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Rochdale College Council Meeting

THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED ROCHDALE COLLEGE (1997) 138 pages. “Told with a rhythm as compelling as a beating heart.”–Jane Jacobs.

ROCHDALE COLLEGE opened its doors in 1968. At the time I was running my first alternate screening forum, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, on the east side of Yonge Street 39 steps above a pool hall. Some people came from a place I knew nothing about, Rochdale College. They told me about a woman who lived there I did know something about. That woman was Judith Merril, the mother of modern speculative (science) fiction. I knew her from her anthologies THE YEAR’S BEST SF. I went over to meet her. Thirty years later, after recovering from her first heart attack, Judy invited me out to lunch. She told me she had decided to limit herself from then on only to those people who mattered to her. That was a helluva compliment.

Rochdale College began as a 18 floor student high rise. Along the way it morphed into the boldest experiment ever undertaken in alternate education. There were no teachers at Rochdale. Each Rochdalian was called to be their own teacher. What Rochdale did have was what was called “RESOURCE PEOPLE.” These were people who were invited to live at Rochdale with all of their expenses covered on condition they make themselves available to talk with not at any Rochdalian who wished to learn from their experience. Judy was there as a resource person.

The truly radical thing about Rochdale is that the authorities had been persuaded to allow within its walls the use of hashish, LSD, marijuana, mescaline and peyote. Rochdale was 18 floors. The higher up we went, the higher we got.

When Judith Merril found I had copies of films such as THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1925), THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919), THE LAST LAUGH (1924), Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS (1927), NOSFERATU (1922), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), the first films of Charlie Chaplin and more she, with Bernie Bomers, sponsored my screenings at Rochdale College where, for the first time in 1968 I took LSD (which was then legal).

THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED ROCHDALE COLLEGE begins with a police raid on Rochdale in the 1970s (one of many) during which I found myself facing a terrified police officer with a gun aimed between my eyes. Then in flashback the reader discovers how I came to be there.  After I self-published it I gave a copy to Jane Jacobs who sent me the attached letter in reply. THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED ROCHDALE is available with a donation of $20 plus $10 for shipping and handling (Canada and The United States).


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