Remembering Carleton College in the Glebe
By Joe Scanlon
Editor’s note: Carleton College was founded in 1942 and named after Carleton County, which itself honoured Sir Guy Carleton, an early Governor General. In its early years, Carleton College sought to meet the needs of returning Second World War veterans. In 1946 it moved to the Ottawa Ladies College on First Avenue in the Glebe. It became a public university, Carleton University, in 1957, and two years later moved to its present campus on Bronson Avenue.
A month ago when everyone was talking about the first day of school, I was reminded of images from the Carleton Library Archives and Research Collections of my own first days of school – at what was then Carleton College.
CARLETON IN THE GLEBE
When I went to Carleton it was very much a part of the Glebe. It was located mainly in what had been the Ottawa Ladies College and – by the time I got there in the autumn of 1952 – the building had been extended to include a library. The front door was on First Avenue, the side entrance on Lyon. The main First Avenue entrance to the college was up a set of steps and each spring, after final exams, the graduating results would be posted on the front door. I can recall arriving and seeing those ahead of me quickly checking to see how I had done – before making it up the steps to see my own results.
Carleton College had also acquired a house across the street on First Avenue, used as offices and classes in public administration, the student council and the student newspaper, The Carleton. It was only many years later that it changed its name to The Charlatan. There were also washing machines in the basement where a student washed uniforms after football and basketball practices. Although there were few amenities, there was a small eating-place in the basement run by Mrs. Hudson, where we would gather between classes.
I recollect that convocations, including the award of an honourary degree to U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, were held at St. James United Church, now the Glebe Community Centre. Swimming was in the Glebe pool. The men’s tennis team – the first Carleton sports team ever to win a championship – practised and played at the St. James Tennis Club which was then run by the church.
While attending Carleton, we also supported Glebe local businesses. We ate occasionally at a café on Bank Street. We got our hair cut at a barbershop run by two brothers on Bank Street close to what is now the Queensway. We bought our footwear at a local shoe store. During my time at Carleton – autumn 1953 to spring 1956 – there were about 500 full-time “day” students and, as I recall, about 1,200 part-time “night” students. While first- and some second-year classes could be held weekdays during the day, upper-year classes were often at night and on Saturday mornings to accommodate the night students.
I was not new to university when I arrived at Carleton. I had spent two years at the University of Toronto, starting in mathematics, physics and chemistry, but eventually ending up in psychology. However, my real interest focused not so much on classes – though I managed A’s in child and experimental psychology – but on the daily student newspaper, The Varsity. Given that interest, I decided to transfer to Carleton and study journalism in Canada’s capital rather than go elsewhere. Unlike U of T classes which could have several hundred students, Carleton College was at that time very different. In my first class in “reporting,” the instructor introduced me to the other students, one of whom was Alice Margaret Outram (commonly known as AMO). AMO would later become famous when she married René Beaudoin, the divorced former Speaker of the House of Commons. Among the nine students, I recall Anne Hammell and Dave Polowin and Sally Hogg.
When the discussion started, I soon sorted everyone out except “Wilf,” who, it finally dawned on me, was the instructor. The other students not only knew him but called him by his first name. Before long I got to know not only my classmates, but most of the other day students as well as the faculty. By my time, most of the students had come directly from high school, but many of the faculty had been deeply involved in the Second World War, though few talked about it. I recall learning that one of the English profs had landed his damaged bomber and saved the lives of his crew. A French professor had been with Intelligence, interrogating German prisoners. The director of the School of Journalism had been chief censor. A history professor had been in the VE Day riots in Halifax. A physics professor had been – or so it was rumoured – involved in the creation of the atomic bomb.
Since they were my classmates in evening classes, I also got to know many part-time students. Many were teachers who, having graduated from so-called “Normal School,” were allowed to teach elementary with just a high school education. Seeking a degree would both improve their pay, and allow them to become school principals. Spending five years at Carleton, taking two courses in the winter and one in the summer, they would acquire the 15 courses required for a degree. Taking one summer course while working, I acquired enormous respect for those students. Others were public servants hoping to move up with the help of a Carleton degree or a diploma in public administration.
CARLETON’S EARLY YEARS
The presence of part-time students at Carleton was essential because the College – renamed Carleton University after I graduated – needed every penny it could get. It was rumoured that when a potential student showed up, the bursar, Fred Turner, would ask. “Can he make it to my office? Can he write a cheque? Will it bounce?” If the answers were yes, yes and no, the student was admitted. That was how Carleton acquired the reputation of being “last chance U.”
