Alf Hales, and OAC ’34 graduate, grew up in Guelph across the street from what is now the Macdonald Stewart Art Gallery. He was on the Intermediate Intercollegiate football team that won the championship in 1932 and 1933, and later played for the Toronto Argonauts for two years. He received the Danforth Scholarship awarded each year to students from 40 agricultural universities in the US and one in Canada. In 1933, he was a member of the OAC Meat Judging team that won the judging competition in Chicago. Alf was the top individual judge in that competition. This led to an offer from Swift Canadian where he worked for three years before returning to Guelph to join the family meat business that had been established by his grandfather in 1887 and continued until 1965. In 1957 Alf won the Wellington South seat in the federal parliament and held the seat until his retirement in 1974, winning six elections. He served for a period as Chair of the Public Accounts committee. During his tenure, he established the Parliamentary Internship program. An award for the best intern each year has been established in his name.
AudioAlf Hales interview
ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
ALFRED DRYDEN HALES, OAC ‘34
By: N.R. Richards
April 4, 1990
R This is an interview with Alf Hales, year ‘34 OAC, conducted by Rick Richards on April the 4th, 1990 for the University of Guelph Alumni-in-Action group and the Alumni Association.
Alf, it’s pleasant to chat with you, one of O.A.C.’ s very distinguished graduates and record some of your memories and impressions of the College on the Hill and the University of Guelph. I wonder if we could start: when did you first have an association with the OAC?
H Well, Rick, that goes back a long time. My uncle, John Playford Hales, was a graduate of the OAC in 1914. His sister, Mrs. Kate Hales McKay, graduated from Mac Hall. My sister Marg graduated from Mac Hall and my sister Eleanor took a course there. And, my father in the early days, Ernest Day Hales by name, took part in the short courses that they had at the college in the days of Professor Toole head of the animal husbandry department. And he used to have my father take part in the judging competition where they would judge four, five steers in the judging pavilion on the hoof. Then they would be slaughtered and the carcasses would be judged. And then, my father would cut up the carcasses into their various wholesale cuts and I used to go along as a young fellow to watch and to listen on this short course program that my father was involved in. So, my interest in the college, as I said, goes back a long ways. It really culminated into a definite move when, in the summer of 1929, my father came to me and he said, “Your mother and I are going out west for three months and you will be left in charge of the business and your sister Margaret (who became Mrs.Starkey) will look after the house”. At the end of the second month, a month before my father returned, I had gone up to the college and enrolled in the diploma course. The reason being, that everything went wrong with the business while my father was away. [Laughs]. His prize Angus Hereford calf fell in the water trough and was drowned. One of our head men quit because I had found a quarter of beef that had been pushed to the back of the cooler and had missed its turn for being cut and a few whiskers had appeared on it. And I was upset and I blamed the man for it. I guess I wasn’t too diplomatic in the way I spoke to him but he put on his coat and walked out. And, oh, other things went haywire and I just made up my mind that I was too young to get involved in business so I went up to the college and enrolled, as I say, in the diploma course a month before my father returned. And, when he returned I said, “In the fall, I’m going to OAC”. ‘
R What an interesting background and so much to chat about in the comments you made. But your reference to your Uncle Playford. And that name is continued in the Shelter at the Arboretum.
H Yes, the Hale-McKay memorial is in the Shelter at the Arboretum. That came about on the death of my Aunt Kate, Mrs. McKay, when she left considerable money in her will to be spent as a memorial to her brother Playford who was killed in the first world war as a Captain of the Royal Air Force. We visited Professor Jorgenson or Dr. Jorgenson, head of the Arboretum at that time. When I say we, it was John Playford Walker, retired professor of Poultry Husbandry from OAC, and we had the idea of having a special walk up the Arboretum and Dr. Jorgenson said, “Well, now how would you like to put that money towards a shelter that we propose to build?” And we, of course, were most interested and happy to do that. And, it has a nice plaque in there in memory of Captain John Playford Hales and also the two wooden plaques on either end that call it the Hales-McKay Memorial.
R And it blends in so nicely with the architecture of the Arboretum. In a physical way, you lived very close, were raised very close to the campus, weren’t you?
H [Laughs]. Oh yes. Indeed, I was born in the house directly across from the Macdonald-Stuart Gallery now. It was, in those days, the Macdonald Consolidated School. I could hear the principal, when the principal rang the bell, I could run from our home across the street and still not be late for school. And, then when it came time to go to high school, we were very hard done by. We had to walk about a mile and a half to John F. Ross Collegiate. But, then when I decided to go to OAC, I just walked across the campus and was at my classes at OAC. But, even though I lived so close to the college, I spent two years in residence for the simple reason that I wanted the experience of residence life. And, when I talked to my family about it, and when I was telling my dad I could stay there for $6.00 a week for room and board, he said, “You’d better go! That’s cheaper than I can feed you at home”. [Laughs].
