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ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
FLORENCE & ISOBEL MOORE, RETIRED STAFF
Interviewed by A.E. FERGUSON
September 20, 1990
A Interview done at the home of Flo and Isobel Moore and is being recorded by Arthur Ferguson of year ‘38 O.A.C. The Moore’s were in at the beginning of the Student Co-operative Society. When did you two really start on this project?
I Well, I better go back a bit and indicate that my oldest sister, Vera Moore, came to work for Professor H. H. LeDrew in 1920, and remained as his secretary until she left in 1925 to marry Bert Thomas of year ‘26. After that, my sister Flo took over as secretary to Mr. N. S. Northmore, Nelson, as he was known to the students. She remained there until the year 1950. Now, during her time at the Co-op, she had quite a few experiences - among them was the skating rink, which the Student’s Co-op ran and owned. Part of her duties were to go to the rink, maybe one, maybe two nights a week and Saturday afternoon, to take admission tickets and then she could have a skate. But it was always a cold place, because there was no heat, only two little oil stoves. Also, in Flo’s time, she had two moves with the Co-op. The first one was when they decided old Johnston Hall was to come down, and the new Administration Building was to go up. So where do we put the Co-op? Well the consensus was that it would go to the little red building next to Trent Institute, which was at that time known as the Apple House. The Co-op managed for all those years while the building was getting built, in half of the Apple house. The other half was the Post Office. Then, when the building was completed, Flo was in on the move back to spacious quarters on the basement of Johnston Hall, where she remained until 1950.
A I believe there was a change of management in 1925, about the time Flo came there. Would you tell us about that?
I Yes, Professor H.H. LeDrew was a member of the staff of the Ontario Agricultural College and he resigned as manager of the Co-op in ’25. Nelson Northmore, a local grocer, was appointed manager at that time. Things progressed very well under Nelson. He enjoyed great popularity with the students and was also my first boss. I am Isobel, and I came to the co-op as part time help in the summer. The reason (for which I suppose I should have said earlier) why all three of us ended up working for the Student’s Co-op, was the old rule that no two in a family could work for the government. My father was a baker in the dining hall at the time. Therefore, Nelson said, never mind Isobel, you come and I’ll give you a job in the Co-op. I went to be the junior, with Nelson and my sister Flo. And it was a very rewarding time and a very fun time because my duties were very varied - everything from carrying in the pop to sweeping the floor. We were the Co-op. We weren’t part of the University - so we had to sweep our own floor, which was one of my duties. Then in 1939 I guess, we were told that the Air Force was going to take over the College, and other quarters would have to be found for the various offices. So the Students’ Co-op was given the large classroom in the Animal Husbandry Building. So we prepared to move. And we went. And incidentally when we moved in those days, they just came with the Hort truck, took everything off of the shelves and piled it in the truck. Isobel got in the truck and away we went down and that was it. That was a Friday, and we had to be all settled by Monday. So that was a weekend of overtime - no pay in those days. You got your great salary of forty dollars a month. That was what you do- you just did those extra duties.
A Can you tell us some of the prices of products in those days and maybe some incidents that stand out in your mind?
I Yes, that was the five cent era, five cents for your chocolate bar, five cents for your ice cream, your gum, name it, it was five cents. Textbooks? The two most expensive books we sold were Dorland’s Medical Dictionary at $8.50, and Sisson’s Anatomy at $11.00. We also had the jackets - the blazers - the official college white blazer with the red and the blue braid - were very expensive at that time - pure wool for eight fifty. Incidents, yes, in the ‘30's, I guess there was the measles episode. There was a measles epidemic and you see, the infirmary was up on the second or third floor, I’m not sure which, but it was above the Co-op. And the boys up there, even though they were in the infirmary, they still wanted their coke and their chocolate bars. So they formed what they called the bucket brigade. The bucket would go up. They would put a note in it - what they wanted. The bucket would come down. Isobel would go outside, get the note out of the bucket, get all the supplies, put it in the bucket, charge it to whoever was ordering it this time, and up goes the bucket. I didn’t mind the going up, so much, but I was also expected to take all the empty bottles out, bring them back. So I was handling the returns, until one day one of the students said, Isobel, you look awfully red and flushed. I think you’ve got the measles. You guessed it, I had the measles.
A I think that was the spring of 1936.
I Could be.
A Perhaps you’d tell us what your hours were in those days.
I The hours were nine o’clock in the morning, ‘til five thirty. The College offices closed at five, but the Co-op was open ‘til five-thirty and Saturday morning from nine until twelve. Among the duties of the Co-op were looking after sub post office number three which required you to report to the Federal Government four times a month. And I still remember the days - the seventh, the fifteenth, the twenty-first and the end of the month. And that statement was done after the door was closed at five-thirty or at twelve o’clock on a Saturday. And I can remember one Saturday it was getting to the finals of the football season between the arch rivals, the Redmen and McMaster. And here were Flo and I, trying to get that post office statement out, before we could get to the football game. We made it for the last quarter.
