Traill Ale for the Trent Soul

Book review

Nathaniel Christopher Arthur [Peterborough, Ont.] Volume 39 Issue 11

Trail Ale for the Trent Soul, written by fourth year Trent student Shantel Ivits, has been out for just over a month but it’s been flying off the shelves (aka Shantel’s backpack) faster than Birkenstocks at an Ani DiFranco concert. “It’s doing better than I expected,” says the first-time author. “I think that students are excited about the re invigoration of the college system.” Trent student and Trailler queen Shantel Ivits has written what might well be described as the authoritative history of Trent University’s now solitary downtown college, Catherine Parr Traill. In case you’re unfamiliar with the collegiate landscape, Traill is that part of Trent that isn’t a ghastly concrete nightmare.

Traill Ale for the Trent Soul begins with a brief history of Traill College, Trent University and Catharine Parr Traill — the college’s namesake. There are also some fun ghost stories that make you think twice about wandering around Traill alone at night.

The book, which took over eighteen months to write, was born out of Shantel’s love for Traill College. Shantel is not alone in her sentiments. As imposing new buildings rear their yellow façades over the beleaguered Trent landscape, one might easily be taken in by Traill’s Victorian charm. It’s no wonder that Shantel has had little trouble in securing submissions from Traill alumni, staff and faculty. These accounts,
which cover almost forty years, are testament to the lasting impression that Traill has left on the lives of generations of Traillites. So many wild escapades took place at Traill… Errant seniors from a nearby retirement home (which is now Bradburn House) would sneak over to Traill to party down with Traill students only to be retrieved by retirement home staff. Of course it’s not just the locals who have all the fun…

Shantel Ivits poses with a copy of her book “Trail Ale for the Trent Soul” inside Scott House at Catherine Parr Traill College in Peterborough, Ont. on October 4, 2004.
Photo: Nathaniel Christopher

There’s at least one documented case of a mischievous biker who burned rubber through Wallis Hall at 2:00 AM. One group of enterprising Traillites thought it would be a good idea to make beer in the basement of Langton House. The result of their efforts was a wretched brew dubbed “Traill Ale.”

There are testaments from such notables as Dr. James Orbinski, who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Doctors Without Borders in 1999. Orbinski makes a short argument in favour of the College System at Trent, urging the Board of Governors to “not fall prey to what on the surface may be rational logic, but which is ultimately destructive of what you seek to preserve.”

Shantel diligently lays out the often complicated “Downtown Colleges Debate” in a clear and articulate voice, citing newspaper articles and personal interviews. The closure of Peter Robinson College and the student occupation of 2001 are undeniably important chapters of university history. The occupation and subsequent closure of Peter Robinson College were well documented in the media at the time, but Traill Ale saves the reader from poring over old newspapers to get the facts.

If the closure of Peter Robinson College is any indication of future events, then Shantel’s chapter on possible uses for Traill may become a timely point of reference sometime down the road. Shantel has not ruled out the possibility that Traill might one day be closed and she proposes post-Trent options for Traill such as a student housing cooperative.

Putting action to her words, Shantel has been a tireless advocate in general for the College system and Traill in particular. While it is not wise to drink and drive, I would think that many Trent administrators would do well to down a “two-four” of Traill Ale before getting behind Trent’s steering wheel.

Traill Ale for the Trent Soul is available in the TCSA Office, the Canadian Studies Department Office, and the English Department Office for $15. Alternatively, it is also available at Titles Bookstore for $20.00.

I am a resident of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, who has been blogging here for nearly 25 years. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings on my own online platform. From 1998 until 2017, I worked as a journalist, and I have posted most of my articles in the 'News' section of this website.