Tag Archives: Sydney Uni

Tales from University 1929…The Lad Paying for the Girl on the Tram.

What goes around comes around. While our kids are still a way off leaving school, quite a few of my friends’ kids are currently doing their HSCs or final exams at the moment. While they’re currently fully immersed in their exams and seizing hold of current friendships, they’re all about to embark into the great unknown of new beginnings.

Who knows whether any of these kids will find themselves walking along the same old path we trod into Sydney University. Catching the train to Redfern Station and then walking down Lawson Street, onto Abercrombie and into campus…albeit clutching a map and potentially loads of trepidation.

Starting anything new is such a melting pot of horrid anxiety and exhilarated excitement that it’s surprising any of us can actually put one foot in front of the other and actually emerge from the other end with that precious piece of paper in hand. All I can say to the new ones is that the paths well trod, but there have also been a lot of casualties and not to take anything for granted. That you need to carpe diem seize the day but also make sure you don’t burn up along the way. Light all your matches at once and have no story to tell.

Anyway, while some people waste their lives hunting down the mighty dollar, I live in pursuit of the story. Consequently, as soon as I found out that the archives of Sydney University’s newspaper, Honi Soit were online, I dived in and I haven’t come out. What’s added zest and excitement to this journey, is that I’m a third generation Sydney University Graduate and I also have aunts, uncles, brother, cousins who’ve also been through the place. While our names mightn’t be etched in stone in the Main Quad, we’ve definitely been part of the action. Some of us more than others.

It was only natural to want to check out the very first edition of Honi Soit and see what it was about. Then, I realized that my grandfather had been studying dentistry at the time and that he would’ve held that paper in his hands all those years ago. Been a part of the action. Born in 1910, he would’ve been 19 in 1929 and possibly in second year. I’ve got to try and nut that out.

So, when I found this fabulous letter to the editor written by a Fresher, I had to think of him. I didn’t think of him as the Fresher, but more as one of the wise owls offering this hapless young man a bit of advice.

Here it goes:

Trams 1920s

Letters to the Editor May 3, 1929.

Dear Sir,—

Now I am only a Fresher, Mr. Editor, and consequently am  not very well up in ‘Varsity ways and this is what’s worrying me. Every morning I meet one of the women of my year at the tram—she’s always there first and so I can’t dodge her—and we ride in together and I pay her fare.

Now that’s it—should I pay her fare seeing that I only met her a few weeks ago? You see it makes quite a big difference in this way: When I ride with her I don’t like to use my cram pass and as it is a three section journey that means 3d. extra plus 5d. for her—making 8d. extra altogether.

This means 3/4 a week in the morning and there’s also one afternoon which brings it up to 4/- a week. This is £ 2 a term and means £ 6 a year.

As we are both doing MED. we will travel together for six years and that means £36. Further since everyone fails in Third Year we will have to stay seven years at the ‘Varsity and that makes it £42.

It doesn’t seem a bit fair to me that this girl should cost me so much money, but as I am only a Fresher and don’t know much I would like to have your opinion as I am certain it will be a good one.

Hoping that I haven’t caused you too much bother.

I am.

Yours Very Truly,

M.T. Honi Soit, May 3, 1929 pg 3.

The Replies

Honi Soit, May 10, 1929

To the Editor,— The touching plea of a Med. Fresher in the shape of an extremely ingenuous letter to your paper, must surely have touched all hearts. Even the Women Undergraduates must have been moved to pity ere they passed judgment. My first feeling was one of intense astonishment. That a Med. Fresher would actually consider the possibility of paying someone else’s tram fare was a possibility not dreamt of in my philosophy.

The puzzled fresher would have us believe the following facts:

(a) He is very worried. (I would suggest nerve nuts at stated intervals —notably during lectures).

(b) It is impossible for him to dodge the “woman.’ (I’ve heard that one before).

(c) He has calculated expenses over a period of seven years with terrifying results. (At last we are on familiar ground).

Naturally enough the Age of Reason has little time for the Age of Chivalry.

