My father, R. David Radford (Vic 5T3, 5T6), remained a life-long proud graduate of Victoria College and former resident of North House. Throughout his successful business career in finance, he never forgot a handful of school buddies who would reunite for nostalgic dinners which eventually became an opportunity for them to make a donation to Vic.
At our own family supper table, my father used to regale us with freshman tales including the one about a nameless fellow who sat behind him during a 9 a.m. Spanish class. Apparently the young man’s socks stank, but Dad admitted to always being half asleep so the smelly feet served to keep him awake enough to pass the course and final exam which he claimed to have written in his high school French. Ironically, my passage at Vic led to an honours BA with a major in French and a minor in Spanish.
Not surprisingly, the idea that his children might attend any other college never crossed my father’s mind. My brother preceded me at Victoria College but somehow being in commerce and finance, he did not take one single course in any of the college’s buildings. No problem, Dad could converse about other university buildings. One point of reference was Hart House but not the co-ed version! When I told him I was jogging regularly on the indoor track there, he seriously wondered whether or not I should be in the building during regular hours. Nostalgically, he remembered the old days when men were men who had their own place, and the residences had visiting hours.
My brother’s and my own sense of belonging appeared weaker as ‘streetcar students’, the quaint term my father would use for all of us who were not living on campus. My big brother, Brian D. Radford 7T8, did provide a mini-tour of the college when I registered. As I never went to Orientation, that was my only initiation. The rest was a baptism of fire.
Flashes of those first-year linguistic discoveries remain vivid memories, for example, the September sunshine bathing a blackboard full of Saussurian concepts; the corner carrel at the Pratt Library where I first read Camus, and the tread-worn steps of Old Vic’s staircase leading me past the chapel to an introductory French literature course after those bells had rung! After attending a concrete suburban high school, Victoria’s neo-Gothic turrets and arches appeared like a stage set. The exception was the subterranean Wymilwood coffee shop which had a definite 1950s feel. There I spent many an hour chatting with classmates and downing cup after cup of coffee. Refillable mugs had not yet been invented but there was an advantageous refill policy for a while.
My late father’s attachment to Vic endures in the form of a memorial plaque on a display space at the entrance of the Pratt Library. My brother’s memory lives through a scholarship in his name. Although alive and well and living in Montreal, I too have a scholarship in my name at Victoria College. Both scholarships were established by my Father so that the Radford family name might evermore stand on the old Ontario Strand.
Kathryn Radford Vic 8T1 (Université de Montréal 1994; 2005)