My first encounter with Canada and snow (Continued from last week)
Dr. Fraser- Point of View
February 10, 2023

My first encounter with Canada and snow (Continued from last week)

My first year was spent at Medway Hall, one of the campus residences. I was the only black student. Sometime, in late September, I believe, a dance was held at the Hall. I went downstairs, with a light jacket since I had no intention of going outside. My partner for a good part of the night was a student who lived just outside of London. At the end of the dance, I offered to walk her the one hundred yards to the entrance to the University where her mother was to pick her up. She was expected to be there in about half an hour. We left the hall after 15 minutes. I stood with her at the entrance to the University. It was beginning to feel cold, but I had a mere fifteen minutes to play with so no problem. Fifteen minutes turned into half an hour. About ten minutes after a car came by, went ahead, turned and stopped. I assumed it was her mother, but she assured me it was not. Time was moving by and the cold was getting the better of me. After another half an hour the driver of the car that had passed earlier opened the door and came out and the young lady said, “That’s my mother.” But why didn’t you say that before. Apparently, she wears glasses but was then without them and the colour she assured herself was not that of her mother’s car. I said a quick goodbye and must have broken the hundred yards record back to the hall.

Another dance about a month later. By then there was no question that it was cold. My dancing partner this time was a nurse from a Nursing residence about half a mile away. I had agreed to walk her over to her residence. This time I put on my heavy winter jacket. It was extremely cold and getting colder but I had company and felt I could withstand the cold. Got her to her residence and then had to walk back alone. In the forty minutes it took me it was getting seriously cold. I had to cross a bridge and not only was it bitterly cold, but it was snowing. At one point I had convinced myself I had dropped my fingers somewhere as I crossed the bridge. I didn’t want to look to have that confirmed. I couldn’t run because it was snowing and I feared a fall. After what appeared to me to be about two hours I got back to the hall and assured my room mate that I had lost my fingers. He laughed and told me what I needed to do. After about an hour of sheer misery I was able to turn on my radio only to find out that it was one of the coldest nights for about twenty years. And, of all people, I had to experience it!

The next year I shared an apartment with FI Jack and one Frank Mills from St. Kitts. Our apartment was on the top floor, but we had to use the stairs which were outside. One morning I was hurrying to get to classes at about 8:30, opened the door and realized that the steps were filled with snow. No thought of course of clearing away the snow. I held on for dear life and tried to manoeuvrer my way to the bottom of the stairs not far from the bus stop. It was easier than I thought, because my first step was an unexpected heave to the ground falling on my back, but at least I got there with no pain. That apartment on Wharncliffe Street left me with fond memories. One afternoon I was in my room resting. FI was in the Living room. At some point I heard the phone ringing and assumed that FI would answer it.

After the ringing continued I dashed outside only to find FI in front of his room holding on for dear life to his alarm clock. I shouted FI, it is the phone not the alarm clock. We had a big laugh after for he couldn’t understand why the alarm was still going on. It was good to share the apartment with FI Jack for neither Frank Mills, the other occupant, nor me could cook. FI was an expert so he would take us into the kitchen and step by step show us what needed to be done. Anyone who knows FI would know that his first step would have been to show us how to turn on the stove. After a couple weeks we qualified and were able to share the cooking.

One of my first friends at the University was Winston Richards from Trinidad. Winston was doing a PhD in mathematics. He was older than most of us, West Indian students and assumed a role as my godfather, in fact for most of the West Indian students. He often called on me to assist. One evening I got a call that left me totally flabbergasted. Student X an Indian student from Trinidad who had spent two years already was going to commit suicide. Winston wanted me to phone and try to talk him out of it. How was I to do that, but Winston asked me, so I phoned Student X. We spoke for a while about many things, certainly not about his desire to take his own life. I had very little else to say and was overjoyed when Student X said, well “I will talk to you tomorrow.”

If student X was going to take his life that night, he obviously wouldn’t be able to talk to me the next day. So happily, I put down the phone. Mission accomplished! Well, I must do what I didn’t want to, that is, to continue this story next week. (To be continued).

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian