Skule Cannon

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Ye Olde Mighty Skule™ Cannon (current model c2013)

The Skule™ Cannon, also known as Ye Olde Mighty Skule™ Cannon, is the official mascot of Skule™, the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. It is a hand-held custom-designed piece which is fired at many major University and Faculty events. The Skule™ Cannon has been in existence since at least 1936, and numerous Cannons have been commissioned over the years. Retired Cannons have often been presented to historically significant members of the Skule™ community, such as former Assistant Dean Malcolm McGrath and former Dean James Ham.

The Cannon is protected by a team of trained Cannon Guards, led by the Chief Attiliator whose identity remains a secret until their unveiling each year at Gradball.

The Skule™ Cannon is often accompanied by the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad, which usually plays and sings Godiva's Hymn before the firing of the Cannon. Public firing of the Cannon is usually followed by the Skule Yell.

Contents

History

Origins of the Cannon

Although it was not until 1936 that the School of Practical Science (also called S.P.S. or Skule) had a cannon of its own, many cannons were honoured previously. In the 1923 Transactions, F.W. Thorold (S.P.S. '00) recalled how he and fellow classmates stole the cannon from in front of the Military Institute.

"Meds soon found out about this and after many battles they captured it. That old cannon frequently passed from Meds to Skule and back again, and the last I remember of it was that it had been dropped between two of the Meds buildings. Oh yes, we sure did shoot it off and broke lots of windows, too."

On November 2, 1905, The Varsity reported that "during Thursday night, five large windows at the School were broken by shots from a small gun or revolver. It will cost $100 in repairs."

Hart House Cannons

The first cannons honoured with the title 'Skule Cannon' were those in front of Hart House. In 1929, an Engineering caper resulted in the firing of one of the two cannons on the front lawn of Hart House. This however, demonstrated only 50% efficiency, as both cannons were supposed to blow.

Early Cannons

In 1929 and throughout the early 1930s, another smaller "cannon" began to appear at School festivities. Authorities attempted to track it down, considering it dangerous, hence it was shrouded in mystery and very little details survive to this day. It was likely made of a modified water pipe, though other sources describe a steel pipe, and The Varsity in November 20, 1935 described it as brass.

In 1935, during an auction, a cannon was fired on the steps of the old red Schoolhouse with such force that windows were again shattered. Once more it quickly disappeared.

Cannon "Mark I"

Cannon Mark I, c.1950

In 1936, School unofficially approached a machinist working in the Civil Engineering shop to create the first "School Cannon". Recognizing the considerable risk he was taking, but also realizing the dangers of students' experiments with explosives in a waterpipe, W.H. Kubbinga decided to help. And so he fashioned a 10" barrel with a 6" bore from a piece of axle stock and mounted it on a cast iron pillow block measuring 4" wide, 8" long and 1" deep, with a raised hump in the centre through which a hole was bored to take the barrel. All of this was accomplished in the four hours preceding the School Dinner that evening.

Cannon Mark I firing, c.1948
The design of this Cannon was a tribute to engineering technology for it was not only a devastating weapon, but it was equipped with a built-in camouflage. It did not look at all like a cannon, thus deceiving any would be kidnappers.

This fearsome weapon was used until 1950 except for a few times between the years of 1941 and 1943 when a yacht gun was borrowed (really) from a machinist in the basement of the old Engineering building.

Naturally, the unimpeachable appearance and worth of the Cannon was irresistable temptation to anyone who gazed in its direction, but especially to the feeble-minded persons in other faculties.

Cannon Thefts

In 1941, University College stole it but it was instantly returned. And in late 1944, UC stole it again after the Mulock Cup Finals. With cries of war and plans for the elimination of the nuisance at the north end of the circle, SPS undertook a restrained campaign to regain possession. This ended up as a series of ads in the Artsman's Gazette (sometimes called 'The Varsity', often called something else). Naturally, this campaign was a failure, as would be any appeal to an artsman's honour. On February 13, 1945, the UC Lit. announced that the Cannon would be returned at the annual Arts Ball. The 'Toike', in a fit of editorial passion, called it a "dastardly plot... a black infraction of civil property rights." (Feb. 23, 1945). 'The Varsity' said it was "in keeping with the Good Neighbour atmosphere."

However, the hiding place was discovered and the Cannon was forcibly retrieved by a group of intrepid engineers. The Arts Ball was naturally a failure.

Soon the '49 Chariot Races approached. When the first heat was called, a devastating blast was heard. And then it happened.

"1079 Med Pre-meds students, armed with scalpels, tear-gas, thigh-bones, and trained white mice, attacked in a screaming hoard. The battle raged back and forth, to and fro and vice versa. Finally numbers and the massaging skill of the doctors told against the three engineers who did not have a lab at the time. The Cannon disappeared into the Meds building." ('Toike Oike', Feb. 9, 1949).

Negotiations went on for days as the respective values of the Cannon and missing Meds Society Vice-President Bob Hetherington were calculated by a federally appointed mediator. After a few days of debate, the Cannon was returned, marred by an inscription which read, "Captured by Meds 5T2, 3 Feb. 1949."

Cannon "Mark II"

Cannon Mark II, debuted in 1950 Chariot Races
Cannon Mark II, as pictured in Torontonesis 1952

On Christmas day, 1949, there appeared on the doorstep of the Engineering Society a beautiful new weapon showing excellent workmanship. On it was engraved "Skule Cannon". It seemed that Santa had a close friend, a fine machinist who had been working for the Department of Civil Engineering for a long time and had created the first Cannon. In 1950, the Engineering Society honoured W.H. Kubbinga with a scroll extolling his loyalty, courage and good conduct and made him an Honourary Member in Ye Ancient and Honourable Company of Skule Cannoneers with the rank of Sergeant Artificer.

This new Cannon, dubbed the "Mark II" was machined from a cold rolled steel bar of diameter 2" and length of approximately 11". The barrel was mounted on a wheeled carriage fabricated from heavy steel plate. The Cannon weighed 20 lbs. Later on, the wheels and barrel were chrome plated. Its first public appearance was at the Chariot Race of January 27, 1950.

The original "Mark I" Cannon "was returned to pasture in a retreat known only to loyal Skulemen," as recorded in 'The Varsity' of October 6, 1950. But on October 29, 1952, 'The Varsity' headline screamed "SKULE CANNON PRIZE FOR BLOOD CAMPAIGN". The "Mark I" was mounted on a suitable base and enscribed as follows: "Presented to the Forestry winners of the interfaculty blood contest".

The Engineers had also promised that it would be presented annually if they did not win the contest that year. The following year, Forestry won again, followed by St. Michael's College, Nursing, and Forestry. For the 1957-58 campaign, the Engineers became wise and changed the rules. The winner would be declared on a total donation basis, rather than the previous percentage basis. Skule easily won back its Cannon. In the fall of 1959, 'Toike Oike' rumoured that the "Mark I" had been presented to Dean Emeritus C.R. Young.

Thefts of Mark II

Window of Stores being repaired following theft of its safe by Artsmen
Safe of Stores returned following theft by Artsmen

Meanwhile, on November 1, 1951, a hastily prepared mimeographed 'Toike Oike' proclaimed an attempt to "make off with Skule's favourite child", the new "Mark II" Cannon. A trio of students, two posing as journalism students from Pennsylvania State had asked for an interview and a chance to see the Cannon the night before. They were quickly escorted to the door, which was securely bolted behind them. Later a car was found nearby revealing UWO (University of Western Ontario) stickers on the windshield. The car accidentally acquired two flat tires before another feeble attempt by the thieves to gain entrance to the Engineering Society.

One fall night in 1958, artsmen broke into the Engineering Stores in an attempt to steal the Cannon. Believing that it was in a safe, they pushed the safe out a window and carried it away; however, their efforts were in vain and only the leniency of Skule kept them from enjoying an extended vacation (at government expense) in Kingston.

But where artsmen failed, Medsmen succeeded by deceit, as in 1959 the Meds once again made off with the precious tool. To help publicize the blood campaign, the Skule Cannon appeared at the Blood Donor Clinic. It had been guaranteed safe conduct, so the Cannon was without its usual armed bodyguard and was attended by only two Skulemen. After a long battle, the Medsman overpowered the Skulemen and captured the Cannon. After a round of kidnapping, Engineers invaded the Meds building, removed the cleaning staff, faculty and other debris, and boarded up the doors and windows. In the morning, the Meds saw the light and returned the Cannon.

In their kindheartedness, the Engineers gave the Medsmen a replica cannon, and they built a suitable trophy case for their prize. But in a masterful piece of engineering subterfuge, this false cannon was removed from the case (without scratching the glass) and was promptly destroyed.

1959 Cannon

New barrel installed in Mark II

Sadly, in 1959, the score of battles finally took its toll and the faithful Cannon Mark II had to be fitted with a new barrel. This new barrel was machined from a solid stainless steel bar, 12" long and 2-1/2" in diameter. The barrel was initialled by Canoneer Bill Riggs who also oversaw its construction.

In honour of the many battles on which the Cannon accompanied Skule, the 1950 Cannon was immortalized by placing it in the cornerstone of the new Galbraith Building.

The new Cannon was formally fired for the first time on the front campus in the autumn of 1959. It was next used in conjunction with the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad when the Engineers literally stopped the Homecoming Show for ten minutes while a presentation was made to the director of the show, a former Skuleman.

In the same year, a group from the Brute Force Committee accompanied the Cannon on a complimentary visit to the Victoria College Scarlet and Gold Dance in Alumni Hall. The Middlehouse Four were rendering a tender ballad at the time the gun discharged, and they were stopped dead in the middle of a verse. The BFC then scattered leaflets proclaiming Skule Nite and the Cannon Ball. Later that same year, the Cannon appeared at the UC Junior Common Room to proclaim the At-Home, with more leaflets.

In 1963, when John Adam was Cannoneer, the Cannon Guard was given uniforms for the first time, based on an idea by Dave Morrison. The red-helmeted Cannon guard came into existence.

Cannon at Coventry after recovery from England

Cross-Atlantic Cannon Heist

Nineteen-sixty-seven was the year of Canada's Centennial, but more importantly it was the year of the most infamous Cannon steal of all. Capitalizing on a lapse in security, a dreadful wretched duo spirited away the Cannon, spilling nary a drop of blood in the process. These bold fiends could not possibly be other than engineers, as exhibited by their recklessness and fearlessness. And grads at that. Their identity must be kept secret, for Joe E. Skule only knows what the world would do if it were to find out that Mike Chapelle (6T7) was the leader, assisted by Sorel Reisman (6T7).

The Cannon made its way to the British Isles, but six brave engineering grads took it upon themselves to restore the pride of Skule to its rightful owners. They tracked it down, all the way to UC in England. Don Monro (6T4, an ex-bandleader and EngSoc President) stole into Chapelle's room, and with nary another drop of blood, Skule had its manhood back.

And then it was on to Coventry to pay homage to Godiva. The statue of Godiva was adorned with an engineering jacket and the engineers made merry for they were overjoyed. Chapelle followed them to Coventry, but the Skulemen outnumbered him and he backed off after some unpleasantness. The Cannon was taken to Wales and then back to Canada.

1967 Cannon - Canadian Centennial

The fact that an engineer had stolen the Cannon was very embarrassing, and hence this whole theft was hushed up. The Engineering Society had another Cannon built when they found out that the old one was gone, but the new Cannon was announced to the world to have been built in honour of Canada's Centennial. The carriage of the new Cannon was mahogany and was equipped with wheels. Both the barrel and wheels were chrome-plated.

With a brand spanking new Cannon, Skulemen's spirits were given a much needed lift. It was barely a year old when another attempt was made to snatch the Skule banger, this time by an Industrial Engineer. He was unsuccessful in his attempt and spent the next few weeks as a guest of a Toronto hospital.

The '59 Cannon made a brief appearance at the 6T9 Cannon Ball where it was fired by John Adam (Cannoneer '64). The Cannon was then reported to have formed the basis of the annual Skule Cannon Award; however, this was more fiction to cover up the '67 Cannongate. This Cannon has since been presented to Paul Baker (7T5) in recognition of his outstanding service to the Engineering Society.

