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Ross Cavers

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Abstract

            Ross Cavers from Hickson, Oxford County, Ontario, graduated from the OAC in 1929. As an undergraduate, he worked in the Poultry Department and, on graduating, joined the faculty of that department. In 1937, he became Head of the Poultry Department at the University of Manitoba and, in 1946, returned to head the Poultry Department at the OAC, a position he held until his retirement in 1968. Ross was an avid football fan, acting as manager of the OAC team as an undergraduate, and continued his involvement on returning to the faculty in 1946. He was a great story teller.

            The first two of the three tapes from the interview relate highly entertaining stories of his experiences as an undergraduate with the football team, of initiation escapades, and of working in the Poultry Department. The third tape is about his time in the Poultry Departments at Winnipeg and Guelph, and on the changes in the poultry industry over the years.

Graduation Year

1929

College

OAC

Interview Date

Interviewer

A. Ferguson

Call Number

RE1 UOG A1340034

Audio

Ross Cavers interview

Transcript

Tape 1 of 3
ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
J.R. (ROSS) CAVERS, O.A.C. 1929
Ontario Agricultural College, 1929
Interviewed by A.E. Ferguson
August 31, 1989
 
A graduate of O.A.C. in 1929.  He came on the faculty of the Poultry Department of O.A.C.
‘til1937, and that year moved to Winnipeg in the Poultry Department there, which he headed.  He 
returned to Guelph in 1946 as a head of the Poultry Department here and maintained that position 
until 1968, when he retired.  Well Ross, a few questions to get this started:
 
F: Where were you living when you started to school?
 
C: I was living in Hickson, just north of Woodstock 8 miles, and, they didn’t start kids until 
Easter so they didn’t have to walk through the snow the first year.  So I started I guess in the 
fall, in the spring rather, at Easter of 1913.
 
F: How far did you go in Elementary School?
 
C: Well, two years there, and my father died in 1913 and we stayed on ‘til ‘14 and moved to St. 
Catherines.  That’s where I went through Public and High School.
 
F: What influenced you to come to O.A.C. in Guelph?
 
C: It’s hard to say.   Certainly not my teachers in the uh, the St. Catherines Collegiate.  Any of 
them I spoke to uh,  were lukewarm or opposed to attendance at O.A.C.   Some even ridiculed it. I 
knew a graduate - Sandra King, who was running the Chaplan. Farms at Virgil, Ontario, and I spent 
some time there.  From time to time I would go there on the bicycle and I was impressed with the 
way he handled things. I also had quite a connection with agriculture even though my father was a 
Methodist minister, we’d all, we had grown up in country settings, and  I worked,
the minute school was out in the spring and I was on the farm until fall, most summers.  So when
I came to Guelph I had a pretty fair farm background even though I wasn’t a farmer’s son.
The actual decision to come here I think based on two things: I had missed a year of school through 
the flu epidemic of 1921.   When I hit Junior Matric, it was the first year when they required you 
to take two years to get your twelve subjects - seven the first year and five the second year.  
That added another year, so I was beginning to think it was time I was getting on with this if I 
was going to take uh work at a higher level.  I uh never did get my Senior Matriculation except 
English which I took the second year.  You could get into O.A.C. with Junior Matric.  You couldn’t 
get into all schools that way.
The only other thing I was interested in was Civil Engineering.  I thought that would cost me more 
and, if I remember correctly, I needed uh Senior Matric at least in mathematics.  So I thought 
well, if I could come to Guelph, earn some money, and not be in debt at the end of the first year I 
could make as good a decision then as I might ever make on the subject.  If I liked it at
Guelph I’d stay on.
 
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F: Did you have uh any particular option in mind when you  - when you uh came in as a student and
did you change your mind regarding an option when you were a student?
 
C: I’m not sure I knew about options, but uh my mind was made up for me in the final ten minutes of 
arrive - before arriving at Guelph - I was riding with Fred Bray who was becoming a hatcher-man in 
St Catherines - I had bought chicks from him - and I told him,  I had to earn money, or I’d be 
graduating at Christmas.  He said, “The only place for a freshman to get a job that I know of is 
down at the Poultry Department.” So he said, “The minute you finish your registration, race down 
there before everybody else does and get yourself a job if you can.” I did that.  I knew where it 
was, because I’d been here on a farmers’ excursion in June.
Jack Fraser was the foreman.  He said, “You’re hired.  Come to work to-night at seven o’clock.” 
Well I said, “I can’t do that - the freshmen are being paraded downtown.” He said, “Oh, I’ll give 
you a note for that.” - which he did.
The work was to catch chickens in the trees in the orchard.  They had been raised in the orchard 
all summer and a lot of the leghorns were roosting in the trees.  The two men who were loading were 
the teamster, Charley Sparks - quite a short man and Professor Jesse Francis, an even shorter man.  
They stayed on the wagon and I did the climbing.  Well, I’ve worked enough with poultry that I 
could catch the birds and still hang on to the tree and hand the bird down to these men on the 
wagon.  Apparently they reported favourably to Jack Fraser and he told me I could work the next 
day, which I couldn’t, because of freshmen activities, but he did sign me on for Saturday 
afternoons.
I said, “There’s just one catch in that Mr. Fraser, I don’t want to work on the afternoons when 
there is a football game here.  Well, he said, “We don’t want any S.O.B. (He spoke plainer than 
that) working here when there is a football game.” He said, “When there is a game, you come at 
twelve-thirty, instead of one.  Uh, we’ll miss the first period, but I’ll go with you to the game, 
and then you can work ‘til five-thirty and you’ll get a full afternoon’s pay.”
Now he wasn’t offering me too much because the pay was nine cents an hour.  However, after the 
first week, uh a job came up where we had to unload a carload of straw and haul it to the Poultry 
Department - baled straw.  He said, “Bring a couple of good strong fellows with you.” - which I did 
- and for that he made me straw-boss and couldn’t uh double the pay, but he doubled the hours. So I 
got eighteen cents an hour.  Well, that pretty well filled out the fall and there was
a lot of fun going to the games with Jack Fraser, because his swearing at the other team was worth 
the whole afternoon no matter how the team did.
However the team did pretty well that year.  The best year they’d ever had in Intermediate
Intercollegiate football - which they only entered in 1922 - having been a junior team prior to 
that.  So when I came here in ‘25, they had both a - an intermediate team and a junior team.  The 
playing coach of the team was Art Wilson.  Now he was a member of our uh freshman Diploma Class - 
and in those days, we considered the Diploma students coming in as freshmen to be the same class as 
the Degree freshmen.  So,  he was considered a ‘29 Associate.  He was a mature man, and had a great 
appeal to our class - so much so, we made him president of the class - and he did such a good job 
we made him president the second year, because nobody in our class
 
seemed likely to step into his shoes and do the same job.
Wilson, ten years before, had made a name for himself in Petrolia as the leader of a junior team 
that went quite a ways in some provincial league.  He spent so much time with football at age 
fifteen, playing against teenagers right up to nineteen, that he didn’t want to go back to High 
School.  Farmers have told me how they were having trouble loading beets at some point, shipping
 