R [Laughs]. You made reference to the consolidated school. Macdonald Consolidated was one of the earliest consolidated schools in the province, was it not?
H Yes. I think it might have been the first and the money came from Macdonald, the great tobacco king, who also gave them money to Macdonald Institute. Same source of funds. And they brought the students in by carry-all. Teams of horses. And the old van shed used to be on College Avenue right across from Mem Hall and that’s where they put the vans and tied the horses up and fed them while the kids were at school. And, I guess the drivers played euchre in the shed while school was on. But, I had a long chat with Albert McWilliams about that. And I have it on tape - which I’d be glad to give to anybody - about the experiences of going to school in a carry-all in the summer and a sleigh in the winter.
R And the Macdonald Consolidated School is now the Macdonald-Stuart Art Centre.
H That’s right. I was so happy to see the building preserved and converted into what a wonderful art centre it is.
R So you arrived on campus in the fall of ‘29?
R Would you give us some idea about your early impressions there? - the courses you took and the professors with whom you associated?
H Well, my first recollections were the silly little hat they made us wear as freshmen. Red and blue skull cap as it were and a green tie that had frosh written on it. And we had to wear that for I think, about two months or more. And felt pretty silly going downtown with that on but that was part of the initiation. And . . . oh, my impressions of meeting students from all over the province and some from other parts of the world. I well recall meeting Turkey Williams. His right name was Ed Williams. And Scotty Monroe. Both from ... one from Scotland and one from Wales. Who were, I would say, at least ten years older than the rest of us and we admired those two fellows for having the inclination and determination to get an education at that age. And, as you know, the Williams’ Scholarships that are given to students today are the ones that are from the interest of, I think it’s almost two million dollars that . . . I call him Turkey Williams. I don’t know how he got the name Turkey, I’m sure. He had reddish hair. I remember that, but I don’t know how we nicknamed him that. And, of course, Scotty Monroe, coming from Scotland, that was natural for him to be Scotty - called Scotty. But, Williams did very well. He graduated in Dairy Science. Went to Ceylon-now Sri Lanka- and introduced ice cream to that country - something brand new - and then he got into land development and became a very wealthy man.
R Very interesting. And, you majored in Animal Science?
H Before we go on to that, maybe something should be said about initiation in those days. They don’t have initiation today but I well remember our initiation and I also remember the ones we gave to the - when we were second year, we gave to the freshman year when they came in. The flag pole fight was really something. It was an OAC flag up on top of a greasy pole and the freshman had to defend the flag pole and the second year rushed in and tried to get the flag down. And we were supposed to protect it. And, oh, they used to use all kinds of tricks. I remember they got hold of one of the college trucks and loaded in a bunch of freshman and took them away out into the country far enough they couldn’t walk back in time to be in the flag pole fight. [Laughs]. And the only way you could get out of it was to have a doctor’s certificate and not take part in initiation - all phases of it. And, if you didn’t take part in it you had to go, had to do some other things. And I remember Joe, oh that married Dr. Christie’s daughter, Joe . . . I’ll think of his name in a minute. But anyways, he got a certificate to get out of initiation so they made him give a speech. And I remember the title he had to speak on was, “Why I prefer blondes”. And his opening sentence was, “Where there is light, there is heat” [Laughs]. Oh yes, I remember. Joe Hern was his name and he married Dr. Christie’s daughter.
R That gets us into an interesting area. Dr. Christie was the President of OAC whilst you were a student?
H: Yes, he was and what a dynamic president he was. I think he was hired to promote OAC and put it on the map. And he went across this province from one end to the other selling the OAC. What dynamic speeches he made hither and yon. He only made one that got him into trouble. I well remember that. It was so much trouble, that he was deciding whether or not he should resign. And the speech was something to the effect, he was talking to a group of farmers someplace, and he told them it was time that they should get off the cracker barrel. And, in those days, the cracker barrel
sat in the back of the store and the farmers all gathered in the country store and talked and so on. He said it was about time they got off the cracker barrel and did something. The press reported it in a poor light and it was headlines in all the press. And poor Dr. Christie. I remember him coming down to see my father They were very good friends. And he said, “Ernie, I think I should retire. Resign”. And Dad said, “By no means. Don’t you resign.”
R You referred to him as a dynamic leader. A good choice of words. And, his influence went off the campus as well. He was a member of Chalmers Church, was he not?
H Yes, and a regular attender of Chalmers Church as were many of the professors at the University. I can think of Professor Blackwood and Harcourt and down the line. All those fellows, wives, men and wives and their families came to Chalmers Church.
R Should that influence the students, following their example, for worship on Sunday?
H Oh, great example and it’s something we lack today in all people who are Heads of State and leaders of our country should be seen walking into the door of the church.
R So now, the impressions you recall of some of the professors that you had in the classroom.
H Yes, we come to the ... one thing I want to put on tape re-initiation. When we were initiating the frosh, we thought we should brand them. So we blindfolded them. And we got, first of all, we said they had to take this cod liver oil that would give them strength to go through this initiation. So, we took a bunch of grapes and squeezed the inner part of the grape out, soaked it in cod liver oil, and then fed these to them. And this was the cod liver oil they had to swallow. And then we branded them. And we took a small, pony horseshoe on a long stick and we put it in ice water. Had it just as cold as we could get it. And then we put it on their bare back. And, of course, when something is as cold as that, you couldn’t tell if it was heat or not. And beside it, we had a little barbecue there frying steak on it so the smoke from the steak would [Laughs] really make it sound as though they were branded.
R [Laughs] Did any of them pass out?
H No [Laughs], they didn’t, but I’ve been reminded throughout my lifetime about that occasion. They said, [Laughs] “You are the so-and-so that branded me when I went to OAC”. So you were asking me about the professors. We had some wonderful professors - men who were very practical and yet had good academic backgrounds. I think of Professor Blackwood. How he got up at the front of the classroom there and he’d write something on the blackboard and we’d be about to write it down and then he’d just turn around and he’d say, “Now rub that off. Rub it out. That’s all wrong. Now this is what it should be”. And we paid attention to it. And I remember the time he was giving us the lesson on “c” is equal to “v” over “r” in electricity And he said , “Now, I live on College Avenue and down at the end of College Avenue is a dear old lady - Mrs. Krause. And she came to my door one night, she knocked, one night, knocked on the door and said, “Professor Blackwood, I’m having trouble with my electric lights blowing out. I have to replace one after the other and I was wondering what’s the cause of it”. So, I just said to Mrs. Krause, “Mrs. Krause, it’s
the same today, tomorrow and forever – ‘c’ is equal to ‘v’ over ‘r’.” [Laughs]. And I think of Reg Osborne in Entomology. Wrote with both hands on the blackboard. Spoke so fast. And yet you were expected to keep up with him. But he covered a lot of material. I think of Professor Howitt. We had a special name for him. We called him Gander Howitt. He was one of the best professors that I ever had at OAC. He had the happy faculty of putting across the material in layman’s language and in language you could absorb and understand. But, above all, he started off every lecture by a word that I’ll never forget as long as I live. He would start off and he’d say, “Now let us recapitulate”. [Laughs] And go back over the lesson, the lecture of the previous day and then proceed with the new one. And I think of Dr. O.J. Stephenson. A prince of a person A man who tried and did his best to teach us the finer things of life. And we did learn a lot about the finer things of life. Art and music and philharmonics and debating and so on. Head of the English Department. The man who synopsized Shakespeare books in the little paper backs that were used in all high schools. A wonderful fellow. I think Dr. O.J. Stephenson did more to bring the atmosphere of the OAC out of a farm college into a university atmosphere with his Department of English.
R And, did the girls in MacDonald Institute. They had 0 J Stephenson as well. But, you had an interest in MacDonald Institute, didn’t you? [Laughs]
H Oh, I had a very deep interest in Mac Hall. Such a deep interest that I have lived with her for 54 years. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, after dinner in the Creelman Hall, we’d go over to Mac Hall and we’d have what we called the ‘Half Hour Hop’ And the boys all lined up around the outside and the girls were sitting on the steps up to the next floor in groups and you would go and ask a girl for a dance - and in those days, we had what they called the ‘Tag Dance’. And you could go out on the floor and tap a partner on the shoulder and he had to give up his girl for the dance. So, I’m standing there and this nice looking girl went by. I could tell you to this day what she wore and how nice she looked. And I said to the fellow standing beside me, “Who is that girl?” I pointed to her. And he said, “Oh, that’s Cliff Graham’s sister, Mary Graham”. “Well”, I said, “I know Cliff”. So, out I go and I tap, tag the fellow and introduce myself to Mary Graham and we chatted and danced and that romance developed to the point where I married her in 1936.
R 1936. And, you’ve made reference to Cliff - Cliff Graham - one of the Deputy Ministers of Agriculture, whose name is enshrined in agriculture in Ontario. And, Frank is Mary’s brother, as well.
H Yes, Frank is Mary’s brother. As a matter of fact, there’s only two of that family living - Mary and Frank. And I’m happy to say we’re both living in the same condominium right at this moment. And Mary has a chance to see her brother quite often. And, it’s nice for her. As I say to her, “You put up with the Hales connection”, which is a big connection, “for 54 years, and now it’s time you had a chance to put some more time with the Grahams”.
R Very nice. Before we leave this, your early association with the campus: your extra-curricular activities. I know you were associated with football, were you not?
H Yes, we had a great football team in those days. As a matter of fact, it was coached by Baldy Baldwin. And Carl Voss to start with and then Baldy Baldwin came. And Baldy took us through to win the first intermediate intercollegiate title that the college had ever won and we won it two years in a row. A great team, called the Redmen in those days, and I remember Baldy, having come from St.Thomas, wanted us to go down to St. Thomas and play in the ORFU league. In those days, St. Thomas had a team. And, he took us down to ... with great pride in his OAC team but we were a pretty sad, battered up group when we came back to Guelph. There were broken arms and broken noses and everything. It wasn’t our league I can tell you. And Dr. Christie later put his foot down on that and he said, “That’s the last you fellows are going to play outside of your category”.
R Other names associated with that team?
H Oh, yes, there was Mike Chepesiuk. There was Bobby Keith. There was Bill Mitchell. There was Tuffy FitzGibbon. There was Bruno Pollock. And Jigger Brown. Ed Graesser. Oh, that’s some of the people.
R And you were known as the Redmen?
R When we became the University, the football team became Gryphons.
H That’s right.
R How do you react to Redmen vs Gryphons vs Aggies?
H Well, when it became university status, both of those would be out-of-date, I guess. Redmen wouldn’t just fit in and Aggies, of course, when it became a university with all faculties, they had trouble about that. So they came up with the name Gryphons, I guess. The middle of the road course.
R In your extra-curricular activities, I have heard you made reference to the Danforth scholarship. You were a recipient of that?
H Before we leave football, I am very happy to say that, when I went to Toronto with my first job, I had a call one day from the Argos and they asked me to turn out for Argos. And I played two years with Argos with two good reasons. Three good reasons. First, I love the game. Secondly, I wanted to meet more people in Toronto. And thirdly, most important of all, was that I wanted to get a free trip to see my girl in Ottawa. [Laughs]. And I didn’t have the price of a railway ticket. So, when we played in Montreal, I’d go up and to Montreal and Ottawa for the weekend. In those days Ottawa had a team. And we’d play the Ottawa Senators. I think they were called the Senators. And, then I’d see Mary again and it made cheap transportation to Ottawa.
R Who coached the Argos in those days?
H Lew Hayman was one. And then, gee, I forget. I didn’t get paid for it. The only thing I got was a free meal every night after the game [Laughs] in a dive kitchen on Brewers Street there, across from the stadium. But, I think maybe the one import that we had from the states, Teddy Morris, I think maybe he was paid.
R Interesting experience.
H Oh, it was tremendous experience and I had some great, great trips with the Argos - and met a lot of fine fellows. I met George Hees as a matter of fact. First time I met George Hees was on the football field. He was playing centre. Or, snap as we called it then. And Mike Chepesiuk played for Argos too for a while. I think maybe Mike and I were the only ones from OAC who played for Argos up until maybe the last few years .
R And, then your other extra-curricular activities?
H Well, too numerous to mention. But, I guess the one that was the highlight of my life was when I ran for Member of Parliament in 1953. The first time.
R Before we come to your political career, which is very commendable, I would like to have your comments about the Danforth Scholarship.
H Oh yes, yes. Excuse me - I forgot about that. That was one of the highlights of my life. Winning the Danforth Scholarship. William H. Danforth gave this scholarship to about 40 agricultural colleges in the U.S. and one from Canada. And I was about the third one from OAC to win this scholarship. It took, it was for one month - all expenses paid - took you to St. Louis. One week in St. Louis City. We stayed at the YMCA. We were at the Purina plant and all the livestock and grain exchange, whatever, in the city. Then, the next week we went up to Gray Summit which was their experimental farm. And it was on a par with any university experimental farm in those days. A wonderful set-up. Then the last two weeks, we spent at the American Youth Foundation Camp in Shelby, Michigan. And, I must put on tape: one of the requirements of winning this scholarship was that you had to write a one page essay expressing your thoughts, on that verse in the bible, Luke two verse 52 - that says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man”. That is the basis on which William H. Danforth laid out his own personal square which became the symbol, and still is the symbol, of all Purina feed mills and advertising. And that represents physical mental, social and religious. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature in favour with God and man. And that’s rather interesting. And William H. Danforth wrote a book, “I Dare You” – a wonderful book - that all young people should read when they’re starting off in life. I’ve given hundreds of those books to young people as a prize for this or that - or just given it to them to read. And William H. Danforth became an idol of my life. Having won the Fellowship, he made all winners promise to write him one letter a year for the next ten years which I faithfully did. And, when Mr. Danforth came to Guelph, one time after I had won the fellowship - a few years later - well, several years later because Dave and Donald, which are now about 42 years of age, they were about one year of age and I took him down to our house and he . . . and I got a picture with William H. Danforth with our twin boys, Dave and Don, one on each arm. And the picture turned out so well, that he published it in his Monday morning message that he put out every Monday morning that went out to all his plants around the world. So, we were quite thrilled about that.
R Now, you were from OAC and the OAC campus. You would be representing Canada, or were there other delegations?
H No, I was the only one from Canada to the point they nicknamed me ‘King’. I was called King all the time. And, I was just mentioning this the other day. We were talking to an American and about their problem and the problem all countries have The Americans have the black and white problem. And, I said you made a wonderful advancement since the year of 1933 when I was in St Louis and I got on the bus and I sat down beside a coloured person . . .And one of the members of the Danforth Fellowship that were on the bus with me, came up to me and he says, “King, we don’t ride with them here” and, he had me get up and go and sit with him, or with the others at the back of the bus. So, they’ve come a long ways in overcoming that ...
R This putting the name King on you. Was it after King George or McKenzie King?
H I would say King George. [Laughs].
R Being a good Conservative, I can understand that. Well, it must have been a very rich experience.
H It was indeed.
R And, then you, after you completed your work on campus, you’ve made reference to your association with the Toronto Argonauts. But you were, business-wise, with Canada Packers was it?
H No, Swift Canadian. We graduated in what you would call the Dirty Thirties - Depression Years. We were turned out into the field of tough times. 1934. We weren’t out of the Depression but we were getting out of it. And, I think about three in our year got a job. Bill Archibald got a job with Maple Leaf Milling I got a job with Swift Canadian. I forget who the other one was. But, the reason I got the job with Swift Canadian was that, in 1933, OAC sent a meat judging team to Chicago International under the guidance and training of Mike Stillwell. Professor Mike Stillwell - and, on that team was Charlie Brodie, Charlie Heath, Joe Saunders, and myself. Joe Saunders was the spare. And the three of us judged in the Wilson Abbatoir in Chicago and, lo and behold, our team came high. We beat all the American Ag schools and I happened to be high man of the whole thing. And, I have a nice plaque and all that goes with it for having won the North American Meat Judging Contest. So, when Swifts of Chicago saw my name in the press, they notified Toronto and said you better-interview this fellow Hales Then the manager of Swift Canadian called me in and offered me a job at the high sum of $18.00 per week. But, I was tickled to death.
R And when did you return to Guelph to become associated with the family business?
H Well, I was there about three years. And I enjoyed the work but I just figured that I didn’t want to live in Toronto. I’d been brought up on College Heights in those wide-open spaces of the campus and everything. And, I just couldn’t see being married and settled down in Toronto. So I asked father if I could come back and go into the family business and he was happy to have me join the family. I worked for him on a salary basis for about 10 years and I finally reached a point in my life when we locked, came out of the store one Wednesday - one Wednesday noon - we had Wednesday half holidays. Dad locked the door and I just said to him, “Do you want to sell this business? If you do, I want to buy it. If you don’t, I’m going to do
something else. And, my dad says, “Those are pretty strong words” “Well” I said, “I mean it”. “Well”, he said, “We’ll meet here a week this afternoon and we’ll discuss it”. And, I bought the business from my father. And, I carried it on until 1965, I guess it was. My grandfather had started it in 1887, and it went through until 1965.
R So, you . . . you were in business life in Guelph and then another new career came along in the political arena.
H Yes, a very surprising phone call one day from Dick Hungerford, who was secretary of the local Conservative Association, asking me if they could come and see me. I said, “Why, certainly”. And he said, well, he’d have two other men with him. One was Colin Blythe, a purebred, short-horn breeder. Farmer. North of Guelph in Marden. The other was Mr. Fred Fruddeman an industrialist that ran the Sterling Rubber Company. And, I often thought, what a well-balanced committee to have. A farmer, a manufacturer and a lawyer. And they came, and the first thing I knew they were asking me if I would let my name stand for nomination for the Conservative Party in the forthcoming election. Well, it was a great surprise to me. I had no notion of considering such a thing. But I said I took it as a great honour and I would give them an answer in 48 hours. So, of course, I talked to Mary first. Our children were quite young at the time and I ... there wasn’t a snowballs chance that I could win. But I was interested in politics and I said to Mary, “I’d like to run but I won’t be elected. I’m sure of that. But I’ll give it all I got”. Because the Liberals had been in power here about 18 years and the city man – member, Henry Hosking - had been 8 years a member. So, anyways Mary said, “Go ahead, if you want to do it”. And I went to see my father and mother - and mother says, “Why, certainly you should” And my father says , “Keep out of politics. Politics is rotten [Laughs] So there I was, left in the middle. And I picked out several other people to ask them what I should do and to make a long story short, the one in the group I talked to was G.I. Christie. Dr. G.I. Christie. And he said, “Yes. By all means, I think you should do that”. And I think he had more to do with swaying me, to let my name stand. First election,’53. Lost it by 750 votes. And Henry Hosking was returned. And, I remember saying to Mary, “Well that’s it. I’ve had a feeling and I know what it’s all about. At least I know some more about it than I did. But if they should, bv chance, pick that John Diefenbaker for leader, I might consider running again”. As time went on, Dief was chosen leader of the party and, in 1957, I ran and was elected and remained a member for Wellington South ‘til 1974 - a period of 17 ½ years.
