Ryerson's first graduating class was recognized last Saturday at their old stomping ground. Photo: Tom Sapiano

Rye welcomes first grads back home

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By Doug Paton

Most students would cringe at the thought of starting classes at 6:30 a.m., but for John Carew and his fellow students in Ryerson’s former food technologies program, it was a part of life in 1950.

Students learning about food technologies—when the school was called the Ryerson Institute of Technology—were responsible for preparing meals in the cafeteria.

When breakfast ended at 10 a.m., it was off to class until 2 p.m. before heading back to the kitchen to prepare dinner.

Fifty years later, Carew was one of 17 graduates from the class of 1950 to attend Ryerson’s homecoming last Saturday. The day’s events included receptions, campus tours and an awards ceremony to honour not only the graduates of 1950, but five Rye graduates who earned the alumni award of distinction.

“It’s hard to explain all the differences that have taken place,” says Carew, who hasn’t been on campus since his graduation five decades ago.

At that time, the Food Technologies building, on Gerrard Street between Yonge and Church streets, was an old slate structure from the war years, and during the winter it could get viciously cold.

Outside that frigid building was a Toronto in the process of change. A subway system was being constructed under Yonge Street, and Carew remembers motorists driving on top of planks while crews worked beneath them.

The city was also upgrading its hyrdo facilities, which meant on some days, Ryerson’s power was shut down at 4 p.m. But it didn’t mean the end of the day for Carew and some of his friends.

They just went down to the Mr. Christie factory on King Street and helped make Ritz crackers. Mr. Christie himself came to Carew’s class to recruit employees.

Now, standing near the edge of a crowd of about 150 people in a banquet room on the first floor of Oakham House, Carew is dressed in a blue suit with an alumni name tag around his neck. He is eager to show off his collection of Ryerson memorabilia.

As he flips through the school’s 1950 yearbook, he points out a much younger version of himself, when he was the goalie of Ryerson’s hockey team.

He also unveils several yellowing old copies of the Little Daily, a one-page newspaper published by the school of graphic arts. One of the paper has a story about the hockey team and its many fine players returning to the ice, including “Curly” Carew in net.

The goalie worked numerous jobs since leaving Ryerson.

After owning his grocery store for three years in Lindsay, Ont. called the Log, Tuck and Grocery Shop — where one of his duties was decorating cakes —he worked for Wonder Bakeries in Napanee, Ont. making pies.

But it was accounting that took up the rest of Carew’s career, 34 years of which were spent at IBM.

“To me, it was Ryerson where my business life started,” he says. He now lives in Oshawa where he’s self-employed.

Carew isn’t the only 1950 graduate who remembers Ryerson with such fondness. Dawn Potts, who graduated from the two-year fashion program in 1950, remembers how easy it was to find a job during the summers, even though it was sometimes as a “guinea pig” modelling for photography and television students.

She also spent a summer modelling at the CNE.

After a long day of campus tours, awards presentations and mingling with alumni, it was easy for Carew to fall in love with the campus again.

“Every time I hear ‘Ryerson,’ I thank the good Lord I came here,” he says.

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