If These Walls Could Talk

Hanging out to Fleetwood Mac

Illustration of 1 Aberdeen Street.

Illustration by Wendy Treverton

There are at least two iterations of the house at 1 Aberdeen St. First is the gracious Edwardian-era brick three-storey at the corner of Earl Street, spitting distance from the Athletics and Recreation Centre. The second resides firmly in the memories of Kathy Scales (Artsci’78) and the roommates she shared it with 45 years ago.

The latter has an ample side porch on the main floor and a sunroom on the right side of the second-floor balcony. You can see the ghosts of both features if you look closely at the building today.

The porch off the kitchen was a gathering place in good weather for the six young women who spent a year there in the mid-’70s, as were 1 Aberdeen’s balcony and its front veranda. The porch was a place to plug in Martha Scandrett’s (ArtSci’77) eight-track and play Fleetwood Mac and Boz Scaggs, entertaining the roommates and whoever ambled by.

Lots of people ambled by 1 Aberdeen; its proximity to campus meant friends were always nearby.

Former residents of 1 Aberdeen St. in the ’70s, lying on the lawn.

Former residents of 1 Aberdeen St. in the ’70s. (top row) Martha Scandrett, Mary Chaput. (bottom row) Shelagh McDonald Drury, Kim Lesage, Janet Tate, and Kathy Scales.

“I don’t remember having any crazy parties,” says Ms. Scales. “We were more of a drop-in and chill place. It was really casual… just a really great drop-in, sit-on-the-front-porch, sit-on-the-side-porch, come-into-the-kitchen, have-a-drink, have-dinner [kind of place].”

In contrast to many student houses, the main floor was all common space, Ms. Scales remembers. There was a spacious living/dining room with an ornate mirror dominating one wall, a bathroom, and a big kitchen.

“We had a table that easily sat six, and often sat eight or nine,” says Ms. Scales.

The three bedrooms on each of the top two floors varied greatly in size, says Ms. Scales. Her second-floor room was as big as the living room below it, but Shelagh McDonald Drury (Artsci’78) was left with a third-floor garret not much bigger than her bed. In compensation, Ms. Drury was given the second-floor sunroom as a study space.

The roomies, transitioning from two years at Victoria Hall, were thrilled with 1 Aberdeen, all the more because it rescued them from what might have been a disastrous year at another property. The previous spring, they had signed a lease on a smaller Earl Street house, wilfully ignoring the fact that there were no electrical outlets on the second floor and the tiny kitchen was painted an alarming shade of red.

“It looked like a murder scene out of a Stephen King novel,” recalls Ms. Scales.

After 1 Aberdeen became available that summer, the Earl Street house was conveniently named a fire hazard − a call to the fire marshal is neither confirmed nor denied − which voided their lease.

Life at 1 Aberdeen was not entirely without adversity, Ms. Scales admits. The winter of 1977 broke records, first for a historic blizzard that slammed Southern Ontario in January, and then for an extended cold snap. “I think I had bronchitis all winter,” Janet Tate (Artsci’78) recalls. “Great memories.”

The roomies came back from their Christmas break to a $300 oil heating bill, says Ms. Scales, at a time when the weekly grocery bill for all six tenants was $60.

But it was still a great house, says Ms. Scales. “Unfortunately, it was such a great house, and a great location, that it was purchased the following year by someone’s parents for their own kids, so we only got to live [there] for one awesome year.”

Ms. Scales and some of her roomies found another house on Mack Street for their final year, but it wasn’t same. Their best memories, she says, are all associated with 1 Aberdeen. “We had such a great time there; it was a wonderful time of life.”

Tell us about the University District house you lived in and the memories you made.

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