A You had to make up these reports for the post office and do your own reports for the Co-op. How did you do that?
I Well, they were done the old fashioned way. We didn’t, in those days, have computers. We didn’t even have an adding machine until maybe in the ‘40's. So you did them with your head and paper and pencil. And that is how we did the cash rebates, to the students who were members of the Co-op. There was a fifty cent charge for a membership in the Co-op. Then each student received a bill of sale for everything he bought - other than for chocolate bars, pop and cigarettes. Those bills of sale were then turned in at the end of the fiscal year, which was February. Each student’s bills were then totaled for the year and they were given a rebate. The rebates varied from nine percent, sometimes ten percent. Then when the ‘49ers, the returned boys arrived, they were not children, they wanted a good rebate. We had decided that they should get as good a rebate as possible. So rebates varied from fifteen percent and up. One year they paid eighteen percent. And before the ’49 boys graduated they had received 20 percent on the dollar. This was paid in cash to them, usually the first week in April.
A What happened during early war years? I believe the barn burned, and there were other events too.
I Yes, the barn burned. That was quite an occasion and Flo and I got called at home, that we better get over there because it looked like the Animal Husbandry Building might go too. So we were on deck to watch. During the war years they moved us into this huge classroom in the Animal Husbandry building. Well it was just one big classroom with a little section for Mr. Fairweather, the postmaster, to sort the mail for the College and the rest of it was for the Co-op. Now, there was no such a thing as a storeroom, a front office or a counter. So they just put up one big counter, and all the stock was in the front, and we had the desks for the office at the back. So, when the students came in, there were not very many places to sit, so they just sat on the packing cases. Whether it was refills or whatever- anything but chocolate bars as they were kept behind the counter - I must admit, that they were the best bunch of boys to help that you could ever work with. And Flo and I, we tried to do every thing at once, and as I say, you only had one pair of hands, so the students, they would come in and I would say, OK Bob, you help - you look after
the pop. So he would serve the students, put the money on the counter and then when I got five minutes, I would ring up the sale. And that’s the way we worked for the duration. We were all just one big happy family. The boys of ‘40,‘41, ‘42, ’43, I could go on. But there was one little incident. When they moved us down to this location I had one question for Professor Knox, who was Head of the Animal Husbandry Department at the time, “This is fine and this is dandy, but where are the washrooms?” “Oh”, he said, “the washrooms are in the basement of the building.” I said, “Yes, but this door leads to the outside. How do we get to the washroom?” So you guessed it. Every time - whether its summer or winter, out the side door, walk around the building, go in the front door, go along the hall, go down to the basement. And this was to be for six months, but it lasted for four years. And, something I didn’t mention earlier, was the death of Nelson Northmore, very suddenly of a heart attack in November, 1941. That left us with just Flo and myself. So we did what any good person would do, we carried on. And, as you know, during the war all the good men were spoken for. They were overseas, or they were in training. The Students’ Executive, at that time, under Willis Buie, who was the president of the Co-op in year ‘42, asked if Flo, my sister, would carry on as acting manager of the Co-op for the duration, which she very willingly did. And I think she may have got a raise from seventy-five dollars a month to ninety dollars a month, and I went from forty dollars a month to fifty dollars a month. And the only other concession was that we hired a part-time girl, Esther Pepper, to come in and give us a hand. Her husband Bill worked in the Poultry Department. So the three of us carried on for the duration of the war. One of my other duties in these quarters was as the catcher of mice. It seems that they didn’t tell us when we moved, that this classroom seemed to always have a lot of little field mice running around. So one of my jobs was to set the traps at night. Then in the morning take the dead mice out, get rid of them and set the traps again. This went on until we got rid of all those little ‘sons o’ guns’.
One of Mr. Northmore’s plans had been to open a lunchroom, somewhere on campus, to accommodate the students, because all of their eating facilities had been taken over by the Air Force. So, upon his death, our Co-op president, Willis Buie and the executive, decided we would carry on with this plan. So, Dr. Christie, who was President at the time, said they would provide the quarters and they would also get the cafeteria equipment out of storage. The Students’ Co-op would run the lunchroom. Now, the location decided upon was the old museum, which was in the bottom of the Entomology Department. It was the first floor. So, that space was made available and we set up the cafeteria equipment for a small lunchroom. It was to be a lunchroom where the students could get their noon meal. Mr. Northmore had made arrangements with Edna Roberts, who had previously worked in the cafeteria, to take over the lunchroom. Which she did with the help of the president of the Students’ Co-op acting as treasurer. Edna carried on along with, I think, one girl, and student labour. Now the only stipulation, back then was, if you became a member of the Students’ Co-op executive, you had a chore to do. This was student labour during your noon hour. You could either get the going rate, which was twenty-five cents an hour, or you could get a free lunch. And we had no trouble whatever getting enough students to man the lunchroom. And it was quite a busy place at the noon. You can imagine, one had to be in and out in a hurry. The fare was ham sandwiches, small sandwiches of some description, but the main event was a hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and vegetable, for the big sum of twenty cents. (Chuckle)
A Would you tell us now about moving back to Johnston Hall after the war?
