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Rochdale College Museum
Make Contact

341 Bloor St. W. Toronto 131, Ontario

Our Nation's Flag
"true north strong and free"

Rochdale was the home of hippies, utopians, acid heads, exotic dancers, quotient dancers, bikers, flower children, acid heads, American draft dodgers, Portuguese draft dodgers, feminists, communards, lost souls, found souls, kids, Krishnas, irritating primal screamers, irritating ordinary screamers, slackers, slickers, grifters, grafters, acid heads, and drug dealers of every size, shape, disposition, and level of intelligence and style.

Rochdale was an 18 floor building housing an entire police-free counter-cultural community in center of Toronto, Ontario. Rochdale was to Canada what Haight-Ashbury, People's Park, the Chelsea Hotel, and a dozen other counter-cultural enclaves were to the United States.

For starters here are contemporary descriptions of Rochdale, a small album of pictures from Rochdale's prime of life, and a good-natured if facitious view of a weekly Rochdale class schedule (dating, it must be admitted, from somewhat after the fact).

Were you a Rochdaleista? They say if you can remember Rochdale, you weren't there. Check up on yourself by taking Chris Hall's Rochdale Trivia Quiz. (Even if it turns out you weren't really there, you'll learn a lot about life at Rochdale.).

as Paul Evitts observed ...
"At Rochdale we feel more like we do now than we did before we came."

Veterans!. There seems to be a growing interest in Rochdale on the part of the contemporary college age population. There's talk of more documentaries and even theatrical films with Rochdale themes. Apart from the glamourous and expensive world of film, there's interest at the scholarly and personal levels as well. During the Fall of 2009 there appear to have been a series of Rochdale themed events at the University of Toronto (see the Rochdale College Facebook page). All very gratifying of course if you're the type who likes to be the center of attention. When I receive open requests for interviews, information, and the like I post them to the Making Contact page. As of early 2010 there's a request from a person writing a book about Rochdale to speak to "...anyone who wants to talk about there experiences at the Rock" , check it out.

If you have Rochdale impedimenta that you'd like to see posted at the Museum, send it to the curator:

CRUD = Radio Rochdale

CRUD was the Rochdale radio station. That's me at the console, and the wax on the box is the Performance sound track. (I don't know whether Margaret T. and the boys were in town that week or not, it's just been too long).

In the view of the CRTC CRUD was out of control so CRTC authorities tried to drive CRUD off the air more than once. CRUD had dedicated staff and extremely dilapidated equipment and played a remarkably strange mix of music, talk, and static.

Radio Rochdale. Also called: "The Voice of Free Toronto." I'm not sure, but I think that Brad Keagle coined that phrase. 92 FM (?). Never got much support from Edcon because a raffish Rochdalian received a sizable grant which he squandered, and the junk that we had was what he said he purchased with all of the money. The transmitter was a gutted .1 watt FM wireless microphone fed into an 8 watt cable system RF line amplifier that was then fed into a jury rigged antena system with a gain of about 5, supplying about 40 watts of effective radiated power (erp). They used to play us in the showroom of "Round Records" on Bloor Street – sort of across the street from the Collanaide.

Tony Terry listens....
At the turntable

Graduating from Rochdale

People could and did graduate from Rochdale in a variety of ways. One didn't have to come near Rochdale to graduate, but doing so was considered to show a lack of joie de vivre. Rochdale offered 3 regular degrees (B.A., M.A., and Ph.D) and 3 anti-degrees (Non-B.A., Non-M.A., and Non-Ph.D.). To quote from the Rochdale degree application:
"Tuition for the B.A. granting course is $25.00. Course length is 24 hours, and the degree will awarded on answering of a skill testing question. Tuition for the M.A. granting course is $50.00. During this course, the length of which will be determined by the student, the student will be required to answer a skill testing question of his choice. For a Ph.D. the tuition is $100.00 and there will be no questions asked.

We are also offering Non-Degrees at comparable rates. A Non-Ph.D. is $25.00. Course duration is your choice; requirements are simple, we ask that you say something. A Non-M.A. is $50.00 for which we require you to say something logical. A Non-B.A. is $100.00; you will be required to say something useful."

Of course you could trying paying with the coin of the realm:

Despite being for sale Rochdale degrees were acquired only after real committment; Chris Hall remembers how he got his in "My Rochdale Retrospective".  For more on the explicit parts of a Rochdale education, take a look at the printed curriculum, circa March 1969. As for the implicit elements of a Rochdale education, infer, infer, infer....

Rochdale – The Documentary

I have some problems with Ron Mann's Dream Tower, the NFB documentary about Rochdale. For one thing it skips from 1971 to 1975 in less than 26 frames and we all know that you can only get to the truth at 26 frames a second. On the other hand, I've just got to approve of anything with Marc Glassman's name on it (Hi, Marc!).

Reading about Rochdale

There are at least three books about Rochdale and I can't claim to have read any of them:

  • David Sharpe's Rochdale: The Runaway College a social history (Toronto : Anansi, 1987; 297 p., ill. ; 22 cm. ISBN: 0887841554)

  • Brian J. Grieveson's Rochdale College (Haliburton, Ont : Charasee Press, 19??; 74 p. ISBN: 0919862160)

  • Henry Mietkiewicz' Dream tower : the life and legacy of Rochdale College (Toronto : McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1988; 287 p., ill.; 24 cm. ISBN: 007549597X)

Naturally, I'd be interested in hearing the opinions of actual Rochdale alumni on the merits on these books, which are apparently meant to be more or less serious attempts at social history.

On other literary fronts, take a look at the legendary and inexhaustable Reg Hartt's "The Night They Raided Rochdale" (excerpt only). Reg Hartt was Director of Cinema Studies at Rochdale. Parenthetically, Rochdaleistas may remember that admission to showings of Behind the Green Door and similar films was free to anyone who showed up naked and more than a few people did.

Anything worth doing will attract people who think the only thing worth doing is lugubriating over it. My advice is skip Neil Adelman's "Rochdale College: Power and Performance," Canadian Literature, spring-summer 1997.

In a similar, but briefer and less hysterical, vein, is Ray Bennett's "The Jungle Collided with Rochdale College" from Dossier, Volume 14 #1. And more recently someone who calls themselves "Publius" posted a glib and superficial comment "Thirty Years After A Bad Idea" on the neocon blog "Gods of the Copybook Headings". Actually it does my heart good to see neocons still upset by possibility that ideas like those reified by Rochdale are not gone for good -- guess what, they're not.

And while we're on things literary, we may as well connect Rochdale up to the sage of Toronto – in "Amusing Idiots You Have in this Village" Patrick Burton writes about meeting Marshall McLuhan in the SCM bookstore.

Obscure and Far Away

Anyone read Polish? If you do, try out Krótki kurs rzeczywistos'ci ... and write and tell me about (please).

Still in T.O. after all these years

Donald Holyoak (aka Julian Ayrs) recalls "...I lived on the 6th Floor in 1969. My "black room" was featured in a TIME MAGAZINE article which came out that year on the College. Raquel Welch was on the cover. Gee whiz - being in such celebrated company!!! There was a shot of me, inside, on my bed.

I am proud to say I got BUSTED dancing on a Police Car that year on Baldwin Street - and that ROCHDALE College attorney, Clayton Ruby, represented me in Court. He actually established that the Police caused the disturbance, and Morley Markson caught the whole event on film - and the piece (Revolution of the Electric Family) won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. [i.e., Breathing Together: Revolution of the Electric Family].

Ah, I am in Toronto now. And I don't pass by Rochdale on Bloor without some FOND memory of the past.

I miss those days.

Oh, I was also published by Coach House Press. Victor Coleman, who started up the printing company, was a very forward-thinking guy. Glad to read in the newspaper this past month that he just won a Literary Award here in Toronto."

The Elevator Lobby

Thanks to Scott Avery ('72-'73) we have images of the Rochdale Elevator Lobby, a part of Rochdale so quotidian that it's easy to forget. Scott's pictures of the Elevator Lobby show it uncharacteristically empty of teaming humanity, all the better to notice the tension between the building's underlying institutional austerity and the residents' humanizing efforts.

The LeDain Commission

How many of you realize that a lot of the research done for the LeDain Commission was conducted right in the halls of Rochdale? Yes, we take drugs seriously at our house too. For the online version of the LeDain Commission report here

You can try to reach the PodTV video interview with David Malmo-Levine High Society -- Rochdale College -- every time I try it I run into technical difficulties.

Rosie.   And while we're talking about chemistry, all honour and compassion to Rosie Rowbotham. Here's Thomas Mann's 1998 article in Cannabis Culture describing Rosie's saga.

