Mike Gore becomes Warden of Garran Hall from 1975-78.

Mike GoreProfessor Mike Gore

I first arrived at ANU in 1962, and rapidly became associated with Bruce Hall as a sub-warden. Bruce Hall was one of the four original University, controlled residences. Lennox House, Burton Hall and Garran Hall were the others. I became Warden of Lennox House from 1963 to 1966, Acting Warden of Burton Hall in 1972 and finally Warden of Garran Hall from 1975-78. I moved into Lennox House with my new wife in January 1963. At that time only Bruce Hall and Lennox House existed as places for undergraduate students to live. So, in the spirit of fostering healthy inter-Hall competition, I instigated the first inter hall football matches on campus. It was agreed an inter-hall footy competition between them should not be union, because most of the ANU first fifteen were in residence at Bruce Hall. They also decided against Australian Rules as most of the universities best players in that code were, by chance, in Lennox House. So they settled on rugby league! (All this does have a bearing on Burton and Garran – just read on). I first arrived at ANU in 1962, and rapidly became associated with Bruce Hall as a sub-warden. Bruce Hall was one of the four original University, controlled residences. Lennox House, Burton Hall and Garran Hall were the others. I became Warden of Lennox House from 1963 to 1966, Acting Warden of Burton Hall in 1972 and finally Warden of Garran Hall from 1975-78.I moved into Lennox House with my new wife in January 1963. At that time only Bruce Hall and Lennox House existed as places for undergraduate students to live. So, in the spirit of fostering healthy inter-Hall competition, I instigated the first inter hall football matches on campus. It was agreed an inter-hall footy competition between them should not be union, because most of the ANU first fifteen were in residence at Bruce Hall. They also decided against Australian Rules as most of the universities best players in that code were, by chance, in Lennox House. So they settled on rugby league! (All this does have a bearing on Burton and Garran – just read on)What was not realised at the time that decision was taken, was that many of the Lennox inmates came from country NSW and had been brought up playing the ‘working man’s’ code of foot ball. Somehow Lennox House was beaten by Bruce Hall in 1963 but it went on to clean up Bruce Hall convincingly in both 1964 and 1965. In 1965 it was a three way competition because Forestry came into the competition. At that time the Forestry students had their own residence over in Yarralumla.

In 1966 Burton Hall came into being and the footy comp became a four sided event. That year the final was between Lennox and Burton. On paper the Lennox team were far and away the best side. However the night before the game there was a big dance on campus and though I implored the Lennox team not to attend, they assured me that they knew what they were doing. Well they didn’t and the following day Burton won the footy final at its first attempt. I can still see the Burton half back running rings around 13 very bleary Lennoxians, bleeding from the eyeballs. At the end of 1966 the University closed Lennox house and gave the buildings to the Dominican Fathers to start John XIII College. So Lennox House never got another crack at the inter hall footy.

The first part of Burton and Garran Halls to be built were the two residential blocks of Burton Hall and they were completed before the Central Block was finished. As a result the Burton Hall students all had to take their meals, for at least two terms, in the Union. In those days the old Union building (it is now the Chancelry Annexe) was slightly further away than the present building. It was a long walk on a cold winter’s morning.

One of the more spectacular events that occurred during construction of the Central Block was the fracture of a water main while the foundations were being excavated,. The result was a jet of water that rose 30-40 metres into the air. A pretty decent stream flowed down the hill and through where the Botany building site. The reason that the fountain was so high was because of the head of water as the reservoirs feeding this part of the University are part way up the slopes of Black Mountain.

Burton and Garran Halls were two separate and distinct halls at the beginning. Geoff Rossiter – a historian – was the foundation Warden of Burton Hall and Dr John Short – a zoologist – was the first Warden of Garran Hall. John Short died tragically of a heart attack in 1973 and it was shortly after that I became warden of Garran.

Back in the early seventies, Burton and Garran Halls had a shared bar in Central Block. It was presided over by the Burton Hall porter, a man by the name of Eric James. Eric was a big man – not fat – just big in stature, and was the sort of person with whom you did not argue. He had the distinction of being the last mounted (horse) policeman top operate out of Captains Flat. This accounted for the way that the early bar was decorated. It had his old saddle hanging on the wall of the bar together with many other pieces of memorabilia from his days at “the Flat”.

In 1976 I went to Holland on sabbatical leave and when I returned Garran Hall had been transformed from a conventional residence to the self catering institution it is today. In February of 1977, just before the start of the first term, the workmen put the finishing touches to the new style dining room and there is one incident that happened that always makes me smile when I think of it. I was standing in the middle of the deserted dining hall with all its brand new sinks, stoves, refrigerators, when there came to my nostrils a strong small of burning and shortly after smoke began to rise from every cooking station! It turned out that the electricians had decided to check that all the electric stoves were functioning properly and had gone right around the dining hall turning everyone of them on. What they had forgotten to check were the instruction books. They were still inside each oven where they had been placed by the supplier.

I was confronted by a very curious sight on first arriving at Garran Hall. Shortly before I arrived the Garran students had conducted a gnome hunt throughout the length and breadth of Canberra. They had pulled in a mammoth collection, perhaps in excess of a couple of hundred. Every stairwell of Garran Hall was decorated with gnomes on every other step.

After I had been at the Hall for a couple of weeks, I suggested to the student committee that they arrange to return the gnomes to their owners. They set about this, but it turned out to be not as easy as it had been to harvest them. After another couple of weeks I insisted that the remaining stolen property by disposed of and quick, before the boys in blue arrived in investigate. And disappear they all did.

I gave no more thought to the incident until a couple of years later, one of my bushwalking friends told me a very odd story. He had apparently been walking in the bush near Corin Damn. He said he was walking down a track, not too far from the road, when he entered a clearing in the bush, only to find that all around there gnomes. They were on the rocks, in crevices in the large rocks, in the forks of trees, in fact everywhere. And for all I know they are there still

Back in the seventies it was essential to fill any vacant rooms with visitors to help balance the books and keep the tariff for ANU students down as low as possible. Quite often some of the visitors, who came in school or intervarsity sporting groups were very noisy late into the night and so I took to making regular tours of the blocks. I always went with my faithful four footed friend Sobot. He was a huge German Shepherd and it was amazing how quiet the place became after he and I did a little nocturnal perambulation. The Garran students knew Sobot for the soft friendly dog he was, but the visitors didn’t know that.

One night when we had a large group of school girls staying over, two Garran guys who had been to a fancy dress party in Queanbeyan returned to the Hall in gorilla suits. They bumped into a group of these young 13-14 years old girls on one of the corridors and immediately became to hop around and grunt and scratch themselves. It must have been quite convincing for the result was absolute pandemonium. The following morning I only just managed to avert a mass walk out of the whole school group and the “gorillas” got a severe roasting.

In the very early days of Garran Hall – before bars were fitted to the ground floor windows – there were often Peeping Tom incidents. This didn’t avail them much because, at least while I was at Garran no women were ever given rooms on the ground floor. Back then Garran had Japanese a sub Warden. He is a large man by Japanese standards, with a very nice quite demeanour with a beautiful smile.

One night he was walking around the outside of the hall when he saw a young man he didn’t recognise up close to a window peering through the crack in the curtains. The sub warden went cat like, very quietly up behind the guy and then very gently murmured in his ear and asked him what he was doing. He told me later that the guy turned, saw him and then went vertically up in the air several metres and took off like a startled hare. He probably is still running.

Then there was the issue of the mixed toilet/showers. I can’t recall when the request came to me, but it would have to have been in the middle seventies. The student body requested that bathrooms became mixed and no longer remain the exclusive use of either male or females. I argued that many students – especially young women – might not think this was a good idea. The student leaders counter-argued that I was wrong and that everyone was in favour of such a move. I then said that there should be a secret ballot and that everyone in the hall must vote. The result came out very nearly unanimous in favour of the change – and so it came to pass.

In 1978 I left Garran Hall and I began the long haul of creating the Southern Hemisphere’s first interactive science centre – Questacon.

 

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