ALUMNI- IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
DR. ARTHUR FERGUSON, OAC ’38 and OVC ‘50
Ontario Agricultural College, 1938 and Ontario Veterinary College, 1950
Interviewed by Dr. Ron Darling, OVC ‘60
January 3, 2007
D This is an interview with Dr. Arthur Ferguson, OAC ’38 and OVC ’50, conducted by Dr. Ron Darling, OVC ’60 on January 3rd, 2007, for the University of Guelph Alumni Association, Alumni in Action Oral History Project. Dr. Ferguson, where were you born and raised?
F Well, I was born in Smith Falls, Ontario and raised near Ottawa, in the village of Osgoode.
D And that would be where you got your education?
F Yes. Between there and Ottawa.
D When did you enter OAC?
D And were there any special influences that made you go that route?
F Well, I looked at a lot of places, but I had a cousin who had gone to OAC and he influenced me on going there, and they taught courses that I liked. So, that’s why I went to OAC.
D And did you form any permanent relationships there?
F Many. Our year was a very close year. We had about a hundred and thirty graduates – one woman. And we still meet. I’m the president of our Alumni Association of year ’38.
D And still active. That’s wonderful. Did your initiation differ from more recent initiations.
F (Chuckle). Very much. We had to wear hats and ties and go through a whole series of getting up in the morning and perform operations and clean rooms for the older students and do all sorts of performances for about two or three months – had to wear the hats ‘til Christmas – and ties.
D Upon graduation what did you do?
F Well, I came back and took the Poultry Specialist course for one year, and that took me to the fall of 1939 and then the War had started. They were hiring people and I was the lucky one I thought, and got on the Faculty of the OAC. And I spent the next two or three years traveling Ontario, from east to west and north to south blood testing chickens in the fall and then going in and examining them from then on and conducting short courses and this sort of thing.
D But you ended up in the military?
F In 1942 I had joined the Air Force and I was there until October 1945, in Bomber Command.
D And following your military career?
F Well, I came back to OAC and worked on the Faculty ‘til the next fall. In the meantime, I decided I’d better take some post-graduate work because they had hired three or four other young fellows, and they were all planning on doing Masters or PhD – depending in where they were, and I think, “Oh, well, I better get doing the same thing.” But that sort of a pursuit didn’t particularly appeal to me. Well, I decided I’d go over to the Vet College and see about taking a Master’s Degree. I talked to the Principal, Dr. McNabb, and he talked me into taking the four-year Veterinary course, instead of the Master’s Degree. And since I had a background in Poultry, he pointed out it might be an advantage and Dr. Glover would not be in the job, he was in, for that many more years, and it might lead to something like that, which it eventually did.
D It panned out. And how large was your class of OVC’50 at the Veterinary College, do you remember?
F Well, we graduated a hundred and twenty-six, but it started off with about a hundred and forty-five.
D A lot of War Veterans.
F All were War Veterans except twelve.
D Any women?
D And there wouldn’t be room for very many foreign students, in those days, would there?
F There were a few. Two or three Englishmen…and as I recall, that’s about all they had, plus some Americans whose parents were graduates of OVC.
D Sure. And what were your extracurricular activities – sports, or organizations, that sort of thing?
F I was married with three kids by this time, so they were looking after passing the courses and looking after my family.
D And your primary focus from day one, actually, was poultry…
F Seemed to work out that way? Yes.
D And you followed that right through?
F Right ‘til I retired.
D Never deviated very much from that? Did you – did you have any special activities that – as a professor, other than Poultry, or even with Poultry?
F Yes, I did.
When I took over the poultry diagnostic and necropsy laboratory the poultry industry was just starting to expand. There was an increasing requirement for diagnostic services and the OVC lab was the only diagnostic facility available to the poultry farmers at that time. At that time the service was provided free of charge by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. Because Veterinarians in Practice did little poultry diagnosis, the service also included giving advice on disease prevention and treatment.
As the poultry industry grew the lab became very busy. In the busy years there were 3 veterinarians, 3 technicians and 2 secretaries in the lab in the west end of the new building that is now VMI. We averaged 25 cases per day with each case averaging 5 birds.
In 1968 the service was taken over by the Veterinary Serves Branch of OMAF and that was the end of my involvement with the poultry diagnostic lab. By then OMAF had diagnostic laboratories in Kemptville, Brighton, Ridgetown, Centralia and New Leaskard and private poultry veterinarians (Dr. Lloyd Weber) and company diagnostic labs (K-Vet) had come on the scene.
I had been teaching a Poultry Disease course each year to vet students that included work in the diagnostic Lab to see the disease cases, but after Dr. Topp took over the diagnostic lab for OMAF, I had to take the students to the K-Vet lab to Dr Hemsley, or to Dr. Webers Lab to see actual poultry disease cases.
I continued to lecture at the OVC and ran the pet bird clinic until I retired.
I also lectured at courses at the OAC, and the School of Pharmacy in Toronto. I organized and conducted a course down there, and had about five or six other people from the University of Guelph, lecture there as well.
Over the years I organized and I conducted many meetings throughout Ontario, for the Poultry Industry, and I was a Consultant for the Shaver Poultry Breeding Farm for twenty-five years, which took me around the world a great deal. I visited sixty-two different countries, in that capacity, in all of South America, most of Europe, a great deal of Asia, briefly in Africa and most of them a few times, and some of them as many as ten times. So, I figure I was rather busy. When OVC became part of the University they gave us a month per year to do this type of thing, and that plus three weeks holidays is how I spent my time.
D Can you think of what changes you observed during your career in your particular line – in the Poultry business? You’d have to have observed quite a few changes?
F Oh, it changed drastically. Yes, very much so. As an Aggie student, I can remember taking “Genetics”, and I thought how nice it would be if we could see a gene. And now, look at how things are. That’s how much it’s changed.
D Now you can see them.
F Yes and much more. And as far as a study general study of Poultry is concerned – everything is changed from management, to genetics, to nutrition, to disease problems, the investigation of poultry in disease matters, bacteriology, virology - how much it’s advanced and our vaccination programmes have changed drastically. Our management programmes have changed dramatically and everything is changed. I hardly know the industry today, compared to what it was when we started.
D It’s been a time of change all right. You’ve lived through a lot of change. Outside of the Veterinary College, were you involved in the Community – any community activities?
F A little, not too much. I belonged to various organizations that took some time, but, as you can gather from this, I was busy.
D Any organizations that come to mind?
F Well, I was a Mason. And I was involved in church work quite a bit.
D Well, those are good activities, to keep you busy, if you needed something to fill the time, I would think. And since you’ve retired, how have you kept busy?
F Well, I’ve done a little traveling, since I’ve been retired, I don’t know how much you want to know about this traveling bit.
D Anything you can tell me.
F On the very first trip I took, I started in Japan, Korea, Philippines – ended up in India, Pakistan, and finally oh, what is the name of it… I can’t remember – another country in between there and England, so there was a complete ‘round the world trip. They were long, long trips.
D Yes, they certainly were.
F Kept me busy, and those trips consisted of meetings and you had to prepare for them and you talked to organizations, and poultry people in all these trips.
D Sounds like you were away for longer than three weeks in those days.
F (Chuckle) Oh, I was. Six weeks. And we, also, in addition to those trips we - I attended World Poultry Organization meetings in England, Germany, Russia, in Mexico, and so on,
D You were well traveled. That’s right. Well, Dr. Ferguson, that, that pretty well covers it I think. We’ve been quite candid, but there’s nothing wrong with that. This has been a very rewarding interview and we are indebted to you for your time and patience. On behalf of the Alumni Oral History Committee, thank you.