Though it will soon be the home of the Marcel A. Desautels faculty of music and the school of art, over the past century Tache Hall was home to thousands of students at the University of Manitoba.
To capture some of the memories of the legendary residence hall, Student Residences, in partnership with a number of U of M alumni, has been developing a website to display the history of the building and living in rez, ranging from the early 1910s to 2000s.
Linda Rzeszutek, assistant to the director of Student Residences, explained that the project began after Tache Hall was opened to the public for the City of Winnipeg’s “Doors Open Winnipeg” event in 2009. The event attracted several former residences of Tache Hall, all with their own stories from their time living on campus.
“We needed a way to collect these stories and display them to the public, so that’s how that website started,” she explained.
The event also inspired the historical documentation of the residence, The History of Tache Hall, which contains a decade-by-decade chronology of life in Tache Hall.
Rzeszutek, who is leading the project, said that there have been over 70 stories collected so far, with many coming from students who lived there during the 1960s and 1970s.
Many stories from the early days of Tache Hall, when men and women were officially separated into the East and West houses, seem to revolve around students getting to each other’s side of the residence, she commented.
“The stories that we were hearing about was just how concerned the men were with trying to see the women. And I never heard about or read anything about them getting together,” she said.
Rzeszutek pointed out that the residence has an extensive and remarkable history.
For example, during the Second World War the residence was leased to the Armed Forces, housing close to 3,000 soldiers at a time during their training program — a time that was marked with “great seriousness,” according to the History of Tache Hall.
Ed Ledohowski, a U of M alumnus who lived in Tache Hall from 1975-80, said that living in the residence was like being part of a family.
“It wasn’t just like going to class and then going back to your apartment; it was like you were part of a community,” he said.
Ledohowski, who served on Residence Students Association Council (RSAC) as a proctor and as West House president, explained that during his time in residence much of the responsibility for administering social activities and discipline in Tache was deferred to students, meaning students themselves were responsible for organizing daily activities.
“It was so well organized that you got a sense of what it was like to be part of a very well greased machine,” he said.
Part of his duties as West House president was organizing one of the classic residence events: the panty raid of Mary Speechly Hall — a women-only residence at the time.
“It wasn’t like Animal House. [ . . . ] Every floor had two students policing it, to make sure no one was getting hurt or upset,” he explained. “The female proctors knew this was happening and opened the doors.”
Ledohowski just missed a performance from rock legends KISS, who came to Tache Hall in 1974, a year before he moved in.
“I heard from other people ‘oh last year there was this really weird band that came through, no one really liked them’,” he said.
Gordon Grant, who lived in Tache Hall from 1976-81 with Ledohowski, recently met up with three other Tache alumni who hadn’t seen each other in close to 20 years.
“Decades after, we felt a purpose in getting together in terms of understanding and love of residence, and a bond that has lasted for decades,” he said.
In 1978, Grant served a proctor of the “Rat Alley” hall, “a name that carries with it a bit of reputation” as being a rowdy area in Tache. He later served as RSAC president in 1979 during a massive set of renovations that were undertaken to save the building.
“The building was a massive construction zone with no furniture,” he explained. Grant said that when students returned to the residence, in the fall of 1979, there were no doors on the rooms and only a couple of functioning bathrooms for the entire building.
“It was a challenging experience to say the least. But looking back at it, it was an opportunity for those of us on residence council to champion the issues of students [ . . . ],” he said.
Leo Pettipas, who lived in Tache from 1963-67, explained that during his time at the U of M rules and regulations in residence were much stricter. No drinking was allowed in Tache, and students were not allowed to entertain members of the opposite sex in their rooms.
“Some guys would get caught with women in their dorms and would get fined. [ … ] It’s nothing now what it was like back then,” he said.
However, rules were made to be broken.
“There were all kinds of nooks and crannies you could sneak away to. We always found a way.”
Pettipas later worked as a professor of anthropology at the U of M and is currently working on a history book on the residence with Rzeszutek. For him, the best moment of living in residence was when he met his wife of 44 years in the Pembina Hall dining room.
“It came right at the end. I had four good years here and then to top it all off I met and eventually married [my wife]. If I hadn’t lived in Tache Hall I probably would have never met her,” he said.
“When I got out of here, I had a B.A., an M.A. and a fiancé. I think that was a pretty good deal.”
Stories from past Tache Hall residents can be found on the University of Manitoba website: http://umanitoba.ca/student/housing/TacheHallHistory_Hub.