North York kinda’ day

The corner of Bayview Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East in Toronto, Ontario, Canada is where I attended undergraduate philosophy studies at Glendon Hall in what was the former Wood Estate. It was surrounded on one side by Mt Pleasant Road and on the other by Post Road, Park Lane Circle and the Bridle Path. Nearby were Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Sunnybrook Park and Edward Gardens. Just a short way north, south of York Mills Road, resided E. P. Taylor who coincidentally was a native of Ottawa and a graduate of Ashbury College. It is no surprise that when many of us from St. Andrew’s College were introduced to the bucolic campus in North York’s exclusive environment through Principal Escott Reid we were smitten and made the radical decision to apply there for admission rather than to Trinity College, University of Toronto where most graduates of the “Little Big Four” namely Upper Canada College, St. Andrew’s College, Trinity College School and Bishop Ridley College traditionally sought admission.

Edward Rogers Wood (May 11, 1866 – June 16, 1941) was a prominent financier in Canadian business. He was notable for his role in the development of the Brazilian Traction, Light and Power Company Limited (later Brascan Limited, then amalgamated into Brookfield Asset Management) and for his links with the “Peterborough Methodist Mafia” of George Albertus Cox.

In hindsight the commitment to Glendon Hall and the expectation of Principal Reid to create “Radical Mandarins” who might reflect his own self-image was not entirely successful.  Certainly there were among us those who subsequently distinguished themselves in public service and dedication; and there were those of us who did what we could to enhance the practice of private law. But in the initial stages of Glendon Hall’s existence under the direction of Principal Reid the scope and influence of education was not far removed from any liberal arts college though noticeably housed by privileged students. Other than an uncommon bilingualism (English and French) among the students there was to my recollection no obvious imperative. The only thing about which I was assured after a degree in Philosophy was that upon graduating it was necessary to acquire the skills to perform a practical trade – which was basically my introduction to law at Dalhousie Law School.

Escott Graves Meredith Reid, CC (January 21, 1905 – September 28, 1999), was a Canadian diplomat who helped shape the United Nations and NATO, author, international public servant and academic administrator.

Though he was thought by some to have been ‘arrogant, given to excess, and a naïve liberal idealist’, Reid’s vital contributions helped to shape some of the 20th century’s most important international developments. During his service, Canadian diplomacy was at the forefront of the recognised world leaders, a status that declined rapidly after his departure. In 1971, Reid was made a Companion of the Order of Canada “for his services as a diplomat, international public servant and educator”. In 1993, he received the Pearson Medal of Peace for his work as a public servant. He died in Ottawa on, September 28, 1999.

Unquestionably undergraduate afforded my acquaintance with the customary discoveries of youth, among them alcohol and dining out, cigarettes, men’s diamond pinky rings, nefarious combustibles and the standard corporal pleasures. I met a man who aimed to control and proved that he could (he was later appointed to the bench); a woman who adored men and fine cotton; a millionaire gal in bluejeans; a man who represented the idle rich in Rosedale; a man who wanted to be among the idle rich in Rosedale; a man who knew a good thing when he saw it; a fellow who accused me until he saw his reflection; a woman who got cannabis from the police by sleeping with them; a professor who was as pleasant and crazy as we thought; a quietly frustrated young man who lived nearby with his parents in a house with an indoor pool and a six-car garage; a chap with a corporate trustee who decided to switch to U of H (University of Hawaii) because he could study golf; a cocktail waitress at Stop 33 whom we learned year’s later was a whore; a woman who began her career of calculation at an early age; I met sinners and plagiarists, sad and sorry people, two who committed suicide.

Curiously Glendon Hall was my introduction to Devonshire House, University of Toronto – precisely adjacent Trinity College. When planning to take the Bar Admission Course at Osgoode Hall on University Avenue I applied to Dean Charles Lennox of Devonshire House to be a Don. He was reluctant to take me because I was not a graduate of the University of Toronto. I was however successful in my application.  Devonshire House was clearly reminiscent of my prep school days and amusingly also characterized by public debating (which we enlisted with Trinity College). Unsurprisingly it was two of my friends from Glendon Hall who played an important role in my time at Devonshire House.  The first was instrumental in encouraging me to apply to Devonshire House instead of my Alma Mater for a donship. The second – a buxom woman – frequently boosted the enthusiasm of our debating society by agreeing to be a judge.

The final feature about Glendon Hall that shall always linger with me is the recollection I have of a brief encounter one evening on the quadrangle.  The chap to whom I spoke – I can’t even remember his name – was one whom I had admired at a distance because he was good looking and smart.  It was only by accident that I passed him while walking across the quadrangle in the early evening. As I said hello, to my surprise he stopped to chat. I have no idea what words were exchanged (other than that they must have been casual) but I came away from the chance meeting with the relieving insight that appearances are not necessarily limiting and that sociability can be an opener. Though this may seem a trifling admission it nonetheless encouraged me in my belief that I could get along with just about anybody if I try. I do however hasten to add that the digestibility does not imply the diet.