It would seem on the face of things that the question, ”Should Men pay Women Students* tram fares?” is as fruitless as “Should women stand in trams?” But there are a few considerations which make the former question a matter for controversy.

In the first place we find it difficult to believe that the puzzled fresher catches the same tram—literally speaking—as the troublesome “woman” on every occasion. Apart from the sheer miracle of a Med. student paying someone else’s fare, the misfortune must be on the fresher’s own head. Either he is organically lazy, or he is proving that even in the tram a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. We are thus faced with an interesting psychological contretemps. As yet the innocent fresher cannot analyse the strange force which compels him to seat himself by the “woman” and bravely ignoring his shameful tram pass, to drag forth the sum of eight-pence. On the other hand the financial instinct struggles fiercely.

No wonder then the poor fresher is worried.

I think that if the fresher continually meets the “woman” in the tram, she should hand forth the plebeian coppers as naturally as she might stroll in minutes late for a nine o’clock lecture. The whole question really hinges on the problem of to show or not to show the humble pass, and my opinion is that it should be treated as an academic privilege to be taken advantage of on every occasion. And so, let the “woman” take the initiative and keep her tram pass as she does her powder puff—

within easy access. Surely then the fresher will be worried no longer when he sees “the treasured” privilege—-her

pass—”come sliding out of her sacred glove.”

A SYMPATHETIC WOMAN UNDERGRADUATE.

Honi Soit, May 10, 1929 pg 4.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Those Tramfares

(To the Editor.)

I read with amazement the piteous appeal for guidance from M.T.G. (“H.S.,” May 3). That he should even consider, let alone worry over, paying a woman student’s fare is quite beyond my comprehension. His blunder for to my mind it is an egregious mistake is all the more apparent when the reason why women come to the ‘Varsity in general, and do Medicine in particular, is taken into consideration.

Of course it is well known that women only come to the ‘Varsity to “catch” a husband. As “Med.” has the best “catches” and is the longest course, they have greater opportunities to carry out their nefarious schemes.

If, however, M.T.G. finds that, having commenced, he cannot cease paying the siren’s fare, I would suggest the adoption of any or all of the following:—

1.—Buy (a) a car; (b) a motorcycle (with pillion) ; (c) a bicycle.

2.—Miss the first lecture.

3.—Make a certain proposal to the woman.

4.—Have a row-with her.

5.—Leave the suburb.

6.—Leave the ‘Varsity.

Hoping this may clear the air for  him,

ARTS III.

Honi Soit, May 22, 1929 pg 4.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Reading this letter 90 years later, what would I advise the young man?

Probably, my greatest piece of advice to that young man is that you should only give what you feel comfortable giving. As it stands, paying for the young woman’s fare seems like more of a tax and all he’s really concerned about is how much it’s going to cost him. He hasn’t mentioned whether he likes the girl, finds her attractive, it’s just about how much she’s costing him and that’s counter to the real spirit of giving. You should give with a full heart, without building resentment. Yet, at the same time, I also feel for him because once he paid for her a second time, he’d established a pattern which would be very difficult for anyone to get out of. I’d really love to hear how the story panned out. Was there ever romance with this girl on the tram? Or, perhaps she read his letter and decided to pay her own way. After all, it was a fairly pointed letter. Indeed, that makes me question whether the letter was genuine or just a story line devised by the editors? I guess we’ll never know. However, it all made for an entertaining read and a huge sense of relief, that my fresher days are well and truly in the past.

Best wishes,

Rowena

How to succeed at University – by REALLY trying.

As you may be aware, I’ve been fully immersing myself in past editions of the Sydney University Newspaper: Honi Soit over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve really stumbled across some ripper stories and I particularly moved this one by Graham Sawyer from 1963:  How to succeed at University – by REALLY Trying . While he admits that it wasn’t entirely original and was based on an article from Esquire, I found it very enlightening and wish I’d read this before I first arrived in 1988 as a humble Fresher with my map out in front.

Naturally, the procession of students from school to university continues. Indeed, Year 12 is currently sitting for their HSC or final exams and all being well and that being their goal, they’ll be off to uni in the new year. So, who knows? Perhaps, this advice from over 50 years ago will stand them in good stead:

Honi Soit Supplement March 5, 1963.

THERE IS too much time wasted in your first few days at this sepulchral establishment in telling you how to pass exams. If you have managed to enrol, register, and in general to get into the University, then it is self-evident that you have the required ability and intelligence to graduate. You will find that study and exams are a mere formality and can be taken in your stride. It is far more important to enjoy your course, and to make your years at student level the most memorable of your life.

This means of course as much time as possible should be spent away from study. The successful student is not necessarily the one that passes. This you will realise within six months, so you may as well learn it now. The ultimate goal or criterion for success as a student is the attainment of power within the University. Now power is a nebulous concept and it can take many forms. There is political power, power of personality, power of opinion, power in talent, and even (and this will appeal to many) power in lack of talent. Only at University can a talentless bum be regarded as a somebody. Exploit it . . . So we present a few simple rules and paragraphs of guidance which if carefully followed will lead to your recognition as a person of status in student society.

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The Main Quad, Sydney University 2018.

  1. Arrival.

Note here that the first hundred days of your career are crucial. This is the time when foundations are laid, and it gives rise to our first rule: DONT JOIN ANYTHING YET IF YOU CAN POSSIBLY AVOID IT. Sound out which clubs are fashionable, which have the smallest membership and which you can become president of most quickly. Don’t worry if you are not interested in the Club’s activity. you will find that it mostly boils down to self-administration anyway. Don’t be afraid to go to the functions held in Orientation Week which involve afternoon tea, because the population at these is largely starving third-year students and not enquiring freshers. Some very useful contacts can be made here. In conversations, raise your age, be uncertain about what course you wish to take, be indifferent to people, be self-contained.

  1. Friends, Making and Breaking.

Don’t keep in with the friends you have made at school, you will find they’re inadequate for your progress at Uni. Seek out new friends who are rich, influential, very bright, or very talented. When going out, the rule for the student on the move is this: GO OUT WITH WOMEN WHO ARE EITHER OLDER OR VERY GOOD LOOKING. Do not waste time with any others. If you cannot attract this type of woman, mumble something about an affair with a married woman. This is as good.

For the freshettes, only go out with second-year (and upwards) fellows, this is far better for status. If you cannot get a guy, say you are being faithful to a young doctor in Melbourne. Have a picture. Don’t just go out to enjoy yourself, the luxury of this comes later. Be conscious of the impression you are making.

  1. Conversation.

There are two points which will enable you to carry on a very impressive conversation with a member of the opposite sex. Firstly make sure you have evolved a philosophy of life. Contrary to the opinion of the “world outside” students are heading back to morality. The “what’s the use — let’s do it before the bomb comes” attitude is decadent. The best philosophy for this season (and very big on sex appeal too, incidentally) is idealistic cynicism (i.e. what has happened to the moral fibre of the world etc.). Adopt this philosophy and you are sure of success. Also make the most of your background, whatever it is. Never apologise for it, no matter how squalid. Make it sound exotic. Talk about how your mother and father make love a lot. Be personal and feel free to criticise them whenever possible. Call them “oldies”. By the way, a knowledge of carracing is desirable (though far from essential) to aid conversation with the rich and social set.

  1. For Those In College.

Although a book could be written on entry into college the following hints may be of assistance.

  1. Be gracious, even when yelled at to answer the phone.
  2. Be mysterious, never take anyone (at all) into confidence.
  3. Get long distance phone calls, exciting letters . . . arrange these yourself,
  4. Rent a good painting for your room, when you have to return it say the artist was having a show, Australian art only of course.
  5. Buy from a junkyard a smashed up TR3 grille and inscribe it “September 1961, Sandra”. Put it in an obvious position.
  6. Have an affair with a girl in Sydney, and one in the old home town. Talk about it with passion, let whole college advise. Break one of the girl’s hearts, and plead guilty to the whole college.

 

5.A Note on the Academic Side.

Remember this maxim: “A friendly lecturer is like money in the bank’. Make at least one friend, preferably in the Psychology Department for they are young, generous and above all, understanding. For now, go to all Classes, lectures and do all your assignments. Do not be too smart immediately. Let lecturers think they have helped you. Preferably do your essays on time, but if you need an extension, red eyes and a plea of “family troubles” never fail. All other comments on this topic I reserve to my later paper to be entitled “How to Pass Exams, Find Religious Faith, and Have a Traumatic Love Affair Simultaneously”.

6.After the First Hundred Days . . . The Move to Power.

The primary and most important task now that you have laid the foundation is to choose the role which you must assume for the remainder of the year, unless of course you stage a conversion later in the year, which is good if done tastefully. Sportsmen are unfortunately no longer powerful student figures, real power lies in the assumption of one of the following roles and exploiting it to the full. Rule of thumb here is: Make sure your name is on it.

Different Student Types

  1. The Newspaper-Literary Complex.

Student Graffiti Artist

The home of this is the “honi” office where gather all the literary types to belt out their muses on ancient typewriters, and swap theories as to primordial excretory functions of Kerouac in 20th Century literature. It is a quick and sure rise to power for both sexes when they join “honi”, for its staff are really the elite. You merely sit in the office, think up sick or dreary jokes, find lesser people who can be sent up. All this without the need for any talent. If you have talent you should write endlessly. Be prolific; it’s fashionable. Write poetry, it takes less time. The best gimmick to assume power in the newspaper field was last year when a group got the editors thrown out and took over the paper. Don’t try this again, it has been (as it were) done to death.

The sure way to power in the literary field is as follows: Submit a very dirty fortnightly article with either your own name (if it is something like Carslaw Gardfish) or a pseudonym like Gloster or Alkie (if your name is commonplace). Never let either editor or staff see you, until you have been published three times, then boldly walk into the office and present yourself with your next opus.

You are made.

2. Student Politics Group.

At the elections in June campaign vigorously for the S.R.C. Your platform should be: More representation for freshers, and abolition of the S.R.C.. Note: only your own sex can vote for you, do not waste campaign time on members of the opposite sex. Union elections are also beneficial, but cut your teeth on the S.R.C.

Join one of the political clubs, preferably the Labour Club if you live in a blue ribbon Liberal electorate. This proves you are sincere. Join the C.N.D, (three stars) or Student Action (two stars).

Get your bloc votes from a religious group (two alternatives here) or the very helpful college Or faculty vote (especially in Engineering), When on Council, Or any semi-political committee, speak often and vigorously using big words. Go to Union Night. Resign conspicuously from small office and talk vaguely about pressure being brought to bear. Whatever you do, don’t be a Communist … it simply isn’t a good joke any more. Organise a protest . . . against anything . . .

Politics can be rewarding in ways other than simply status. There are many free trips to “conferences” and other perks which are yours for the asking.

3. The Charismatic Party-Giving Non-Joiners.

Firstly look up “charismatic” in a dictionary. Now give parties anywhere you can find, Paddington, an old ice-works, a brothel, East .Sydney Tech, (but you get the idea). Wear an impeccable suit with perhaps a bullethole in the shoulder. When people ask, give no details. Drink only Rum-and Coke (very IN). Invite the Royal George push. Spend the night in the window of a furniture store, and chunder on the display carpet. Apologise to the owner. You’ll be a legend in no time. Be a big wheel on Commem. Day. Race off women (more of this in another paper entitled “Ovals and Bars — another view of University Life”).

4.The Arty Theatre Set.

Student Theatre Type

You will find this group in the Union Theatre Foyer at any time. Go to castings for plays and make a grand entrance by slamming the door or somersaulting into the room. Try for only big parts, refuse the small ones as unrewarding. Carry a book on Becket with you wherever you go. Say you would rather read a play than see it acted. Have a successful audition with the A.B.C. and Tibor Rudas. Try to establish a Rep. Company but bow out to commercialism when you find it costs too much. Wear the hair longer than average and wear quite old clothes.

Deplore method acting and speak loudly about the corruption of the Independent Theatre. Go to lessons with Hayes Gordon even though you hate the Method but tell the set that the man is a great teacher. If you can play the piano, try to play for Revue. Compose modern jazz or perhaps a concerto for bassoon and bull-fiddle. If you are an actor have one speech that you really can do, even if it is only eight lines. Memorize the Henry VI speech (part III, act II scene 5) which goes:

For what is in this world but grief and woe,

O God! Methinks it were a happy life.

To be no better than a homely swain.

Say it very softly and sadly at any given opportunity.

5.The Intellectual or Crackpot.

Do something legendary, like in a final exam say that you disapprove of the question and answer one of your own brilliantly. Be friends with libertarians (on the way out, but still useful) or perhaps the Philosophy Department. Someone is sure to think you are brilliant. Give blood donations, steal books from Fisher, have only one set of clothes. Admit something that no one else would, like that you are illegitimate. Do bicycle presses on the Quadrangle lawns and learn the names of the Union waitresses. Shave seldom, but do NOT grow a beard (this is pretentious and only for the pseudos).

Read poetry, submit things to “honi” at a distance, Quad lounge, have many ideas and theories. Go out with the most beautiful girl around (she’ll go, don’t worry), do not shave for the occasion and wear odd socks. Change your course as often as you can. Don’t go to lectures explaining that “lecturers have nothing new or original to offer”.

So there you are. Just a few hints on how to really get down to the important issues of University life. Girls can adapt the above comments to suit themselves. Of course this has not been an exhaustive list but we really hope it may help you. Good luck! Oh, by the way, we have been asked how one tells when one has attained power. Here’s how you know . . .

  • Freshettes’ -freshers’ eyes sparkle with interest when you are introduced.
  • Jokes are made about you in student political circles.
  • People tell stories about your exploits in Manning,
  • You fail, or are sent down.

(Note: This article, though masquerading as an HONI SOIT original was actually adapted from an article in Esquire  our American counterpart. — GRAHAM SAWYER

…..

Before I head off, I just wanted to share one little anecdote from my four years at Sydney University. While I was in first year, my bag was stolen from the uni gym. Quite aside from losing my wallet, my glasses were in the bag and my clothes. So, I had to catch the train home in my gym gear and I couldn’t see. Clearly, this was one of those things which are dreadful thing at the time, but becomes funny in hindsight. Anyway, about 3 years later when I was doing my final Honours year, I received a phone call from the University’s security service. They’d found my bag. Indeed, I think it had been there the entire time.

Well, after all that time, my old bag had become quite the time capsule. There were notes in there from friends  and all sorts. What really stunned me though, was that there were two maybe three bottles of red nail polish in there. What on earth was I trying to achieve? I’ve never been particularly vain or into makeup but I felt this definitely came under the heading of “trying too hard!!!”

University Graduation

The Graduate…I must’ve succeeded at something.

So, then…I’d love to know what you thought about all of that. Do you have any advice of your own you could add? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS The sketches appeared in the original article. Artist unknown.

Graffifi Tunnel, Sydney University: Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Antonymns Rowena

Me on the campaign trail outside the Holme Building in 1990.

This week we’ve entering in a time tunnel and heading back to 1990 when I was running for election to edit Sydney University’s student newspaper: Honi Soit. Our team was called the Antonymns and the ant as our logo. Indeed, our intrepid leader was a massive 6ft black papier mache ant, which was hoisted up on top of a car and driven around campus. In retrospect, although we didn’t win, our campaign was actually pretty good and devising slogans, posters, t-shirts, stickers, cars mascots and then trying to convince the masses to vote for us was a massive undertaking. While some more astute politicians ingratiate themselves with key interest groups and hope the mob of sheep follow the leader, I went round speaking personally to masses of students. This included  interviewing students about the New Age Sensitive Guy or SNAG around campus and producing my findings in the university magazine: The Union Recorder.

antonyms in tunnel

As you can see, Graffiti Tunnel is a brutal, temporal place a lot like building a sandcastle on the beach, which is washed away before you’ve even stuck a feather in the top. I gather the Newshounds were either short or didn’t bring a ladder and that black ant does seem to be peering down and poking out it’s tongue at its miraculous survival.