R And won each election after the first one - and retired of your own choice.
H Yes. Won every one. And that we had several, I think it was six in that time, because we had several minority governments. But an interesting thing comes up here, and I won’t go into too much detail, but it was only the second time since Confederation, that, in 1957, a candidate passed away. Henry Hosking died on June the 3rd and the election was June the 10th. One week before elections. So, we had what they call a deferred election The second time since Confederation. And, what they do in that case, they have a deferred election. And, July the 15th, we had another election in which I ran against David Tolton. And I won that. And then, Dief wanted a majority government and he called another one in January for March. So, Mary and I went
through three campaigns and two elections in the space of 12 months. I think if Mary had ever known that she’d have said, “Keep out of it”. And I think maybe I would have agreed with her.
R And your tenure in office was when Diefenbaker was the Prime Minister each time you were re-elected?
H Yes. Yes.
R Or, the leader of the Party?
H That’s right. And Bob Stanfield took ... oh, no ... I ran under Bob Stanfield once. Yep.
R Good. And, to some, the name Hales and Bonaventure [Laughs] are synonymous,
H [Laughs]. Yes, I was at a banquet not too long ago and they were introducing the head table and the chap introduced me as Mr. Bonaventure. Yes, that came about because, in my political days I was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee which is a committee resurrected by John Diefenbaker in 1957 after the British system where the Chairman of that committee is a member of the Opposition. And, an excellent idea where the Opposition provides the Chairman and he can open up the books on any subject he likes. So, it was a good idea. A British system. And Dief adopted it again. And, it worked very well. And I was Chairman of it for six years and during our time we were asked to look into the cost of the refit of the aircraft carrier Bonaventure. And, that is a story in itself. It would take a whole tape to describe that one. But simply to say that in order to write a good report, you must have the true facts. And, in order to get the true facts we went to Halifax. We went aboard the Bonaventure. We were organized when we went aboard - three that looked into the furniture refit - three looked into the refrigeration - three looked into another part and so on. And when we were planning this trip to Halifax, as Chairman of the committee, I must make sure that we didn’t spend a surplus of money. As Chairman of Public Accounts, I had to watch the pennies. So, I said to the fellows, “OK, we’ll go providing the Air Force carrier flies us down - we stay in the Officer’s Mess - and third, we only go for two days. And one of the members said, Mr. Chairman, do you want us to take our lunch too?” . So, we went to Halifax and it was a trip well worth while.
R. But, this exercise did give new significance to the stature of the committee that you represented.
H Oh, yes. Yes. We got a terrific amount of press. The press were clamouring to get into our meetings all the time. You know when they’re talking about televising the House of Commons. Only two of us had a chance to speak on that in our party and I happened to be one of them. And, I recommended at that time, let’s start by televising the committee meetings. That’s where the real down-to-earth talk goes on. And, it would have been much better to do that. And we could have televised those Public Accounts meetings. And what it would do, it would make the civil service, the bureaucrats, more responsible knowing that ‘if I don’t do what’s right or do this properly, I’m going to be up before that and I’m going to be on TV.
R You represented the riding so well. And you and Mary were so affectionately known, this is really very much related to the service that you gave to all people in the riding.
H Yes, I think that’s right. Especially Mary. Mary was a great mixer and just . . . She was like her brother Cliff. Oh , went out amongst people, everyone was equal to her and she rode the bus all the time when I was in Ottawa. She didn’t drive the car. She rode the bus. And she was worth so much to me in my political life. And I’ll just tell one cute story about this. After every election, I used to go down the main street and shake hands with people. And I met this fellow and I had had a 3500 majority. And he says, “Oh, your wife, Alf, is worth 3,000 votes to you anytime”. I said, “Now, wait a minute. I had a 3500 majority. Mary’s worth 3,000. That makes me worth 500”. He said “That’s exactly what I mean”.
R I know there are many, many things you could relate about your experiences in representing your riding and your life in Ottawa - and, I don’t have the correct vernacular, but the young people coming in to understudy. Tell us about that.
