When Regina College made way for air force recruits

By Dale Johnson Posted: May 31, 2015 7:30 a.m.

Soldiers replaced students on College Avenue from 1940 to 1944.
Soldiers replaced students on College Avenue from 1940 to 1944. (Photo courtesy of Stephen King)

Students at Regina College left the stately red brick buildings on College Avenue during the Second World War, when Regina College was converted into a training centre for air force recruits.

It was 75 years ago today – on May 31, 1940 – that the packing and moving was done on College Avenue, and Regina College moved to temporary facilities downtown.

On moving day “faculty members cleaned out their offices, and movers transported filing cabinets, desks and books to the new quarters,” writes James Pitsula in his book As One Who Serves.

As Canada became involved in the war, there was a need to train servicemen. The University of Saskatchewan offered Regina College as a training centre.

The move was controversial, because some people didn’t like the idea that education for young people was being disrupted, while others thought it was a demonstration of patriotic duty.

Once the decision to turn over Regina College was made, the next step was to find a temporary location.

Several sites considered, including Benson Elementary School, just a few blocks north of Luther College at Dewdney Ave. and Royal St. In the end, a deal was reached to take over space at the Regina Trading Company Building on the northeast corner of Scarth St. and 12th Ave., where one of the twin towers now is located.

Miltary Library at U of R
This room served as the library for students from 1940 to 1944 at the Regina Trading Company Building in downtown Regina (Photo courtesy U of R Archives).

Construction crews “put up partitions for the library and assembly hall on the second floor and made modifications for staff offices, classrooms and laboratories on the third floor,” writes Pitsula.

However, not all of Regina College moved downtown: the Conservatory of Music continued at Darke Hall; classes for the normal school were held in Lakeview Public School; and the Regina College art collection was moved to the top floor of the General Motors Building at 8th Ave. and Quebec St.

The students who moved downtown suddenly had new neighbors in the same building, including a coffee shop, shoe repair, beauty shop, tailor, and accordion store.

“The new location was a good deal noisier than the old had been. The honking of car horns, the screech of brakes, and the cries of newsboys interrupted the drone of the lecturer,” writes Pitusla.

Meanwhile, the first of two trainloads of recruits soon arrived from Toronto and settled into the College Avenue Campus. More than 500 people were trained here every month, or 6,000 every year.

As the war was coming to a close and the need for training declined, the RCAF returned the College Avenue buildings to Regina College during the 1944 Christmas break.

When classes resumed on College Avenue 70 years ago – in January 1945 – Regina College was about to undergo major changes and growth, as returning servicemen decided to embark on post-secondary education.

Since then the College Avenue Campus has provided a vital role in education in Regina.

The University of Regina is raising funds for the College Avenue Campus Renewal Project. For details on how you can help please visit here.