Oral History - Schroder, James




Ontario Veterinary College, 1942

Interviewed by Ron Darling

February 2, 2006


D This is an interview with Dr. Jim Schroder OVC ’42 conducted by Ron Darling on February the 2nd, 2006 – for the University of Guelph Alumni Association Oral History Programme. Dr. Schroder, where were you born and raised?

S I was born and raised in Guelph.

D And what influenced your decision to attend OVC?

S Well, I really can’t say. It’s so long ago. The only thing I can say is that my brother had started in the Vet College, and he was gung-ho to be a very successful small animal practitioner, and he had some friends, and occasionally these friends would come down to the house and we’d talk, and I guess maybe I heard them talk and thought maybe that’d be a good thing to do. But I hadn’t really seriously thought about Veterinary Medicine, but that’s what got me interested. So, I went to OVC.

D As a student, did you live in residence?

S No I didn’t.

D Would you have any idea what residence life was like, at that period?

S Well, as I remember those were the days when OAC and OVC were not particularly friendly. And there weren’t many OVC students living in residence. They mostly were OAC students, but I think, as an under-graduate, I didn’t have much experience with the students living in residence, because I lived at home, took the bus up to school, after school went back and then of course, a lot of my time at OVC was war time. And the whole of the OAC was surrounded by a fence, and the Commonwealth Air Training Programme was going on there, and so we didn’t have any opportunity to be in residence. The residences were all taken over by the Air Force.

D Did the Veterinary College close during the war?

S No. No.

D Ran continuously.

S We continued to go there, yes.

D Was there anything that stands out in your memory about your professors, or other staff?

S Well, of course, as I remember the best memories I have are about Frank Scoffield, who was a professor of Pathology. But, we had a series of professors coming and going. Some of them would join the army, so – at any one given year we might have two or three different professors that would only stay for a short period of time. And then, of course when the war started, everybody in OVC and OAC had to join what they called the Auxiliary. And we had military training – all the time we were there.

D Hmhm.

S And I remember Vic Brown, who was professor of Anatomy at the time. He was sort of the head “honcho” of the army part there. And after classes at four o’clock, we’d put on – we didn’t have any uniform – we all had brown coveralls, with a “V” on the side, and actually in the beginning we even had wooden rifles. We didn’t have real rifles. Vic Brown had facsimiles made out of wood, and we’d go out and do army drill with these things and go on route marches.

D Hmhm.

S And that went on right until in my third year, at OVC, they came to us in – I think it was in April – probably in early April – they told us on a Friday, that our final exams were going to start on Monday. And we had three exams a day. We even had exams on Easter Sunday.

D We thought we had it rough. (Chuckle)

S To get through, and then we went to “Camp” – and we had army camp. And this camp was on the campus of the university. And we were there for two weeks. And we wrote the exams - and I remember we – that was a weird thing, because, you know usually you have a month or two before the exam starts so you can start studying, but we had from Friday ‘til Monday and we had the three exams a day. Well, then after that when we graduated, we went to army camp in London for two weeks.

D This was all compulsory?

S Yeh. And when we came back from army camp in London - to Guelph - that was after graduation, I think. I can’t remember, now. But anyway that was in June, and I joined the army in July, and that was the end of my OVC experience.

D While you were at the college were you involved in many extracurricular activities?

S Well, I played basketball and managed the basketball team – the OVC basketball team. We played against - I think we played against teams from – not teams from here. We played – there was a college in Kitchener – it eventually became – was it Jesuit – or it was a catholic college. Eventually they formed Waterloo Lutheran …

D Yep …

S …along with the Lutherans and – I can’t remember – but anyway we played them and I think we played a team from OAC. I think we played a team from downtown Guelph…that was my only extracurricular activities.

D And did you form any enduring friendships?

S Well, my yeh. I guess in my class Bernard McSherry, who is a friend – and George Boyce. And the three of us joined the army together, and all went overseas together. And then after the war, I still see Bernard McSherry on a fairly regular basis. And I saw George Boyce – we were really good friends until George died. And then Archie McKinnon. I worked with Archie, and then we became very good friends, and actually, I was Arch McKinnon’s best man when he was married.

D And your first job after graduation was your military career.

S Yeh.

D And what can you tell us about that?

S Well, I joined the army and went to Brockville for three months and took officer training there, and then decided that I wanted to go into the artillery, so, Bernard McSherry and George Boyce and I went to Petawawa, where we spent two months and then went overseas.