H This was the Parliamentary Internship program that I founded in Ottawa. It’s been going about 20 years now. And it was …it came about because I was extremely busy. Never seemed to have time to get my work up-to-date or ... and I went into the House ill-prepared. And I needed more help and it wasn’t available in those days. And so, I said, well, if I had an intern or somebody helping me that would solve part of the problem. So, the basis of it was, if a medical student has to serve an internship, why shouldn’t a political science student serve an internship? So I went to the Canadian Political Science Association and they said, “Oh, that’s a great idea. We’ll back you up a 100%.” So, I introduced a private member’s Bill and, after a couple of tries in the House, that finally passed the House, went to Committee and we set up the Parliamentary Internship Program. It’s available to all students with a B.A. degree or better. In those days, it was limited to Political Science, History, Law or Journalism. And they apply. Generally, about 250 applications come in. And, by the way the money is put up by private individuals. It’s not government money. I didn’t want the Government paying for it because, if the Government paid, they’d be telling us how to run it. So we kept it out of the Government control in that respect. So, out of the applicants, they call 25 of them into Ottawa. They have an interview and, out of that, they pick ten and two spares in case somebody drops out. And, they come to Ottawa for a full term - a full session. They’re paid a nice living wage. And they work directly with the MP in his office. And we bring them out of the Ivory Tower and teach them the nuts and bolts of politics. And it’s good for the Member. It’s good for the Intern. And it’s good for the country.
R You were recognized recently by parliament for that, for organizing...
H Yes, two years ago they decided they wanted to give an award to the best intern of the year and asked me if they could call that award the Alf Hales Award which I naturally agreed to. And I went down and presented it the first year. And I generally go out to what they call, their Graduation Exercises.
R Very real and well deserved honour. We couldn’t have a tape here Alf and not have you record something about your impressions of Dief [Laughs].
H [Laughs]. Well, Dief was a very unusual person. Dief was the finest and best orator the House of Commons had and will likely ever have. A tremendous debater. Always a great Canadian. A great Christian gentleman. He had one fault, I guess you would say, that he had trouble in delegating authority to other people. He wanted to have his thumb on everything. And in a job of that size that’s very difficult to do. And Dief never had the experience of working in a law . . . he was a lawyer in North Battleford. But, likely he and a partner and one stenographer. That would be their office. He never had the advantage of working with a big law firm with maybe 50 or 75 people. So, when he was taken from that small environment of dealing with people into a massive organization of a Cabinet of 19… in those days. And everyone of them an extrovert. Hard bunch of people to handle. It was a difficult job to be thrust into. But Dief did a good job in his own way. He and I had our differences but we always resolved them one way or another. He had a great sense of humour. I can tell you many stories that he used to tell us. One to fit every occasion it seemed. I remembered the caucus were putting the heat on him, one day, to let us know when the next election will be. Naturally, he couldn’t tell us but, in order to ease the troubled waters, he told the story about this old gentleman that died. In those days, the corpse rested in the home. And this chap had been an old reprobate. He had left his wife and he was just an old scallywag and here he is, he’s passed away, and the widow is standing beside the coffin The neighbours came in, “Oh my, he was a great man”. “Oh my, I’m going to miss him”, says the next one. The next one says, “He was a good friend of mlne”- and one old, dear old lady, come in and she says. “My, doesn’t he look natural. He just looks as though he could speak”. And the widow says, “The hell he will. He’ll be out of here tomorrow”. [Laughs]. So, this was Diefs way of telling us that we were going to be out shortly. [Laughs],
A joke for every occasion. And when the wheat farmers of western Canada marched on Ottawa, the only hall big enough was the Chateau Laurier Hall. And, I went down to see what was going on and the atmosphere was tense. And, here was the Cabinet up on the platform and if you lit a match the whole thing would have exploded, you know. And I said, “How is Dief going handle this meeting. I just wouldn’t want to be in his position”. So, after he introduced the cabinet, he said,
“ Most of our time is spent making decisions”. “And”, he said, “it reminds me of the farmer who hired a man. And, he gave him a job to do and he was done before lunch.” He says, ‘I’ll give him a job that’ll last him all day tomorrow - stooking grain.” And so he was finished in the middle of the afternoon - so the farmer says, ‘I’ll give him a job that’ll keep him busy’. He took him into the root cellar and he said, “And I want these potatoes sorted out. The number ones here. The number twos. And the culls down here.” So, the farmer says, “Well, I’ll go down and see how he’s making out.” He walked in. The fellow’s sound asleep. So the farmer woke him up and, of course, the hired man was very upset about it. He says, “You know boss”, he says, “It’s making these decisions that’s made me so tired.” And Dief had the whole audience laughing and on his side. He was a real artist at that.
R And, Olive, Mrs. Diefenbaker, she’s I understand, a very compassionate person.
H Aaaahhh, lovely person. Taught school in Guelph in her early days. Miss Freeman, I think her name was then. Taught my sister Eleanor, Mrs. Bill Mitchell. And, a lovely person. So down-to-earth type of person and a great asset to Dief.
R As a sort of a prelude to your entrance into the Federal political arena, you served as Alderman for the city as well, did you not?
H That was after I ran in 1953. They had chosen Dief as leader and I thought I’d better, as old Tom Kennedy told me one time. Colonel Tom Kennedy. He says, “Alf, just keep putting a rail on the fence every now and again”. [Laughs].
R [Laughs]. And, watching the tape here, we’re out of rails. We want to get on to the fence. Your . . . your association with the OAC Alumni Association?
