University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Tales of Residence Life

Readers share their most memorable stories

Tight Quarters
Living in residence in the 1970s was a fairly economical way to attend university, but not quite inexpensive enough for my friend Helen, who strove to reduce her expenditures to the barest minimum. Rather than live in a U of T residence, Helen rented a walk-in closet in an old house near Innis College for $26 a month. The room had a small desk and a bed built on top of a chest of drawers; she hung her clothes from a rod above the bed. A small window offered some light. The lesson in tight budgeting seems to have been a useful complement to Helen’s U of T degree, as she has become quite a successful businesswoman. She now lives in a house with no fewer than four walk-in closets – none of which are occupied. Nonetheless, she assures me that her children will live in residence one day.

Allan Wax
BSc 1976 Innis
Los Angeles

I attended St. Michael’s College in the early 1970s and lived at Loretto College Women’s Residence. In the basement was a seldom-used lounge with a TV, a few tables and chairs, and some sofas. The summer before, long sofas had been replaced by short ones to discourage the activity that had given the room the nickname “The Passion Pit.” (The change seemed only to make the couples using it more inventive and flexible.) At 11 p.m., the seminarian who guarded the residence’s entryway made sure the “pit” was empty and locked the door. One night my boyfriend and I had been watching TV there. We both fell asleep – and continued sleeping as the seminarian looked cursorily into the room and shut us in. As far as I know, I am the only woman ever to have been locked in the Passion Pit overnight with my boyfriend in a women’s residence run by Catholic nuns.

Sheilah O’Connor
BA 1976 St. Michael’s

Rite of Passage

In the early 1970s, my roommate and I chose to live in a lovely second-floor room in the old ivy-covered Christie mansion that was part of St. Joseph’s College. The room looked out over Queen’s Park, and its two windows opened onto the flat roof of the carport, which made for great, if clandestine, sunbathing. (The nuns would not have approved!) We knew the room had been an old bathroom. The mattress of my bed rested on a loose piece of plywood covering the old bathtub. When too many of us perched on the edge of the bed, we tumbled onto the floor with mattress, bedding and plywood flipping over onto us. What we didn’t know until a few weeks into the year was that our closet had a door that led to the next room. Few residents knew this. Even the don didn’t know, which would be lucky for us. We were doing some serious studying one autumn night when we heard noises outside our window. Opening the drapes, we beheld a young male figure climbing up the ivy vines onto the carport roof. He made his way to the window, held up a bottle of wine and whispered urgently, “Let me in!” Happy to have a nocturnal visitor (since male visitors weren’t permitted in girls’ rooms in the evenings), we got to feeling very pleasant after a couple of glasses of wine. We must have also gotten rather loud. There was a sudden knock at the door and the don’s voice said, “Open up, I know you have a man in there!” We quickly shoved our visitor into the closet and through to surprised friends in the next room. All innocence, we opened our door to the don, who grew increasingly perturbed as she inspected the room and found no man – not even in the closet!

Mary Betz
BSc 1974 St. Michael’s
Auckland, New Zealand

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