D For how long?

S Well, I went overseas in 1942 and came back in 1946.

D Just to digress, you were telling us a story here that was interesting about your internship. Could you go over that again?

S Well, – in my third year, I spent the summer with Dr. Herman Nelson, who had been a professor of Anatomy at OVC, and we did cryptorchids, or – we called them ridgeling – those are operating on horses whose testicles didn’t descend and we would go from Windsor to Belleville doing these operations, because the local veterinarians would do normal castrations and they would save the cryptorchids for us. So we would do them at fifteen dollars apiece and we’d stay in a little town over-night and maybe do three or four cryptorchids a day. So, I got to know – I got to know all of the veterinarians in South Western Ontario.

D So that was your early introduction to Pathology I guess . What influenced you most to get into Pathology?

S Well, when I was in my first year I got an interest in Histology, and was fortunate enough to win- Dr. Henry Batt was the professor in that field, and so I won the prize in Histology, which was a book on Pathology. And so that sort of twigged my interest in Pathology, so all the rest of my time at veterinary college I was really more interested in the scientific aspect of the medicine, than I was in the physical practice of medicine. And then I worked in Frank Scofffield’s Lab as a student for two summers and so I got to be quite friendly with and respectful of Frank Scoffield, and then when I came back from overseas, it was through Frank Scoffield that I eventually became a faculty member at OVC.

D And when and where did you study for your Masters degree?

S Then I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota and studied Comparative Pathology. It’s the, as you probably know – it’s the largest training school for medical doctors in the world. And I was fortunate to get a fellowship there, because Andrew McNabb, who was the Dean of OVC, knew the veterinarian who was in charge of that programme at Mayo’s and he talked to him and he got me the fellowship. So, I studied there and got my Masters degree and then came back to Guelph.

D And career-wise what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

S Well, I guess I was mostly interested in teaching. I come from a family whose background is full of teachers, and I guess maybe I inherited the idea of being a teacher, so I think in my time at OVC I had sort of three experiences. One, I worked in the Department of Pathology – taught Pathology, did some research in Pathology, then I went from there to become the Chairman of the Department of Virology and what was the name of that – it was the Department of Wildlife Diseases and Virology. And a Head of that department for three or four years, and then my next one, I was made Head of the Laboratory Animals Section of OVC and we built a building and had a whole Department of Laboratory Animal Medicine, and I became a chairman of the committee that looked after experimental animals on the campus. And that’s when I finished and I went from there to being a politician, and then I retired

D Can you recall some of the honours you received?

S Well, I didn’t receive any honours, except I got a Masters degree from the Mayo - University of Minnesota, actually the Mayo Clinic was associated with University of Minnesota, and then I went from there, and became the MP – the Liberal MP for Guelph, and I was in there for four years, and I came back to Guelph and retired and …

D That was it.

S That was the end of my active life.

D But according to Mr. Gattinger’s book, “A Century of Challenge”, you were involved with the organization of the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology? Can you tell me when and why and how and who was involved with that?

S Well, the Department of Pathology was, the Department of Pathology and Microbiology was – the Department Chairman was Frank Scoffield, and there was a reorganization of that department and Alex Bain was the Head of the Department of Microbiology, and Larry Smith became the Head of Department of Pathology. And so, Larry designated me to be sort of Head of the Histopathology section of Pathology. And during that time – of course Ken Jubb came, and I stayed there until there was another reorganization, and then they took me out of the Pathology and put me in to Virology and Wildlife Diseases.

D And, also of interest – your involvement with the graduate studies committee.

S Yeh. I was Chairman of the Graduate Studies Committee. It was a very small organization at that time – it’s blossomed since those days, but uh, …

D What time-frame are we talkin’ about here?

S Oh, I’m talking, this would be in the seventies, I guess… Yeh.

D And when did you retire?

S I retired from OVC in 1983, but I left in 1980 to become a member of parliament, so I was a member of parliament in 1980 - I had a leave of absence from the Vet College – for one term. And so, in 1983, I officially retired from OVC at age sixty-five.

D And were you involved with other committees or functions at OVC, or the Tri-colleges?

S I don’t remember much. Being Chairman of Department – for example I finished the building. I was Chairman of Wildlife Virology I finished the construction of the building, and then I went from there to Lab Animal Medicine where I was concerned with the construction of the Lab Animal Building.