The year 1971 brought the first gangbang with the Ryerson engineers, to determine who had the better cannon. Needless to say, the Polytechs were sent scurrying home with their feet in their mouths. Not only did Skule annihilate them in the contest, they also stole their cannon and made off with the distributor wire to their bus.

1973 Cannon - Faculty Centennial

With the Faculty's centennial fast approaching, the Cannoneer decided that a new Cannon would be an ideal way to celebrate. In great secrecy, an emissary was sent down to Svart-alfa-heim (a kingdom below the earth where elves live) to commission Sindri (the creator of the might hammer of Thor) to machine the mightiest device ever imagined. With a solid brass barrel of maximum diameter 3" and length of 16-1/2", this zenith of perfection would easily strike fear into the heart of any mortal.

The first formal firing of this marvellous weapon was at the 1973 Centennial Ball, and on the third try it was actually fired. Dean James Ham fired the 1967 Cannon for the last time and it was then presented to him in honour of his retirement from Deanship.

The 1973 Cannon has enjoyed a period of relative tranquility since its creation, except at a frosh dance, when it was stolen (by the LGMB) to scare the Cannoneer (who had carelessly left it unguarded in the band room).

But in 1976, Robert Gilmour (the Canoneer) was found guilty of defacing the Cannon. John Vanneste (7T3), a former Cannoneer and designer of the 1973 Cannon, was called to fire the Cannon, since Gilmour had refused to do so at his own Grad Ball. The Cannon was found to be badly corroded and in need of cleaning. When the barrel was removed from the base, Gilmour's name was found chiseled into the bottom.

The Engineering Society passed a motion of censure against Gilmour, and the entire deed was exposed in 'Toike Oike' (March 26, 1976). Furthermore, at Vanneste's suggestion, the Cannon Guard were to wear black hard hats for a year to show the engineers' displeasure, but the Cannon Guard has continued to wear black ever since.

In 1982, the glorious Skule banger was called upon once again to prove itself. The first round of yet another gangbang was held during Godiva Week on Front Campus. This time, contenders from Ryerson, Devonshire House and some forgotton fraternity were trying to wrest the glory from Skule's Cannon. The impartial judges, armed with the latest in decibel meters, quickly banished Devonshire and the fraternity from the field. Due to faulty calibration, both Ryerson and Skule were off the scale.

A second round was then held, this time on Ryerson's home turf. Using heavy duty equipment and special shielding, the outcome was certain. Skule had once again triumphed. For the record, the Mighty Skule Cannon was measured at a level of 113 decibels from 200 yards distance.

1985 Cannon - EngSoc Centennial

In time, the years took their toll on the Cannon, and in 1985 it was decided that a new Cannon would be commissioned for the Engineering Society's Centennial. The design of the new Cannon was undertaken by Greg Forbes (Atiliator 1982) with the help of four other atiliators. The Cannon, with its bulbous muzzle, was designed after a naval piece. In order to reduce injuries to the guard the diameter of the touch-hole was reduced. The finished Cannon, with a bore-depth of 13-3/4" and a diameter of 3/4", was the most powerful weapon to date. At its test firing the 8" spikes used to secure it were ripped out of the ground.

At the 1985 Grad Ball held at the Royal York Hotel, the 1973 Cannon was presented to Professor Emeritus L.E. Jones in recognition of his years of service to both the Engineering Society and the Faculty. That evening, the new Cannon, in keeping with the tradition started by its predecessor, fired on its third try shortly after 11 PM on Saturday, March 23. The force of the delayed blast rolled up a large section of carpeting.

LGMB "borrows" the Cannon

Over the winter break in 1988-1989, the Cannon Guard left the Cannon in the safe at the Engineering Society offices. The Bnad "borrowed" the Cannon through some coercion of the EngSoc executives, and kept it at Knox College while the Chief Attiliator was sent a fake letter from Waterloo, complete with a photo of the Cannon on a Waterloo jacket.

SAC President attempts Cannon thefts

In 1990, the Students' Administrative Council (SAC, now known as the University of Toronto Students' Union, UTSU) President broke into the Engineering Society offices one night during Reading Week in search of the Cannon. Using a drill, he tried to break into the storage room where he believed the Cannon was kept. He failed and left the mutilated door unopened.

In 1991, the SAC president led a second conspiracy to steal the Cannon during the Homecoming Parade. Due to an information leak (the president allegedly boasting about the plot), the Guards learned of the scheme. The CA left the uniforms behind and showed up at the parade undercover. The Cannon was fired before the thieving group found out what happened.

Cannon theft by "Fahrenheit 1710"

In 1993, 26 years after the last successful attempt, the Cannon was finally captured. After the Cannon was set off for the incoming F!rosh on the first day of orientation, the Chief Attiliator left the cannon unguarded in the trunk of his car, thinking that it would be safe.

There were no witnesses to the theft, even though the thieves peeled the trunk off the car as it sat parked next to the Engineering Building. A ransom note signed "Fahrenheit 1710" was sent some time later, demanding that a group of engineers run onto Front Campus wearing only their underwear, carrying a banner of specific dimensions that proclaimed how "artsies" rule.

Their demands were ignored, and the construction of a new Cannon began. The stolen Cannon was finally recaptured just in time for the 1994 Grad Ball

The recovered Cannon was subsequently presented to a very deserving Malcolm McGrath (former Assistant Dean) for his leadership and contribution to student life.

1994 Cannon

The new Cannon, constructed in the absence of the stolen one in 1994, was a 90% scale twin of the lost 1983 Cannon, and was made of cold brass. The new Cannon was inaugurated on the first day of orientation in 1994.

In 1996-1997, the Cannon was fired at Queen’s orientation, and the Canadian Congress for Engineering Students conference in Waterloo. The Cannon was fired again at Queen's orientation in 1997.

By 1998, due to numerous firings, the 1994 Cannon was showing its age. As the 125th anniversary of Skule™ was approaching, along with the 70th anniversary of the Cannon, the 1994 Cannon was retired and a new Cannon was built.

