I dutifully showed up for work at H. R. Doane & Co. (now Grant Thornton) at about 8:45 on Tuesday, September 5, 1961, and was mildly surprised to see that there was already a lot of activity going on. Although Mr. Manning’s large office at the end of the room was dark, there were people working in the offices along the side, a couple of guys working at desks in the common area and a couple of others stuffing files and ledgers into large briefcases, clearly getting ready to go out into the business world.
Blanche introduced me to everyone, and I still remember them all well. John Gorrill, Gordon Williams, Mark Ladner and Floyd MacKinnon were in the offices along the side; Murray Stevenson, Ross Pigott, Rollie Coffill, Stan Warwick, and Vern Willis were in the common area. John and Gordon were Chartered Accountants and the rest were CA students at various stages in the course. Murray and Mark became life-long friends.
Murray said I’d be going out with him to work on the City of Charlottetown audit, but that Gordon Williams needed to see me for a few minutes first, so I went in to Gordon’s office where he beckoned me into one of the chairs facing his desk.
“So,” Gordon said, “you’ve come down from Toronto to work with us.”
Assuming that Mr. Manning had told him the whole story I simply said, “Yes, but I’m originally from Morell and will be living with my sister there.”
Gordon then pushed a green form in front of me, the exact title of which I’ve forgotten, and said I had to fill it out right away because it had to be mailed special delivery (one copy to Toronto and one to Queen’s University in Kingston) that day in order to get me registered for the 1961-62 course year. The form was very straightforward (name, address, date of birth etc.) until near the bottom where there were two little boxes, one of which had to be ticked. One box read “Regular Course” and the other “Accelerated Course.”
I inquired what these were all about and he asked, “Didn’t Mr. Manning explain this to you?” “No,” I replied.
“Well,” Gordon said, “The regular course is five years long with three sets of exams and the accelerated course is four years with two sets.”
“You mean I have a choice?” I asked. Gordon assured me that I did; an assurance that would have significant repercussions later in the year.
Well, one less year and one less exam seemed like a pretty good deal to me, so I ticked “Accelerated Course,” and signed the form. Gordon then signed it as well. As Murray and I were leaving for City Hall and my first audit esperience, Gordon was giving Blanche instructions on getting the forms over to the post office right away.
A couple of weeks later I received my text books and assignments from Queen’s. The idea was to remit an assignment to Queen’s approximately every week for marking and correction. I think a student had to average 60% over the six-month course year.
Even though I’d had three years of RIA training, and had worked in accounting for the previous four years, I found the assignments very difficult and began to believe that the chap at the Ontario Institute office had been correct; that having completed only Grade Ten in school I simply didn’t have enough education to become a Chartered Accountant. This was particularly puzzling because on the job I was doing work at the intermediate and senior levels. Then, just before Christmas I found out what the problem was.
Mr. Manning called all the students into his office to review how we were doing on our assignments. He wanted to know about our marks, whether we were up to date, and so on. He started with the more senior guys and worked his way down to me. “Well, Mr. Manning,” I said, “there’s something wrong here. Everybody else, if you add the number of assignments they’ve completed and the number they have left, they total twenty-six. I’ve got thirty-two.”
In the almost fifty years I knew this wonderful man, it was the only time I ever heard him use an oath. “Jesus,” he said, “you’re in the accelerated course! How did that happen?” I told him about filling out the forms back in September and that Gordon told me I could opt for the accelerated course. Mr. Manning went on to explain that the accelerated course was limited to commerce grads. It transpired that because of my age, and the higher salary at which I was starting, that Gordon thought I was a University of Toronto commerce grad. When he joined Mr. Manning and me in Mr. Manning’s office after the general meeting ended and found out that I had only completed Grade Ten, he actually lit two cigarettes and started to smoke them both at the same time. We clearly had a problem. If the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario didn’t want me in the five-year course because I only had Grade Ten education, they sure as hell wouldn’t want me in one reserved for commerce degree graduates.
I never did find out much about the negotiations Mr. Manning carried on with the Ontario Institute, but the deal they settled on was that I would have only one try at each of the exams. Everyone else could fail three times without being ousted, but if I failed once I was out. As it turned out it didn’t matter; I passed the first set easily and in the 1965 CA finals I won the Hoben Memorial Prize for the highest marks in the four Atlantic provinces.
I never again saw the Ontario Institute employee who told me I couldn’t possibly complete the course, even though I looked for him in the crowd when I:
- Received the Hoben prize at a ceremony in Toronto
- Was granted my Fellowship from the Ontario Institute
- Became President of the Ontario Institute
- Became President of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
- Received my Fellowship from the PEI Institute
- Became a Life Member of the Ontario Institute
- Was presented with an Award of Merit from the Ontario Institute
- Received a Certificate of Outstanding Achievement from the Canadian Institute
- Received the Queen’s Jubilee medal for my contribution to the accounting profession in Canada
10. Received an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of PEI
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my four years as a CA student with H. R. Doane & Co. The work was interesting, the people were outstanding, and I learned a tremendous amount about all aspects of running a business.
But the plan was always that I would return to Toronto when I finished the CA program, and I did.