 
Page 3
 
point south of Petrolia, I think it was uh maybe Oil Springs.  Some Belgian growers, very 
tough hombres they were, wouldn’t accept the cut  the weigh-master was making on mud and uh scared 
the wits out of these men and they’d uh they’d nobody as weigh-master and then somebody at a 
farmers’ meeting - it was a co-operative - said, “What about Art Wilson?” He was still only 
fifteen, but he was quite capable of handling himself in almost any company.  So they hired Art
as weigh-master.  The first man that drove in with a load of beets, he jumped up on the - the 
hubcap of the - the hub of the uh wagon, decided on the - the uh cut on mud, and told him so, and 
uh the farmer refused to accept it.  So Wilson grabbed him by the scruff of the neck,  hauled him 
down on the ground, hit him a crack on the mouth then pitched him back on the load - still
fifteen.  Wilson only weighed a hundred and sixty-five when he played here, I don’t know what he 
weighed at that time.  Anyway there was no more trouble at the weigh station.
A company (I know of ?) - - colonel in London, knew about Art Wilson.  He was recruiting a 
battalion, and he wanted Art as a hard-ball pitcher, for this battalion because he was featuring a 
ball team and different things to encourage enlistment.  Uh you re–,  this was about
1915.  So he faked Art’s credentials and got him in the army, at age fifteen.  I got this story 
from Art’s son, when I was investigating Art’s background,  nominating him for the Hall of Fame 
here in  the uh athletic uh section.  They took uh Art (? France), he was sixteen when he went into 
the trenches and he finished out the war with no wounds although he did lose some hearing.  He had 
trouble from the shelling.   Uh, maybe he had some trouble before he went, I don’t know, but he 
came out of the war a bit hard of hearing.
The Canadians made a great name for themselves in World War I.  There were four divisions and they 
didn’t stop at anything - during the war.  When the war ended, they were stopped cold in London and 
district - southern England - because the Americans, last in, were the first out.  They had 
requisitioned all the shipping space.  So these Canadians had to stay all the winter of 1918 and 
‘19 in England.  Well, they began to take the place apart wherever they were billeted and uh, the 
people in charge decided on an athletic program including four football
teams, one from each division.  Art headed one of these - trained it,  and lead it on the field.  
He was the quarterback and punter and everything else that was needed.
He came back to Sarnia, to a job with, probably not Imperial Oil but what became Imperial Oil. I’m 
not sure.  They sent him to Venezuela as an oil driller - a fairly tough situation to be in for a 
young man.  Occasionally he was back in Sarnia, and whenever he was, he was playing football.  
Before he came to Guelph, he played with the Sarnia Wanderers - a - an R - ORFU Intermediate team, 
and about all I remember about that is, besides leading as captain and quarterback, he made a 
Canadian record by kicking five drop kicks in one game.  I never saw him score a drop kick, but he 
used to practice every day here when the regular football practice was over.  Of course they didn’t 
call it football in those days, it was called rugby.   But I’ll call it football, because it soon 
became that name.
When he came to Guelph, I don’t know who knew about him, but they immediately made
 
him playing coach.  I don’t know who was intended to coach.  There was no staff here - no Athletic 
Department - nobody hired for any athletic purpose, except one senior student who was paid three 
hundred dollars or the equivalent in room and board, to give the freshmen P.T.   Art was coach for 
nothing.  He didn’t get anything.  I don’t think he even got a watch out of it at the end.  I don’t 
know who would have given it to him if he had.  He didn’t come here to earn his way in football, he 
came to get some education ten years late.
On the field he was a terrific player.  He was the best in the league and he was as good as any in 
the senior league.    He was a punter of the Ab (?) Box type that is the high soaring punts, uh
 
Page 4
 
floaters.  But he could kick with either foot and in a cross-wind, he would be liable to 
kick at least one or two with his left foot.   The opposing teams knew this and they nearly went 
crazy
(want) watching his feet to see which one he kicked with and wondering how the ball would spin when 
it came down.  He was uh a drop kicker, as I mentioned, and he was a placement kicker. The best in 
the league - easily.  He served as quarterback - not that he wanted to, but, because he couldn’t 
hear the quarterback and there was no huddle in those days - not in Canada - so he
called the signals himself.  But he could play almost any position in the backfield and still call 
the signals because it was mostly direct snap, it wasn’t the hand-off type of quarterbacking that 
we’re familiar with to-day - although some did do that.  He was also the safety man on defense and 
if anything, despite his prowess as an offensive scoring threat, he was best on defense - he was 
deadly.
The first game I saw was the Old Boys Game.  Ted Wildman was in the backfield for the Old Boys, Art 
Wilson in the same position for uh the college.  Both were punters.  Uh Wildman kicked the long 
ones, but he didn’t get the elevation and the floating time that uh Wilson did.
He was a line-crasher and he went through our line like butter.  They couldn’t hold him.  Nobody 
could bring him down.  So Wilson would do it.  All he asked was the other people to keep out of the 
way so he got a clean shot at uh Wildman’s ankles.  I saw Wildman play two years in a row
in Old Boys uh Wilson defending and Wildman never scored in those two games.
Wilson himself was a great broken field runner.  He - he wasn’t that fast, necessarily, but he was 
very tricky and devious and he would run  with uh uh straight forward where most of the players 
were.  He didn’t try to circle the field.  He’d run where they were the thickest and then going in 
amongst them, his knees were up and his right arm uh was slashing and his elbow and he was twisting 
and rolling off them and very often he’d get through for a game.  He would go
down on the punts, if he wanted to.   And when he did,  it was always with the intent of grabbing 
the ball away and scoring a touchdown.   But it had to be the right set-up.  He had to tease them 
into the right position for that.  So it was an interesting year.
Here’s our year president meeting the football, but he was a great year president too.  We got a 
treasurer in who had a Scottish name, `which I won’t mention, and it was found out in the spring 
that the funds were considerably lower than they should have been, and he couldn’t account for 
them.  But Wilson did.   So he called a mass meeting.  He’d already had an executive meeting and 
they’d decided to (gradulate?) this fellow that night.  He called a mass meeting of
our class in the old meeting room down in the old Johnson Hall,  and uh he said we were going to 
drum this fellow out of the class.  So he ordered him to strip himself of all of his clothes.  We 
lined up all the way down the hall and our legs apart and he had to crawl through between.  And we 
all took a whack at his bare rear end as he went through.  Wilson then told him to dress.  He
 
gave him money - (he want ?) to buy a one way ticket to Toronto and sent him on his way.  Uh that 
was the next morning.  He then went to the registrar’s office and told him this fellow had decided 
to quit.  (Laugh) This is the way he handled the year
 
F: yes
 
C:  and he handled everything the same way - nothing ever went to the authorities
 
F: very directly
 
C: yep, and very quickly too
 
F: yes
 
Page 5
 
C: he’d make up his mind. He was a wonderful chap   I never forgot Art Wilson.
The next summer, I got a job on the poultry plant and so did he.  He knew I was interested.  I’d 
already done a little uh massaging and so-on for the football team.  He said, “ How would you like 
to be my personal water-boy?” Well, I knew what he meant.  In those days a player could not leave 
the field.  He couldn’t come over those sidelines unless he was shoved over in a play and go back 
into the game in the same quarter.  He had to stay within the confines of the field   Well here’s 
your playing coach; he can’t go up the bench, he can’t hear them unless they’re right up to him.  
He has no communication really at all.  So I would run in with the water pail and uh he might take 
a swish and rinse out his mouth - he never swallowed any.  But, he would find out if so-and-so was 
badly hurt, or if so-and-so was ready to come in and things like that and he ran the bench from the 
field through me.  However, I wasn’t important enough for him to arrange for me to go to the away 
from home games, so I’d judge my job accordingly. (Laughs)
That first year they won every game and they beat Western twice.     Home and home games, I guess 
it was  - and they beat (pause) uh St Michaels - that was their toughest opposition. That’s the 
game I remember the best - from that year.  Anyway they won their group which they had never done, 
since 19 - since entering Intercollegiate Intermediate in1922 - so ‘25 was a banner year.  The next 
year they didn’t do quite so well.  They beat Western once, but not twice and there was a play-off 
game and they lost it.  They were missing two very important players from the year before - they 
were the ends, called outside wings in those days - that was Fred Richardson and Shag Lewis, and I 
think they were the finest uh ends I ever saw - defensively in football.  Wonderful pair of 
tacklers.  They were both shoe-string tacklers and they both tackled the way Wilson did and they 
didn’t want anybody in their way. In fact they would knock  their own players down to get at the 
runner if they didn’t get out of the way fast enough.  They were a wonderful pair.  But they both 
graduated in the spring of ‘26 and we had two young freshmen in. Well, they became stars - but, not 
right away.  There was Syd Henry, the first uh winner of the Wildman Trophy when it was developed 
and Jim Sheldon.  But uh (pause) that was 1927.  By that time football was getting down to a low 
ebb on the campus.  It depended a lot on our class, although it was the smallest class since ‘08.  
We only had thirty-two men graduate - in the degree portion - in ‘29, so you know we were pretty 
limited.  We really - in ‘27 were missing Wilson -
 
