In the Hospital
Seven years after the idea comes into existence, the college is a reality. Although the building isn't completely renovated, classes will begin on September 8th and the official opening ceremonies for Malaspina College will be on October 18, 1969.
On August 29th, the faculty and administration move into the rented building with the rented furniture at 375 Kennedy Street, the new home of the College. Earlier in the year, the College Council decided that the furniture for the College would be rented. This is in accordance with the Public Schools Act which says that they have to have temporary facilities for the first few years before having a financial referendum to determine their permanent needs.
With the renovations continuing through the summer and into the fall after classes start, it makes for an interesting beginning. In fact Dave Harrison remembers the state of the hospital when they moved in: "the college building itself, until recently an old hospital with morgues and delivery rooms, and emergency receiving and urinalysis, was but a plumber's-carpenter's-builder's nightmare of half-finished tubes and wires and corridors in disarray."
This disarray set the stage for adventure in the first couple of months at the College. Bob Lane recalls some funny things happening to him as a result of this initial environment:
On the first day of classes, I was running up to meet with my first class. I was slightly nervous so I had to go to the bathroom. I look around and I see a place that looks like it's the right kind of place. I burst in through the door and there's a second door. I pushed on through there and open a third door to get to the commode and there, indeed, is a young woman sitting on the pot who also needed to go to the bathroom before class. When I opened that door I was terribly embarrassed, but she was more embarrassed and she turned red. I apologized and left and found the other place. All of this happened because there were no signs on the doors yet. I find the correct place and then I go to class. I open my briefcase and get my books out and all that stuff. I look up and in the front row is this young woman. We both turned brilliantly red simultaneously. It seemed the only thing to do was to tell the story to explain it to the class why it was that we were sitting there in this strange colour. So I explained that and everything was going quite well for awhile until we hear this God-awful noise. This big drill bit comes through the wall about three feet from my head. The students start laughing. I jump back and the bit protrudes several inches into the space where my head had been. They were putting in the pipes for the sprinkler system.
It was exciting teaching in that place - you didn't know what was going to happen.
Although the College is not quite ready, it does not deter students from coming. This is not all that surprising, considering the advantages of the Island's new college. The cost of taking courses at a college is much less than the equivalent courses would be at a university. Students with less than a 60% average are accepted at the college and they don't need all of the credits necessary to go to a university. These are some of the factors that attract so many students in the first year of operation.
Enrolment for the first semester reaches a total of 653 students, which adds up to 253 more than the predicted amount. There are actually 829 students who apply to the college but 176 of them are withdrawn or found to be inadmissable. On August 27th, the total amount of registered students is 623. This means that 206 (25%) of the 829 students apply during the last 3 1/2 weeks.
This surge of applications in the last few weeks is thought to be due to the addition of evening and extension programs. The extension programs are courses that will be held at off-campus locations. Two of the areas that will get these courses are Duncan and Parksville. The night courses that are added are in the areas of humanities and the social sciences. These night classes will make the college more accessible to people in the community who are working during the day.
The students come from quite a wide area. Of the total amount, 387 are from Nanaimo and 208 come from the other communities within the college region. Of the 58 out-of-region students, 46 are from Vancouver Island, 6 are from the BC Mainland, 1 is from New York City, and 5 are from Hong Kong. Diane Enblau remembers some of these students who were in her first sociology classes: "It was absolutely wild; there were loggers coming in, there were fishermen coming in and there were people who just hadn't had any exposure to that sort of cultural environment. They were completely open in the kinds of questions they were asking. Women would be coming in with curlers in their hair, knitting and chatting with each other. It was like the wild west!"
These were exciting times for the new instructors at the college and all of them became completely absorbed in their pioneering efforts. In fact, at the end of the year Diane Einblau did a study showing that the staff members at the college worked an average of seventy hours each week. It seems that the staff are filled with enthusiasm and a sense of building something. Einblau remembers the scene of the College as it was: "We were making the department; we ordered the library and decided what the courses would be, and we weren't under anyone's governance...In the first couple of years we took for granted that if we weren't teaching, then we should be doing something in the community."
