Looking Back

Vic was a smaller community when I was an undergraduate. The professors knew everyone in the class, though we were never addressed by our first name.

There were no buildings on the north side of Charles Street, no Isabel Bader Theatre, and no E.J. Pratt Library. Instead, we had a real football field, four tennis courts, and a little more grass.

City students lived at home and out-of-town students in the residences, which included four old houses along Bloor Street, where the Colonade now stands – with a clear division between the sexes. Nylons or jeans had not been invented, girls wore skirts and were not permitted to join a fraternity.

In the beautiful house across Queen’s Park Crescent was the original Wymilwood. There, we could eat our lunch, relax or study in that luxurious, comfortable and home-like environment. It was no problem crossing the street and for twenty-five cents we could rent a bed on the third floor and stay all night after a late date.

Wymilwood, May 1925

Wymilwood, May 1925

From the Freshmen Weekend, through the Vic Bob, Class and Scarlet & Gold Parties, every kind of At-Home, Tea or Costume party to the formal Vic Ball we filled our cards and danced the night away with never a drop of liquor.

Life was not all partying. Regular attendance at lectures was expected, and marks were deducted when essays were not submitted on time and for spelling mistakes. I was privileged to have had outstanding professors including “Ned” Pratt, Northrope Frye, Madame Riese, Healey Willan, and Sir Ernest McMillan to name a few.

I will never forget the series of lectures given by the Dean of Women for the first-year female students. Attendance was compulsory and they dealt with the Facts of Life; it being the assumption that many of us would not be aware of them!

War was declared in my second year but we did not notice any immediate difference in our lifestyle. However, as the year progressed, more and more headed to Hart House at the end of the afternoon to participate in lectures and training provided by the Canadian Officers Training Corps. We girls began carrying around knitting needles and wools, and turning the heel of a sock became another challenge.

Football was cancelled and parties were toned down. Victory Bonds of different denominations became the new Donation or Savings plan. Every event had a “Support the War” aspect to it. Corsages were as important as ever but now made not of flowers but of ribbon covered with twenty-five cent War Savings Stamps.

Many of the men in my year could not be present either at their Convocation, or the Graduation Ball because they were away on training, or already overseas. Most who were able to attend were in uniform.

The most important result of my college years for me has been the lasting friendships that I formed including the one who was to become my life’s partner. The group of girls with whom I ate lunch whenever I could at Wymilwood formed a Bridge Club after the War and met monthly until a few years ago.

The friends my husband made at his fraternity, all went overseas in the Army, Navy or Air Force and miraculously, all returned more bonded than ever. With their wives, another group, convivial and committed met regularly. In between times these two groups intersected in a professional or social way be it through law, business, music or sports. These relationships which have filled my life to overflowing, were uncontrived, defy description and were forged at Vic.

On our first day upon arriving at Vic, we were given our Admit to Lectures card – and a Student Handbook – the first Day Planner I had ever seen. Important U of T Programs & Events were already printed in it. I found mine and looked up Friday, June 5, 1942, the Graduation Ball. Having written vociferously for four years, this is my entry for that day:

“Impossible to put into words”

That was very much the way I felt trying to express my memories to you on this occasion.

Submitted by Joan Mactavish Vic 4T2

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