Remembering the fabulous '50s
Queen’s has changed a lot since the early 1950s, but as ALLAN DIBBLEE, ARTS’52, IR’54, explains, fond memories of his “rewarding” student years remain strong.
For old times’ sake, my old Queen’s pal Rev. James “Jim” Scanlon, Arts’51, MA’54, and I recently got together on campus for a mini-reunion. Jim is retired and lives in Kingston, while I reside in Burlington, ON.
Both of us are octogenarians, and as such we’ve outlived many of our classmates and other Queen’s friends. However, the memories of our student days remain strong. We noted the many changes that have been made around campus – especially the new buildings.
The old gym looked forlorn, having been replaced by the gleaming new Athletics and Recreation Complex, and the Queen’s Tea Room that once stood at the northeast corner of Division and Union Streets has given way to a building currently called the Integrated Learning Centre. The same is true of the former Levana annexes on the west side of University Avenue – from the Ban Righ/Goodwin House corner up to Miss Austin’s rooming house at Union Street.
Jim and I recalled the many happy times we’d had sitting on the front steps of those residences – Baker, Chown, and Muir Houses, for example, enjoying the company of the lovely young ladies who lived there. We’d listen to the mostly classical music coming out of the open windows of the music room in the nearby Douglas Library.
Music was an important part of student life in the Dirty ’30s and Fighting ’40’s. We often listened to the radio on cold, clear nights when music of the big band/swing era boomed in from New York, Detroit, and Chicago. It was also a time of Amos ’n’ Andy, Burns and Allen, and Jack Benny, Spike Jones, Victor Borge playing Chopin’s “Chasing Rainbows” and “Till the End of Time”, and Freddie Martin’s orchestra performing “Tonight We Love” and “Now is the Hour”.
Jim and I both had grown up in small-town northern Ontario, and we met at Queen’s in the fall of 1949. Although we were both on campus in 1947, when I attended summer school, I was living off campus when Jim arrived for the 1947-48 school year. Our friendship blossomed in the three years from 1949 to 1951, though 1951 was the most eventful. Several incidents took place that for me made it an especially memorable year.
There was an AMS trial of students attempting entry, after hours, by an unusual manner, of a Levana residence. Since the young ladies in the residence at the time had encouraged their efforts, the students “got off” with a stern warning from Dean of Women Dr. A. Vibert Douglas, LLD’75. Then followed a spirited election campaign for the Arts Society presidency between
C.F. “Mike” McInnis, Arts’52, and Aubrey Russell, Arts’52. Jim and I were on Mike’s committee, and he was the victor. After that came the annual Model Parliament, which was a well-attended event. Controversial topics led two students with their collars on backwards to change sides and cross the floor of the House.
Jim and most of our friends graduated in the spring of 1951, Jim in honours History. I continued with my studies. I attended summer school along with other students who needed make-up courses for degree requirements and for enrolment in teacher’s college. In those days it was necessary, for a general degree, to complete three courses in each of three different subjects, and it happened sometimes in final year that course scheduling conflicts resulted in being short one course to qualify.
Both Jim and I went on to do grad studies at Queen’s. Jim worked on his MA under Prof. Arthur Lower before going on to complete his religious studies at Wycliffe College at the U of T, where he earned his licence to preach. I completed studies in Industrial Relations under professors James C. Cameron, BCom’29, MCom’32, LLD’73, the first Director, and Clifford H. Curtis, BA’33, MA’34.
Looking back, I recall my student days as being most rewarding. It was a privilege to attend Queen’s, and Jim and I and our classmates received much more at the University than pieces of parchment with our names on them.