Western University, Department of Communication & Public Affairs
Westminster Hall, Suite 360, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7
Tel: 519-661-2045 • Fax: 519-661-3921
Winter Blahs Blow Away
On the evening of Jan. 21, 1971, several students walking across campus peered into the shadows near University College and spotted a large dinosaur.
A giant cat-like animal sitting on a nearby lawn, in turn, was watching them. The 1971 winter carnival had arrived! Circa 1960, The Purple Spur, a University Council club promoting student social activities on campus, decided to organize an annual ‘Winter Carnival’ to help eliminate the winter blahs. Activities would include snow sculptures, sporting games, dances, fashion shows and concerts by leading acts of the day.
Perhaps the most public aspect of each carnival was the snow sculptures that dotted the campus. The first ones, during the early 1960s, were simple and straightforward but as the years passed there developed a keen competition for the various prizes and accompanying prestige leading to an increase in overall quality. Many entries were coloured and displayed incredible talent and originality.
As each carnival rolled around some of the entries became risqué and a few were considered in bad taste and removed by order of senior Western officials. By 1982, there was a dramatic drop in the number of entries as interest in snow sculptures began to wane and official competitions were terminated.
Other popular attractions included a giant slide on University Hill, which remained in daily operation until 4 a.m. A game called ‘Powder Puff’ football encouraged female students to don football gear and carry the ball. As a spectator later remarked, “It was somewhat disarming to hear a player flatly refuse to wear a helmet because it would ruin her hairdo.” Meanwhile, the men strained and grunted in ‘tug of war’ competitions, chariot races in the old JW Little Memorial Stadium, and snowmobile races on the Baldwin Flats, now site of the TD Waterhouse Stadium. For the less hardy, there was the Winter Carnival Queen competition, frat parties that seemed to run almost continuously and dances both on and off campus. Fashion shows featured Western’s finest from mini skirts to midis and everything in between.
Beginning in 1968, feature concerts were held in Alumni Hall. Not all of them ran smoothly. Some artists, including Leonard Cohen, cancelled on two-weeks notice and the Purple Spur organizers had to scramble for a replacement. Appropriately, blues guitarist Johnny Winter was available and performed twice for the admission price of 50 cents each show. Rock legend Little Richard’s appearance was delayed by a bomb scare and his first set was four hours late in starting. Further complications delayed the second show and the local Free Press reporter remarked that when he departed Alumni Hall at 5 a.m. Sunday morning the audience was still rocking to Good Golly Miss Molly.
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