Saturday, 8 October 2011

Union College at U.B.C.

The two new photos which I have added to this blog are - again - through the courtesy of Michael W.

On the promontory shown here is located the campus of the University of British Columbia. In the background is Mount Washington - the highest peak on Vancouver Island.
On a school night, when I was 8 or 9 years old, I was in bed but not asleep. My parents had the radio on downstairs and I could hear the broadcast - the 'Fun Parade' from Toronto - where contestants could win valuable prizes. If my memory serves me correctly, that show centered on kids who were pretty smart. At the end of the program, a boy won a chemistry set. That fired my brain - how I wanted one for myself and I decided then and there to become a pharmacist when I grew up.

Reality set in soon afterward when I realized that I was not that good at math nor science - two subjects that are critical for anyone entering pharmacy.

However, I still held to the dream of a university education. After high school and Senior Matriculation, I took an aptitude test which pointed towards the Humanities or Accounting. As the easiest route was to the latter, I turned in that direction. Articled students in Chartered Accountant firms earned a small salary while working on the books of the firm's clients - and while attending lectures on two evenings of the week and writing exams each spring. I tried that route but it did not work for me so I went to Australia.

Now I was back home, had become a candidate for the ministry in the United Church of Canada, and was moving into residence on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

The dark promontory on the left of the photograph is Point Grey where the University of British Columbia (UBC) is located. The mountain behind it is Mount Washington - the highest peak on Vancouver Island. To the north and west are the Straits of Georgia and, to the south, the estuary of the Fraser River. Union College - the seminary and residence - is situated off of University Boulevard which enters the campus through the gates on Dunbar Street. Neighboring complexes are Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist and Lutheran. Most of our courses were shared with the students - and faculty - of the Anglican community.

                               We ordinands of 1971 are standing in front of Union College

Union College is a four story 'castle like' building with a turreted central block and wings extending east and west. My room was on the fourth floor during each of the four years that I was there - and usually facing north. Those were the days before lumber mills were forbidden to have burners for the sawdust that came from sawing logs into lumber. When the smoke from those burners combined with the moist air above the salt water, fog was formed and, often, it was thick. The lighthouse about five miles away on Point Atkinson in West Vancouver would lull me to sleep at night with its penetrating strobe light flashing across the ceiling of my room and the mournful sound of the foghorn.

                                                       Point Atkinson Lighthouse

Theology is a three year course but must be preceded by at least some general university courses. Those who entered the seminary out of high school were expected to earn an undergraduate degree while those of us who were "Senior Students" had to take at least one year of arts or sciences. I was a 'Senior Student' and I chose Arts. My course adviser recommended what I should study.

I do not remember when but the name of the institution was changed to 'Vancouver School of Theology'

I took English, History, Psychology and Sociology. English and History were two favorites of mine in high school and psychology held some interest as well. Sociology, though, was another matter. The Prof was a younger man who loved the writings of Ayn Rand. The major proportion of the marks arose from our abilities in debating. We did not choose what we would debate on but were assigned. I was assigned to the positive side of Rand's thoughts as expressed in her book "Selfishness is a Virtue". That was - and is - as far from my way of thinking that one could get. However, it was my assignment and I had to address it. I did receive a passing mark - but have never read another one of Ayn Rand's books.

There must have been 60 to 70 residents at Union College. We ate together in the college's dining room. The cooks were Mrs T(horbergson) and Miss Graham. Mrs T was a woman of impressive size so the jest was that she was determined that all of those under her care would attain the same girth. The meals were always very good and others from across the campus would try to purchase meal tickets so they could eat with us instead of the plain food that was dished up in their respective residences.

Beginning in my second year and continuing until I graduated I earned money by working in the room with the sinks and the dishwasher. There were always two of us working each shift. The fellow who partnered with me on Wednesday and Thursday mornings and I thought up a little competition. In the drain from the sink was a garborator which disposed of the smaller waste items. On one of those mornings Mrs. T. made pancakes and, on the other, Miss Graham cooked French toast. The contest was to see which of these items would float the longest. When Mrs. T. learned of this little competition, she was not amused. I wonder why?

Usually I was the dishwasher after dinner - both the regular ones and the 'High Holiday' ones for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I detested a habit of one of the other residents. He smoked and always butted his cigarette in his mashed potatoes. Those butts had to be removed before the waste food went into the garborator. Yuck!

The Housekeeper was another very pleasant older woman. She cheerfully cleaned our rooms, changed our bed linen and looked after much of the laundry. I liked her very much too.

Before I enrolled at UBC I had heard of the small 'Hippy Community' on Fourth Avenue and the drugs that were consumed there. Drugs have never appealed to me but I know that they are irresistible to some. I remember a nice younger guy from an Interior community who jumped right into the drug culture - he appeared in the dining room one day so stoned that he could hardly stand. During the Christmas break he disappeared having been placed into a mental institution. If I hadn't been turned off to drugs before, that would have convinced me not to go there.

While I was attending UBC, we heard that the architect Arthur Ericson had been commissioned to draw up plans for a new Museum of Anthropology to be built along Marine Drive towards Point Grey. When Ric and I were in Vancouver in February, 2002, I took him out there to see the Campus, Union College and the new museum. Here are a few photos of the artifacts that are exhibited there.

All of the above photos are of B.C. Coast First Nation art - and, I believe, most of it is Haida.

As I mentioned, UBC is on a peninsula bounded by salt water on two sides and the brackish river water on the other. Down there was the famous Wreck Beach and, as I love hiking, I was down that way on many a fine afternoon and I was never alone.

Other students would be there walking like I was, socializing and, in class groups, studying the erosion of the sand cliffs. One day a contradiction intrigued and amused me. Along the base of that sand cliff was a log and, on the seaward side, was a young couple making passionate love while a geology class was just above them studying the sand bank!

There were a number of routes down to the beach. One could walk down Marine Drive to where it was level with the bay and then turn back to walk along the beach - the least strenuous route; descend by the path and stairs beside the School of Social Work; or via a number of other paths some of which were better suited for mountain goats than humans.

Also there were interesting 'left overs' from World War II - two gun turrets long unused and slowly being eroded into the ocean. I understand that these turrets had each been built into the side of the sand cliff but, by that time, the base of the cliffs were yards from the turrets.

I enjoy walking around university campuses and I have seen some lovely ones - but none come close to the setting of the University of British Columbia.

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