Memoirs, Or Shadows Of What Has Been
By Peter Landry

Law School, 1971

It was in June of that year that President Richard Nixon declared "The War on Drugs." Though this war through the years cost a fortune and cut deeply into the liberties of the people: it was a failure. In July, the South Tower of the World Trade Center was topped out at 1,362 feet, making it, at the time, the second tallest building in the world. That August Nixon announced that the United States would no longer convert dollars to gold at a fixed value, effectively ending the Bretton Woods system. He also imposed a 90-day freeze on wages, prices and rents.

As interesting as these events which were unfolding in the United States, more interesting were the events that unfolded personally for me in the summer of 1971. After a concentrated effort over a two year period (including summer courses), I graduated from Saint Marys with a Bachelor of Commence Degree with a Major in Economics.



On June 30th, 1971, I received a letter of acceptance into Dalhousie Law School and a notice that I was to receive a Forsyth Entrance Bursary & Alistair Fraser Scholarship. (See my letter in reply.)This was great news for me, for my objective of going to law school was one I had formed back in 1968 when I left Zeller's to pursue the goal of becoming a lawyer.

So, there I was, in September of 1971, attending the first year of law school, at the age of 30. Most all my classmates were eight years younger than myself; but, while the age difference at the time seemed to me to be considerable, in retrospect, there was not that much difference. Except for this: I had a wife and three children at home. Louise's full-time job was to be at home with the kids; it was our preference. We continued on during this year to be in inexpensive rental accommodations at Windsor Junction. I continued to push off early in the morning with two brown bags (lunch and supper), and, often, did not get home until after dark. I studied by day and sold Life Insurance during the evenings. The returns in the selling of insurance were not great (though I won awards) but it gave me the flexibility I needed, and it was enough to keep us going. While through the school year I was kept busy; I had the months of June, July and August to play with the kids, during which time, as the pictures will show, we toured our province with our camping gear.

What was it like to go to law school, that first year? It was not what I thought it might be! I had some notion, as I suspect most people who start in at law school, that the school with its learned professors were to fill me up, the eager vessel that I was, with law -- you know: with facts, figures, and all the knowledge and information that I would need when I went out into the world with a law degree. Except no one was filling me up with rules and regulations, which, I had assumed the study of law was all about. Oh! I soon learned a few basic rules; but, what I learned after a few months of trying to fit my head around it all, was, that law was more of a process than anything else. Tennyson's lines come to mind:

"Mastering the lawless science of our law,
That codeless myriad of precedent,
That wilderness of single instances ..."

Our law, in the common law system, is to be found in hundreds of thousands of decisions made by judges over the last hundred years, not only in Canada but in England, too. I spent a lot of time in the Law Library in my carrel (the little desks at the periphery of the library) with my brown lunch bags tucked in the corner. OK -- So, here was a sketch of a case; facts given by the professor. What law applies? What a sinking feeling: to peer down the isles with nothing but book after book, volume after volume; somewhere in any one of them, a possible answer lies. The trick, as a law student comes soon to realize, is to use the available tools to get to the right case, or cases. Learned treaties are available, and in considerable number, but the better ones stand out with their rubbed covers and pages showing the wear from the fingers of the law students that have gone before, searching for the same answer as I was. Learning to use a law library (largely un-circulating) became an essential task, and, it had to be done in the first couple of months, or the student becomes lost. A law librarian was to become your very best friend.

In January of 1971, the landmark television sitcom, All In The Family, starring Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, debuted on CBS. That July, Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors was found dead in his bathtub in Paris, France. That October, Walt Disney World opened in Orlando, Florida. At the theatres the following movies were showing: A Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry, The French Connection and The Last Picture Show. The songs of 1971 that I remember: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?, The Bee Gees; Take Me Home, Country Roads, John Denver; What's Going On, Marvin Gaye; Rainy Days and Mondays, The Carpenters; and, Mr. Bojangles, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

[Pictures, 1971]

NEXT: [Chapter Twenty-Three, Cooperative House Building, 1972]



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2011 (2019)

Peter Landry