For students who attended Brock between the 1970s and the 1990s, Alphie’s Trough was the place to be. Named after Alfred, Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock’s horse, Alphie’s Trough was Brock’s original campus pub — a three-story chalet overlooking the scenic, tree-covered Niagara escarpment.
Rumour has it that Alphie’s Trough was closed in the 1990s because too many students had injured themselves (or died) by falling off the escarpment.
Fact or fiction?
In an interview with Paul Dwyer, Brock’s Manager of Hospitality Services from 1981 to 1992, we learn that there is some truth to this story.
Dwyer shares the story of a well-liked man named Patrick (pseudonym). A student in his second or third year at Brock, Patrick was the type of young man one could bring home to meet mom and dad. He was polite, kind and was respectful of others. He rarely drank and loved to dance, especially at Alphie’s.
One afternoon, Patrick and his don from DeCew Residence headed to Hartzel Road to play some pool. The two of them were pretty skilled at billiards, and as a result, acquired numerous free drinks from their competitors.
After several hours of competition, Patrick and his friend left the pool hall and Patrick made his way to Alphie’s to dance. According to Dywer, Patrick was doing the “bob and weave — one step forward, two steps back.” Dywer invited Patrick to walk back with him to DeCew Residence.
“This was the first time I had ever seen Patrick intoxicated,” commented Dwyer. “I’ve never seen him drink more than three or four beers.”
When he arrived at DeCew Residence, Dywer found Patrick’s don passed out on the hallway floor. He wrapped his arms around Patrick’s shoulder, led him to his room.
“I gave him the big uncle talk”, explains Dywer. “I told him that he shouldn’t be seen intoxicated in public. Campus security might find him and reprimand him for his actions.”
Dywer left Patrick in him room and then headed back to Alphie’s.
Forty-five minutes later Patrick returned to the pub.
This time Dwyer called security. “I thought that maybe seeing a guy in a uniform would make Patrick realize that he should probably head back to his room,” said Dwyer.
After security led Patrick back to his room, Dwyer decided it was going to be a slow night at the pub and headed home.
Forty-five minutes to an hour after he had arrived home, Dwyer received a phone call from his staff. Someone had jumped into the ravine.
Dwyer rushed back to campus. By the time he arrived, firefighters had already started to retrieve the jumper — Patrick. Miraculously, he only had minor cuts and bruises on him.
So what happened?
“A doorman had exited the pub for some fresh air,” explains Dwyer. “Seeing the doorman, Patrick must have thought he’d been discovered. He took off running to the other side of the pub but instead of simply climbing the steps that led up the escarpment to Brock’s main building, he jumped over the snow fence.”
Patrick fell more than 50 feet and landed on a pile of leaves and garbage, just missing jagged rocks.
“He was really lucky to have survived that fall,” Dwyer said. “The emergency personnel told me that it was probably a good thing he was intoxicated, because otherwise he would have used his arms and legs to break his fall. He survived because of the way he fell and where he landed.”
When asked if this was the reason Alphie’s Trough was closed, Dwyer explained that it most definitely was not.
“Some people say that Alphie’s was closed because too many people died from falling off the edge, intoxicated,” said Dwyer. “To the best of my knowledge, and in the 10 years I’ve worked at Alphie’s, Patrick was the only person to have fallen into the escarpment. They shut down Alphie’s because it was becoming too small. It could not accommodate the growing student population.”
When Alphie’s Trough opened in 1970, only 3,625 attended Brock. The pub could accommodate 245 people, or seven per cent of the student population. When Alphie’s Trough closed, Brock had over 11,000 students.
In 1992 Alphie’s Trough closed on a Wednesday night and Isaac’s Bar and Grill opened on a Thursday night.
“Isaac’s can hold over 800 people inside and out”, said Dwyer. “But it doesn’t have the same charm as Alphie’s”.
Interested in reliving your Alphie’s experience? Join us on Friday, Sept. 17 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. during Brock Days Alumni Weekend. Beloved, long-time performer Pat Hewitt returns to Alphie’s Trough for an intimate pub night. Space is limited. Visit brocku.ca/brock-days to register.