The College regards the community with the utmost importance and makes a great effort to make continuous contact with it. Joy Leach, later to be the mayor of Nanaimo, used to work at the College and recalls the importance that the community had right from the beginning:
Malaspina was quite committed to the community and that's what made it a unique institution. In fact, the instructors used to be given credit hours. It was called the C-Factor (Community Factor). They were given about the same as a course load as a C-factor and they used that to engage in community activity. Of course, Carl Opgaard was very committed to this new concept of a community college and having an institution like that act as a catalyst for change within a community. It was very exciting to be associated with it.
Things are particularly exciting in this first year since so many things were being created. Although the college operation was up and running, many other committees, clubs and societies had yet to be organized. Considering the students were so new to this sort of institution, they organized themselves quite quickly. Of course, they did have some help as Dave Harrison recalls:
In the first year of the college you could almost make an innovation a day. There was trust in the air, and a spirit of community in the heart. One day, for instance, I dropped into the president's office and suggested we get a college newspaper going. Marc Martin had just been thinking similarly about a students' association. Opgaard said 'go ahead -- see if you can find some students that are interested.' Within a week we had a dozen students together to talk about both.
They talk about it with the students and both of their ideas quickly come to fruition.
Roy Wright, one of the students that Marc Martin and Dave Harrison talk to, does much of the organizing for the student elections which are eventually held on October 2nd. The elected members for Malaspina's first student council are: Dave Kemp, president; Dave Lawford, vice-president; Kevin Storrie, social representative; Ray Windecker, sports representative; Joan Reite, secretary; and Roy Clark, treasurer. The Student Council's first meeting is held on October 6. They plan a dance for October 18 and a trip to the Donovan (remember him?) concert in Vancouver on November 1.
Also at this meeting, one of the newly formed student societies asks for a grant of $500. The group calls themselves the Malaspina College Navigator Society and is headed by Roy Wright, the student who organized the elections. The "Navigator" is to be the College's first student newspaper. The grant is approved and the first issue of the Navigator comes out on October 16, with Roy Wright as the editor.
The first issue makes quite a favourable impression as is apparent when The Daily Colonist publisher, R. J. Bower, writes and gives the society congratulations for the high quality of their first publication. He also offers them the age-old advice: "when in doubt, leave it out."
It must be remembered that the year is 1969. The legal drinking age is still 21 in B.C. and seat belts aren't manditory yet. A Nanaimo newspaper ad for Harvey Murphey's Men's Wear reads, "Leather shirts, acid pants, and beer hats... What a combination!" The musical, "Hair" is playing in Seattle. In July, the Americans landed on the moon for the first time. Trudeau is the prime minister and W.A.C. Bennett is the premier. Nanaimo is relatively undeveloped and has yet to become amalgamated with the surrounding districts.
In reading a front page article in this first issue of The Navigator, it becomes quite evident that the year is 1969. The article describes a protest which begins at the College on October 8th. It says, "approximately 150 students and staff rallied in the cafeteria to hear Kevin Storrie present an Amchitka press release." They are protesting the American nuclear test at Amchitka Island in the Aleutians. After the speech the group files out of the College towards city hall, some of them chanting "love's gonna live here again" or singing "We Shall Overcome".
The year is also apparent when we look at the album review in the first issue of The Navigator. The reviewer, Rod Horner (of "Horner's Music Corner"), writes, "'Abbey Road', the Beatles new release, has by no means fallen short of their last album. In fact, they continue to outdo themselves." In this year, the Beatles are still together and outdoing themselves.
