Facing the baby boom

Warriors basketball team and coach Dan Publiese

The basketball Warriors won two league games in 1962-63, lost eight, and finished fifth in a six-team league. Dan Publiese, left, was the coach.

Lemmings, if I may say so -- and I don't see who's going to stop me -- are orderly, self-restrained creatures compared with you human beings. People seem to do things in crowds, in fads, in throngs; and there's nothing they do more faddishly than being born, so far as I can tell as I watch from here beside the creek. Starting in 1946, there was what you call the baby boom, so that by 1963 the first of the boomers were halfway through high school and threatening to storm the gates of the universities. Then behind them came the middle-schoolers, the public-schoolers, the kindergarteners, the toddlers and the yet unborn, swelling the population of Ontario (and the rest of the civilized world) and explaining much about the panicky growth of the universities, including the one here at Waterloo.

In the year 1963, about which I'm ready to tell you today, the Ontario government created Trent and turned "Assumption University" into Windsor; Guelph and Brock would come the following year. And here at Waterloo, officials were trying to figure out whether things would keep growing at the same stunning speed. In the fall of 1962 the number of students had hit 1,600, and the registrar's office predicted "a 400 per cent increase" within eight years.

So land -- "lebensraum" as your historian not so delicately called it in titling a chapter of his book Of Mud and Dreams -- was at the forefront in people's minds. The university that hadn't existed at all six years previously, and that had already developed about 100 acres here along Laurel Creek, was facing the prospect that its complete site, somewhat less than 300 acres, would soon be too small. Shouldn't something be done now? For the land north and west of the new campus, which had been farmland (and troll territory, of course) a decade before, was now mostly owned by developers. It would soon, if something wasn't done about it, be turned into streets and housing lots, and then it would be too late for the university.

To think was to act, for people like Gerry Hagey and the chairman of the board of governors, Ira Needles, who had to interrupt his work for Waterloo that June to make a trip to Evanston, Illinois. His own alma mater, Northwestern University, presented him with a medal for "outstanding personal achievement by an alumnus". (It made sense: North western itself had been started by visionaries who bought a square mile of farmland for a campus, and if it had a century's head start on Waterloo, that didn't mean there wasn't fellow-feeling.) By now Needles was being joined on the board by some heavy hitters who weren't necessarily linked just to Kitchener and Waterloo -- men like A. A. Cumming, president of Union Carbide.

As I say, they thought and they acted, and that summer they shelled out $1,204,000 for 733 acres of land northwest of the campus. "Columbia Street" and "Hallman Road" were on the maps of the city by then, and so was a planned "GVCA Park", later to be known as the "conservation area" north of Bearinger Road. Some of the university's land would later be turned over to the conservation authority, leaving a parcel shaped like a teakettle, just about a square mile in size, what we still know as the "north campus". Most of it was still being farmed, in some cases by the original owners, getting in just a few more crops before they retired and the bulldozers moved in. Tall grass grew along Laurel Creek, as it burbled through the ruined millrace, and there were even more herons along the water then than the most cautious explorer will find on an afternoon walk today. "The university is assured that it will have land available at reasonable cost when it is necessary to expand," said Hagey, apparently not deterred by shelling out more than a million dollars on land at the same time it was preparing to spend $3.5 million on a new "chemistry and biology" building. The operating budget for all of 1963-64 was just a hair over $4 million, and they managed to run a deficit of $8,500, which was almost enough to pay a faculty member for a year.

No new buildings were actually opened in 1963, although work on the new science complex (which you'd call ESC and Biology I), plus landscaping work on parking lots, roads and more messing about with the creek all guaranteed that the requisite mud would be underfoot. There were enough roads and enough parking lots by now that in October a solemn list of traffic and parking regulations, Waterloo's first, went out from Al Adlington's office. The engineering faculty council discussed the matter days later and officially voted its opinion that "excessive regulation of facilities is the result of poor planning and/or design." It wouldn't be the last time, as you probably know, that the engineering faculty council disapproved of something done by the university's administrators. Mike Brookes, the director of planning, soon issued a response. "Many universities have oriented their campus to cars and now regret it," he wrote. "From the esthetic standpoint it is not the individual parts but the whole character of this university which is important." Brookes is most famous for his attempt to establish a colony of peacocks on campus (the foxes ate them, if you want my opinion of what went wrong) but he's also to be credited, or blamed, with such features of Waterloo as the berms around parking lots, the ring road, and the general principle of low-rise buildings with space between them.