1998 Cannon - 125th Anniversary of Skule™

The new Cannon, made with a stainless steel barrel and a walnut chassis, was inaugurated for the 125th Anniversary of Skule™

In 1999, the Cannon travelled to Cleveland, and to Washington in 2000. The Cannon was also fired at centre ice for a minor league hockey game in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on a road trip with the LGMB.

The famous Queen's Grease Pole Liberation in 2000 resulted in a piece of the Grease Pole sold in eBay, and another piece presented to the Chief Attiliator, where it is worn on the belt to this day. The belt, incidentally, is the chain that once protected Waterloo’s Engineering mascot, the Tool, before it, too, was liberated in 1982.

Smoke and Thunder DVD

In 2004, the 75th anniversary of the Cannon, a commemorative DVD Smoke and Thunder: The Story of the Mighty Skule™ Cannon was officially launched. The DVD was produced by Todd Reichert, a former Chief Attiliator and film major. It featured a video history of the Cannon, and included interviews with past Chiefs and alumni, including A.J. Paul La Prairie and Malcolm McGrath in its special features.

During the firing on January 15, 2004 to celebrate the DVD release, no less than five fire trucks appeared outside Sandford Fleming Building as it set off fire alarms inside.

Replica Cannon

Sergeant Steve Cox, an officer of the University of Toronto Campus Police and a major ally of engineering, announced his retirement from service in 2006. To thank him for his service, a 50% scale of the 1984 Cannon was forged for him and fired alongside the 1967 Cannon, 1973 Cannon, and 1998 Cannon after his retirement ceremony, which took place earlier in the day.

Chief Attiliator

Main article: Chief Attiliator

When Skule's first Cannon was created, a Cannoneer was appointed in keeping with age-old tradition. The Canoneer would be responsible for the selection of the Cannon Guards, making sure that the Cannon actually fired, and to do the actual firing. In addition to this they would have sole knowledge of the location of the Cannon when it was not in use.

Sources and Acknowledgements

Research on the history of the Cannon was conducted by Kevin P. Siu, Mike Hawkins, Jen Pollock, Juan Fantin, Jen Assal, Dave Woods, Adam Trumpour, Alex Curelea, and Will Smith.

Detailed History of Ye Olde Mighty Skule™ Cannon

1899-1900

Toike Article, Nov. 19, 1942

A cannon was stolen from in front of the Military Institute sometime around 1899-1900. It was stolen by, and recovered from, the Meds several times. It was eventually dropped between two Meds buildings. It was fired several times and broke windows. Other sources mention a cannon stolen from in front of the Parliament Buildings in the fall of 1898 - both most likely refer to the same cannon.

1905

On Nov. 2, 1905, the Varsity reports that "five large windows at the School were broken by shots from a small gun or revolver."

Varsity Article, Nov. 2, 1905

1929

Small cannon begins to appear
Around 1929, a small portable cannon begins to appear at school events. subtitleities attempted to track it down, considering it dangerous, hence it was shrouded in mystery and very little actual details are known. It is likely it was made of water pipe, although another source mentions steel pipe and the Varsity describes it as brass in 1935.

Varsity Article, Nov. 20, 1935

Hart House cannon fired
1929 also saw the firing of one of the two cannons in front of Hart House. Unfortunately, both were supposed to fire. The caper was repeated in later years, including 1943.

1936: The Mark I is built

The Mark I was built by a machinist working in the mechanical department. The barrel was 10" long with a 6" bore, and was machined from axle stock. The base was made from a cast iron pillow block, the base of which was 8" wide, 4" deep and 1" tall. It was built in the four hours before the 1936 School Dinner (which was Nov. 20). Because the authorities at the time were trying to track down those responsible for the earlier cannon, the construction and early firings were surrounded by great secrecy. This is likely why many earlier histories of the Cannon do not distinguish between the Mark I and its predecessor, and give the Mark I's date of construction as 1929.

1938

Another small cannon, possibly a yacht gun, appears in pictures around 1938. It was likely used in an Engineering Society election campaign.

1941

A yacht gun is borrowed from "a machinist who worked in the old Engineering Building" on several occasions between 1941 and 1943.

1941

The Cannon was stolen by University College in 1941, but was instantly returned.

1944: Cannon stolen by U.C.

On November 23, 1944, the Cannon was fired at the Mulock Cup (football) final between SkuleTM and University College. UC won the football game. They also stole the Cannon. On November 30, SkuleTM placed an ad in the Varsity asking for its return. An ad in the next day's Varsity asked how much powder was required to load the Cannon. On February 13, 1945, it was announced that UC had the Cannon and would present it to SkuleTM at their annual Arts Ball on the 15th. SkuleTM agreed to send a representative to receive it, but also began plotting a way to avoid this severe humiliation. As the Cannon was being taken into the Arts Ball, six brave engineers rushed it and retrieved it.

The next day, the Cannon was fired outside UC's Junior Common Room, where their parliament was meeting. This was followed by a brief snowball skirmish. Due to this and the fact that we recovered the Cannon before they got to present it, UC declared war on SkuleTM on Friday, February 16. SkuleTM responded with a proclamation of hostilities on Tuesday, February 20. Plans for the permanent destruction of UC were published in the Toike Oike on February 23. UC was saved from certain destruction by an agreement to channel hostilities into the Hart House elections. These elections were, of course, dominated by SkuleTM.

Varsity article before the fateful game - interesting mention of what was fired out of the Cannon (Varsity, Nov. 23, 1944)
More from the Varsity (Varsity, Nov. 28, 1944)
Varsity ad placed by SkuleTM asking for the location of the Cannon (Varsity, Nov. 30, 1944)
The thieves' response the next day (Varsity, Dec. 1, 1944)
SkuleTM Cannon found! (Varsity, Feb. 13, 1945)
SkuleTMmen recover the Cannon (Varsity, Feb. 16, 1945)
More Varsity commentary (Varsity, Feb. 16, 1945
UC declares war on SkuleTM! (Varsity, Feb. 19, 1945)
Varsity commentary (Varsity, Feb. 19, 1945)
Varsity commentary (Varsity, Feb. 21, 1945)
Varsity resource/images/articles/cannon/timeline of events (Varsity, Feb. 21, 1945)
Varsity commentary (page 2) (Varsity, Feb. 22, 1945)
Toike publishes plans for destruction of UC (with tactical maps) (Toike Oike, Feb. 23, 1945)

