People & Culture

Our Country: Alex Trebek

Jeopardy! host and Honorary President of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society reminisced about his years in Ottawa

  • Nov 09, 2020
  • 326 words
  • 2 minutes
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I spent three years in boarding school at University of Ottawa prep, and then three years at the university itself. They were some of the most formative of my life, so Ottawa holds a special place in my heart.

I grew up in Sudbury, but it didn’t register all that much. When I got to Ottawa, though, I had to take things seriously. My parents had divorced and I got in trouble a lot. I was a rebellious kid. The priests at the prep school helped me reform. When harsh discipline didn’t work, they befriended me and showed me the right path. They turned my life around.

The high school was in the university administration building, and the dormitories were upstairs. I remember I had a crush on a girl who used to walk by every day on her way to Lisgar High School. We’d be outside playing and I would just … well, I never talked to her. We had three rinks set up outside school that we had to shovel the snow off, so I think I might have skated on the Rideau Canal once. I used to walk along it a lot, though, and have always liked that there’s so much greenery in the city.

When we were out of school on the weekend, we’d take the streetcar over to Hull and go to the Gatineau Club, the Chaudière Club or Chez Henri, or just wander around the Byward Market. We had a good time. In university, a favourite haunt was the Château Laurier hotel. They had a great pea soup, a fantastic indoor swimming pool and a barbershop that made us feel special — when we had enough money to go there. They used hot towels on our faces and trimmed our sideburns with a straight razor. You felt like a rich businessman being pampered.

As told to Harry Wilson, printed in the June 2016 issue of Canadian Geographic

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