we didn’t have Tommy Thompson year ‘27, who would -  he was the fastest man on the campus and had 
been selected for the Olympics for the hundred yards, but his job interfered with (it) - anyway ‘27 
was an off year.  The coach was Bill Hamilton.  Bill had been in year ‘22.  His father died when he 
was about in his second year and he quit and took over his father’s business which was Sun Life 
Insurance - here in Guelph - and District Manager I guess he was.  Anyway, Bill coached and he was 
an excellent quarterback and he was a hand-off quarterback - at times, anyway.  He could fake and 
work the hand-off beautifully. He was a good coach,  but we didn’t have the horses, we didn’t have 
the team.  I think they had eight or nine starters right out of our class and they weren’t of that 
calibre, all of them.
However, that fall, the manager of the third uh - of the uh Junior team was an alcoholic and after 
a game or two, the athletic association decided to move him out and they put me in. Well the first 
game that I managed was against Varsity Juniors and they were slated to be the Dominion Junior 
Champions that year - and they were.  We had a rule then, that players off intermediate teams could 
play junior until they’d played a hundred and twenty minutes of intermediate. It was part of a 
manager’s job to keep that score and we had to turn all that in to the intercollegiate union,
 
Page 6 
 
because (it was ?) very exacting and they counted up the totals and they had to add up to 
the right number for - for a game.  About half our Intermediate team at this time was coming out of 
the freshman class and they were still eligible.  So, we took the bes --best half of our Juniors 
plus the eligible half the team off the Intermediate and made up a real strong team to play Varsity 
- all very legal.
The night before the game - the afternoon, I was coming up from the from the uh - where the team 
played and practised  which was the front campus here - somebody yelled out a window, “You’re 
wanted on the phone.” I went in and it was Hart House asking us, “ Who were the officials for the 
Intermediate game in Toronto the next morning?”  We didn’t even know there was a game.  It was 
Osgoode Hall.  They hadn’t been listed in the League when our uh information came through and our 
Intermediate manager didn’t even know they were in the League.  Well, I stalled.  I said, “Well, 
that manager isn’t here - but you give me the information
- when - where are they playing?” Well it was on the back campus.  Here our Junior team was in the 
big stadium and the Intermediate team was on the back campus.  So I gave them my officials and uh 
then rushed out and got the captain of our team - uh - of our Intermediate team - and he rounded up 
about a half a team and we made up the other half from our junior team.  So instead of having a top 
team to play junior, we had about six or seven conditioned players and then the rest were fellows 
that had tried out and failed to make the team. And most of them hadn’t been running in the 
mornings and so-on.  I asked the Intermediates how many spares they needed? And they said, “None. 
They can play Osgoode Hall - with no spares.” Well, I didn’t believe that, because uh they were 
taking half my team, and I knew they weren’t that good.  So, uh, I gave them two - and then I 
rounded up six spares for my own team - that was quite a job, and there were some pretty small 
fellows that were going to play football the next morning in Varsity Stadium.
So I thought, “My line is so weak.  I’ve got to get some strength in there somewhere.”
And I thought again, as I often had, of Mike (Cheposic?? See Tupsic?).   Mike - had spoken very 
disparagingly of rugby.  He was a soccer player.  He was one of the best goal - goalies in all of 
Ontario.  I went up to his room after supper and asked him if he would join the team next
 
morning and play in the line.   And he demurred, and I - I was near the door and I - I’d planned 
all this.  I said, “You’re not afraid, are you Mike?” Well, he let out a roar and took after me and 
caught me about half way across the campus.  By this time we were both laughing.  He agreed to go 
and I got a couple of line-men to show him the moves, the defense and offense.  Also found him a 
suit, and in between, I’d gotten a bigger bus for the two teams, and a whole lot of things had to 
be done.  I hardly had time to go to school.  That’s the uh truth of it.
We got down to Varsity Stadium and they have a superb team.  We’d been going about two minutes, and 
half our players were on the ground because they could hardly breathe.  They were panting and in no 
condition at all.  Well, just before the game started, I’d walked in front of the Varsity bench and 
I’d seen a young fellow Sullivan, from St. Catherines, where I grew up, and he had played football 
for the St Catherines Collegiate, one year before I left.  So I recognized him and I said, “Hello, 
Sullivan, how are you?” He said, “I don’t know you.” and I said, “That’s right.” But at least he’d 
answered to his name, so I knew I was right and I got his number, and I - at the first break in the 
game I - called for time out,  got their manager, talked with the referee and I said, “ now (pause) 
Varsity has a player (pause) on the bench with a number and the wrong name (pause) I don’t want to 
protest the game and I don’t want to win a game to get this good team by protest, but I will 
protest unless you allow us unlimited substitutions.” Well,  the Varsity manager agreed right away, 
so the referee said it didn’t matter to him.  So, I guess we were the first team in Canada to play 
under Intercollegiate rules, but with unlimited substitutions.
 
Page 7
I was manager, coach and water-boy for this team.  And I didn’t have much work to do because the 
substitutions were obvious.  The fellows that collapsed had to come off the field, and somebody 
else had to be ready to run in. There was one awful thing I had learned about this
team, They only had twelve helmets and when one came off he threw his helmet at the fellow going in 
and he tried it on. If it fit he wore it.  If it didn’t he threw it at the sideline and went in 
bare-headed.  I was absolutely disgusted with the situation with that Junior team.  I finally got 
enough time to watch Mike (Tupsic ?)a bit.  Nobody ever went through Mike (Tupsic?) The whole game, 
he played sixty minutes and came off hardly puffing.  He was a fellow who always kept himself in 
condition.  Before the game was over, he was rushing the kicker - he was rushing the quarterback, 
although the quarterback didn’t handle the ball much, but he was getting
through.  Somebody was telling him what to do all the time I suppose, but,  he sensed it naturally. 
That was such a - well the score that game was forty-five nothing.
 