It was a misleading title. Though getting into Carleton was easy, getting on and out was not. Faculty members rarely awarded anything higher than a B, and students with admitted “on probation” – one more failure and that would be it. Engineering was particularly demanding since students spent two years at Carleton, then went on to McGill, Toronto or Queen’s where, having survived the rigorous standards at Carleton, they excelled. Those of us who survived show our thanks through one of the highest proportions of alumni financial support in Canada.
In my time, the province was not yet involved in funding universities, at least not Carleton. In fact I recall classes ending early one morning and everyone assembling in Room 107 – the large room directly across from the front door – so Dean James Gibson, later president of Brock, could tell us that we had received $100,000 from the province of Ontario.
Incidentally, it was not only the students who were part-time. During my final year I worked part-time in the registrar’s office. One of my functions was to greet the part-time faculty as they came in to teach night classes. I guessed that they were paid a pittance because much later when I taught a summer course in political science, I was paid about $625 for the term.
The drama club – the Soc’ and Buskin’ – performed some excellent plays. I recall Rosemary Copland, Michael Sinelnikoff and Robin MacNeil (later the “Robert” MacNeil of the Mac- Neil-Lehrer Report on PBS) in one play. Dances in Room 107 included a Sadie Hawkins dance (for those too young to remember, Sadie Hawkins chased after L’il Abner in a comic strip drawn by Al Capp). Boasting a band – somehow in uniform – Carleton also had a college song that began “Carleton, Carleton, Carleton men are we,” sung to the tune of John Philip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell” march. I am told that the lyrics were written mainly by Gerald Nason and Ross Thomson. Members of the college choir, the Carletones, had sung together previously in the Lyres Club at Glebe Collegiate. The Glebe connection was strong enough that an Ottawa newspaper ran an article stating that the former Glebe Collegiate students who had moved on to Carleton formed “the Glebe clique” to which students from outside Ottawa and other schools such as Lisgar did not belong.
And Carleton took advantage of its location in Ottawa. One of our third year journalism assignments was to interview new Members of Parliament. Since it was easy to make contact with them, such a morning assignment was easily completed by mid-afternoon. And while the Carleton library had limited resources, we had ready access to the National Library of Canada (now part of Library and Archives Canada).
The football team practised in the semi-dark at Lansdowne Park. A basketball team and outings up the Gatineau were organized by Norm Fenn, director of athletics. Like many faculty and staff, he lived in the Glebe across from Glebe Collegiate. I lived in Ottawa East on Echo Drive, so in the summer I had to walk via Pretoria Bridge, but in the winter I could cross the canal on the wooden footbridge that linked Ottawa East to the Glebe. That was long before the canal was opened in the winter for skating, though a section was cut out of the bridge later in the winter for the sleddog races. There was also a college drinking spot, the Bytown Inn. Students who could afford to drink – most could – would first go there Friday or Saturday night and then move on to the Canton Inn for Chinese food. (Many Canton Inn staff moved to the Golden Palace on Carling Avenue.)
There were also some student pioneers. Dick Abbott, who initiated the teaching of law as an academic subject (a Carleton “first”), got elected president of the students’ council and then abolished frosh initiations. Something else quite remarkable was that each September, Carleton students would perform a full-length, original musical in the Ottawa Technical High School auditorium, which attracted fair sized audiences. One year it was about Carleton electing its own Member of Parliament – The Honourable Member from Carleton College. The idea came from the fact that both Oxford and Cambridge had at one time – I presume this was true – elected their own MPs.
Another musical was about a Russian exchange student coming to Carleton. At the time, it had become a cause celebre that the National Federation of Canadian University Students (NFCUS) had invited some Russians.
Catholic university student councils were leaving NFCUS because of the menace from Communism such a student visit might create. Carleton’s musical Russian turned out to be a hefty female good enough to play on the line for the football team and score the winning touchdown during the annual Panda game.
The idea of having a panda as the trophy for the winners of the annual Carleton–University of Ottawa football game was the brainchild of Brian McNulty, a student at Ottawa U. It probably would have become a onegame wonder if Ottawa had not lost that first game to Carleton and if a number of us had not later stolen the panda. In the past, the panda had made only occasional appearances; not so later when Pedro, as the panda became known, would show up in the most amazing places, including between periods on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.
For me, of course, my student years in the Glebe were just the start of a long involvement with Carleton. I came back in 1960 to teach political science, returned again part-time to teach journalism and eventually, in 1985, joined the full-time faculty of the School of Journalism. By then of course, Carleton had moved to what we had called the “new campus” and left its home in the Glebe.
Joe Scanlon, professor emeritus at Carleton University, writes regularly for the Ottawa South community newspaper, The OSCAR. This is his first contribution to the Glebe Report.
Editor’s further note: After 15 years, the friendly rivalry of the Panda Game between the Carleton and Ottawa football teams was resurrected on October 5. The GeeGees won with a score of 35-10, taking home the panda for a year.