Although election day probably should’ve been the pinnacle of our campaign, for me it was actually painting the tunnel. A friend of mine picked me up in his Dad’s station wagon and we must’ve got in there about 4.00-5.00am. It was pitch black, Winter and freezing. That’s what I remember…the cold. Yet, strangely I have absolutely no memory of any safety concerns. Seriously, who was going to knock a pair of mad students over the head during the middle of the night and run off with their tin of brown paint? Well, you can’t be too careful because our rivals, the Newshounds, had started sticking their posters up at the other end of the tunnel and they certainly were out to get us (and the feeling was mutual. The campaign had become rather heated.)

Anyway, getting back to our mission, we’d decided to turn Graffiti Tunnel into an ant tunnel. The plan was to paint the tunnel brown for that authentic look and then we stenciled Antonymns and blank ants over the top. In hindsight, I’d probably go for something more stylised using lurid colours to make more of a shocking impact. However, you live and learn.

Anyway, as I mentioned, while we were risking frost bite painting down one end of the tunnel, our rivals the Newshounds were sticking posters up at the other end of the tunnel and sometime long before dark, we met up. I don’t think the Newshounds thought too highly of the poo brown paint and the Antonyms really weren’t too sure that their intensely bright orange chalk quite conformed to election guidelines. From memory, their compliance with budget restrictions also seemed questionable. Minor things like this can flare up like a gangrenous wound during an election campaign and I lost a few friends during the course of this campaign, which I’ve regretted.

Anyway, as you may be aware, I revisited Sydney University last week and thoroughly inspected and analyzed my old haunts through the lens. This included returning to Graffiti Tunnel and feeling quite a sense of accomplishment that I’d actually painted that thing in my youth. That I was really living life to the fullest and seizing the day.

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However, while I was photographing Graffiti Tunnel this time, I was surprised to find many doors inside. As I photographed them for Thursday Doors, it never crossed my mind that they might actually lead somewhere. That there could indeed be a secret world behind those doors. I’d only ever seen it as a tunnel and never delved any further. However, that all changed on this visit and some of the doors were open, revealing corridors, labs and lecture rooms. It all felt rather macabre.

I guess places are very much like people. You can think you know someone rather well but then you see them in a different light and figuratively speaking a door either opens or closes and they’re not who you thought they were.

By the way, there’s a very strong part of me which longs to return to Graffiti Tunnel and paint it again. Update it all. I’d like to paint something which really gets the students thinking about what they’re doing. Where they’re going and finding more connection and a more optimistic outlook. I have a few ideas but I fully intend to express them in paint before I confess. Intentions don’t count. This will be my Nike moment…Just do it!

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sydney University…Retracing My Footprints.

It’s time to pop the champagne and launch the fireworks. Yesterday, I finally made it back to Sydney University, my former stomping ground. I can’t remember when I was last there. However, it’s been at least 15 years. Indeed, I’ve never gone back with Geoff or the kids and shown them what really is a part of myself. I don’t know why, but it’s a glaring omission. After all, as an Arts student 1988-1991, Sydney Uni was my home and raison d’etre. I was active in student life and lived just off campus  for at least some of that time. Moreover, being such a sentimental sod who revels in returning to the road once traveled, it really makes no sense.

So, what changed?

Well, yesterday I attended Carer’s Day Out at the Redfern Community Centre and uni was only a short hop, step and a jump away. Moreover, on the way, I could even check out my first home away from home, a terrace house on Abercrombie Street.

