Font Size

In 1968 I met several people who changed the direction of my life completely. Jane Jacobs and her family came to my program at THE PUBLIC ENEMY (Yorkville & Yonge) to see Lon Chaney in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. They became regulars. More importantly, we became friends. When I learned she had written a book I read it. In THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES Jane Jacobs wrote that when all else fails cities fabricate sex scandals against those they seek to destroy.


Two people came from a place I had never heard of, Rochdale College. They spoke about a person I had heard of, Judith Merril whom J. G. Ballard described as “the strongest woman in a genre created by weak and ineffectual men.” Judy said to me, “You belong at Rochdale.”


The third was a young man who was homeless when I met him, Bruno “Buzz” Weckerle who became part of a band called Leigh Ashford. Bruno took me to a party where I was introduced to THE I CHING. I bought my first copy the next day. THE I CHING teaches that learning and doing must be one otherwise both are dead. It teaches that the best serve neither kings nor princes. That meant to me not looking for a job. I said to myself, “This is going to be interesting.”


THE I CHING  teaches the best are on the side of those those who often think themselves the best trod on: the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the powerless. It teaches that if we trust the seed which is in us we become the son of Heaven. Remarkable things happen.


Years passed. One day out posting flyers for my programs Bobby Naismith joined me. I learned that he was homeless. I said, “Come with me.” Bobby said, “I have no money.” I said, “I know that.” It was the start of turning his life around. Bobby turned quite a few lives around when he lived here. He turned them around for the better.


On the morning of the last day I was in my lawyer’s office THE I CHING warned me that he was not to be trusted. It said that clearly.  Another man who was homeless when he came here said he was a dump truck lawyer. I looked up the meaning of dump truck lawyer. Then I dumped him.


I trusted the Rochdale idea of being our own teacher.  The Crown informed the Court the police had found no evidence to support the charges against me. They were withdrawn. The police told me they were surprised to find no trace of the file downloaded to my internet on any of the hard drives and computers they had seized.


The combination of the ideas I gathered from Jane Jacobs, Judith Merril, THE I CHING, eventually (in 1970) from Jesus and Rochdale College gave me the knowledge and the strength to endure.


Whenever I see a picture of Bobby I am reminded of that moment when I learned that he was homeless.


Most of the people who have lived with me were homeless when I met them. One of them, Chris Colledge, was lost to the spirit of defeat our society seeks to imbue in each of us. Richard Karadza was another lost to that spirit. Thankfully the number of those who were not defeated far exceeds that. , . One of those of whom I am proudest is returning to Toronto in April: .


Check them out.


Had I not become part of Rochdale College I would have been destroyed by the powers aligned against me.


The body of Rochdale College was destroyed. You cal learn about that from the NFB film, DREAMTOWER.


The spirit of Rochdale lives on in those of us who were part of it at its best.


That spirit is at the heart of The CineForum.


–Reg Hartt


« »