Hart House has stood as the social centre of the University of Toronto for 100 years. It’s not surprising that many of our students have parents who also looked to Hart House to find community during their university days. But few families can boast of having three generations at Hart House! Andrew Giblon describes Hart House as “a multi-generational, multi-sport, multi-activity home for extracurricular activities,” which is as apt a description as any we’ve heard. We asked Andrew to recount his family’s history with Hart House through the generations.
First Generation 1952–1957
My parents, Barney & Beverley Giblon graduated from the University of Toronto in 1957 in Medicine and Physical & Occupational Therapy, respectively. As children of immigrants from Europe who arrived in Canada around 1920 with minimal money and education, they both were the first in their families to get a university education.
After graduation, my father became president of the Medical Alumni Association (MAA), where he still serves on the Board, as well as president of the U of T Alumni Association (UTAA). My parents attend many events at Hart House such as the annual MAA banquet in the Great Hall as well as other functions in the Gallery Grill and art exhibits at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House.
As an undergrad, my father had to pass a swimming test which was held at the Hart House pool. At that time, women were not allowed into Hart House—and men swam in the nude! (No photos available.)
Second Generation 1978–1982
I completed a Bachelor of Science at U of T in 1982. During that time, I lived at home and commuted to school every day. My only social and physical activity was at Hart House on Friday nights—the table tennis club. I wasn’t very good at the time, but I got some coaching, practised a lot, and eventually made it onto the U of T “B” team. With time, I got good enough to represent U of T at provincial and US regional college championships. But, although I competed each year, I never managed to win in the U of T/Hart House championships.
I got more serious about table tennis after I graduated and moved up the rankings to as high as #24 in men’s singles in Canada. I continued to compete as an alumnus in the annual U of T/Hart House championships and at last was able to win the tournament—seven years in a row! The club even awarded me an extra trophy after my fourth win.
Third Generation 2017–Present
My Hart House table tennis glory days were put on hold when I met my wife Cheryl. Married life and children left little time for Hart House activities. But then a funny thing happened in 2007. Our two oldest daughters, Rebecca and Melissa, were five-time national youth chess champions. When they moved on to adult chess tournaments, I learned to play too, mainly to occupy my time while they were competing. It was at Hart House where we played our first adult chess tournament together, and this became an annual tradition for us for a few years. I enjoyed showing them around the quirky old building that I knew from my undergraduate days. Hart House had so much character and history.
When our daughters entered secondary school, they began representing their school in debate tournaments, and sure enough, some of their key tournaments were in Hart House! A few times they would compete in a debate tournament at Hart House and visit with friends competing in a chess tournament at Hart House on the same weekend.
In 2017, Melissa became an undergraduate at U of T and joined the Hart House Debating Club. She has represented Hart House at several university tournaments in the US and Canada, and recently defeated many Ivy League schools by winning the Novice (first year) section at the North American University Debate Championships with her partner. Melissa lives on campus, and also makes use of the exercise facilities at Hart House on a regular basis.
So for the Giblon family, Hart House has become the point of continuity across three generations, across three competitive sports, and across a range of social and physical activities.
—Andrew Giblon, BSc 1982