Queen's University

Fleas, fights, and a farewell

Sheila Cornett, Arts'68, MA'72, of Kingston, ON, shares some lively and vivid memories of some of the colourful characters who called the Grad House home in the late 1960s.

Re: “From Grad House to Grad Club”, Issue #1-2011, p. 8

I moved into a double-room on the top floor of 157 King Street E. in September 1971. I considered myself very lucky to be living so close to campus in an imposing house with men who treated me as though I was their sister.

When I arrived, the bedroom was already home to a couple of Siamese cats and their owner. Fairly early on, felines and owner departed, leaving me seemingly in sole possession but, although not immediately apparent, far from alone. The cats had left their fleas behind. I was too embarrassed to breathe a word of this to anyone, and started each new day counting the bites and wondering how to put an end to the mental anguish. Telling the resident House Manager about my problem strangely wasn’t an option. Eventually word got out, I offered my bare stomach as evidence, and the fumigators were called.

One Saturday, I stayed out all night. The following morning over breakfast, a housemate I shall call John – for that is his name – asked me if I’d had a good time. “Yes,” I replied.

“Did you get laid?” he wanted to know.


“Well, you can’t have had a good time then, can you?”

Thirty-nine years ago, I didn’t have an answer.

Another night, I returned to the house late to stumble into what looked like a wrestling match. Two housemates, both stripped to their underwear, were circling each other menacingly, while others stood against the walls, watching. Someone said, “It’s okay, Sheila, just go to your room.” Ever obedient, I did as I was bid.

On the way upstairs, I ducked my head to avoid recognizing men urinating out a window on the landing. That would almost certainly have been a Friday evening. I can’t recall how many toilets the house had, but I’d guess it was nowhere near enough to accommodate the masses who packed into the downstairs rooms each Friday.

[scan of signatures in Sheila's Bon Voyage card]

When I left town in March 1972, ­Master’s thesis successfully defended, housemates Sandy painted “CDN” on my luggage; Ian wrote me a piece of doggerel; Ralph gave me a present from Chile, and many people signed a bon voyage card. If any of the signatories read this letter, thanks for the ­happy memories. I had a grand time.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #2Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #2
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