(END OF TAPE #1)
 
Tape 2 of 3
 
 
ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY J.R. (ROSS) CAVERS, O.A.C. 1929
Ontario Agricultural College, 1929
Interviewed by A.E. Ferguson
August 31, 1989
 
 
C: and we went to the course, which I might say was almost incidental when I was at the height of 
my football work.  (Pause)
At Christmas of 1925, Jack Fraser left the campus, and went to Kemptville, where he - uh
- taught until his retirement.  He was replaced by Seth Marsden, who was the wrestling coach here, 
and had been a top football player - year ‘23.  Jack Fraser was year ‘23.  In the meantime I’d 
gotten to know Jack Smith on the Poultry staff and helped him a bit - with certain work - on the uh 
weekends when I worked, and he was year ‘23.   There were so many in year ‘23  that - I later said, 
when I found them as Agricultural Representatives in all over the province, “When these fellows 
retire, agriculture will come to a stop in Ontario.” Anyway, Marsden said to me, “I’ve got a 
special job for you” - this was early January 1926 - “if you want to take it , at five a.m., seven 
days a week, for two hours - and I’ll put in four hours for work.”  Well, this was an unusual - 
job.  They had a new man on the staff, in Nutrition, John Jacks, Dr. John Jacks.  His idea of 
experimentation with poultry was that each bird, even if it was a day old chick had to be fed 
separately,  and records kept on each one separately.  Still he wanted - dozens, or hundreds 
involved in these experiments, so there was an enormous amount of work.  My job was to go
over - at five a.m., take these chicks individually, from a brooder, and according to their leg 
band put them in  - a little cage where they would eat. And - it was their own assigned cage and 
their own assigned feed.  It was up to me to scoop out any feces that was dried in there from 
previous times,  to add a measured amount of feed if necessary - and I had to do three hundred of 
these. Well, when the two hours was up - or a little more - my final job was to go to the room 
where John Jacks was - sleeping, in the Poultry building, and wake him up, to start the day.  That 
was my job seven days a week.  Well, there was - uh - two hours, that made eight hours, that’s 
fifty- six hours.  I was also working Saturday afternoons at double overtime.  Finally I got a note 
in my mail-box to go and see the Bursar, Tom Stewart.  So I thought “Oh, oh he’s caught on to this 
and I’m in trouble.” So I walked in.  He said, “I want to have a look at a student that works 
eighty hours a week and still goes to class.” “Well,” I said, “it is kind of difficult.” I went 
along with
his joke.  He said, “Who knows about this.” I said, “Mr. Marsden knows and I know.  To my 
knowledge, no-one else knows.” I said, “John Jacks may know of the arrangement or he may not, but 
he’s never mentioned it.  I don’t think he knows anything about it.” “Well,” he said, “be damn sure 
you keep it that way,” and that was the end of the (cough) interview.  (Coughing)
So, we - finished out that - term.  I got the job in the summer - on the Poultry plant, and by this 
time I had done most of the work, weekends, that was required in the summer.  So, I filled right in 
and replaced a man who was leaving.  I didn’t do any more student work of any account - the rest of 
my time there, with one exception - because it was pretty well understood that the freshmen were 
the ones that needed the money and that other people should, after one year, be able to arrange 
their affairs some way, to continue if - if they wanted to.  I did this by borrowing money from my 
brother - and also, some money from a fund that was available to Aggie
 
students. (Coughing)
Life in the residence at that time was - pretty forthright affair.  The sophomores undertook to see 
that - we knew that they were around and they came in the middle of the night  - the first - three 
or four nights we were there and got us all wakened up, and disturbed - and maybe kidnapped two or 
three of our members and ran them through a cold shower or something.  We finally - had to be 
assigned - uh guards to warn because uh these were very often just small
groups that came over. However, we had a big event on the Monday.  We registered on Friday. They 
took the students downtown when I was working catching chickens, and they all had to make a speech 
on the steps of the City Hall.  So I escaped that.  I don’t know what they did to us on Saturday 
and Sunday, but on Monday they had the (flag? inaudible)fight.  Well, we outnumbered the sophomores 
by maybe a dozen or so.  But they evened it up by blindfolding us and they ran some of our members 
into cars and  took two carloads - of blindfolded people including Art Wilson, Dick Graham, Pat 
Smith  - off the football line - fellows like that, to an abandoned warehouse in Rockwood and tied 
them up there.  Then they raced back ready for the flag fight.  Wilson had set us up for the fight. 
 He picked all the tall fellows like myself and had us lock arms around the pole.  This was 
practice, and we were to kick out with our feet and fend off anybody who tried to climb the pole.  
I don’t know how many there were in that little group,
but maybe a dozen.  Anyway, one of our members said, “you know, if I climbed the pole, nobody else 
could climb it.” Well that seemed like a good idea, so
we let this fellow climb the pole and then the senior students and faculty began to yell, that’s a 
- a spy. That guy is second year.  That’s Henry Field from uh - he was from uh (long pause) Port 
Perry.  And he was a spy, he’d been at all our meetings and nobody knew him.  Well, a couple of 
fellows reached up and grabbed him by the pants pockets and pulled his pants off right there in
the (inaudible) just pulled them off.  So he came down from his lofty perch right away, and headed 
for the residence.  The sophomores lined up, what would be known as a tandem butt.  It was illegal 
in football, but it was apparently legal in flag fights.  They had Tiny Martin leading, a great, 
huge, hulk of a fellow with a football mask on his head, and there was a good dozen of them behind 
him to push, and one tall fellow at the very tail end to run up over their backs and grab the flag. 
 The flag was up on a pole ten feet from the ground.  Well, they got to within about twenty feet of 
us, roaring and yelling and coming on, impossible to stop, but there - but the one fellow they 
should have taken to Rockwood, they’d missed, and that was one of the smallest in our class and he 
was Glen Griffiths.  He had been at Lakefield and he was as tough a customer as we had in the whole 
class. He was also a football player.  He just raced out from our crowd, tackled Tiny Martin around 
the ankles, and brought the whole crowd down in a great big pile, himself on the bottom. But he 
emerged without a scratch.  Well they untangled themselves and regrouped ready for another charge 
and at that moment, the boys arrived from Rockwood - all in one taxi - and it was on a ride now pay 
later basis because they were all in old clothes and none
of them had any money, but they’d talked this fellow into coming to see this fight and they’d pay 
him on the way out - this taximan.   Anyway, they charged in and soon broke up the sophomore rush 
and everything else in connection with it, and we won the flag fight, which I believe was the first 
time for perhaps a number of years.  That was one of the ways they had of welding us together and 
it really worked.
We had a few other - experiences.  The Sophomores tarred and feathered two of our members. They got 
ahold of some road tar around here somewhere, and they tarred two of our class - but they hadn’t 
figured out how to take the tar off.   Our Dean of Residence was Reg Boss.  I think he
 
was in year ‘23 also.  Anyway, he was an Englishman and a wonderful chap, and he stayed up all 
night  - to get the tar off these two boys.  I stayed with him and two or three others did, and we 
did whatever he instructed.  I don’t know what we used, but we didn’t burn them, so it couldn’t 
have been - gasoline.
 
