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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 24 - Student Parties

“I was astounded and awed by the protest folk music they played, the smoke in the air, the way all and sundry sat around on the floor on cushions…’’ Gayle Woodward experiences student life in the 1960s.

At the end of that year, the summer holidays that followed were idyllic. The sun shone almost everyday. Woody and I went out to dances and movies. We attended student parties at Margaret’s brother’s flat.

I was astounded and awed by the protest folk music they played, the smoke in the air, the way all and sundry sat around on the floor on cushions. The attendees were all students as her brother was at University and they all had long hair and huge beards and handlebar moustaches. The student girls wore long flowing dresses and beads around their necks. They were so different to the students at the Teachers College.

We attended parties at Woody’s friends’ flats. These were beer- and-more beer parties. I didn’t drink so felt rather lonely but Woody stuck with me closely all night. He was by now a Volunteer Fireman, which meant he would work alongside permanent firemen on weekends and at nights when his name was on a roster and attend his normal work Monday to Friday. He had bells installed in his bedroom and would quickly get himself to the fire station when the bells went.

One Saturday night when he was required to be at the station on call till 11pm, I was there with him as we could not go out on a date that night. We watched TV, drank coffee and chatted to others to pass the time. At nine o’clock the ‘bells’ went and the fire station emptied out, Woody along with them. I waited for an hour but it was a big fire and I was lonely. I rang my Dad and he cheerfully came all the way over the Harbour Bridge to collect me. He could not wait to find out what the big fire was. I felt very humbled by his cheerful generosity.

Woody came with our family to Onetangi that January as did Lyn Sampson, a friend of Mary’s. We all had fun together. While watching him work on his aging car that summer, I grew this poem. His cars were his other love. It was written in 1967.

In my second year at College, I continued my English as a Selected Study. It was an in depth examination of English literature, especially that of the United States as our lecturer was American. She liked my writing and tried to foster it but I was overshadowed by other students who wanted to write also and indeed have gone on to be published authors in New Zealand.

She did publish a long piece I wrote, a scholarly one at that. It was entitled ‘The Place of Women in the 18th Century’ and I remember my mother spending long hours at the typewriter, preparing this tome for publication. Nowadays, I cannot believe that I had it in me to write this. It always astounds me whenever I read it. However, I think that this was the dawning of the realisation that the place of women in the Sixties, although changing, still had much to be desired.

Here we were, taking part in paid tertiary education and able to take our place as valued professionals with a qualification but choices were still limited. More capable female high school students were able to choose to train only as a teacher, a dental nurse or to go on to University where a few would qualify as doctors or lawyers but most returned to teaching in a secondary school. And if we were honest with ourselves, we girls did not really think that we would be teaching for long. It was not seen as a career, merely as a stopgap until we could take up our real occupations as mothers and wives.

Little doubts were nagging at me as I considered our situation. I could not yet voice these doubts.

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