Classmates’ Retreats (Shangri-Las) and Interest in Conservation Activities

Living History
Written on: 
Monday, June 4, 2012
Class of: 

Alex Bryans heads our list here. He had a key role to play in the group of Physicians for Global Survival, the Canadian Chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. This group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1985. All other class contributions were on a lesser and more personal scale.

Jack Crawford, from his retirement home in Collingwood, spotted an eyesore at the edge of town. It was the remnants of the old dump. He managed to acquire these eight acres of wasteland and proceeded to have it leveled off and to have the area covered with generous layers of good topsoil. He then personally planted 145 native young trees and shrubs, many of them flowering. All this was given back to the town as The Collingwood Arboretum. For this he received the rare honour of “The Order of Collingwood”. He has served as President of the Collingwood Horticultural Society.

Gib Blackwell, worrying about the increasing concrete sprawl in the environs of Brampton where he practiced for over 50 years as a family doctor, acquired 70 acres of this edge land. He planted a hardwood forest to thwart the so-called ‘developers’. This maturing forest was given to Brampton as a park and will serve its purpose forever.

Alex Sinclair, like his surgeon father before him, practiced from a large house set on several acres of land in what was downtown Sault St Marie. This is now declared a Heritage building and Alex has given the house and land to the City.

Neil Watters retired to a working farm near Bond Head. The original log-house built in 1834 is illustrated here and is faithfully conserved by Neil. In his clear stream, watercress is abundant and in the moist areas close to the forest’s edge, showy lady-slipper (below) is always to be found. Woodcock (next page) are regular nesters and well-camouflaged, while Lobelia Syphilitica was once regarded as a cure for syphilis. Neil was a key player in saving from dismantling the church in nearby Bond Head built by Sir William Osler’s father.

Henry Barnett, while still fresh to the staff of the Toronto General Hospital, had lunch one famous day with the persuasive Harry Botterell: “Barney,” he said, “you are fast approaching the time when you must acquire a place in the country where you can give full-time to your otherwise neglected family, recharge your batteries and regain a sense of equanimity.” I started to look around and in 1958 acquired for a song 80 acres of forested land in King Township.

Botterell was right and it became my Shangri La.  It was at the end of an unfinished road and no traffic went past. In spring, the forest floor is crowded with white trillium and the occasional red trillium. Only the hoots of Horned and Boreal Owls or the howls of coyotes disturbed the night. A chorus of Wood Thrush and other melodious singers kept the day filled with song, including very commonly Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (next page). The red-shouldered Hawk, once on the endangered list is known to nest in the Happy Valley Forest every year. He is noisy but welcome. Salamanders are common and the red eft at times is on the move and must be watched for by users of the forest trails

Wise doctors search in a variety of ways to seek serenity to regain their equanimity. Relaxation can come in a variety of ways. It may be athletic (skiing, sailing, golf and tennis), music and theater, traveling, philately and other collecting pursuits. All of these are commonplace activities among classmates. A surprising number have followed environmental activism.



Barnett, Henry, Joan Borland, Jack Laidlaw, Neil Watters and Bruce Wells. The Epic Journey of University of Toronto Medical Class of 1944. Toronto: University of Toronto, Faculty of Medince, 2012. pg. 126-130.