D And did you have involvement off campus with anything in particular in the community, for example…

S Well, when I look back in retrospect, I don’t know how my wife stood it. I was Chairman of the Guelph General Hospital Board, I was Chairman of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, I was President of the Rotary Club, I was Chairman of the International Committee of the Red Cross - you get the idea. I was involved a lot…

D …very involved… Yeh. Any other outside interests –

S Well, eventually I was one of the many people who were responsible for the building of the “River Run” Centre in Guelph, which was in my estimation, a tremendous accomplishment.

D Yeh I’d have to agree with that. Now, moving on to your political career. Do you have any comments to…

S Well, I was approached early in 1980, to see whether – I don’t know whether you remember Jake Slinger. Jake was the pharmacist – eventually he had a drug store. He became the pharmacist at OVC. - and, he was Chairman of the Search Committee for somebody to run as a Liberal in this constituency. And because Joe Clark had lost the election, and we didn’t have a candidate because our Liberal candidate had been defeated by the Conservatives in 1979 and so then the Liberals were caught without a candidate, so they had a search committee and they asked me if I would be the candidate. And I said “No. I wouldn’t.” And I was determined that I didn’t really want to do it. But anyway, they convinced me to do it. So, early in 1980 – in February of 1980, the election was on and late in January, I finally decided I’d be the candidate, so we had a hurry-up campaign, but I won that election. And I went to Ottawa, and I was always interested in Health, because I had been the Chairman of the Guelph-Wellington District Health Council. I was the first Chairman of that Council, and so when I went to Ottawa, one of the Committees I decided I’d like to be concerned with was that had to do with Health and Welfare and I was also very keen about International Affairs, so I became vice-chairman of the Standing Committee on External Affairs. And then I became the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for the Environment, John Roberts, and then after that I was Parliamentary Secretary to Monique Begin and I was partially responsible for getting the Canada Health Act through the House of Commons. I think those were the most significant things of my – and I did a lot of traveling with the External Affairs Committee. And then in 1984 – we had another election, I was defeated.

D So you – you packed it in then?

S Yeh. So I was very fortunate because, my four years were spent with Trudeau as the Prime Minister, and I was very grateful for that, and so in 1984 I was defeated and then I just retired. I had no relationship with OVC, because I’d retired officially from there a year earlier.

D Well what can you tell us about your family? – you made reference to your wife,

S Well, I married a girl from Minnesota. My wife – she worked for the editorial department of the Mayo Clinic, and we met at the – I first saw this stunning looking girl in the Library of the Mayo Clinic one day and I thought “Geeze, I think I’d like to meet her.” And uh, so I was working now, out of the experimental farm that the Mayo Clinic had – an experimental farm where most of the experimental work went on, and the secretary there became a good friend of mine and one day she called me and said she had arranged to have a dinner party and she’d invited a guy and a girl and the fellow had got sick and couldn’t come. Could I fill in? And I said, “Sure.” I went and sure enough the girl that was there was this girl I’d seen in the Library that I’d been very attracted to. So on a blind date – I really – I met my wife. And we were married and we moved back to Guelph, and I had four children, I’ve two boys and two girls. And the one girl is the one who lives in my family home in Guelph. It’s the fifth generation of our family to live in that house. And she’s a teacher. She’s a principal of “Fred Hamilton School” in Guelph, now.

D You’re very proud of your family.

S I am very proud of my family. Yes. I have one daughter who’s really active in politics, and she works in Ottawa in the government. That’s Ann. And I have a son who is a teacher in Toronto – High School teacher in Toronto. And another son lives in B.C.- in Mission B.C. He’s an electronics guy.

D Very good. Thanks. One final question that I have on my page – Do you have any other outside interests now that you are retired? Any hobbies or…

S Not really. I have a very good friend that I’ve known now for - I knew him when I was in the Rotary Club, and he was in the Lion’s Club and I was working with the CNIB. The Lion’s Club – was very active in CNIB, so I used to meet him , on those occasions, and he has become a very successful land developer and real estate guy in Guelph, and he picks me up every day, and he does most of his business in his car, and he has a car phone, so I drive while he does his business. So we spend most days together and it’s a very informal arrangement. We have lunch together every day and I go to meetings and I’m interested in the development of his properties, and so that’s how I spend whatever spare time I have.

D Sounds like a good idea to me. Well Dr. Schroder, this has been a most rewarding interview and we’re indebted to you for your time and patience. On behalf of the Alumni Oral History Committee, thank you.

S You’re welcome.