Some sports clubs also begin in this inaugural year. A basketball team is being managed by Art Sanderson. Malaspina College also has soccer and hockey teams to represent it. A rugby team called the Malaspina Tubmen, is being coached by Ian MacLain. There are many athletic activities in the first year, in part, due to the efforts of Ernie Jerome, the physics instructor with a great fondness for sports. For example, in December The Navigator reports that Ernie Jerome's physics class "clobbers" Ernst Poschenrider's economics class 23-0 in a football match.
At Bob Lane's house, on Wednesday nights, he and Bart Sorensen meet with a drama reading club. The first play they tackle is "The Bald Suprano" a play by Ionesco. The play was indeed produced in the old Room 108 and was reviewed in the Vancouver Sun.
Lane's Imaginative Writing class in Parksville stages four plays written by students in the Parksville-Qualicum area. The Parksville-Qualicum Progress carried a review by Ernie Troubridge: (June 1971)
A full house was treated to an evening of theatre on Friday at the Errington War Memorial Hall. The four plays presented were written as part of Malaspina College's Creative Writing Class in Parksville...and were staged with the help of the Little Mountain Theatre Group. "Act One" written by Lloyd Rollo was a taped reading with visual effects and portrayed a slice of domestic life...
"And Rested the Seventh Day" by Val Urie was a comedy of our times which also high lighted what may well be the root of much of the troubles of our youth today. Fast paced, uproariously funny, and with a message for us all.
"I have heard that story" by George Hutchinson invloved audience participation...A successful attempt at a very difficult form of theatre.
"The Coffee Party" by Nyra Groves was sheer farce and kept the audience laughing from the opening lines to final curtain. ...[In the large cast were Anne Horsfield, Val Urie, Harriet Morfey, Marj Leffler, Dorothy Simmons, Rita Caley, Gretta haworth, Terry Balla, Pat Smith, Gay Cafferata, Mike Davenport, Terry Machan, Bart Sorensen and Mike Matthews. Bart Sorensen directed the play.]
The overall impression was one of amazement that in members of our community whom we see daily there lies so much latent talent which can be brought to the light of day by some competent instruction.
Other events of the time gleaned from various newspaper files give a flavour to those early days of the college and remind us that some flavours are constant:
- Kevin Storrie, Social Convenor of Student Council, resigns because of lack of student support. Sharyn Pilotte, in charge of student employment also resigned, saying that the Student Council is a farce. Norm Webb, in charge of the constitution committee, resigned because he was the only one on the committee.
- a contest for a Malaspina College Logo is announced. The logo must have the letters MC or MRC in it. Entries submitted to Gael Tower; winner to get $15, 2nd place gets $10, and 3rd place gets $5.
- study skills center, headed by Dave Harrison and Neil Swart, opens on January 19,1970.
- committee to choose winning logo for College is comprised of Hal Brown, Gael Tower, and Dave Kemp.
- councellors from secondary schools all over the Island come to Malaspina College to learn what a college was and what it had to offer for high school students. Many Malaspina instructors or coordinators speak. The meeting is called "Dialogue '70'". It is planned that Malaspina Faculty will make visits to the secondary schools in the future.
- from interview with Doug Bridges "I remember some of the old bus rides that we took out to some of the surrounding communities. The idea was to get to know the communities we were serving. We would do some slide shows and that sort of thing. I remember how dusty all of the equipment would get."
Moving Right Along
The atmosphere at the new college was electric and there was little division between administration, faculty, staff, and students. Everyone knew everyone in those ealry days and a real sense of colleagiality pervaded the coffee room and moved out over the campus. Ideas, policies, procedures, ways of teaching - all of these topics could be heard discussed in the lounge which was right across the hall form the president's office. The cooperative spirit manifested itself in many ways. Diane Einblau, for example, remembers, "The access to other departments was great. I took a ceramics course, which I wouldn't have done in a city environment, because I would have had to take time to get to and from the course. There was also tremendous contact between the disciplines because there was one sociologist and one historian; there were very few people in each discipline. Virtually every day was professional development."
