This record comes from a diary I kept for the time I was in Burton Hall. Because it contained much personal detail, it has been destroyed. Some excerpts are in the accompanying files with ANU Archives. Some of these excerpts have been lost by persons intending to “do something” with them. I have negatives of the official photos of first intake of students; student photos of later years were taken and held by the ANU photographer. Except where otherwise indicated, the photos are my own. Others will have further and perhaps differing recollections. It would be good if these were collected. The 1960s in Canberra were interesting times. Canberra was a country town with conservative mores. The major difference from other country towns was that Canberra was an immigrant town where transferees (and that was most people) had left their family and supporting friends behind in Sydney and Melbourne. There was very poor transport communication to Sydney and Melbourne. Telephoning was expensive. It was quite lonely and depressing for many residents. The divorce and mental health rates in Canberra suburbs were high. It was very much DIY entertainment. The ANU had set up things like a Gourmet Club on campus and later with the opening of Woden Valley suburbs, baby Sitting Co-operatives. Most interstate students lived in the Halls of Residence and University House; a tiny number lived in shared houses. The Hall provided three meals a day of midrange Australian cuisine and attempted a collegiate atmosphere including one formal dinner every week, common rooms with TV.
The American passenger on the plane next to me shouted out “Oh my God, why the emergency landing!” It was an omen. I was on my way for a job interview at ANU. Canberra airport was presenting its sophisticated self in mid 1964. A corrugated iron WWII hanger was the terminal, staring upwards like an oversized corrugated veggie tin can cut vertically through the middle and plonked down length-wise. The American’s memories were of the Pacific theatre of the war.
“You have the choice, Dr Selinger, if you are offered this position as lecturer in Chemistry at the School of General Studies 1) until 1960, Canberra College of Melbourne University and then, The Faculties, ANU. More recently it is part of the Research School of Chemistry in the College of Science. ,between getting married or becoming an alcoholic [in one of the single men’s hostels dotting the city]”. The interviewers were both teetotal. They’d seen terrible things happen to people like me. Breaking a long silence….“There is a middle way, of course. It would enhance your chances if you agreed to become Deputy Warden of Burton Hall”. There was of course no such place, yet.
The women’s quarters of Burton Hall had just been built, but the men’s was a pile of bricks and muddy holes. Garran was in the future. I was given temporary accommodation in Bruce Hall.
Lennox House also existed as a set of fibro shacks near the filling Lake. It was quite a bit cheaper accommodation.
The first students moved from February to March but only the Women’s Block was habitable. So it was two persons to a single room for months on end. Many friendships and ‘hateships’ were forged in those days. The ANU architect, Tom Owen (see cartoon, Tommy the Temple builder), designed the building and clearly Pentridge gaol had been his last major project. The rest moved in mid year and then to one to a room.
My task it seemed was to unlock doors for the next 24 hours for students arriving to move in at all hours of the day and night. A certain Mr Jay insisted on bringing and installing his very own homemade 7’2” bed. Most of the lights were working but none of the heating. It was freezing midwinter.
Friday 11 June
Four students overturned and wrote off their VW beetle at Yass. Minor injuries.
Saturday 19th June, 4.am
A report of a leg and some blood sticking out of a toilet cubicle. I found a dead drunk trouserless student inside.
Sunday 20th June
Ms Enid Bishop, the female deputy Warden turned out to be a rock of common sense. Every night at 10.00 pm the doors of the women’s quarters were locked, a ceremony resplendent in history and
drama. Sex never took place before this time and Queen Victoria had denied lesbians existed:“honi soit qui mal y pense”. The alleged tradition of Bill Packard at Bruce Hall listening at doors after 10.00 pm with a stethoscope was NOT adopted at Burton (see cartoon).
Hurrah. After 17 months of occupancy, Burton was to be carpeted; we might yet be able to sleep! A Mr Riley from the Commonwealth Acoustics Laboratory arrived to measure the sound pressure in the dining hall during dinner. Results 72dB, most of it in the 500- 1000 Hz (most discomforting) range. Needs to be reduced by 12 dB (which is a lot!). His offer to measure the dormitories was unfortunately never accepted.
The domestic washing machines, one for 36 people, theoretically need servicing every three weeks (6 months in a usual household of four divided by 36/4). None of them were ever serviced or worked. Mrs. Cooley was in charge of domestic services but did much more. She acted as unofficial mum to many a tortured soul.
We initially had no dining room so we grazed at the Union Refectory (now the Chancelry Annex)
[http://campusmap.anu.edu.au/displaybldg.asp?no=10b]. When it snowed heavily in June
1965 (see photos), some of us skied there.
At that time, the annual Lennox bushwalk took place from Piccadilly Circus to the Orroral Valley tracking station, about 40 miles along the Brindabella ranges. Of this nine miles was covered in snow. Water froze in our water bottles. A competition called Inward Bound was instigated in 1961, whereby blindfolded Hall teams were dropped off in the surrounding wilderness and had a couple of days to find their way home. I’ll never go again with that overfit Tom Nakagawa from Tokyo. He insisted the sun was in the south. On recovering, I bought a beautiful large antique Mariner’s Compass in a Ship’s chandlery in George St Sydney near the Quay, and donated it as a prize to the winning Hall. It is still being awarded.
Bruce beat Burton at our first annual footie match 11-8. But our girls cheered better (see photo).
“Burton on Sullivans” was a classic beer illegally brewed by the Senior Common Room and was served to visiting dignitaries. This ceased only when the some of the last dozen bottles exploded. Preparing the brew took place in my kitchen but the brew fermented in Jim Everett’s bath. As Jim was English, it was assumed Jim never used his bath.
The chaplains gave absolutely terrific support: George Garnsey (Anglican) and Friar Shirres (Dominican). There was one girl just sixteen from a school run by nuns. She was not sweet. She went wild about boys in the Hall. I am not sure what the good Friar spoke to her about but the transformation was miraculous.
All of the ANU Hall’s resident Jewish students, two declared, were to be my responsibility.
Linda Viney gallantly took over as female Deputy Warden when Enid Bishop left. We were joined by graduate students as sub-wardens: Alan Andrews, John Caiger, (currently Asian History Centre), Jim Everett (now in WA), David Keenan (now in Queensland), Bronwyn Hickman, Martha Rutledge, Harriet Twanoh, and Graham Walker (altogether nine I think).
Canberra’s new Lake Burley Griffin claimed its first victims. Graeme Harding (Bruce Hall) tragically drowned in an over-exuberant student ferry trip one evening. Then a police patrol boat sank a student rowing eight on the Lake. One of the crew was a law student and discovered that sinking a ship in the ACT/Jervis Bay (being Commonwealth territory) was still a capital offence.
The police settled out of court (with a new boat).
In early 1965 Acting Warden Bill Packard decided Burton Hall needed a Junior Common Room committee and asked Bill Gammage to be president. He selected a committee, then held JCRC elections about mid-year. It dealt with such momentous items like “What constitutes a party?” “Need one foot stay on the floor (for two people lying on a bed)?”
MORE TO COME