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Freshers' welcome 1964, Department of Mineral Technology album, MS-3843/005, S13-561b, Hocken Collections, University of Otago.

Freshers’ welcome 1964, Department of Mineral Technology album, MS-3843/005, S13-561b, Hocken Collections, University of Otago.

Were you at Otago in the 1960s? Do you recognise this venue, possibly on campus? After our success in identifying the mystery 1950s dentists, I’m hoping this more recent image will prompt somebody’s memory! The photograph was taken at the freshers’ welcome for mining students in 1964 – do you know any of these happy people? This was a time when the Colombo Plan was in full swing, bringing students from Southeast Asia to Otago and other Commonwealth universities – some of the men pictured may well have been part of that scheme. This was also the last year of the independent Faculty of Technology (formerly the Otago School of Mines). In 1965 metallurgy courses came to an end and the Department of Surveying and Department of Mineral Technology were absorbed into the Faculty of Science. While surveying continues to thrive at Otago, in 1987 the government transferred mining courses to the University of Auckland (in the face of loud southern protest).

Student social venues have been in the news recently, with ‘the Cook’ – the historic Captain Cook Tavern – closing last week. The hotel, which opened in the 1860s, is slightly older than the university, but for many decades students have been an important part of its clientele. In recent years, though, student drinking patterns have changed, with more people drinking at home or gravitating to the flourishing bars around the Octagon and environs. With profits dropping at the Cook, the building owners have been unable to find anyone willing to take on the expiring lease.

The university had a more active role in the closure of two other historic hotels in north Dunedin. In 2009 the university bought the Bowling Green Hotel, which had been home to a string of controversial promotions during the eleven-year lease of its final publican. A year later, the Gardens Tavern building was sold to the university. After multi-million dollar refits, the former ‘Bowler’ and ‘Gardies’ pubs re-opened for entirely different purposes. 71 Frederick Street – the prosaic name of the former Bowling Green Hotel building – now houses the university’s Bioethics Centre, Maori Health Workforce Development Unit and Pacific Island Research and Student Support Unit. Early this year the Marsh Study Centre opened in the former ‘Gardies’, providing a comfortable study space and reducing crowding in the libraries around campus.

Do you remember socialising at the Cook, the Bowler and the Gardies? Which other venues have been important to Otago students and staff?

Update – 31 March 2014: I posted this photograph again in a piece about the Colombo Plan, which you can read here. Take the link to find the name of some of the men in the photograph. I’m still looking for more information though!

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