Profile of the Graduating Class of 1958

By Wendy Campbell:  

From Atkey, Jane through all the Mac’s and Mc’s to the end of the alphabet, this year members of the 1958 class in Physical and Occupational Therapy celebrated 60 years since graduation.  Sadly Jane and a dozen others have died, and distance, disability or commitments kept others from coming, but a lively group of us gathered for lunch on the Uof T reunion week-end in June. There was lots of chatting, laughing, reminiscing and catching up with what the years had brought since our days scampering from the HUTS to the far reaches of the campus, changing our clothes more often than a stripper.

 Now the site of Massey College, our HUTS were temporary relics of WW11 built in 1945, serving as headquarters for P/OT into the 60’s. The present, well equipped location of the schools – now separate graduate programs on University Avenue, reflects the development of the dynamic and diverse professions of today.

Although the surroundings in the 50’s were meagre, 59 young women learned a lot, had some fun while they were at it, graduated and went out into the world of rehabilitation. Petrissage and efflurage, warp and weft were all new words in the vocabularies that occupied us every day from 9 to 5. And despite our love for Misses Levesconte and Robinson and Mrs.  Cardwell, most of us chose to begin our careers in the pragmatic practice of physiotherapy, taught by the very British Miss Pollard. The more subtle challenges and delights of OT would emerge later.

We wore white uniforms for our physio placements, and fetching green ones for OT, with white caps – like nurses. Both required stockings, white for PT, beige for OT; both needed garter belts to hold them up and we wore white shoes for PT, brown ones for OT.  After graduating, the OT uniform included a brown leather belt with a swell, sort of military looking buckle and green velvet bands were added to the caps. Placements included a bone shaking ride on an old bus to the Workmen’s Compensation Board clinic in Malton, wolfing our sandwiches on the way.

Despite the initial preference for physio (I think for me, it was an inclination to be a Bossypants) a number of us went on have prominent positions in occupational therapy…two founding heads of university programs in OT– one on each side of the country, two executive directors of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and one partner in a homecare program called Community Occupational Therapy Associates. The first president of the Alumni Association was from the class of /58, and two out of 22 recipients of the alumnae achievement award have been as well.

Wedding bells were frequently heard in the summer after graduation and the few years following because in our day, many young women married in their early twenties. Day care didn’t exist so it wasn’t so common for women to work until their children were in school.  For people not wanting to work in their profession, there were a number of interesting community involvements available, providing valuable support to individuals and organizations. Many of us pursued skills that have become honed into substantial talents – one of our classmates couldn’t attend the lunch because her choir was performing at Carnegie Hall.  A few took off in directions like social work, real estate and film making. Skills were explored in painting, quilting, weaving and a range of other things that are much more fun and creative than they were as OT assignments.  Many rounds of golf and tennis were played, aqua fit and tai chi enjoyed…and of course children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren produced and loved.

It was a different time in many ways, we were products of a post war era, a bit austere still compared to today’s wealth of consumer goods. There was very limited birth control, feminism had yet to emerge as a movement and the medical hierarchy was very much in evidence.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but it was our time.  I began to realize many years ago how that training in rehabilitation concepts has formed my thinking and my life. So, here’s to the P/OT’s of /58, I’m proud to be one of you.