1949: Meds students steal the Cannon

The 1949 Chariot race, held on Thursday, February 3, had a good start. SkuleTM won the first heat, and the second heat was started by a blast of the Cannon. Then, disaster struck. The Cannon was grabbed by a Med student, beginning a huge brawl between all the parties present who wanted possesion of the Cannon - that is to say, everybody. Eventually a SkuleTMman managed to grab it and retreat to the Little Red Skulehouse. Even there, however, it was not safe from the thieving Meds. Two of them, standing just inside the door, took the Cannon from the exhausted engineer and made their way to the Medical building by a back route. The engineers quickly regrouped and entered the Meds building, but were prevented from recovering the Cannon by an overwhelming number of Meds. They took II Pre-Meds president Bob Sheppard captive, but were forced to release him later the same day. They replaced him by taking Bob Hetherington, Meds Society vice-president, from the frat where he lived. Hetherington was held hostage over the weekend while negotiations took place, and was traded for the Cannon at 17:30 February 7. On its return, the Cannon bore a blemish in the form of an inscription reading "Captured by Meds 5T2 3 Feb. 1949."

Front page of the Varsity (Varsity, Feb. 4, 1949)
Front page articles continued (Varsity, Feb. 4, 1949)
Varsity front page gloats about the Meds steal (Varsity, Feb. 7, 1949)
Cannon returned (Varsity, Feb. 8, 1949)
The Toike account of the events (Toike Oike, Feb. 9, 1949)

1949: U.C. steals the Cannon

The engineers had arranged for a photo shoot of the Cannon with a Varsity photographer, yet when they arrived at the meeting a group of U.C. students snatched the Cannon and fled in a car. In order to recover it, the CA Paul La Prairie assembled a large group of engineers in front of U.C. while some SkuleTMmen dressed as construction workers entered the building through a side door. These engineers set up proper construction barricades around the main staircase, and carefully removed the U.C. gargoyle from the newel post on the stairway. When word got out that the wooden gargoyle was missing, the CA was summoned to Dean Young and President Sidney Smith, to whom he assured that it would be returned safely in exchange for the SkuleTM Cannon. A truce was then arranged with U.C. to exchange the Cannon for the gargoyle on front campus. The Cannon was handed back, and the engineers presented the artsmen with a bag of sawdust, supposedly the remains of the gargoyle. While this happened, the gargoyle was being placed back in its post by the SkuleTMmen.

Meds claim "no secret society organized for the purpose of stealing the Skule cannon" (Varsity, Oct. 7, 1949)
Skule auctions Meds building (Varsity, Oct. 25, 1949)
Results of Skule Auction (Varsity, Oct. 26, 1949)
Skule cannon stolen (Varsity, Oct. 26, 1949)
Front page of the Varsity again (Varsity, Oct. 27, 1949)
President Sidney Smith comments on the Cannon theft (Varsity, Oct. 28, 1949)
UC claims they will fire Cannon at float parade (Varsity, Oct. 28, 1949)
Accounts of the float parade (Varsity, Oct. 31, 1949)
Skule to exchange captive UC cheerleader and gargoyle for Cannon (Varsity, Nov. 1, 1949)
Cannon is finally returned (Varsity, Nov. 2, 1949)

1950: First official firing of the Mark II Cannon

The Mark II Cannon was officially fired for the first time during the annual Chariot Races in January. This Cannon was built by W.H. Kubbinga, a machinist in the Civil Engineering department, and presented to the Society on Christmas day 1949. The barrel and wheels were made from a bronze alloy, and later given a heavy electroplating of nickel and chromium. The carriage was made of heavy steel plate, which was painted black. The Mark II had a barrel 11½" long, with a 2" diameter and ¾" bore.

W.H. Kubbinga honoured by the Engineering Society
The Engineering Society honoured W.H. Kubbinga with a scroll extolling his loyalty, courage, and good conduct and made him an Honorary Member in Ye Ancient and Honourable Company of SkuleTM Cannoneers with the rank of Sergeant Artificer.

1951: Western University attempts to steal the Cannon

On the afternoon of October 31, three men showed up at the Little Red Skulehouse claiming to be journalism students from Penn State, interested in writing an article on the Engineering mascot. They asked to see the Cannon, but the wary SkuleTMmen told them that would be impossible since it was against security regulations. The trio then feigned interest in the history of the Cannon and, after being shown a copy of the Toike with an article on it, they were escorted out and the door was securely bolted behind them. The engineers later found UWO stickers and textbooks on their car in the parking lot, and gave them two flat tires so that they'd have "something to think about on the way home". The same three students again tried without success to enter the building later in the evening. Apparently, the Varsity had been aware of the plot for a few days and was involved in it.

1952

Vic attacks the engineering float
Vic students attacked the Cannoneers during the Homecoming Float Parade in an attempt to steal the Cannon, but they were staved off by the group of Engineers protecting the float and the Cannon remained safe.

Mark I Cannon becomes trophy for Red Cross Blood Drive
The Engineering Society decided to put up the Mark I Cannon as a trophy, to be presented annually to the faculty or college donating the greatest number of pints of blood per capita during the Red Cross Blood Drive. The objective of this measure was to provide an extra incentive for blood donations and increase the total amount donated, which was achieved. The engineers even arranged a mock theft of the Cannon by the Meds, to increase publicity. Unfortunately, Engineering lost to Forestry and the Cannon was mounted on a plaque and handed over.

1955: Meds attack the engineering float during Homecoming

Medsmen, knowing that the Cannon was usually carried inside the engineering float during the parade, launched a tear gas attack on it. The Meds outnumbered the SkuleTMmen and a fierce fight ensued that lasted for over half an hour. The SkuleTM float was almost completely destroyed, but the Cannon remained safe thanks to the ingenuity of the CA who removed it from the area without anyone noticing.

1958

Vic steals safe, which they believe contains the Cannon
On the evening of November 25, a group of artsmen broke into the Engineering Building and stole a safe. They used a ladder to climb to a window which was 15 feet above the floor and then pushed the safe out through it. They believed the safe contained the Cannon, but it actually held $1300 in cash and checks and the financial records of the Society. The students were, however, unable to crack the safe open and they abandoned it next to Elmsley Hall after painting some slogans on it. The thieves were Vic students, who were planning to steal the Cannon in order to fire it at the Mulock Cup finals in which they were playing against SkuleTM. The Engineering Society decided to be lenient with the thieves, who were at the legal mercy of the engineers and could have been charged.

Engineers win back the Mark I Cannon
After losing the Blood Drive for five years in a row, the engineers became wise and changed the rules so that the winner would be declared on a total donation basis instead of the previous percentage basis. SkuleTM easily won back its Cannon with 732 pints donated, over 600 more than the closest competitor.

Cannon firings publicize Hart House elections
In order to publicize the nominations for Hart House Committee positions, the Engineering Society approved a plan to fire the SkuleTM Cannon in the front hall of Hart House on five consecutive noon hours. The blasts would mark the beginning of the five pre-election campaign-speech sessions. The fact that the Cannon would be fired in the same place for five consecutive days posed a security problem, since it would invite robbery attempts by other faculties. Preventive measures were taken, however, and the Cannon was kept safe.


1959: Meds steal the Cannon

On February 1959, the Meds finally succeeded in stealing the Mark II Cannon for the first time. In order to publicize the annual Blood Drive, the engineers had agreed to take the Cannon to the Blood Donor Clinic for a photo shoot. They had been guaranteed a safe conduct, so the Cannon was only accompanied by two engineers instead of the usual guard. However, the whole thing was a plot by the meds and the Varsity to lure the Cannon to a place where it could be captured by brute force. As the Cannoneers left the Blood Clinic, a large group of Medsmen attacked them from all directions and made off with the Cannon. A whole week of kidnappings and attacks ensued, until the meds finally saw the light and agreed to return it. The following is a calendar of the events as published in the Toike:

Monday, Feb. 2
Safe conduct to and from the Blood Clinic promised for the Cannon and the Cannoneers.

Tuesday, Feb. 3
Cannon stolen from two Engineers by fifty Medsmen. Meds getaway car traced to the Lee Chemical Co. Two carloads of Engineers block off car as it leaves company parking lot. Driver found to be company President; he was released with a warning. SAC-Varsity office raided by forty SkuleTMmen, one roll of film confiscated.

Wednesday, Feb. 4
Handcuffs and miscellaneous chemicals purchased. Medical Society film disappears. Premeds attack SkuleTM in attempt to recover same. Grand brawl including over 200 students. Two Medsmen and one Engineer taken prisoner. One Meds student chained to tree in front of SkuleTM, another sent packing minus shoes. Four stink bombs planted in Medical Building. Attempt to kidnap Engineer at night fails.

Thursday, Feb. 5
Three first year Meds students kidnapped and removed to remote hideaway.

Friday, Feb. 6
Medsmen released at 5 A.M. (they had an Anatomy test). Rick Schaeff (EngSoc President) denies any knowledge of the kidnapping of Medical Society President Doug Wilson. Varsity report branded hoax. Attempts to kidnap Jim Lewis and Rick Schaeff fail.

Saturday, Feb. 7
Negotiations completed for return of Cannon.

The terms of the pact established that the Cannon was to be returned exactly as it was when it was stolen, and the meds would be presented with a replica of the Cannon. All kidnapping on both sides was to halt immediately, and no attacks of any kind were to be made on the Engineering or Meds Dances the following week. The SkuleTM Cannon was returned, and the replica cannon given to the meds was later stolen from the trophy case where it was displayed and promptly destroyed.

BFC Reorganized
On March the Brute Force Committee was reorganized. The SkuleTM Cannon and the LGMB would become divisions of the BFC, and the BFC would provide protection during events. This arrangement would go on for many years, although eventually all three became completely independent and separate entities.

1959 Cannon introduced
After 9 eventful years of service, the numerous battles had finally taken their toll on the Mark II Cannon. The barrel was pitted from the corrosive action of black powder, and the plating was coming off. Chief Attiliator Bill Riggs made a request to the Engineering Society to replace this barrel with a new one, and oversaw the construction of the replacement during the summer. The new barrel was machined from a solid stainless steel bar, and it was 12" long with a 2 ½" diameter and ¾" bore. The old carriage of the Mark II Cannon was reused. The Mark II was later immortalized by being placed in the cornerstone of the new Galbraith Building.

Cannon stops Homecoming show
In conjunction with the LGMB, the Cannon was used to literally stop the Homecoming show for ten minutes while a presentation was made to Jim Vasoff, a former SkuleTMman. The crowd, consisting mainly of artsmen, managed no protest other than a few feeble boos.

1960

Cannon fired at Vic Dance to publicize Cannon Ball
A group of individuals from the BFC together with the Cannon paid a visit to the Victoria College Scarlet and Gold Dance. The Middlehouse Four were performing, and were stopped dead in the middle of a verse by the thunderous roar which shook Alumni Hall. The BFC then scattered leaflets proclaiming SkuleTM Night and the Cannon Ball.

John Bell removed as Chief Attiliator
Since the Cannoneer John Bell had failed his year and his handling of the Cannon had proved inadequate, the Executive of the Society asked for his resignation. A new Cannoneer was appointed.

1963

During John Adam's term as Cannoneer in 1963, the Guard was given uniforms for the first time based on an idea by Dave Morrison. The uniform took the form of red hardhats.

1964

A nurse is injured by Cannon
On Sept 23, 1964, Doug Macdonald fired the Cannon at the engineering frosh dance. A nurse from the Toronto General Hospital was injured in the right arm by a piece of unburnt wadding from the blast. She was 25 feet away, even though the recommended safe distance was only 10-15 feet. All Cannon activities were stopped until proper tests could be completed, which were overseen by Prof. MacElhinney of Chemical Engineering. When the nurse stated her intention to sue, all testing was stopped and firings were postponed indefinitely.