F: Maybe alcohol
C: I don’t know.  It’s a long time ago, sixty-four years.  Anyway, that was  - some thing that - 
made a great friendship between our class and year ‘28 who initiated us.  It should have reacted 
the other way, but - the one person most concerned outside of Boss, was Bill Watson who was 
president of year ‘28, and he stayed all night  too, trying to solve this problem, and uh make sure 
these fellows didn’t need medical attention and all that sort of thing.  And we did develop a very 
strong bond with the class that initiated us and there was never anything of that nature again.
That was enough.   And it was serious.  However, uh we had the usual class encounters - and one was 
the 17th of March Fight, which  - ‘28 took as a - fun thing.  They would rush into one of our 
classes, a few of them, and issue a challenge and race out again, and we’d call in a body and
we’d have a snowball fight.  We had about four of those during the day, and it was all in fun.  
It’s a commentary maybe on our class, that we did not have that same rapport with year’30, that we 
initiated.  I think we put too tough a group in - charge of initiation - not enough (yogurt?)   . 
Anyway, when it came to the 17th of March Fight in 1927 - what happened ended that Fight as a 
tradition on campus, and there’s never been one since.  And it was quite a fight. There was no 
snow.  That was the problem.   We all went - practically all went to breakfast in old clothes.  We 
had banana, a banana a piece for breakfast, which is not a thing to eat, but if you are going to
have a fight right afterwards.  I found that out.  In fact, I had to go over - behind one of the 
pine trees near Creelman Hall and  - get rid of my breakfast before I could continue in the fight.  
One of our - class,  who was well-dressed, for some reason, ‘d forgotten about the fight.  He went 
out early and the Freshmen grabbed him and in some - way, tore his clothes.  He had a fairly new 
suit on.  They tore his pants off.   Grabbed him in by the pockets.  And when we came out, hearing 
the disturbance, it was a free-for-all of clothes tearing.  Mike ( inaudible) of course,  was a 
Freshman, and nobody wanted to tangle with him, but he knew he should pick out the biggest man we 
had and he picked Hank (Full?)   Hank was a lumber-jack from British Columbia, strong as an ox, 
weighed about two-thirty.  Mike grabbed Hank, raised him up, and spun him with one hand - above his 
head - and then let him crash down on the gravel road betwee - between Memorial Hall and uh Mills 
Hall in those days.  I spent from the end of the fight ‘til noon picking gravel out of Hank’s 
shoulder with a pair of uh forceps.  Hank was one of my best
friends.  Uh several fellows got broken ribs, and it - it was rough.  I got - something to remember 
the fight by, because I’d worn - an old,  but very durable St. Catherine’s Collegiate pullover 
sweater.  It wouldn’t tear.  I also had a good,  heavy leather belt, an old one, and it wouldn’t
break.  And, the Freshman had ahold of me in such a away, that I couldn’t undo the belt, or get rid 
of the jersey.   And they were bouncing me up and down, trying to break the belt.  They girdled my 
back with blood blisters that didn’t heal,  weren’t even healed when I came back in the fall.  I 
had to wear a belt all summer. (Laughing) But uh - the attitude on campus at that time was, “You 
don’t complain to the Faculty, you don’t go near the Faculty, you don’t do anything”. So, we nursed 
our wounds and didn’t complain, and also we figured we’d won, because we had seven fellows, 
including myself, with some measure of clothes on at the end of the fight.  The Freshmen had to run 
to the old residence, stark naked, because (inaudible) when they quit the
 
fight, and they took a shortcut across (Pritsy ?) Reynold’s front porch, which was part of the old 
residence building. Dr. Reynolds was the President, and he was in the habit of conducting a - a 
service - a prayer service at Memorial Hall at 8:30 every weekday morning.  He came out with his 
black robes, and his Bible in his hand, and his black hat on, and a half a dozen naked freshmen ran 
across right in front of him across his porch, as a shortcut to jump in (inaudible) residence.   He 
turned around and closed the door and   that was the end of the uh services. There never was 
another - prayer service and there never was another flag fight.
The uh - students met - and decided  - that they had to end this thing.  Too many people’d been 
hurt, and that - the Freshmen agreed that they would not stage a flag uh (inaudible) day, uh 17th 
of March fight next year and they (seemed deaf?).     That’s the last I ever heard of it.
 
(Pause - tape turned off and on again) F: Go ahead
C: As our small class of ‘29 progressed, we got more and more executive work - on our shoulders, as 
- Junior and Senior students were expected to do.  Most of us had to assume two or three jobs.  I 
had three jobs myself.  There was the football.  I was President of the Student Co- op, and I was 
on the Student Council.  Everybody that was interested at all, had a job.  It seemed to be part of 
our education, and after I graduated I came to appreciate a lot of those experiences.
 
The course itself was not difficult.  I took Animal Husbandry because there was no Poultry option 
at that time.  I probably would have taken Animal Husbandry anyway.  After all, I’d fed more pigs 
than poultry before I came to college, and had general farm experience, quite a bit beyond my 
poultry experience.  But by this time I was pretty well committed to the Poultry Department, in the 
work I’d been able to get with them.   And of course I took on the Poultry end of things in the 
College Royal and other events like that, judging competitions they had, and so forth.  I got into 
this College Royal deal the very first year.  They decided, in their wisdom, the Senior students, 
to have a chicken plucking contest.  They had big feather boxes, over there at the Department, and 
I arranged for them to be hauled over to the Judging Pavilion, and I built racks
so that uh these large chickens could be hung up.  And I think there was two students from each 
year, entered into this thing - about eight of them to kill chickens.  Just before College Royal 
opened, Professor Wade Toole walked into the Judging Pavilion, and he said, “What is this?” Well, 
they referred him to me, the humble Freshman.  So I told him it was preparations for the chicken 
plucking contest.  He said, “You’re not going to kill chickens in here.  That fresh blood could 
make the mares abort.”  And, he ordered the whole thing out of there as fast as we could get it. 
Well, everybody jumped in and they moved it a good distance away from there, and we held the 
judging and the killing competition out in the open somewhere, in the snow.
 
Anyway, that was one experience.  When I went to Wade Toole in - the spring of my second year, to 
ask him if he would accept me in the Animal Husbandry option, - he said, “You’re - a Poultryman, 
aren’t you?” I said, “Well I seem to be coming that, yes.”  “Well” he said, “I guess we have to put 
up with the damn poultrymen.  Yes, you can come in.” So, one way or another it wasn’t a very uh 
auspicious start for me, but I entered  the third year in the Poultry option in the Animal 
Husbandry Option.
 
Wade Toole died that year.  So did Gabe Young(?),  Professor Youngman (?)  in English.  Dr. 
Reynolds, who was a lay minister, gave the funeral oration for both of those professors. And we 
used to argue afterwards, which one was better.  And noone could decide, because - everybody agreed 
both were perfect.  They were marvelous.  Dr Reynolds was known as probably the most gifted - user 
of the English Language - orator - in Ontario.  Not just in agriculture, but in any college - or 
university - or anyone else - in politics or anywhere.  And he was a self educated man, in a sense, 
really it was his parents.  They lived on a farm away back in the - back reaches of Durham County 
(inaudible)    And it was not convenient for him to go to school and still do the chores he felt he 
should do at home.  So he stayed home.  And his mother taught him and his
father taught him.  I think they were both English and very well schooled themselves.  He went to
- to graduation in high school - that graduation year, and - they had already made application to 
the University of Toronto and they said they would not accept him unless he had one year of high 
school.  So, they boarded him out for a year - somewhere.   I don’t know whether it was Port Hope, 
or where, and he entered high school at the - third year - level for Junior Matriculation, as I 
recall.  And he was a winner, there and in university.  H e specialized in - Mathematics - although 
he could have specialized in English, in fact he could have taught the English they were teaching. 
Probably he had a minor in English.  Anyway, he came out of there with high honours.  I don’t know 
what all he did, but he became President of uh Manitoba Agricultural College - in
Winnipeg - and I think was there five or six years.  That’s before it became part of the University 
of Manitoba.  In 1921 - whoever was president - at  O.A.C.,  was relieved of his job or quit it, I 
forget which.   That was Dr. Creelman.  Although Dr Creelman had always said, he could change his 
politics as quick as his shirt.  The College was very much a - political football, at that time, 
directly under the Department of Agriculture.  They hired Reynolds from Winnipeg, and he was 
President when I went to Guelph.   I greatly admired the man but never got to know him.  I went to 
the Poultry Congress, the World’s Poultry Congress in Ottawa in 1927.  Both Dick Graham
and I were working on the same farm and we both wanted to go to the Congress, so I went the first 
three days and he went the final three.  Dr. Reynolds was there.  I’d met uh one of the top men in 
the Department of Agriculture at Ottawa.  He remembered my name and when he saw me near Reynolds, 
he rushed over and said, “ Dr. Reynolds, you of course know your student, Ross Cavers here,  from 
O.A.C.” An amazing thing for this fellow who was meeting everybody that was there.  That was Dr.( 
Motherall?), by the way. I’d never met Reynolds and he didn’t know
me from a post, but he was very - friendly.  Anyway - another government shift and Reynolds was out 
and that’s when Dr. Christie took over in 1928.  I got to know Dr. Reynolds better afterwards, and 
had one memorable session of bridge with him.  Oh, this was in the fifties.  He came up from Port 
Hope, where he was retired on a farm, and his son running it. - and staying at a niece’s home in 
Guelph. Dave (Kent?) was in on this.  He was a relative of Mrs. Reynolds. And Jack Baker was a 
great friend of Dave (Kenndy?) and he got me in and we went to this home and played bridge.  We 
drew for partners and I drew Dr. Reynolds, much to my dismay.  I knew he was a good bridge player.  
He was a great mathematician.  On the strain of the Presidency (inaudible) didn’t he use to  - do 
Calculus as a means of uh  take his mind off his problems.  Well, he attacked bridge the same way.  
But, we got along pretty well.  I found right away, that he counted his points and bridge uh bridge 
to him, was a mathematical thing, and I played the same way.  Quite different from Jack Baker, who 
expected his partners to play that way, and he gambled all over the map.  Well - we didn’t do too 
badly, but we didn’t win that
 
