Literary Study (Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2011), pp. 76-77. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
“MY REAL LOVE WAS PHYSICS”: Walter Kohn (UC 1945), Nobel Prize-winning physicist
"In January 1942, having been cleared by Scotland Yard of being a potential spy, I was released from internment and welcomed by the family of Professor Bruno Mendel in Toronto. At this point I planned to take up engineering rather than physics, in order to be able to support my parents after the war. The Mendels introduced me to Professor Leopold Infeld who had come to Toronto after several years with Einstein. Infeld, after talking with me (in a kind of drawing room oral exam), concluded that my real love was physics and advised me to major in an excellent, very stiff program, then called mathematics and physics, at the University of Toronto. He argued that this program would enable me to earn a decent living at least as well as an engineering program."
— Walter Kohn
Source: Kohn, Walter. “Appendix I: Autobiography.” In Walter Kohn: Personal Stories and Anecdotes Told by Friends and Collaborators, edited by Matthias Scheffler and Peter Weinberger (New York: Springer, 2003), p. 298. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"SO LITTLE CANADIAN MATERIAL": Henry Kreisel (UC 1946), novelist
"In the fall of 1942 I enrolled in the honours course in English Language and Literature at the University of Toronto. Now at last, I thought, I would be able to get a systematic overview of the national literature, for one of the first-year courses was 'American and Canadian Literature.' It was, alas, a misleading description. The Canadian part of the course consisted of three or four lectures at the end of the academic year. These lectures were given by Claude Bissell. They were very good lectures, but there was not very much that he could do in three or four hours. [J.R.] McGillivray taught the American material. When I saw the reading list for the course, I expressed my disappointment because there was so little Canadian material on the list. McGillivray said that if I was interested, I could write a major term paper on a Canadian writer. He suggested A.M. Klein, who had recently published Hath Not A Jew, and whose background was similar to mine. So the very first term paper I wrote at the University of Toronto was on a Canadian poet. It was a great experience for me. [...] In 1943 I met Robert Weaver and James Reaney. Up to now Canada had been for me the confines of internment camps, and the two big cities — Toronto and Montreal. The rest of the country barely existed in my consciousness. Reaney, both in his inimitable conversation and in the evocative things he wrote, introduced me to the world of small-town Ontario, and Weaver, who was more interested in prose than in poetry, introduced me to modern Canadian fiction."
— Henry Kreisel
Source: Neuman, Shirley, ed. Another Country: Writings by and about Henry Kreisel (Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1984), p. 113. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
THE UC STUDENT MAGAZINE: Robert Weaver (UC 1947), editor and broadcaster
"[Robert Weaver] joined the staff of The Varsity, the university newspaper, for which he reviewed frequently. In his second year he edited The Undergrad, the University College student magazine, which under his watch was transformed into a much more literary publication than it had been up until then. He became close friends with Henry Kreisel, James Reaney, and Colleen Thibodeau, all of whom would have significant careers down the road — Kreisel as a novelist, Reaney as a poet and playwright, and Thibodeau as a poet."
— Elaine Kalman Naves
Source: Naves, Elaine Kalman. Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature (Montréal: Véhicule Press, 2007), p. 28. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"ENCOURAGING TO US AS WRITERS": Norman J. Endicott, English professor at UC & Robert Weaver (UC 1947), editor and broadcaster
"Norman Endicott was an English professor at University College and he was a great influence not just on me, but on [James] Reaney and [Henry] Kreisel and that whole group... He was encouraging to us as writers. He taught us, but he went beyond that in encouraging us to find our way as young writers."
— Robert Weaver
Source: Naves, Elaine Kalman. Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature (Montreal: Véhicule Press, 2007), p. 30. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"IN THE FAMILY PICK-UP TRUCK": Harry Rasky (UC 1949), documentary filmmaker
"As soon as I attended the University of Toronto, I quickly registered at the Varsity paper and became involved in the UC Follies, the annual college variety show. I felt I had arrived, even if it was in the family pick-up truck, delivering the parcels of chickens on the way."
— Harry Rasky
Source: Rasky, Harry. Nobody Swings on Sunday: The Many Lives and Films of Harry Rasky (Don Mills, Ont.: Collier Macmillan Canada, 1980), p. 19. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
VETERAN'S PAY: Farley Mowat (UC 1949), author and environmentalist
"Farley [Mowat] enrolled at the University of Toronto in September 1946. Although he later described his attendance at university as fitful, he was an excellent student who achieved first-class marks. His time at the university was made a little more acceptable by the sixty dollars a month in veteran's pay provided by the Army. The young man's charm certainly did not fail him. He persuaded William Wallace, his professor of ancient history, to give his imagination free rein in recreating the classical past: in Farley's essay on the battle of Marathon, the Persians won."