Late in October, permission was obtained to fire in the Hart House quad so it could be recorded for an upcoming LGMB album, under the condition that Prof. MacElhinney be present to supervise. Soon, a revised loading procedure was developed, replacing the old smokeless powder charge with black powder. When nothing more was heard from the lawyers, the Dean lifted the embargo and the Cannon was fired for the first time in the lower gallery of Hart House at the Lady Godiva Memorial Bash.


1967: The Cannon visits Coventry

Cannon stolen by Engineers
1967 saw perhaps the most infamous Cannon steal. Two graduate engineers, Mike Chapelle, 6T7, and Howie White, 6T6, managed to steal the Cannon, and took it with them to University College in England. Don Morno, 6T4, and five other SkuleTMmen, followed the Cannon all the way to England, where two of them entered Chapelle's room and recovered the Cannon. On the way back home, the Cannon made a stop in Coventry to pay homage to Godiva. The statue of Godiva was adorned with an engineering jacket.

1967 Cannon built
Meanwhile, back home, the Engineering Society tried to cover the fact that an engineer stole the Cannon. A new Cannon was built, supposedly to honour Canada's centennial. The barrel of the new Cannon was 11" long and had a bore of 5", with a mahogany carriage and chrome plated wheels.

Expo 67
The Cannon makes an appearance at Expo 67.

1968

An Indy attempts to steal the new Cannon. He is unsuccessful, and spends some time in the Toronto General Hospital.

1971: First gangbang with Ryerson

The year 1971 was the year of the first gangbang with the Ryerson Engineers. The purpose of the gangbang was to see who had the better Cannon. Not only did the SkuleTM Cannon win, but the UofT engineers made off with the Ryerson Cannon and the distributor wire to their bus!

1973: 1973 Cannon forged

In SkuleTM's centennial year, the Cannoneer decided that a new Cannon would be an ideal way to celebrate. So a new Cannon was built. It had an 18" barrel with a 6" bore, 3" diameter, weighed 40 lbs, and was mounted on a mahogany base and had bronze wheels. At the Centennial Ball the new Cannon fired for the first time (although it took three tries for it to actually work!). The old '67 Cannon was presented to Dean James M. Ham for his retirement.

1976: Robert Gilmour defaces Cannon; black hardhats in use

The Cannoneer at the time, Robert Gilmour did not want to fire the Cannon at his own Grad Ball, so a former Cannoneer named John Vanneste was called from retirement to fire the Cannon. The Cannon was found to be badly corroded and in need of cleaning. When the barrel was removed from the base, Gilmour's name was found chiseled into the bottom. The Engineering Society executives passed a motion of censure against Gilmour, and the entire deed was exposed in the Toike Oike. At John Vanneste's suggestion, the Cannon Guard wore black hardhats (as opposed to the traditional red) for one year to show the Engineer's displeasure. After the year was up, they decided to keep wearing the black hardhats, and they also decided to wear black t-shirts to create a new image.

1978: Another Ryerson gangbang

In 1978, Ryerson made another weak attempt to outdo the SkuleTM Cannon. On the day of the scheduled gangbang, a message was "supposedly" left at EngSoc informing UofT that Ryerson wasn't coming because of the rain. Due to the no-show, UofT declared themselves the winners and called Ryerson to tell them. It was only after that phone call that Ryerson decided to show up. So on that rainy day, 200 UofT engineers and 5 Politechs witnessed the 2nd ever gangbang. The Ryerson judge declared Ryerson winners, but the UofT judge declared the SkuleTM Cannon superior. Once again, UofT came out on top. No one was interested in stealing Ryerson's feeble cannon, so they were allowed to return home unharmed.

1979: Another Ryerson gangbang

January of 1979 was yet another gangbang versus RyeHigh. The LGMB showed up to play at the event; however due to the extreme cold, the instruments froze up, and nobody could play. The cannons fired anyway, and yet again Ryerson went home with their tails between their legs as UofT was announced the winner.

1982: Gangbang with Ryerson, Devonshire House and a frat

Godiva Week in 1982 saw another gangbang between our Cannon and Ryerson's, Devonshire House's and a fraternity's on front campus. Decibel meters quickly eliminated Devonshire's and the frat's cannons from the competition. Both SkuleTM's and Ryerson's were off the scale. A second round was held at Ryerson, this time using heavy-duty audio equipment with special shielding. Ye Mighty SkuleTM Cannon triumphs, being measured at 113 decibels from 200 yards away.

1985: 1985 Cannon forged

The 1973 Cannon is fired for the last time at Gradball and presented to Professor Emeritus L.E. Jones for his outstanding contributions to SkuleTM over more than 50 years. The new Cannon successfully fires for the first time shortly after 11 PM on Saturday, March 23, after two misfires.


1989: LGMB "borrows" the Cannon

1988-89: LGMB Steals the Cannon
The Cannon Guard foolishly left the Cannon in the EngSoc offices in the winter of 88/89. The Bnad "borrowed" it and kept it at Knox College while the CA was sweating over a fake letter from Waterloo, complete with a picture of the Cannon on a Waterloo jacket.

1989-90: Guard gets new uniforms

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Mighty SkuleTM Cannon, and with the support of Assistant Dean Malcolm McGrath and the Engineering Alumni Association, Chief Attiliator Ken deJong establishes a new uniform for the Cannon Guard. The new outfit featured black coveralls, belts and vests in addition to the standard black hardhats.

1989-90

Seven fire trucks respond to the Earth-Shattering Kaboom of ye mighty SkuleTM Cannon at the Royal York Hotel during Gradball, setting a new record.

1990: SAC president attempts to steal Cannon

The SAC president breaks into the Engineering Society offices one night during Reading Week in search of the Cannon. Using a drill, he tries to break into the storage room where he believed the Cannon was kept. He failed and left the mutilated door unopened.

1990-1991

SkuleTM's first female Chief Attiliator.

1991: SAC president attempts to steal Cannon, again

For the second year in a row, the SAC president led a conspiracy to steal the Cannon during the homecoming parade. Due to a leak (the president's boasting), the guard learned of the plot. The guard left the uniforms behind and showed up at the parade undercover. The Cannon was fired before the thieving group found out what happened.

1991-1992: How many windows can we break this time?

