It is a couple of days before Christmas.
I have just watched an NFB documentary from the early 1990’s called Dream Tower. It tells the story (or, maybe, most of the story) about Rochdale College. If you haven’t heard about Rochdale, well it was a grand and ultimately failed experiment in Free University and Student Housing, one of the best and perhaps one of the worst ideas to go up in smoke from the 1960’s.
I briefly visited Rochdale in the fall of 1969. It was on its last legs then. It did hang on for a few further years. That brief visit was both exciting and somewhat sad. Rochdale had been overrun by unmanageable numbers and fiscal realities.
One of its founders, a brilliant guru, was Howard Adelman. Howard was a key member of the University of Toronto Campus Residence Cooperative movement, which began in 1936.
Sometime in 1966, the Simon Fraser University Student Council, and others, brought Howard out to BC to discuss creating student housing, which was, then, in short supply. One offshoot of that consultation was the formation of the Campus Residence Co-operative Association, or its more colloquial name, the CRCA, or the Co-op.
That Co-op, where I spent thirteen years, will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary in August, 2017.
Back in those heady days, many discussions occurred about expanding the reach of the CRCA. We envisioned a rural commune which would supply food and retreat to its urban counterpart. For a very brief time, plans were discussed to build a massive cooperative housing community on Burnaby Mountain.
While those grandiose dreams were never actualized, the CRCA survived pretty much as it began, two Georgian Houses in the heart of New Westminster. Even though at least a few hundred people lived there over the years, it may have been its relatively small size that allowed it to thrive.
There was a time when I imagined I would live there forever.
Part of me still does and I look forward to the reunion, whatever size it becomes. I should note that Dream Tower was written by Len Blum, brother of two early members of the CRCA.
I am always up for a little bit of nostalgia, especially from the 1960’s.
Especially at Christmas. The best of the season to one and all.
Photo: Ben Best