— James King
Source: King, James. Farley: The Life of Farley Mowat (Toronto: HarperFlamingo Canada, 2002), pp. 83-84. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"THE TRUE PHILOSOPHER'S WALK": Ernest Sirluck, teaching fellow at UC in 1940s (later U of T's dean of graduate studies)
"Croft Chapter House, the university's original chemistry laboratory, was at that time the college's senior common room, where tea and biscuits were served from 3:30 every afternoon. [A.S.P.] Woodhouse sometimes took me there, and would introduce me to whoever happened to be sitting nearby. Gilbert Norwood, the renowned historian of the Greek drama, was a trifle remote, but his colleague Charles Cochrane, later to be equally renowned for his Christianity and Classical Culture, was eager to talk. I came to realize that he felt somewhat isolated in his department, which was why he would stand in the cloister outside his office hand-rolling cigarettes and hoping to intercept someone interesting to talk to; it was in that setting that he made me understand something of St. Augustine. Indeed, the hundred feet or so of the West Cloister was for me the true Philosopher's Walk of the university, not the sylvan path of that name a few hundred yards to the northeast. Several members of the smaller departments, lacking the intellectual company offered by the larger departments, used it much as Cochrane did. There Reid MacCallum, tall, lean, and shy, would sometimes try out parts of his difficult theory of aesthetics on me; there too his colleague Fulton Anderson, also tall but neither lean nor shy, would talk very sparingly about Bacon and copiously about how much better he could run the Philosophy department than [G.S.] Brett did. [Barker] Fairley and [Hermann] Boeschenstein hung out there, separately or together always a pleasure to talk to."
— Ernest Sirluck
Source: Sirluck, Ernest. First Generation: An Autobiography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), p. 88. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
A UC LIT ELECTION: Martin Friedland (UC 1955), law professor
"I probably won the election as president of the Lit [University College Literary and Athletic Society] for two principal reasons. The first was the electoral speech that I made. [....] I do not know whether it is still the tradition, but in the early 1950s the speeches consisted entirely of off-colour jokes. A couple of hundred persons — men and women — would gather at noon hour in UC's Junior Common Room, the JCR, to hear the election speeches by the candidates for the Lit and WUA [Women's Undergraduate Association]. [...] My joke, using language that is still not used in mixed company and was even less used in those days, brought down the house. [...] My election was also helped by the future hockey promoter, Alan Eagleson. Everyone knew Eagleson. Although I was not much of an athlete, I had managed to play on two intercollegiate teams — squash and polo. [...] Having an 'athlete' heading the Lit — Eagleson must have thought — would help the athletic side of the 'literary and athletic association.' In those years, the department of Physical and Health Education (PHE) was part of University College and its students were entitled to vote in the elections. Eagleson arranged for all his friends in the program — and Eagleson had a lot of friends — to come over to the JCR and vote for me."
— Martin Friedland
Source: Friedland, Martin L. My Life in Crime and Other Academic Adventures (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2007), pp. 9-10. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"A TIME OF GREAT FERMENT": Henry Beissel (UC 1958), poet and playwright
"In the late fifties, I was part of a group of young and cocky writers/intellectuals-to-be, studying (mostly literature) at the University of Toronto, which included John Robert Colombo, David Helwig, Edward Lacey, Christopher Priestley and David Lewis Stein. It was a time of great ferment, especially in the arts, a first stirring of a Renaissance of unprecedented creativity in Canada, and we were willy-nilly part of it – writing poems and stories, reading them solemnly to each other, discussing them passionately till all hours, publishing chapbooks, and editing more or less juvenile literary journals"
— Henry Beissel
Source: Lacey, Edward. A Magic Prison: Letters from Edward Lacey, edited by David Helwig, with an introduction by Henry Beissel (Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1995), p. 5. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"ONE LUMP OR TWO?": Barbara Frum (UC 1959), radio and television journalist
"For the out-of-town girls of Whitney Hall residence, university was designed not only to broaden the mind, but to make a lady of you. There was a Mistress of Deportment, with whom the girls drank coffee in the drawing room after dinner. My mother [Barbara Frum] encountered this woman in her first week of school. As the Mistress poured my mother a cup of coffee, she asked, in a rich Upper Canadian accent: 'One lump or two?' 'Three please,' replied my mother. 'One lump or two?' the Mistress repeated."