I At the end of the war, we then moved back to our spacious quarters in the basement of Johnston Hall. One of the highlights during that time was the Women’s Institutes‘ Fiftieth Anniversary. There were fifteen thousand women on campus. However, nobody told the Students’ Co-op that these extra visitors would be here, so, imagine our surprise when they landed, all wanting bottles of pop, Coca Cola, ice cream, whatever, and it was quite a panic for a few minutes. But then I got on the phone and called the Coca Cola company. They were there, like a shot in the arm. Coca Cola was coming in the back door, going into the water in the cooler, then over the counter. The cooler was water and ice in those days. And I was carrying two cases of coke at a time. I was (chuckle) in much better shape in those days.
One other instance was the short courses, which came in every Christmas. And we were told that the Students’ Co-op must be open on New Years Day. But the post office, which was under Federal jurisdiction, could not be open. So, you could buy your Coca Cola, but you couldn’t buy your three or four cent stamp, whichever it was at that time. I can remember one instance where Elsie Moyer, who was Elsie Cheevers at the time, was on the switch-board. She also had to work New Years Day. And the two of us had dates to go to the Brant Inn, in Hamilton for New Years Eve. So, off we went to the New Years Eve party, got back home, rested on the chesterfields for a little while, changed our clothes and were back at work at nine o’clock in the morning. Flo and I remained with the Students’ Co-op until 1950. Then we both left to work with the Ministry - me with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Flo with Mr. John Eccles in the Public Relations Department.
A And now we’ll have a few words from Flo.
F I just want to say that we enjoyed your company here. I have enjoyed working for the students and also for Mr. Eccles. I enjoyed that very much.
A Maybe now, Isobel, you’d tell us something of what you did, when you left the Co-op and what followed from then on?
I First I took a slight vacation, and then I did try working in the city of Guelph. I thought I might like to work in town, but, after a few months, that wasn’t for me. I wanted to be back up on the hill. So, I was very lucky. The opportunity came to work for Mr. E. I. McLoughry, who was the Ag Rep in Waterloo County. The Department of Agriculture, were opening a Liaison Office on the campus for the first time, and Mr. McLoughry was to head it. I came to work as his secretary, and remained there until, I’m not sure of the date, I transferred to Information Branch. But during my years with the Extension Branch, I certainly enjoyed it. There was the time that I had to go to the Royal Winter Fair to help with the 4-H judging competition, not the judging, mind you, but the computing of the records. And let me tell you, I never knew that there were so many combinations that you could get out of the numbers one, two, three, four. But, when you have to add up the results, you soon find it out. And back in those days, we did all the computing, not with a computer, but in our heads, because we didn’t even have an adding machine, at that time. Later on they brought adding machines to the Royal and we were able to use them. Incidentally, just so that there weren’t any mistakes made in the computing, I would add, then I would hand the figures over to the girl across from me. She would re-add them, and then we would know they were correct. So, that was the way it was done. There was also the Exhibition. [CNE] We had the Junior competition at the Exhibition. And one of the big highlights was the 4-H Inter-club competition, which was held on campus every year in October. This was when all the 4-H clubs would come into Guelph, and the judging would be done, and the trophies presented. For this competition my job was to see that the records were computed, printed, and over to the dining hall, to the Director in charge of Junior work at that time. And let me tell you, there was a lot of hustle in Mr. Eccles printing office for those records. One typist, one machine operator and one adder, were on duty all the time. But never once, did we ever not make the deadline to Creelman Hall. I think just once in Ken Lantz’s time, he was ad-libbing until I got over there with the final records. But, those were good days.
‘I just want to say that it’s not everyday that a person can end up working for their boys, which I did. My boys were the students that went through the college, Dick Hilliard, Gord Bennett, Ken Lantz, Art Bennett, Clair Rennie, all of them. I could go on and on. But, - that was my enjoyable time. One weekend, I left here to go to the Royal Winter Fair to work as a member of the Extension Branch. And evidently they were looking for me all over the Royal to tell me, that as of Monday, I was no longer working for the Extension Branch. I would now be working for Mr. Fox, who was with the Information Branch of the Ministry. So, I had to change hats pretty quickly. I worked many years for Brad Schneller, with the Information Branch - and retired from that Branch in 1982.