My first encounter with Canada and snow
Dr. Fraser- Point of View
February 3, 2023

My first encounter with Canada and snow

TWO WEEKS AGO when I was doing some reminiscing on the anniversary of my birthday, I ended by saying that my encounter with winter was not a pleasant one but is a story for another time. A few friends who had studied in Canada urged me to share some of my experiences as a student, so I have decided to go back to it. After I had decided to study in Canada I was told that I was accepted at the University of Western Ontario in London. I was a bit confused I knew of one London and that was in the UK. A quick look at my atlas informed me that there was a London city in Ontario, Canada, south- western Ontario in fact.

All students who were granted CIDA scholarships that year had first to go to Ottawa for an orientation, then for me it was on to Toronto where I spent a few days and then to London, Ontario. When I got to the University there were two other students there, FI Jack and the poet of blessed memory Tim Daisy, who had entered the year before. Annette Alves, later Gibbs, was the other Vincentian who went with me to Western Ontario. Let me first say something about FI Jack. This man is a phenomenon. I have never met a man with a memory like his. I phoned FI to find out the name of the street on which we first shared a house. Without hesitating he told me not only the name of the street but also the house number. If I had asked him the telephone number, he would have given me. He remembered the name of the man who had helped to move his trunk to the house and quoted what the man told him when he asked how much he was charging.

That city was obviously settled by persons from London, England. There was the river Thames. Some of the street names were familiar London names. There was a cricket ground with a club house and carefully manicured lawn and the only turf wicket I believe. Not far from London was the small city of Stratford on the river Avon. And of course, during the Summer it staged Shakespearean and modern plays. Winter In London was something not to behold. Even though it did not get as cold as some places further west and north, because it was moist it was terrible. The Thames river ran across the University. The bus leaves you at the University gate and you will walk on to the University compound. My residence for the first year was at Medway Hall, the first hall of residence when entering from the Richmond road.

My first few nights were interrupted by loud noises between 1.30 and 2:30 a.m. I decided to check the source of the noise. Would you believe it- many of the new students were turning 18, the legal drinking age. Each night then a new set of students went into town at a bar that was frequented by students of the University.

The tradition was that they just had to get drunk for that auspicious occasion. The residences had their orientation which some referred to as slazing the new students. I had taught for two years after leaving school and figured I could not be part of it. I stayed away for the first three mornings and then realised that after all I had to live with the guys, so why not join them. One of the activities for that day was to collect panties. There was a female Catholic College and residence, Brescia College, on the border of the campus. So, I had to join the gang going across, accompanied by shouts of panties. The female students expected it and began to throw out panties. The guys scrambled and met their quota. I was both an amused and bemused spectator. The other activities were just as ridiculous, but my concern was with the cold at that early hour of the morning.

I was told too late by other students to avoid having early classes which started at 8. By that time, it was still pitch dark and growing spitefully cold. I must at this point give the story of Tim. Tim had lost interest in any kind of academics. I had on my second day in London invested in an expensive winter coat that was as thick as any could be. Tim advised that it wasn’t going to make a difference and convinced me to return it for a cheaper one which I did at first but then changed my mind later and went back for the original one. Tim during the winter wore sneakers and a light Jacket. One morning while walking up the hill to class I was aware of a commotion in front. It had snowed and Tim was in front, falling with every step he made, and a group of students were behind him urging him to do it again. Tim’s response on those occasions was to sing “Jesus banks his money in the Bank of Montreal. Jesus saves! Jesus saves” He always had them laughing.

Tim was a year ahead. He had spent some time teaching and by the time he was given the scholarship had lost interest, hardly attending classes. My first tutorial class was on the First British Empire. Tim who had passed the course the year before decided to retake it. He came in late and both of us just completely dominated. The other students were completely shocked. At the end of the class a few students came to me asking how we knew so much. I was tempted to say that we were just bright, but like Tim I took British history for GCE O & A Levels and also taught it. Tim never came to another class ,but I got to know the Professor who had been totally impressed with him. (To be continued- my experience with the snow and the FI Jack classic Joke).

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian