Colin Guthrie headshotIt's March outside my window in Ottawa as I watch the last of the snow melt from my lawn. I was asked to write about my memories as an undergrad at UWaterloo and so I indulge in some nostalgia. My thoughts drift back 20 years ago, to a warmer and intensely social time: Frosh Week, 1999. A hot and muggy week of drifting asleep to the honking of geese.

A signature event that week was the massive toga party on the V1 green and I found myself without a white bedsheet equal to my Romanesque physique. My plan was to wander towards Uptown Waterloo and find one somewhere. My friend Andrew joined me for moral support.

Renison residence building
Colin lived in residence at Renison University College in his first year at Waterloo. His friend Niranjan Balachandran (BES '04) took this picture of the residence building during that time. 

We started from Renison (my residence) and walked towards Ring Road past Health Services' quaint white cottage beside the small pond on Laurel Creek. The grassy field beside Biology 2 featured a few people lounging in the sun and tossing frisbees. Many an afternoon was spent in the years to come eating pizza on the Bomber patio next to that field. 

MC with large pink tie banner
Colin also would have passed the Math and Computer building (MC) on his route. Math alumni and students will immediately recognize that this photo was taken during Frosh Week: a pink tie graces the side of the building to celebrate every year.

In this photo of MC, taken by Colin, you get a better view of the now-extinct Science green. If you tried to take this photo today, your view of MC would be blocked by the Quantum Nano Centre (QNC).

We passed by Earth Sciences & Chemistry and above the Engineering Lecture Hall, which was still completely underground with bike racks and benches at ground level. There was nothing but grass and trees behind Grad House and South Campus Hall. We’d played an epic game of capture the flag there earlier that week.

Grad house with tiger lillies in front
While the Grad House hasn't changed much since 1999, the area surrounding it has. In the background of this photo, you can spy a corner of the Tatham Centre: an important building for many grads of the last 15 years. In 1999 it didn't exist yet, and that space was a green.

Following the train tracks through Waterloo Park we passed the zoo. People called it the petting zoo, but the chain-link fences suggested more of a “look, but don't touch” kind of zoo. Leaving the park we were greeted by mostly empty space and fields around Erb, Caroline and Father David Bauer Drive.

There were many cool looking pubs and restaurants along King Street, but the Uptown of artisanal open-faced sandwiches and pour-over coffee was still a few years away. We looked through a military surplus store and another with bins full of recovered electronic parts. Princess Theatre and the bowling alley next door were there, of course. Jane Bond intrigued me—I soon aspired to be the kind of person who would hang out at a place like that (ten years later my wife-to-be and I would share our first date there).

Imprint clipping from 1999
What did Frosh Week look like in 1999? The following week, Imprint published a recap of the events. You can find this issue, and many more, via the Imprint archives.

We cut through the parking lot between the Duke of Wellington and Waterloo Town Square. That parking lot wrapped around the front of the mall and extended, along with the mall itself, almost all the way south to the church on William Street, where the LCBO is now. This original, bigger mall had everything you might need—Harvey's, BiWay and classy deals at Liquidation World. 

Upton Waterloo and a female duck
Another photo taken by Colin during his time in university, this time showing a duck in Waterloo Town Square.

The BiWay. Its iconic black and white logo sang its sweet siren song to me. The melody was discount and the lyrics were affordable. I scooped a white cotton queen sheet from a gigantic wire bin at the front of the store.

We returned to campus victorious. Appropriately attired, Andrew and I arrived in good time for the bacchanal, which was a totally okay experience. That same sheet is still with me today as a drop sheet for painting. Here's to old friends!