When I was a Student: 1960s

Jim McGibbon, BA’60

The unbecoming tradition of frosh hazing by engineering students at UBC ended abruptly in the fall of 1956. On that occasion, I witnessed more than 100 angry freshmen confront their tormentors. The engineers, garbed in their traditional red cardigans, were massed in front of their building. One suntanned, shirtless and muscular freshman, undaunted by taunts and threats, stepped forward to challenge their large and vociferous leader. Flattening him with a single blow to the jaw, he led the freshmen surge as they scattered the engineers. A few stormed into the engineering building, where they trashed several faculty offices using fire hoses. While the acts of vandalism were deplorable and inexcusable, the rebellion of this new student generation resulted in ridding our campus of freshman hazing. Permanently.

Members of the physics department enjoyed welcoming freshmen by insisting that they pose for a “group photo” on the front steps of the physics building. Then senior students would lean out of the second-story windows and douse the hapless frosh with buckets of water. Pictures of these events appeared in the Ubyssey.

Between classes, I sometimes visited the home of my uncle and aunt, Darrell and Barbara Braidwood, who lived just off campus beyond the law school. One one occasion, their friendly basset hound decided to accompany me to the campus. Excited at the possibility of creating a humorous incident, I managed to lead him to my math classroom. Much to the amusement of my classmates, he lay down on the aisle step next to my seat and silently audited Dean Walter Gage’s lecture. After noting the dog’s entrance with a smile, Dean Gage then continued the class discussion without comment. Despite his busy schedule playing many important roles at UBC, he never lost his patience, charm or sense of humor.

Elizabeth Lee, BHE’62

Members of the Sopron School of Forestry fled Hungary during the revolution and continued their studies at UBC. (Photo: UBC Archives)
Members of the Sopron School of Forestry fled Hungary during the revolution and continued their studies at UBC. (Photo: UBC Archives)

I was in a textile lab in the Home Economics building in the fall of 1958 or 59, when I noticed a large group moving down University Boulevard towards the War Memorial Gym. They were led by a young man in military uniform carrying the Hungarian flag, followed by a wreath-bearer, and what appeared to be the entire Sopron School of Forestry, students and faculty. It was a very moving sight. We were aware of the Hungarian Revolution, the Sopron School’s escape to the West, and the invitation extended to these refugees to complete their education at UBC. The language barrier and shortage of space at the university made their transition difficult, but they worked hard, graduated, and made a real contribution to the forest industry of BC.

William deWaal, BSc’66, PhD’70

Dr. Edward Piers was honoured (and surprised) by his former grad students.
Dr. Edward Piers was honoured (and surprised) by his former grad students.

Fifty years ago I had the good fortune of encountering Dr. Edward Piers, who supervised my undergraduate chemistry thesis. It was Dr. Pier’s first year as an assistant professor in the chemistry department and he had just taken on his first graduate student, Kin Fai Chen, a student from Hong Kong. We had to do quite a bit of scrounging to find the necessary glassware for conducting organic synthesis experiments.

That year was a very important one in my life. I had not considered continuing my studies once I had completed my BSc but was persuaded by Dr. Piers to press on with further studies to secure a PhD. And when I look back, it is clear that my education has served me very well and I have had wonderful and varied career. Dr. Piers was an excellent teacher and mentor. But best of all he became a close friend.

When Ed was about to retire in 2004, something he was not looking forward to, fellow alumnus Ron Britton and I decided to arrange a surprise reunion involving all the students that were in the group during Ed’s first few years as professor – around eight of us. We had shared a lab on the top floor of the old chemistry building. Each student had six feet of dedicated bench space and a small desk. We all shared a nine-foot fume hood and some common space for analytical instruments. The lab was the proverbial sardine can, including the smell. We were packed in but got along rather well.

I had kept in touch with Ron Britton, Noni Phillips Johnson, Bert Geraghty and Kin Fai Chen. But it took a bit of work to find Robert Keziere, Paul Worster and Dean Smillie. Invitations were extended and to my amazement all agreed to come (one was located in Hong Kong, one in Ireland and one in Australia). Sad to say when the date drew near, Noni, who lived in Australia, could not come for medical reasons.

The secretary of the chemistry department let us know when Ed was to give his last undergraduate lecture. That day, we gathered in the departmental office, where the secretary supplied us with white lab coats and we prepared placards. We wanted this to look like a protest event; after all we were products of the Sixties. We quietly entered the large theatre in B-block while Ed was writing on the blackboard. He still taught the classical way (had not heard of PowerPoint) and drew chemical structures with mechanical precision. When he turned around he saw seven protestors standing up in the middle of the theatre. At first he was speechless. But Bert Geraghty stood out in the group, maybe because of his wild facial hair, and Ed blurted, “Bert, what are you doing here?”

It was clear we had disturbed his train of thought. I suggested he just keep on lecturing but he indicated that he could not go on. I explained to the students what we were doing and took the liberty of dismissing the class. If any failed his course they can blame me.

There was a lot of catching up to do since most of the group had not seen Ed since graduation. Bok Keziere had organized a photographer to take a picture of the group (that had aged somewhat) at the entrance to the old chemistry building. Bob lent Ed his jacket for the picture; it was a little big. Ed is holding a picture of Noni. We celebrated that afternoon and the following evening as well. As a group it gave us great satisfaction to offer this tribute to an outstanding professor.

Shortly after retirement Ed was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He passed away in 2010 in Calgary. I was privileged to give a eulogy on behalf of students and friends at his funeral. Two additional graduates where there for support: Ron Britton and Kin Fai Chen. Ed was a gift to a large group of students.

Larry Fournier, BCom’61

Speedboat in Pool
Photo: The Ubyssey

On Hallowe’en night in 1955, a group of students – residents of Acadia Camp army hut dorms – decided to move an inboard speedboat (probably about 18 ft. long) that was mounted on a trailer and parked by the apartments located just outside of Acadia Camp and put it in the Empire swimming pool just west of the War Memorial Gym. After pulling the trailer to the parking lot by the gym and breaking the padlock on a wide gate in the fence, it probably took at least eight guys to lift the boat up and into the pool. It turns out that an accounting student who lived in the apartments owned the boat, and when he went to retrieve it the next day, he started it up at one end of the pool and a photographer took a shot of him behind the windshield and steering wheel, motoring down the pool and leaving a nice wake. The photo appeared in the Ubyssey newspaper and I still have a copy of that issue. Obviously, the owner had a sense of humour.

Alan Coode, BASc’62, MSc’63

After attending summer school to take the first year maths course, I returned to UBC in early September to register in geology. I told the lady behind the counter that I wanted to take a degree in geology.

“Oh no!” she said, “you don’t want to register in geology. You want to register in geological engineering.”

“I do?” I asked.

“Yes, you do.” She replied.

“Oh, OK.” I said. “I want to register in geological engineering.”

“That’s better,” she replied, and registered me in geological engineering. So I became an engineer and never looked back.

Peter Herke, BASc’63

The Physics building had a Coke machine. A bottle cost 10 cents and if you put in a quarter you got 15 cents back. After much trial and error, one of the budding engineers found that if you pushed a penny in with some force it would not be rejected. Doing it successfully three times rewarded you with a Coke and 15 cents change. Soon all his friends had a go as well and the machine obliged. I don’t know how long this would have gone on if one of the physics professors hadn’t put in a quarter to buy his Coke and got three cents change!

Roger McKay, BPE’65

In the spring of 1960 or 1961 my roommate, John Hemmingsen, and I were shooting hoops in War Memorial Gym. It was Saturday morning and we were the only people on the floor. The hoops in those days were roll-out units that could be pushed into position. After scoring a shot I decided to chin myself on the hoop (I could jump at that time) in celebration. I quickly realized, though, that I wasn’t going up but the hoop was coming down. Someone had moved the counter balances and the whole unit fell to the floor. The noise was tremendous, the hoop broke and nine or 10 boards on the floor were broken also. The cement counter balances skidded across the floor and there was dust everywhere. Within seconds a custodian appeared and to my relief asked if I was OK. My first thought had been that I would be in a whole lot of trouble. Luckily this happened after the basketball season was over as the floor had to undergo some serious repair. For years after I was able to point to “my boards” on the floor of War Memorial Gym!

Carole Geertje Joling (nee Bregaint), BA’67, BLS’69

Imagine: the early 60s, first-year university, residency in Fort Camp, and independence as a high school grad from the British Columbia interior. What a high for a young woman and what a start to adulthood. Besides experiencing the many campus adventures and not facing baffling questions as to “what career” or “what do you want to do with your degree?” my memories of that period underline how formative it was. I became INVOLVED (international friendships, far-flung interests, and marching for causes), politically AWARE (Kennedy era, Cold War), a CANADIAN (I became a citizen in 1964), and eventually did decide on a CAREER. UBC opened a professional world to me, showed me options, helped me refine my choices, and built my confidence to not just learn but TO DO. So what is my UBC story? Dating an older, British bald man in my first year – something my father told me never to bring home!

Helen Rose Pauls (née Goerzen), BEd’69

Disenfranchised in Russia after the revolution, my father’s family was very grateful to be admitted to Canada in 1926. His life-long yearning for an education had to be shelved to help his family make a start in a new land. Later, as an adult, together with my mother, he acquired a small farm on the Sumas Flats between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, which Mother managed while he drove the old highway to Vancouver to work as a labourer. His dreams of an education he passed on to his five children. From one of his jobs he brought home boxes of perfectly cut cubes of leftover mahogany, wood he particularly enjoyed working with, which he told us he was using to create a decorative wall at UBC. My siblings and I spent many happy hours building, stacking and creating with those blocks. With his encouragement, I realized my dream of becoming a teacher, entering the Faculty of Education in 1966. There in the student lounge, covering one whole wall in an ornamental display, was the original mahogany of my childhood.


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