H Yes, I took an active part in that. I was president of the OAC Alumni. Followed George Jackson. Off-hand, I’m not sure what year it was.
R In the mid-fifties, I think.
H Yeah, in the mid-fifties there. I followed George Jackson. I think it was about ‘58 or ‘59.
R Weren’t you in office at the time the new facility, the arena and the Phys Ed building . . .
H Yes, Prof Baker got a group of us together to spearhead a movement to get an extension to the old rink and the Phys Ed building. And I sat on that committee with Prof Baker and others. Now, they have the nice new double rink across the way from it. Far cry from the little addition we put on.
R Yes, but if it hadn’t been there, and the founding colleges became a university, we really would have been caught off base, wouldn’t we?
H It was tops in its day- Yeah - I think they have - what - four basketball floors there?
R Very nice facility. Well, since you’re retirement from representing the riding, you’re probably the busiest man in Guelph. You’re called on so often to participate in so many organizations. As we come to the wind down here, are there other areas you that you would like to share with us?
H Other than that I could not have done all the things I have done in my lifetime without the support of my wife and family. They have been most helpful in all, at all times. And, to think that I went to Ottawa for 18 years. And, when I left, Dave and Don were 11 years of age and when I gave up, they were 29 years of age. Unbelievable. That I missed that period of their life. But, thank goodness, they’ve both done very well, thanks to Mary for looking after them while I was in Ottawa and ... Life has been good to me. I’ve enjoyed every day of it. Every day is a new day to me. And I live day by day and I just make the most of every day that I can Sometimes I’m afraid I overdo it. I forget that I am now in my 81st year and I should be slowing up. But, I’m working on the principal that it is better to wear out than to rust out. And although I am busy in my retirement, I must say that I’m not doing anything I don’t want to do. If I find myself in that position, I resign from it. And, at the present time, I’m active on the committee to raise funds to build our new senior centre. That’s the
number one job at the moment. I have great experience with a wonderful committee raising the funds to build the Puslinch Community Centre at Aberfoyle. Had the happy privilege of turning the key over to the Reeve without one cent owing on that beautiful building. And, these are all interesting things in my lifetime. The church always has a job for you to do. And, you’re retired, people think you have lots of time and you get lots of demands. I had nine interesting years with the Ontario Veterinary Association - OVMA - as their Public Interest Representative and, just tonight, I’m going to their banquet to give a farewell dinner to Mrs. Peggy Knapp who is retiring as their Public Interest Rep and I have to say a few words on this occasion. So, those things keep you busy.. . .
R Yes, you’ve been, not only a part of change in the local and the national scene, but you have seen so much change. The farm you inherited from your father is sort of a trend that is happening around all our cities.
H We didn’t say anything about the National Prayer Breakfast. We’ve got to put on the tape- when I was in Ottawa, I was asked to attend the Prayer Breakfast Meeting in Ottawa. And I didn t know what it was all about, but Dr. Reiner, who invited me, and I went along. And, found that there were about 15 or 20 fellows from all political parties sitting around a breakfast table. And the week before, somebody had been asked to take lead of the discussion. And the discussion, no organization to it, but one person looked around the room and said, “Would you open the meeting with a prayer?” And when it was all over, he’d look around and said to somebody, “Will you close the meeting with prayer?” And I went to that every Wednesday morning while I was in Ottawa. And, after I had retired for a year, I felt there was something missing in my life. And I said to Mary about it. She said, “Well, I think maybe it’s that Prayer Breakfast”. And I says, “Indeed. That’s just what I think it is too”. So, I called together four fellows, said I had ... or three fellows, who I had asked to the National Prayer Breakfast. Yourself - Rick Richards. Don Armstrong. and Frank Theakston and myself. The four of us met at the Parkview Motel and we set up the Guelph Prayer Breakfast and that was in 1975. And we’ve been going every Wednesday morning from that day to this.
R Thanks Alf. And, that’s an appropriate note on which to end our chat here. Through your good offices and your kindness, I attended the National Prayer Breakfast as your guest. And, as you have inferred, have been associated with the group in Guelph. And, I look forward to the Wednesday mornings and being with the small group to meet and discuss current issues as related to biblical study. But, I want to ... I wanted to put on the tape how much I appreciate the opportunity of having this interview with you and to thank you for sharing with the Alumni-in-Action group the many, many activities you have had over the years. And, you certainly could only use a few examples. I know there are many, many more. But, we appreciate it very much and I’m certain the Alumni, not only of the present, but of the future, will be pleased to have this record of your memories and impressions.
The reference has been made to the farm that Alf inherited from his father is in the housing development that is on at the present time. Some Alumni may remember, it was known as ACME Farms. ACME Farm. The four letters: A for Alfred; C for
Catherine; M for Marg; and, E for Eleanor. The four given names of the Hales family.
[End of interview]