Inevitably, the place was getting bureaucratic as it was getting bigger. Adlington (whose title now was vice- president, finance) had to put out other ukases as well: "It has now become necessary that the University prohibit dogs from its buildings and require that they be kept off campus unless they are on a leash. Notice to this effect is hereby given." Other innovations included the opening of a "Health and First Aid Centre" in the fall of 1963, staffed by a nurse and with a doctor on call, and the appointment of people with such titles as "assistant to the director of co-ordination and placement" (that was Ernie Lucy) and "assistant to the president" (James Scott, later to write Of Mud and Dreams). The university bought an IBM 1620 computer and put in an order for an IBM 7040 "for delivery in 1965". The phone number was changed, to 744-6111, and although I have been racking my mighty troll brain for days, I cannot remember what the old number was, which just goes to show what happens as the years roll by.

Also that year Waterloo gave its first PhD degrees, both to engineers, Peter Roe (who would go on to be a faculty member for many years) and Carl Turkstra. Staff arrived to run the new physical education program, although students wouldn't be admitted until 1964. For the first time there was co-op in a field besides engineering (physics, to be precise) and officials said they were looking into the possibility of co-op even for arts. As you probably know, it would be another fifteen years before that one would come true.

In one of the odder things ever to be done at Waterloo, the Doon School of Fine Arts became affiliated with the university. It was a brave experiment, I'll say that for it, and as a riverside troll I approve simply because it did something to preserve the reputation of Homer Watson, the great artist of the Grand River. The Doon School was based in Watson's old house south of Kitchener -- we're talking 1963 here, when Doon was a separate village, rather in the orbit of Preston and definitely not yet a part of Kitchener. That summer it offered courses in ballet, creative writing and children's drama, as well as its usual fine arts classes, with Toni Onley as the artist in residence. Elmore Reaman of the university's history department, a grand old man of Waterloo County lore, was named "administrator and university representative" at Doon. I'm just sorry the experiment wasn't a success.

But there are always low notes as well as high ones, and it's a wonder to me that the high ones are so much more numerous than the low ones. One of the grim notes in 1963 was sounded by a "message from the president" in the Gazette in mid-March (the same issue, strikingly, in which the link with Doon was announced). "Due to a throat infection," Gerry Hagey wrote, "I will be required to take daily treatments at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto for the next five weeks to two months. Although I will not be able to speak I can maintain contact with the office through correspondence." The vice-presidents, Adlington and Ted Batke, would be in charge in his absence. Princess Margaret Hospital? Even a troll knows those are ominous words. It was the first public indication of the throat cancer that would eventually drive Hagey to take early retirement.

Growth and development at Waterloo continued, and the biggest project of all was on the horizon, literally. I was saying a few minutes ago that campus planning had been based on the principle of low-rise buildings, but an exception could certainly be made when it was time to build a library. The cliche in those days was that the library was the heart of a university (how long has it been, do you suppose, since anyone suggested that Waterloo's heart, if indeed it has a heart, is the library?) and it was taken for granted that it should be a landmark accordingly. Doris Lewis, the librarian, was able to show off the plans -- drawn by Shore and Moffat -- when Waterloo played host to the Institute of Professional Librarians of Ontario and the Ontario Library Association at the end of May. Then she took them along when she went to Chicago that summer for a convention of the American Library Association, where Waterloo was the only Canadian institution invited to present its project to a session of the Library Building Institute, and came back reporting that high-rise libraries were the newest trend. The first three stories of the planned building were started in November, and the university told its eager public in the Quarterly in December that "the initial structure will house 250,000 volumes. This capacity will be reached by 1970. An additional seven stories have been planned for future expansion." By that time, the article added, there were "more than 61,500 volumes" in the library, and a staff of 34.

Well, I suppose you know what happened: before the job was even finished, late the following year, people realized that it wasn't going to be big enough, and they told the contractors to get right on with another four storeys. The hiatus between the seven-story library and the ten-story building we know today has something to do with the Waterloo tradition that the building is sinking. Which it isn't. But that's a tale for another day.

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