So, now I’d like to invite you along on a photographic tour of Sydney Uni starting out at Redfern Station and finishing up at the footbridge crossing Parramatta Road.

Sydney Uni Map

Leaving Redfern Station, we turn left into Lawson Street and are immediately swept along in a steady stream of pedestrian traffic. It feels so good to be back here and soak up the ambiance again. A good friend of mine used to live in one of these terraces so it’s not a stranger. Yet, there is an unfamiliarity as well. My camera’s hanging round my neck and I’m on the prowl, hunting for prey. I spot a mural and break with the flow to photograph it and became an island in the stream.

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Next, I turn left onto Abercrombie Street. Before we reach my old terrace, we’re walking through a row of shops. Rewinding to 1988, I gave my first poetry reading at the Reasonably Good Cafe, which was somewhere along here. Of course, the original is etched permanently in my memory. However, we’re talking 30 years ago and there’s no brass plaque marking where it was for posterity’s sake. There are still a few cafes and my best guess is that it was a cafe now called Tripod. Unfortunately, it was closed yesterday so I couldn’t take a closer look.

Now, I’m crossing Abercrombie Street to take a closer look at the terrace house which used to be home. It used to be on the pedestrian crossing and we could sit up on the balcony and watch the crowds milling past and call out to our friends. In terms of being a part of things and really experiencing student life, this place had location! Location! Location! Location aside, our student hovel didn’t have a lot of creature comforts. There was the semi-outside loo, not having a running hot water and needing to heat a gas thingy to have a shower, and the backyard was an industrial wasteland. This was character building stuff and besides, slumming it gave you added cred.

Walking further along Abercrombie Street, I’m turning right and within a few metres, we’re now at the front or back of campus depending on your perspective. First up, we come across the engineering faculty and before long we reach the Carslaw Building (has always sounded too much like coleslaw or cold sore for my liking) which is the big union service building on this side of campus and where the science students and engineers etc used to hang out. I catch the lift up and walk over the footbridge over City Road and stop to take a photo looking towards my beloved Newtown, which will have to wait for another day.

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Noticeboard Pastiche.

That’s when I spotted a row of noticeboards. Naturally, I was interested in checking out the posters and issues which are important on campus now. However, I was also intrigued by the noticeboard itself. You see, the surface was made up of layer upon layer of paper fragments and a gazillion staples. This mashed composition wasn’t glamorous or informative in anyway. Yet, it intrigued me…this detritus of a million ideas. What were they about and who put them there? So many hands and minds who perhaps like myself have all drifted away.  I was once one of those people stapling up posters in a past life. A campaigner and a believer, this is our legacy.

I keep walking.

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The Main Quad, Sydney University.

What with all this peering through the lens, I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment or draw an “X marks the spot” where I spotted the iconic Main Quadrangle (or “quad”) peering out above the trees. However, I was dazzled. Blown away. Not only by its architectural splendor, but also by the familiarity. It was like seeing a long lost friend after a break of thirty years. OMG! If it wasn’t a building or so big, I would’ve wrapped my arms around it for a hug.It meant so much to see it again.

As the university’s architectural crown, the Main Quad was always special. Yet, when you see it everyday, it becomes part of the scenery and taken for granted. Now, as much as I love it, it also looks like an alien spaceship which has crash landed in Sydney and would appear rather out of place if other similar buildings hadn’t been built around it. Designed by Edmund Blacket in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, it was based on the buildings at Oxford and Cambridge and is England transplanted to the Antipodes. Apparently, this style was already out of date when it was built and its always been anachronism.

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Fisher Library. 

However, before I head up to the Main Quad, I stop off outside Fisher Library. To be perfectly honest, not all of my memories of that place are good. That place was the scene of many rushed essays, voluminous photocopying and note taking and on a lighter note, there were also a few sightings of the male of the species. Indeed, out the front of Fisher Library used to be a popular meeting spot and I remember arranging to meet friends as well as a few “prospects” there.

