02 Dec A 1980S TIME CAPSULE
My mom went to Queen’s in the 80s and has loved the school ever since. When contemplating my university options, my mom was always there to remind me of her lifelong friendships, experiences in student housing, and her lasting school spirit through countless renditions of the “Oil Thigh.” When, just days before the decision deadline, I finally chose to come to Queen’s as my mom had been not-so-subtly encouraging for years, I snagged a Queen’s sweater from her collection. This unique sweater, designed among her friend group, highlights the most important aspects of their experience as Queen’s students. Now that I am living these experiences, I love to compare my time with my mom’s. Through the icons on this sweater, as well as countless photo albums and stories, I have been able to reflect on how Queen’s has changed over the past few decades and, in other ways, stayed the same.
Some of these icons are easily recognizable by students today: the Grant Hall clocktower is a cornerstone of campus, the grease pole is still a coveted Eng frosh activity (although my mom, an Arts student, was allowed to watch the challenge), and Queen’s bands (which one of my housemates is a part of!) continues to spread school spirit. Some of these figures have changed over time as well.
Alfie’s is one of the symbols that I had only heard through my mom’s stories–this was the name for what is now “The Underground.” Although I have honestly never considered going to the on-campus club, it was apparently a hotspot for student nightlife in the 80s and 90s. “Alfie’s” was renamed in 1979 to honour the legacy of Alfred Pierce, an “unofficial mascot” of the football team and custodian who lived under the stadium. Pierce was deeply disrespected and mistreated by Queen’s as a member of the Black community, and his story serves as an important reminder of our school’s racist and problematic history. Student backlash through the “Free Alfie’s” campaign urged the AMS to change the pub’s name, resulting in reinstatement of its original name, “The Underground,” in 2013. In my mom’s time at Queen’s, Alfie’s was her go-to for dancing or drinks. With live bands and entertainment, especially with performances by The Tragically Hip, there was always a long lineup of students outside. While the spot still operates, its popularity seems to have peaked during my mom’s time here.
The “Preppie” alligator icon in the top-left corner of the sweater initially confused me, but now I understand its representation of Lacoste and the preppy fashion era. My mom tells me this style was especially accredited to “The Official Preppy Handbook,” a humorous reference guide that some of her friends lived by. Popping collars and layering button-downs were essential to their wardrobes, alongside corduroy pants, penny loafers and argyle sweaters draped over their shoulders. Through looking at photos, I have come across some outfits that my friends and I could easily wear today, and some that have definitely not made a comeback. I love a turtleneck layered sweater or mom jeans, but I’ll have to pass on some of the semi-formal dresses.
I have to admit that the “dumb frosh” icon still very much applies to the first-year experience at Queen’s. The Frosh week that begins it all has the same basis as in the 80s, with Frecks and Gaels and coveralls. My mom’s ArtSci groups dressed up in themes; as a Gael in her Second Year, my mom even got her frosh group to dress as Gumby, the cartoon character, for the entire week! Her groups seem to have gotten a bit more spirited than my frosh group, but the Frecks’ hair has only gotten crazier over time.
Although I didn’t live in Vic Hall like my mom, I can relate to her experience living in the student district. The prime housing location was then at University and Union, where Stauffer Library stands now. She lived just up on Uni, in the iconic house that now has pink steps (before they were painted pink), and later in a dingy semi-detached house on Brock. “Freddies,” which is on the sweater, was their go-to grocery store and cafe for weekend brunches, which was located at University and William. This store has now been replaced with Campus One Stop and Stooley’s nearby.
Queen’s has changed in many ways since my mom graduated in ‘88, often in positive ways to become more inclusive and diverse. However, spirit, traditions, and a strong community seem to remain at the heart of the school’s values, making me proud to have followed in her footsteps three decades later.
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