night.  Jack said, “Dr., is there anything I can do for you now, the rest of your stay in Guelph?” 
He said, “Yes, I’d like another session of bridge.” So this was at the Baker’s.  So, Jack said, 
“Well we’ll up draw for partners.” “No,” the Dr. said, “we’ll just keep the same partners.” Well, 
Dr. Reynolds bid a spade. And I had a perfect hand for a bid of spades.  I bid seven spades.  We 
were vulnerable.  Jack doubled and I redoubled.  The Dr. never turned a hair.  He had to play it. 
He played it perfectly and we got seven spades doubled and redoubled.  Well, that almost ended the 
game.  He was really, for once showing elation over bridge.  (Laughing - cough) He went home - and 
didn’t live too many months after that.  And somebody in his family said we tired
him out playing bridge.  I’d say we sent him to heaven in a very happy mood.  (Laugh)  That’s just 
one of many things that I could talk about here, but I wanted people to know the stature of that 
man Reynolds.
(Tape on and off)
C: I’d like to make a comment regarding Dr. Christie.  He gave us a very bad start - in the fall of
1928.  But his attitude changed even before that football season was over.  He had the habit of 
doing the rounds of the barns - about five in the morning, and by six, six-thirty, probably, when 
our - players had come in from running the dairy (plot?), the four miles they ran every uh weekday, 
before light - practice, signal practice in the mornings before breakfast, he’d be sitting in the 
bleachers waiting for them. And he began to take more and more interest.  (Noises on tape) As I 
said before, he allowed us to put on a dance to pay the bills.  The next year with, they had Carl 
Boss back as coach, but the year after that - and this is depression years now - 1930 - he
(end of taping #2)
 
Tape 3 of 3
 
 
ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY J.R. (ROSS) CAVERS, O.A.C. 1929
Ontario Agricultural College, 1929
Interviewed by A.E. Ferguson
August 31, 1989
 
 
C    (Inaudible) joined the OAC staff.   He was unhappy with the new arrangement they were making 
to place the livestock and poultry and crops under a farm manager directly answering to the 
Comptroller at the University of Manitoba, and taking it out of the hands of uh academic staff.  
However, Dr. McCostey thought, in view of the bad condition of the Poultry Plant there, they might 
make an exception in my case.  I assumed that the farm managers, whoever they might be, would know 
nothing about poultry, and that it would take all my efforts to clean up what I understood was 
quite a mess.  As a matter of fact, the university had asked Mr. Elford, at Ottawa, the Dominion 
Poultry Husbandman of those days, to call in there at his first opportunity
and advise them.  He advised them to destroy the entire flock, burn the buildings and build a new 
plant somewhere else.  Well, I didn’t think from my experience with many different diseases on 
farms in Ontario, that any such radical steps would be required, but I did want control over the 
situation.  After three months in Manitoba, a meeting was called in which this transfer was to
take place to the farm manager of all the plots and crops.  I wasn’t invited, but my boss who was 
Professor Wood, Head of Animal Science, took me to the meeting anyway in the (inaudible) and I 
found a chance to speak up and say that, while I hoped to work closely with the farm manager, who 
was sitting right beside me, on the other hand, I had learned from him that he was not uh aware of 
the situation with poultry.   He had no experience in it,  and uh I hoped he would agree that it 
should be my responsibility to clean up the situation and get the flock back on what I hoped would 
be a paying basis.  The Comptroller, who was pushing this whole thing, spoke up and agreed with me. 
 I told them I would need another six months to clean the place up and start over again.  He agreed 
to that.  He said I would have to submit to the rates of pay that the farm manager established.  I 
told him I had to have two men - they had already worked it out that they could do it with one man 
and half a day, each day.  But I wanted two men and enough poultry to justify their pay.  Since the 
pay was just fifty-five dollars a month, of which they took twenty- four for room and board, this 
wasn’t asking a great deal.  Anyway, it was a constant fight for the whole nine years there, to 
operate that plant.  But we did operate it within a year at a profit.  I paid a graduate student a 
thousand dollars a year, and that was criticized on the campus, because most people could only pay 
six hundred.  However, I said, “I work them harder than you do and this is the way it’s going to 
be.” And it was allowed.
We had a great experience, my wife and I, in Winnipeg.  We loved the people there. We lived in the 
residence for two years, because it wasn’t too full of students and there were quite a few staff 
members and some faculty there.  Then we built ourselves a cottage in Fort Garry and we had some 
wonderful friends.  My wife shed some tears when we went out there, because her Mother had just 
died and it was a very trying period, but nine years later she shed more, coming back, because she 
was leaving the place she’d been the happiest in all her life.  However, the University had not 
straightened out financially very much. I’d never gotten an assistant, in my work, until the final 
quarter - the final school session, from Christmas on in 1946.  By that time
 
we were swamped with veterans coming back, and it was just too much.  I could do it, but I couldn’t 
do it well.  I had too much teaching.  So I came back to Guelph.  Dr. Mercellus (?) was ill.  I was
 
 
Page 2
 
Acting Head for two years and then became head of the department, which I continued to serve until 
retirement from the University in 1968.
 
F   Well, when you were out in Winnipeg, that was during the war years, wasn’t it Ross?
 