By the way, Fisher Library is nowhere near as glamorous as virtually every other building on campus and looks more like an old demountable classroom that got too big for its boots. Right next to Fisher, there’s a soaring tower known as “Fisher Stack”. I can’t remember quite what was up there but it was considered dangerous for women to venture in there and rapes were more than urban myth. Or, at least that’s what I thought. I still haven’t forgotten that sense of all pervading terror when I had to find a book in there. It was so incredibly creepy and unlike the rest of campus where there’s always someone, Fisher Stack was deserted.

Finally, I was on my way to the Main Quad. This was the first time I’ve really focused on its architectural details. It’s also the first time I’ve actually photographed it as well zooming in on the omnipresent clock face and soaking up all the stone work around it with my eyes. In addition to the architecture, the Main Quad was also famous for its large jacaranda tree which always flowered during exam time and was a poignant reminder of stress and trouble. Tragically, the Jacaranda tree died a few years ago. Two trees were planted in its place. However, the Jacaranda is very spindly and can’t hope to catch up for a very long time to come. On a more positive note, I still remember being out in the Main Quad after my graduation. It was such a momentous occasion and by that stage, I’d had enough of study and felt long overdue for the real world.

Next stop, is Manning House. This was the union building where the Arts students hung out. Back in my day, there were three levels. Only level one was open in the mornings and I remember hanging out there for many hours and then heading upstairs to Manning Bar. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but the bar attracted a more bohemian set.  Level three was where the snooty private school types hung out wearing their Country Road clothing…the yuppies. As a former private school type myself, I did venture up there at times, but it wasn’t entirely my scene.

After leaving Manning, I headed for The Graffiti Tunnel which connects Manning to the Holme Building. This tunnel is the only place on campus where you’re allowed to use spray paint. It’s pure grunge and almost feels like a living, breathing organism. Back when I was running for election to edit the uni newspaper, Honi Soit, a friend and I painted the tunnel. Our team was the Antonyms and the ant was our mascot.  Indeed, one of our team members built a six foot ant which we mounted on top of a car, which we drove around campus. We also made up all these posters featuring ant words and had our own t-shirts. However, chalking was probably the main form of advertising. Our rivals, Newshounds, had very,  very bright fluoro orange paint which you could’ve spotted from the moon. Consequently, our pink chalk, became more intense and so did the rivalry. All that rivalry climaxed in the Graffiti Tunnel. We’d started painting brown paint and black ants at the Holme end, converting it into an ant tunnel. Meanwhile, the Newshounds had started out at the other end at at around 5.00am we crossed paths. I can’t remember what was said. However, let’s just say it was heated. By the way, you’ve probably already guessed that Newshounds won. Word had got out that much of our team were Christians and members of  EU (Evangelical Union). The other half was quite bohemian, but we were sunk. I’d been friends with many of the Newshounds prior to that campaign and sadly our friendships never recovered.

Naturally, I was looking forward to returning to Graffiti Tunnel and seeing what the students of 2018 are saying. What’s their take on life, the universe and everything? To be perfectly honest, I still don’t know. There was certainly a lot of colour. However, what I did notice was that there are quite a few doors in the tunnel, which I hadn’t noticed before. While I can’t speak for what’s behind all of them, but at least a couple led into lecture or tutorial rooms.

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Inside the Holme Building

Next stop, was across the road to the Holme Building. This was where most of the mature age students hung out back in my day, although I went there sometimes as well. Not sure why. However, I also remember having my Year 11 school formal in the Holme Building and it was also where the Arts Ball was held each year. That was a ripper. So much fun. Seizing the opportunity, I had to sneak into the dining area which was set up for a function, and photograph the scene of such exuberance. Why did I have to grow up? Why did I have to become responsible?

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Perhaps, that’s one of the greatest mysteries of life.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve chopped the university into such little bits and pieces here and I don’t know whether you can truly appreciate it as a whole. This effort feels incredibly inadequate, but for those of you who haven’t been here and are unlikely to ever make it to Sydney, it hopefully conveys something of an impression.

Best wishes,

Rowena