I had the great privilege of attending university in the 1950s at both Dalhousie and King’s College and of living in residence at King’s.
King’s is much different today. There is a quad, but the university is embraced, some might say strangled, by new buildings–a new residence, a journalism school, a library. Indeed, both Dal and King’s are busy with buildings and the freedom of movement, the elegance of space that I once knew, is gone now.
The chapel, one of the gems of the original complex, is still there. The theologs attended it daily, the rest of us on Wednesdays and Sundays.
But some things are the same. Radical Bay, where I resided at first, is still there, along with Middle and Chapel Bays. Above all, the Angel’s Roost on the top floor of the admin building still looks over the quad. In my day it housed senior students, many of whom were would-be priests. I am told that it is now called the Roost. Anglican theological students left the university years ago for the large Atlantic School of Theology. The new religion at King’s is journalism, and journalism students occupy that lofty dwelling reserved once for divines.
I could not resist sneaking up to the top floor to see my old digs, Room 206. I walked up the broad staircase to the second floor and noticed that the Haliburton room is now a board room. The library used to be on the third floor, the Angel’s Roost on the fourth. The former is replaced by offices. The area to the Roost was open in my day but it is blocked off today by two locked doors calling for a code. One of them was open and I entered.
Don Ruggles and Billy Dye and Don Thomson, and John Hamm and yours truly resided there. There were others, but their names escape me now. Thomson and I became teachers, Dye and Ruggles divines, and Hamm became a doctor and eventually premier. He told me recently that he spent four years in the Roost. I also played hockey with him. I can report that, according to the 1958 yearbook, he scored one more goal than I. I must say that we were a very lively group. I can still see John Hamm doodling as he studied biochemistry in the stacks at the King’s library.
But the mischief makers were Ruggles and Dye. They used to drive me crazy putting lighter fluid under my door as I studied and lighting it, or getting out on the parapet of the building to spook those studying.
The washroom in the Angel’s Roost was quite large. It overlooked the quad. We used to wait until crowds gathered in their black, armless gowns before the formal meal in order that we might throw our plastic water bombs on their heads.
My memory of those times is dimmed now, but I do recall that in 1958 we rented a television in order to watch the Archie Moore-Yvon Durelle Light Heavweight Championship of the World fight. Was it held in Montreal? It was an incredible fight and I still recall it to this day, the excitement of Durelle flooring Moore in an early round and allowing Moore, who clutched and grabbed until his head cleared, back into the fight. I believe that Moore stopped Durelle in the 13th round.
I resided in the Roost only the one year, 1958/59. As I said, John Hamm lived there four years and no doubt Ruggles and Dye lived there longer. Billy Dye, from the big Town, is now gone from us. He had a wonderful career in the clergy building things up. Don Ruggles also had a wonderful career as a divine, both in Liverpool and in Halifax. He was much loved. I have lost track of Thompson. I see John Hamm fairly often.
King’s today is transformed, some would say re-invented. Despite its growth, about 1100 students now, it is still a gem. I feel that I am the better for having belonged to a small community of students in 1958 at the same time as taking most of my studies at the biggest university in the Maritimes. For there is something to be said for smallness in an age when bigness leads to lack of contact, something to be said for a culture in which ownership trumps impersonality.