Memories of the Thrifty 30s 1930

John Welch

In the mid-1930s, William Lyon Mackenzie King was prime minister of Canada, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States and Adolf Hitler ruled Germany. These were the “Thrifty Thirties,” and Kingston-born John Welch, BCom’38, counted himself fortunate to grow up in a prestigious university town with the opportunity to study at Queen’s then-titled Department of Commerce and Administration.

During his first term, John recalled feelings of trepidation about his academic acumen. “The autumn leaves falling, foretelling the gloom of the upcoming winter, reflected my own dark outlook,” he shared. “Fortunately, by Christmas exams, I had been able to make the switch from the descriptive method of high school studies to the more analytical approach required at the university level.”

A faithful student, John was influenced, and often amused, by the professors he admired. At the top of the list was W.A. Mackintosh, who was also department head. “In my time, Mackintosh, as one of Canada’s foremost economists, had to juggle his teaching schedule to accommodate commitments to the federal government, but for any missed lectures there was always a ‘make good’. The meticulousness of his presentations, along with his sympathetic treatment of student queries, garnered him deep respect in the classroom.”

Finance Professor Frank Knox also left a profound impression. “He had a terrific sense of humour that he used to illustrate points in his lectures,” John remembered. “For example, in a discussion about tariff protection for new industries, Knox stated, ‘That’s like looking at an infant in a cradle. You don’t know whether the child will grow up to be a PhD or a hod carrier.' ” (A hod carrier is a labourer who carries supplies to masons or bricklayers.)

Later, in his years as an instructor at Ryerson and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), John’s recollections of Knox’s well-crafted lectures served as a model for his own presentations.

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