C   Yes.  War started four years after we arrived there and it was just finishing up when we left. 
And, I found my niche in the poultry industry in trying to find stop gaps for the shortages in 
feeds and all that sort of thing.  I wasn’t trained in that, but there was noone else, so I won 
myself a place with the feed men, and also with  the “Eggs for Britain” programme.  I was very 
interested in the statistical end of it.  The Federal Representative in Manitoba, A.C. McCullough, 
a very tough operator and a civil servant.  He required that the hatcheries make weekly reports to 
him, and likewise the egg grading stations and the killing plants.  He had this material 
accumulated,
but his boss in Ottawa didn’t believe in that sort of thing, so nothing was being done with it.  I 
found it invaluable in setting out the seasonal variation in egg production and all that sort of 
thing which related to the whole programme of “Eggs for Britain”, which started out as fresh
eggs and soon switched to frozen eggs.  And Winnipeg, of course, was the main collecting centre for 
the three western provinces.  They in turn were probably supplying seventy-five or eighty percent 
of all the eggs going to Britain.  It was a wonderful programme, finally, and uh very successful.  
I worked with Mr. Donovan, who was uh editor of the “Canadian Poultry Review”. He found these 
statistics, of course, of great value for his paper.  He came back from a trip out west and went 
straight to Ottawa to impress on the Deputy Minister how they needed this in all the provinces so 
that they would know what they were doing.  He was temporarily hired at that time to publicize the 
programme.  However, his boss, Mr. Brown, was so incensed, he fired him. But the Deputy had picked 
up the thing and he ordered that all the provincial offices of the Federal Government, dealing with 
the poultry situation should provide these statistics.  And I can say that for many years after 
that, Canada was in advance of any other country in its knowledge
of its poultry industry from the standpoint of production and marketing.  That came to the notice 
of people here in Ontario and the poultry industry apparently showed interest in my return and they 
expressed that to the Minister, Colonel Tom Kennedy.  It was really Colonel Kennedy who brought me 
back to Guelph.  He was very keen to have someone who would work with the industry and would speak 
publicly and who would show, as he told me, that the staff at Guelph were not muzzled as they had 
been under the Hepburn regime and he wanted them to be more outspoken and give more leadership in 
public.  I said, “I’ll be wrong some of the time.” He said, “I make enough mistakes here to keep my 
Deputy Minister busy.   After Monday morning,” he said, “he’s busy all week correcting what I do.” 
He said, “I’ll back you up whether you’re right or wrong.” He was a wonderful chap.  He was one of 
three great men I worked for.  The first
was Professor Graham, the second was Sydney Smith at Winnipeg, and the third was Colonel Kennedy.   
Although I didn’t work directly under him, I came under his influence quite a bit. Because noone 
ever outlined the job I had here in Guelph, except to be head of the department.  I just went ahead 
and worked at whatever seemed desirable or necessary at the time.  We had a good,  well rounded 
department at that time, and it was my job to see that they had the where-
 
with-all to work, and that we had the support of the uh officials, both at Guelph and in Toronto.
 
F  When you cam back to Guelph, you started uh an interesting programme, particularly to me, and uh 
maybe you could tell us something about that.
 
Page C   Well, we had a lot of fine young men, but none of them had gone as far as I thought they 
could go academically, for training - for training in research and furthering the poultry industry. 
Uh Art Ferguson had credits from his Air Force experiences.  He had uh taken - decided to take them 
out in training for a veterinarian, but we were able to keep him working between seasons and help 
nurse him along and start a vet programme.
Stan Singer was another one.  I felt he should have a PhD if he was going to stay with us. But he 
seemed to be headed for commercial work.  However, I prodded him into signing up for a PhD at 
Cornell.  But I said, “One thing is lacking.  I’m going to have to answer your mail.  I can’t 
answer mail about mixing feeds.  You’ve got to give me your formulas and we’ll have to make a 
booklet or something that will help answer the mail.” He didn’t agree with it, but he gave me his 
formulas.   I wrote the first feed formula booklet.  It was only a few mimeographed pages stapled 
together.  However, it got us by until he came back.  He had a very successful run in graduate work 
at Cornell.
The came Fred Jerome.  Fred was laying bricks for his father, who was a builder down near Mount 
Hope.  I went down to see him, and, “Well,” he said, “he couldn’t leave.  He had to keep bricking 
in this house before fall.”  He couldn’t come back here to teach that fall.  I wanted him as a 
geneticist.  I was trained in that field, but I knew I was slipping..  I’d been several years since 
I’d followed it up and I never did work for anybody that had enough money to do research in it.  
So, we- I took the course until Fred was able to come in November.  He left early in the spring, 
but by that time he’d finished the course. And he was credited as being one of the best , if not 
the best in the area of - of genetics on the campus.  And uh livestock boys were asking for time 
out from some of their classes to take Fred Jerome’s course.  So that paid off. And uh, it went on 
from there.  Several of the young fellows were trained in uh marketing and other fields - 
management.
 
F   Harvey Pettit for example
 
C    Harvey Pettit was already here, operating the uh - what they called the Ontario Breeding 
Stations, that was the field work, and they had taken over the Federal work in addition, and by 
that time it was called Hatchery Approval.  Harvey was marvelous uh chap to operate that programme 
- an administrator such as you wouldn’t believe.  His idea was to do more work with less help all 
the time.  And he achieved that.  He finally was approving as many birds here in Ontario as the 
rest of Canada put together.  His men had not increased in number.   In fact he’d reduced them 
through various things he developed and uh he had about half the staff of the total of the other 
provinces.  So it was an example of a - a civil servant who didn’t try to build an em empire, but 
in fact,  reduced it.
 
F  That was the time when the “rapid whole blood test” came into effect wasn’t it?
 
C    Yes
 
F  after the war.
 
C   Uh, I never worked with that, but it was became the uh system, and of course, as they reduced 
the pullorum disease, they finally got to a point where they could do spot testing - just sample 
testing, and uh where they’d done maybe a hundred and fifty thousand birds in my first year on that 
work, at this time they were doing a couple of million.  So, it was a - a success story, but it had
 
Page 4 
 
some ups and downs with variant reactions that had to be mastered with new antigens.  Our 
work in that area was all in co-operation with the microbiology department.  They called it the 
Bacteriology Department at that time.  Eddy Gerard had head of the pullorum testing, back in the 
late twenties. By this time he was head of the department and Merrit Wright was in charge of the 
pullorum testing.   But uh our relations with that department were excellent, and I - I assume 
they’d continued.
We had great co-operation in the industry.  I’d been chosen to help develop that and I was 
delighted the way it worked out.  My own contribution with the industry, was to work with the 
statistics of uh placements for egg production  for example,  placements of day-old chicks, and 
transposing that to do a running average over a twelve month period from their six months to 
eighteen months of age.   This gave a pretty good guide as to what egg production would be a year 
ahead.   And, it was a little frightening to find how people believed it.   I didn’t believe it as
much as many of the people listening to me, but at the same time, it never let me down.  It wasn’t 
a prediction.  It was a projection of known statistics. They could’ve let me down if a big
epidemic of some kind had come along, but we would know about that and we would warn as to what was 
coming.  One of the biggest uh changes that had to be made in those statistics was when Marek’s 
disease hit its peak and then a vaccine was developed.  When that proved
successful, it uh saved about a third of the uh production stock from death in their first year.  
And we had to adjust our population accordingly.  We did a much better job than some other
provinces and we did a far better job in Canada than they did in United States.  So I think the 
statistical approach did pay off in some respects.
 
F   Well Ross, you always mentioned the four ages of poultry, would you care to reflect a little on 
that and mention just what they are?
 
