I went up to the University of Alberta in September, 1927. I was installed in Room 13, Assiniboia Hall, sharing an "alley" with two old friends, Art Paul and Gerry Burke. Board and room was $37.00 per month.
For about ten days, all else was overshadowed by initiation. It was fiendish!
Initiation to the University of Alberta is now only of historical interest since it has been banned since the thirties. It had led to permanent injuries, both physical and mental — and to at least one death.
I will describe some of the ordeals, which were either administered to me as a Freshman or by me as a Sophomore. First there was the hazing, imposing of tasks and rituals, not frightening but disagreeable and ignominious. As Frosh 280 I warmed "the bog" (toilet seat) for many a Soph, and for having my skull cap aslant or my bib askew I took cold showers by the dozen. Our regalia was, of course, in green and gold.
Perhaps the most successful ordeal year after year, was the life-net jump. As a preliminary, each Frosh jumped from the gallery of the Upper Gym in Athabasca Hall, a descent of some eight feet. The Frosh was then blindfolded and taken to the "roof." You went upstairs, you felt the parapet, and the cool night air. There were shouts from your escorts to those fifty feet below.
"Hey, you fellows quit fooling with that net. You've got to be serious or there will be another injury — even a fatality!"
And to you, the victim.
"Now, Frosh, up on the parapet and be ready for my signal. Jump way out, clear of the building (Hey, you silly asses, get that net off the ground. Do you want to kill the guy!). Ready, Frosh, Jump!"
You jumped, way out, to sprawl flat on the floor. The blindfold was removed and you saw yourself in the big open doorway and, behind you, a foot-high row of building blocks.
Then there was the Aggies' favorite — the stunt of the starving chickens! It was night-time in the Upper Gym, long past feeding time for dozens of caged cockerels, and bared-belly time for blindfolded Frosh. Each victim in turn was held down by Sophs, his lower midriff exposed and well-plastered with bran mash and sprinkled with wheat seed. Then a famished chicken was loosed upon him. Peck, peck; scratch, scratch; cackle, cackle. And the screams and curses of Frosh! Until the bird, sated, desisted.
Initiation ran a two-week course; but trickery and horsing had no limits, neither in time nor, indeed, in ingenuity. Female impersonators in Athabasca. Hangings from the High Level Bridge. A mortal struggle in the turrets of St. Steve's and the vanquished (actually a substituted dummy) heaved over the breastwork to the stones below. A headline in the dailies: Police Find Human Hand ... (supplied by Med students) Search for Dismembered Body.
And VD tests in St. Joe's! Belated but "Official" requirement for all Frosh. "Medical" man in lab coat and stethoscope. Urine sample in beaker (negative VD, no reaction; positive VD, violent effervescent). Most beakers prepared with a measure of common salt, but special ones with Eno's Fruit Salts. Great consternation of victim and professions of a clean and blameless life! And great fun!
Dr. L.P.U. Johnson, 31
Published August 1980.