In 1991-92 SkuleTM witnessed the birth of a new Cannon tradition - for lack of a better name, the "How many windows can we break this time?" custom. Ironically, on both occasions the shattered panes were a direct result of the interference by the management of the buildings in question. At Hart House, during the Alumni Reunion, the Chief Attiliator prepared to fire the Mighty Cannon down the hallway bordering the Great Hall. As the meticulous preparation was being carried out, an ignorant, stubborn, and quite worried staff insisted that the Cannon must be fired in the main floor hallway. Not being the querulous type (yeah right!) the Chief Attiliator acquiesced to the management's demands. With the customary earth shattering KA-BOOM the Cannon expelled its fiery breath into the quad while, simultaneously, the concussion shattered five windowpanes in the hall. The Hart House staff uttered a collective 'gasp!' as the Alumni expressed an equally unified 'cheer!' Some of these pillars of society, to the dismay of the management, even called for an encore.

The annual manifestation of the Cannon at Cannonball was a SMASHING success. It was like deja vu as the Attiliator once more set up the piece and prepared to fire. The management once more intervened and insisted that the Cannon be fired out a bay window, even though the Chief Attiliator explained that it was much safer to fire the Cannon inside the spacious building. The manager, however, would not listen to 'sound' Engineering logic and insisted the Cannon be fired out the window. The Attiliator shrugged his shoulders and said 'OK.' The resulting concussion shattered six, one-foot square panes of glass. The sound of shattering glass hit the floor as cheers poured from the assembled Engineers and Alumni (Assistant Dean Malcolm McGrath out-cheered just about everyone). Surprisingly even the manager cheered (we got the bill about a month later).

1992: Tinted face shield built

Due to recent attempts to steal the Cannon, it was decided that the new Chief Attiliator go underground. No one except the officers of the Engineering Society, the BFC Chief, the Bnad Leedur, and a regular array of guards would know the CA's identity before that year's Gradball. Brian Campanotti, the 1992-1993 CA, designed the mirrored face shield and hood in use by CAs to this day.

1993-1994: Cannon stolen by Fahrenheit 1710; 1994 Cannon forged

26 years after the last successful attempt, the Cannon was finally captured. After the Cannon was set off for the incoming F!rosh on the first day of orientation, the Chief Attiliator foolishly left our symbol unguarded in the trunk of his car, mistakenly thinking that it would be safe. Thieves finally got their hands on the piece, but not until they peeled the trunk off his car. Nobody saw them, even though the car was next to the Engineering building. A ransom note signed Fahrenheit 1710 was sent some time later, demanding that a group of Engineers run onto front campus wearing only their underwear, carrying a banner of specific dimensions that said some nonsense about how artsies rule. The demands were, of course, ignored, and construction of a new Cannon began. The new Cannon would be a 90% scale twin of the lost 1983 piece, and would be made of cold brass. The stolen Cannon was finally recaptured just in time for the 1994 Grad Ball. The recovered Cannon was subsequently presented to a very deserving Malcolm McGrath (former Assistant Dean) for his leadership and contribution to student life that has aided so many undergraduate and post-graduate Engineers. The new Cannon was inaugurated on the first day of orientation in 1994.

1996-1997

Cannon is fired at Queen's orientation, the Canadian Congress for Engineering Students conference in Waterloo, and crashes lectures in Con Hall.

1997-1998

Cannon is again fired at Queen's orientation.

1998-1999: 1998 Cannon is forged

By 1998, due to numerous firings, the 1994 Cannon was already showing its age. 1998/1999 was also the 125th anniversary of SkuleTM, and the 70th anniversary of the Cannon. The '94 Cannon was retired, and a new Cannon was built, with a stainless steel barrel and walnut chassis.

1999-2001

The Cannon travels to the States, to Cleveland in 1999 and to Washington in 2000-2001. The Cannon was fired at centre ice for a hockey game in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.


2000: Part of the Grease Pole presented to the CA

Queen's Grease Pole steal
2000 saw the famous Queen's Grease Pole Liberation. A small section of the Pole was cut off and kept by us before the Pole was returned. Part of the piece was sold on eBay, the other part was added to the belt worn by the CA, where it can be seen to this day. The belt, incidentally, is the chain that once protected Waterloo's Engineering mascot, the Tool, before it, too, was liberated in 1982.

2002-2003

The Cannon firings during the Bnad Wakeup on the first morning of F!rosh Week appear on Pulse24 Breakfast Television in 2002, and again on Breakfast Television and the CityTV 6:00pm news in 2003.

2004

Smoke and Thunder: The Story of the Mighty SkuleTM Cannon is officially launched on DVD on Jaunuary 15, 2004. No less than 5 fire trucks appear outside Sanford Fleming within minutes.

2006

Sergeant Steve Cox, an officer of the University of Toronto Campus Police and a major ally of engineering, retires from service. To thank him for his service, a 50% scale of the 1984 Cannon is forged for him and fired alongside the 1967 Cannon, 1973 Cannon, and 1998 Cannon after his retirement ceremony, which took place earlier in the day.

Research (in chronological order) by Jen Pollock, Juan Fantin, Jen Assal, Dave Woods, Adam Trumpour, Alex Curelea, Will Smith Originally compiled and edited by Alex Curelea. Subsequent edits by Mike Hawkins.
Contains material from Transactions of the Engineering Society, issues of the Toike Oike, Cannon, Varsity, Skulebooks, F!rosh Handbooks, and A Century of Skill and Vigour by Barry Levine

2013: 1T3 Cannon is Forged

As adapted from the 2013 F!rosh issue of the Cannon newspaper:

"A new Mighty Skule Cannon has been built and [was fired] for the first time during F!rosh Week 1T3.

The Chief Attiliator at the time [later revealed to be David Belvedere] built a new Cannon to celebrate the 85th year of the Cannon, the 149th year of Skule, and to replace the 1998 Cannon. The 1998 Cannon was in service for 15 years, the longest of any Skule Cannon thus far, and was replaced [due to] signs of wear.

The 1T3 is made from a high strength, rare type of stainless steel, and has been heat treated for maximum strength. It has new structural designs, stronger materials, and other specifications that make it the strongest, loudest, and mightiest Skule Cannon to date."

Further Reading

  • Levine, Barry, A Century of Skill and Vigour