Teaching that ceramics course was John Charnetski, who in an interview recalled:
I could start this interview with my interview for the job. That was hilarious. When I was asked to come for an interview, I came up and Carl Opgaard and Gael Tower met me at the old Hospital. An interview should be about an hour long, but they talked to me for four hours. I kept saying, 'I'd like to see the space,' or 'what's the budget like?' I was supposed to set up a three-dimensional program. They kept evading the question and then I remember Carl finally saying, 'Gael, I think I've said everything, so you can show him the space.' So he took me down to the basement and opened the door and here was this grungy old furnace of to one side of the room and it was piled high with furniture. He said, 'this is the studio.' It was in the bowels of the building and at one time, when the place was a hospital, it had been a morgue. So we finally got it all cleaned out. We had an incredible budget of $800 to set up a sculpture and ceramics department, so that was interesting. It was totally inadequite, but that's what we had.
It was really interesting in that building...Every time I lectured (and we were teaching a lot of night classes at that time), for some reason, that furnace would let out this awful sigh. So immediately I would tell them a story that this was the morgue and it was obviously haunted. This scared the hell out of some people.
The nice thing about the old place is that it was small and we had one staff room. Across the hall was the president's office and there was very little in the way of administrative staff. There was real excitment because we were just building the College. Because the hallways were small, everybody was always bumping into each other.
Crowding at the Old Campus
Doug Bridges, the first librarian at the college, remembers, "I guess one of the high points was coming up to the new campus. It was nice to see everything come together. Down at the old Hospital, things were getting a little cramped. My office was starting to get crowded. I remember in the back of my old office there were these two big marble urinals. They were beautiful old things. At the old hospital, the elevator didn't work. We had some wheel-chair patients, so often they had to be carried up four flights of stairs." The library had grown quickly and the books, periodicals and other materials were a part of an expanding inventory which had to be housed in a small area. Trying to fit everything into the small space available took all the design skills of Gwen Bailey (then Gwen Harding), and by the time of the move there really wasn't room anymore for all the holdings.
There are other indications of crowding in the larger neighborhood as indicated by complaints from residents in the college area that students are parking in their driveways; it is suggested that students might park elsewhere and be bused to the college. An article published in the Nanaimo Daily Free Press, Sept. 8, 1984, says, "Life was often inconvenient at Kennedy Street. Staff were compelled to put up with poor illumination and, because of limited space, to hold exams in the hallways and to use elevators for storage." Crowding had become a problem for everyone at the temporary college. Finally on October 9, 1974 two mobile units (portables) are placed on the front lawn of Kennedy St. Campus; there is a serious shortage of classroom space, and faculty are two and three in an office.
Housing Problems in Nanaimo
The college population is steadily rising: 1969 -- 638; 1970-- 1,168; 1971 --1,294; 1972 --1,478; 1973 --1,618; and 1974 -- 1,934; a study done by B. King's student government finds that one student is living in his van in a parking lot and others live in older houses in the Kennedy Street area to keep transportation costs down. Discussions are held to address housing concerns for the new site. At the new campus, transportation may be a problem for some students; some suggestions are made to anticipate future housing problems: the old college could be turned into student housing or local motel could rent out to students during the off-season; Dr. Bob Young, Dean of Student Services, says, "I don't think Harewood district is equipped to handle the flood of students when the new campus is opened."
On October 30, 1974, a meeting is held with the community to consider the housing problem. A report from the Nanaimo Daily Free Press (June 17, 1975) quotes Dr. Opgaard predicting a definite problem of housing shortage when the College moves up to the new campus. "After over 1000 students passed through the one-day registration last year, an appeal was made to the community to rent out their houses and spare rooms; it is suspected that some landlords are reluctant to rent to students because of their short term occupancy."
A report in the Nanaimo Daily Free Press on August 25, 1975 has Dr. Bob Young, Dean of Student Services, saying that the housing situation is worse than last year; and he makes another appeal to Nanaimo residents to make available housing in any shape or form.
Malaspina College is bursting at the seams.
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