— Linda Frum
Source: Frum, Linda. Barbara Frum: A Daughter's Memoir (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1996), p. 63. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
SIR DANIEL WILSON RESIDENCE: William B. Davis (UC 1959), actor and theatre director
"The Sir Daniel Wilson Residence [...] was a modern yellow brick building on St. George Street at what was then the western edge of the campus, and was to be my home for the next four years. Prior to its opening in 1954, University College men lived in two residential houses. Of course, men and women were not in the same residences. After all, they had different needs and rules. The men needed maid service and were free to come and go at all hours. The women made their own beds in Whitney Hall and had an 11 p.m. curfew on weeknights. No one seemed to find these arrangements strange at the time. The college clung to other traditions perhaps not fully appreciated by the students. Dinner at Sir Dan was intended to be a formal affair with a high table, the saying of grace, and waiter service. [...] And sad to say, the quality of the food seldom matched the pretension of the occasion. It was not unusual to finish dinner, return to the house, ditch the gown and tie, and head across the road to the local greasy spoon for an edible meal."
—William B. Davis
Source: Davis, William B. Where There's Smoke... Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man: A Memoir (Toronto: ECW Press, 2011), p. 35. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"A SUNNY MORNING IN SEPTEMBER": David Helwig (UC 1960): novelist and poet
"When I arrived at the University of Toronto, a sunny morning in September, my parents' car parked in a laneway so I could carry the boxes of my possessions into the residence where I had a room, I was excited, but also nervous and unsettled. I wanted to leave the little world of my family, but this new universe was enormous and very accomplished. I was moving into Taylor House in the Sir Daniel Wilson Residence at University College, a new yellow brick building constructed around an inner quadrangle at 71 St. George Street, the large building divided into six 'houses', each with a graduate student or lecturer as Don. Just across the lawn of the quadrangle was the west wing of the old college building, nineteenth-century Romanesque, and the little attached house where the principal lived. As I settled in, the more senior students would appear at my door, shake hands, all of them friendly and welcoming, but for all that, I found my situation solitary, chilling. Still, I was intrigued by the possibilities of the place and leapt in with both feet."
— David Helwig
Source: Helwig, David. The Names of Things: A Memoir (Erin, Ont. : Porcupine's Quill, 2006), pp. 48-49. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue
"A GREEN PORTABLE OLIVETTI TYPEWRITER": Matt Cohen (UC 1963): novelist
"On December 30, 1963, I turned twenty-one. I was in fourth year, my last year of undergraduate studies in political economy, and had absolutely no idea what I would do if I ever grew up. As a combined birthday-graduation present, which was also a peace offering after the frosty period that had followed my switching courses, my father gave me a green portable Olivetti typewriter. I had always believed my life would begin at twenty-one — everything else was mere prelude to this moment. [...] At the beginning of January 1964 I took my typewriter back to Toronto to begin this real life, life at twenty-one, of which I had been so certain. On the day of my return I saw a poster announcing a fiction contest at University College, my college, with a prize large enough to finance a summer trip to Europe."
— Matt Cohen
Source: Cohen, Matt. Typing: A Life in 26 Keys (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2000), pp. 22-23. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.
"A DREAM COME TRUE": Phyllis Grosskurth, UC English professor and biographer
"Some universities wouldn't consider hiring me because of the subject matter of the book [John Addington Symonds: A Biography], and I received a number of disturbing anonymous letters. Nevertheless, as a result of the [1964 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction] numerous offers came my way. Professor Clifford Leech, the chairman of the English department at University College at the University of Toronto, offered me a position at $9,000 a year. I was so inexperienced in the ways of academe that I didn't realize I could have negotiated for a higher salary, more in line with the salaries offered to my male colleagues. The only reason I was even considered was that Professor [A.S.P.] Woodhouse, the college's previous chairman, who had refused ever to hire a woman, had recently died. But a teaching post at University College — for me it was a dream come true."
— Phyllis Grosskurth
Source: Grosskurth, Phyllis. Elusive Subject: A Biographer's Life (Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1999), p. 89. Find this book in the U of T Library Catalogue.