C    Well this is my own definition for the industry.  I figure I got my start in the natural phase 
- the first phase, when it was uh necessary to let the hens out of doors at noon every day that the 
sun shone in winter in order to keep them uh laying through the winter and producing sound shells 
on the eggs.  We didn’t know it, but we were re uh  revitalizing them and giving them an 
opportunity to gain Vitamin D.  Of course Vitamin D came through in cod liver oil at a later stage 
and that started the second phase.  The cod liver oil story uh starting from University of 
Wisconsin, they published their results in 1924, and showed that chicks could be reared indoors, 
behind glass and be protected from rickets or leg weakness as we called it, as long as they were 
given the cod liver oil.  If they weren’t given cod liver oil, then they had to have direct 
sunshine, outdoors part of the day, any day they could.  I had written Guelph in 1921, asking about 
an oil
 
I’d heard of, that would protect chicks against leg weakness.  I had a few chicks then,  bought 
from a classmate in St. Catherines by the name of Fred Gregg, who later became Canada’s leading 
hatcheryman.  Guelph wrote back, they hadn’t heard of any such oil.  But when I came here in 1925, 
they were feeding it to all classes of poultry.   Well, this advent of cod liver oil lengthened the 
season.  It allowed hens to lay good shells on their eggs in the middle of the winter.  If you 
could get them laying in the middle of the winter the shells would be sound.  And that meant the 
eggs could be hatched.  And immediately the poultry industry became mechanized
- commercialized, and incubators, instead of being just a single flat of eggs in a - a compartment 
up on legs and heated with an oil lamp, instead the incubators became rooms with decks of eggs- 
many decks and fans to circulate the air and keep all the eggs at about the same temperature.
That in turn led to the great epidemic of pullorum disease.   Pullorum disease really was bacillary 
white diarrhea in the early days, and that’s what
 
Page 5
 
we called it.  And nothing much came of it when the eggs hatched under a hen, or in one of 
the single deck incubators.  But when you move the air around like that, any chick that was 
infected had rolled around in its own feces inside the egg, then it  hatched, it dried off, and the 
capsules around the fluff, broke up and blew all through the incubator.  This was a very fine 
fluff.  It led to the lung disease which we later called pullorum disease. And, whereas only a few 
would die of bacillary white diarrhea, with this new form gained from these big incubators, up to 
ninety
percent of the chicks would die.  So when I started in on the Pullorum Programme, really the head 
of it in 1928, hatcheries were beginning to be ready to go bankrupt, especially those that 
guaranteed to replace any chicks that died.  They could replace the first hatch, because they 
started with a clean incubator.  They didn’t know how to clean the incubator after the first hatch, 
and each successive hatch, the death rate was worse.  By about the third or fourth hatch, they 
couldn’t hatch enough to replace the ones that had died.
Well, that started a new phase, a phase in which the hatcherymen were the key to the industry. But 
at the same time, uh services like the uh Ontario Breeding Stations were key to the hatcherymen 
staying in business.  So it was a commercialized approach, but based on hatchery promotion.  And
the poultry districts of Ontario were the districts were the hatcherymen were the keenest on 
business and uh lining up of flocks.  That continued through World War II.  The Americans, in the 
meantime, had been getting into the broiler industry, but - but we increased our egg production by 
twenty-five percent in order to supply Britain with eggs.  We had more poultry meat than we knew 
what to do with.   In fact we sold uh fallow, that’s the uh the hens from the laying pens when they 
were all finished laying.  We were able to sell those uh birds, dressed, to the American army .  
But the quartermasters’ requirements were for eviscerated poultry, and that’s what forced Canada 
into eviscerating the poultry that they put on the market.  That occurred about uh 1942 and 3.  So 
all these developments were commercial developments, and the college here and in Winnipeg, we 
supported these new uh endeavors.  Our broiler industry had to wait until we got through with the 
“Eggs for Britain”, and that wasn’t until 1950, because after the war we still shipped eggs for 
four years.  But in 1950, Britain declared they could no longer spend uh dollars on eggs, bacon and 
cheese from Canada.  Our industry was well warned ahead of time, but the leaders at Ottawa didn’t 
pass the warning on - didn’t seem to think it mattered, and uh we had a tremendous over-production 
of eggs in 1950.   Our prices fell from , let us say for grade A large delivered, uh Toronto 
forty-four cents, in one weekend they dropped
 
to twenty-four cents, based on New York.
Well, that brought in a new storage plan for eggs.  Uh a new man at Ottawa, he wasn’t new, but he 
was new in getting power to do what he wanted to do.  Cliff Barry, uh handled that programme and it 
was a great success.  The government didn’t buy the eggs that went in the storage in the fall  uh 
er, in the spring and summer ready for fall, but they did uh provide uh backing so the banks would 
loan money to store those eggs.  But the government didn’t promise to buy the eggs except
during the uh storage season. At the end of the storage season, when egg production had increased, 
say in December and January , they wouldn’t buy any of these eggs, so if people weren’t going to 
lose their shirts they had to have them sold in the short season in the fall of the year.  It 
worked out very well, until politicians got in on it in 1959, and uh more-or-less forced the 
Department of Agriculture to uh  buy up these eggs after the storage season was over.  Well, that 
led to over-production such as we hadn’t known except in 1950.   In 1959, we had over- production 
of broilers, of layers, and of turkeys.  The college uh switchboard told me I was getting more long 
distance calls than all the rest of the O.A.C. put together.  What to do?  And it was a busy time.
Well, our Ontario Poultry Council was not taking any leading role at that time, so I suggested that 
we reorganize, and matched up as a representative body of the industry and as one that would
Page 6 inform the industry of these things ahead of time.  That was done and I think to this day 
it’s a quite successful leadership body - the Ontario Poultry Council.  I wrote the uh agenda for 
it and the uh - any bylaws they have, and uh they were accepted.  We’d done almost the same thing 
in Manitoba, years before, so I had a little experience in that line.  There were so many National 
problems coming up however, in disease control and that sort of thing, that it was beyond uh the uh 
commercial body like that, and it was pleasing to see Ottawa finally taking a stronger hold in that 
regard.  This paid off especially when it came to vaccination for Marek’s disease, which was one 
that we couldn’t handle, and uh  which testing wouldn’t handle.  So, there were many things like 
that that came along.  uh  We worked closely with Dr. Ferguson, who was by that time in charge of 
the poultry disease work at the Veterinary College, and I think our general approach was sound 
through to when I retired in 1968.
One thing I didn’t do, which I probably should have, was prepare my department for university style 
of operation.  I understood it from working in Manitoba.  But, it had been set up differently here, 
with the college doing the field work for the Department of Agriculture, and we continued to do it. 
 However, the University began to charge forty percent extra, just for administration,
even though the administration was in my department.  So I advised the Minister to extract the uh 
programme away from the University and set up his own  uh body to handle that work, which he did.  
And that was located in the government offices at the Veterinary College.  That made quite
a change in our Poultry Department, but I was long since gone from there, having taken a job with 
uh Harry Donovan and the “Canadian Poultry Review”.  That was in April 1968, and I stayed with him 
for four and a half years.  It was supposed to be a part-time job, but Harry was over eighty and he 
scarcely wrote a word after I went with him, so in a sense while I was Associate Editor,  I was
the Editor of the “Review”for a little over four years.  I liked the writing work, but a new phase 
of the industry ’d come in. I should have said that the broiler industry caused us to specialize. 
Once you got specialized stock for meat production you couldn’t compete with people who had
specialized stock for egg production unless you went in that direction for that end of the 
business.
And the turkey industry had to become specialized, so our people would end up just eating broilers. 
 The broiler industry has thrived.  It was often over-done. But the statistical methods that I 
mentioned could apply to them too, and uh were used by them for quite a few years, as a guide
to get maximum production in the seasons when needed and reduced production in the fall here, when 
other poultry was coming on the market.  So I was involved with that too for quite a while. 
However, the industry was not happy with the ups and downs of the poultry industry and they began 
to go in the direction of marketing boards - controlled uh  placement of
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