Read about Rosie at the CBC


Every biological organism endeavors to reproduce itself, spread, split, multiply, or, in a word, colonize. Rochdale was eminently biological and shot out tendrils willy-nilly. The most long lasting and conscious of these was the Rochdale Farm in Killaloe, Ontario (in eastern Ontario, up the river from Ottawa). In the parlance of the time, this was "moving back to the land." Of course, few rochdaleistas had been "from the land" in the first place, so moving back was in the nature of a loving contradiction.

The 14th Floor Commune

I'd like to hear from survivors of the 14th floor Commune   ...

Relaxin in the Ashram

711 & 809 Afterhours

"Can I pull the shade?" "You can pull anything you want in here – it's a regular joint"

711 was an afterhours club, located on the 7th floor in room 711. It was dark, it was sleazy, it was a home away from home for grifters and rounders. Just as notorious was Terry Flanagan's 809 Club, with electrocuting pin ball machines and a bar made of a old door and saw horses.

The Coach House Press

To my mind (and what else counts?) the Coach House Press was the best of Rochdale. The Right Wing is always talking about excellence, well, here it is, the National Library of Canadada's Coach House Press exhibition, including beaucoup Rochdale ephemera.

In "Memories of Coach House Press" Nicholas Fabian remembers Coach House as it was then.

Science & Scholarship

It's in the nature of things that no matter how ineffable the experience, it will find its way into the annals of science and scholarship (as Celine once said, ".. the madness of the scientist, which is wiser and more reasonable than any other, is even so the most intolerable ..."). A contemporary psychiatrist speaks; in "An 18-Storey Flophouse" the eminent Dr. Lionel Solursh explains that Rochdale is "viewed from within as a community and though of from without as a haven for long-haired, drug-using, unwashed, welfare-receiving American draf-dodgers." Here one can learn that 53.9% of Rochdalistas bathed daily and 12.2% never used cannabis.

Meanwhile ancedotal evidence seeped into the sociology literature; Rochdale merits a footnote (the hallmark of scholarly eminence) in Kenneth Westhues' "Hippiedom 1970: some tentative hypotheses", where it is claimed that political "radicals" found Rochdale unwelcoming because the Rochdaleistas would not take them seriously.

In a more recent foray into explaning things, here's an account Rochdale from Wikipedia (Wikipedia counts as scholarship, doesn't it?). Anyway the CBC keeps Rochdale in its online Archives. As does the Canadian National Archives in its online collection Rochdale College And The '60s Counter Culture


Partial scan of the Tuesdaily from March 1974, in all its countercultural glory.     (Warning! Some may find some of the content scary, offensive, or titillating)

Before Tuesdaily there was the Rochdale Daily. Thanks to the kindness (and endurance) of its editor, Stuart Roche (late of 802 with Deba Sinha) here a copies of (very) early issues:   27 Sept 1969,   20 February 1970,   6 March 1970,   May Day 1970

How I got to Rochdale

An arrest or indictment is a sure way to begin a new adventure. manual for draft-age immigrants to Canada At least that's how a lot of us ended up accumulating points toward a landed-immigrant card. Thousands of young Americans crossed the longest indefensible border in the world in search of sanctuary from a native land drunk and paranoid with its own power. Rochdale was one of the places north of the border where we found that sanctuary. And don't forget, "plus ca change, plus le meme chose."

The story of American war resisters in Canada is one of those parts of American history destined forever to be neglected where it matters most (hey, that's what hegemony's for...). For more information, click on the manual. As far as I can tell, the only full scale treatment is John Hagan's Northern Passage, which discusses the social and political context of American war resistence in Toronto in some detail, entailing a take on Rochdale from a quite specifically negative point of view; Hagan quotes Douglas Fetherling approvingly, characterizing Rochdale as "... the most Americanized place in Toronto... a kind of tower of urban decay and social chaos..." At the same time Hagan is pretty good at fleshing out the history of the Baldwin Street community. which of course shares more than a little both socially and politically with Rochdale. (see also Baldwin Street photography, 1967-1974). Hagan's book is reviewed here ....

Saying goodbye – Groovy Last Issue

That's all the stuff I have lying around right now...

   Academics -- Coach House Press -- Connect NOW! -- Radio Rochdale -- Film -- Flickr Feed -- 14th Floor -- Rochdale Farm -- LeDain Commission -- Literature -- Science & Scholarship -- Sleeze -- Tuesdaily -- Stake a fellow American to a meal?