Department of Slavonic Studies

In 1972 at 72 St David Street, where the St David Street lecture theatres  sit now, a group of students hung out a rather official looking sign. It celebrated their “three common kiwi names”, Fudakowski, Nowakowski, Voykovic. As the flat was owned by the University name it made sense to call it, “Department of Slavonic Studies”. Mike Fudakowski told me, “We had a formal-looking plate made for the door by a relative of Anthony Voykovic, one Gary Wyber who with his father had a photographic printing business and could photo-etch a zinc plate. Voykovic thinks that Nowakowski ended up with that plate. I don’t remember.”

The flat cost a grand total of $5 a week. Average at the time. It had a coal range and a gas oven, so it wasn’t too difficult to warm in winter. However it had no hot water at all. “We used to venture down the road to the Student Union or the Phys Ed School squash courts for a shower, so this may not have occurred on a daily basis.”

slavic studies 1.jpg

Paula Worthington, Mike Fudakowski, Andrew Nowakowski and Tony Voykovic with the ‘Staff Car’. Photograph by Nigel Charters, used with permission.

Kasia Waldegrave who provided the photo, told me the flat was visited by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), the name having sparked fears of a communist domino effect having infiltrated Dunedin. Mike didn’t recall this incident, but did remember another. “We were certainly visited by a Polish-speaking gentleman who said he was the Polish Consul from Wellington on a visit. A mystified man, puzzled by my own evident inadequacy with the Polish tongue. Nowakowski was called and came to the rescue to explain that the Department was only informally attached to the University. I think he knew the Polish words for “student humour”.”

Curious about the NZSIS visit, I wrote them a letter. They checked their records, but there were no details of an investigation into the inhabitants of the Department of Slavonic Studies. 

The flat possessed a small, asphalted back yard from which they could see, on Cumberland Street, the rear of “Free Latvia”, a flat where Jim Mora, Radio NZ broadcaster, used to live.

Free Latvia Critic

Critic 1977, vol. 53, no. 5, p.14

Toad Hall addendum to “Scarfie Flats of Dunedin”

It’s the fate of authors investigating and relaying stories from the past; details will be missed, stories will be untold and some facts may be incorrectly reported. So much of this kind of research relies on finding people, or being found. It relies on getting in touch with, or hearing the people that lived there at the time, or who knew someone (who knew someone) – but sometimes that just doesn’t happen at all, or in the case of Toad Hall, didn’t happen in time.

In September 2019, Jim Scott submitted reminiscences about his time at Toad Hall, a time that began in late 1958. The story of Toad Hall features on pages 54-59, 22 and 238 of Scarfie Flats of Dunedin and describes the beginnings of the flat in the 1960s. Many thanks Jim, for getting in touch and contributing to the story of Toad Hall. Scarfie Flats of Dunedin was a snapshot in time, its great to continue the story here, online.

 

Toad Hall origin story

After three years of residence in Knox College, we five: John Allen [Medicine], George Salmond [Medicine], Fred Strange [Medicine], Jim Scott [Dentistry], and Lachie Watson [Law], left at the end of 1958 to “go flatting”.

John & George (he had a car!) were deputed to scout for a flat. They somehow secured the tenancy of 22 Pitt Street: rent payable immediately. The back story was that until recently it had been occupied by two sisters. One had died, and the distraught survivor kept her sister with her for several days.

Toad Hall, 1959. Playing darts on the front porch. Jim Scott Collection.

Toad Hall, 1959. Playing darts on the front porch. Jim Scott Collection.

We were all 21 years old; from similar backgrounds; and knew each other well from our time together at College. Perhaps that is why we thought nothing of the fact that we would now be living in a grand old Edwardian mansion; north facing; with splendid views to the Otago Harbour; and only five minutes’ walk from Medical and Dental Schools.

Edwardian splendor in native timbers. The entrance hall of Toad Hall c 2009. Jim Scott Collection.

Edwardian splendor in native timbers. The entrance hall of Toad Hall c 2009. Jim Scott Collection.

It had three large bedrooms, large sunny lounge, separate dining room, and ancillary staff and utility rooms. The bedrooms and lounge had minuscule fireplaces, so effectively there was no heating. The kitchen had a small 1920s free standing gas oven. In winter this was the warmest room in the house, and where clothes might be dried if you waited long enough.

Professor Bill Adams, Head of the Anatomy Department at the Medical School lived over the back fence. This encouraged circumspect behaviour than might otherwise have been lacking. Neighbours Mr & Mrs Laing were kind and tolerant, and a great help when we held dinner parties.

Edwardian splendor in native timbers. Dinner party at Toad Hall. [Left-right] John Allan [standing], George Salmond, guest, Mr & Mrs Laing (neighbours). Jim Scott Collection.

Dinner party at Toad Hall. [Left-right] John Allan [standing], George Salmond, guest, Mr & Mrs Laing (neighbours). Jim Scott Collection.

Dinner party at Toad Hall. [eLeft -right] Guest, Fred Strange, guest, John Allan, guest, Lachie Watson, guest, George Salmond. Jim Scott Collection.

Dinner party at Toad Hall. [eLeft -right] Guest, Fred Strange, guest, John Allan, guest, Lachie Watson, guest, George Salmond. Jim Scott Collection.

We began to call our house Toad Hall among ourselves, and the name spread around the student community. No signage was needed. We assumed the names of Kenneth Graham’s characters: Mole, Ratty, Badger, Toady, & Judge. Your name you depended on one’s perceived characteristics and known experiences.

We trickled into occupancy during January 1959. The house had been cleared of personal belongings, but some serious items of furniture remained: a large Victorian dining table & chairs with a handsome sideboard, large wardrobes, several aspidistras, pedestal with clock, kitchen table & chairs, and threadbare floor coverings. Beds, study tables etc came with us from Knox.

The “garden” was seriously overgrown. Not a problem, as the umbrella stand [!] held five Samurai swords of varying lengths. One fine day we took to the grass and bushes with these and ‘tidied’ the section. The Victorian wooden fireplace surround and mantelpiece in the front room was lavishly adorned with turned finials & knobs. A few quick swipes with a sword and resulted in a more modern aesthetic. I wonder now at the value of those furniture chattels, and shudder when I remember our vandalism.

Like most student flats, we were a crash pad for out of town visitors, many of whom had been at school with one or another of us. This was particularly so during major events, and inevitably led to parties such as that after the All Blacks-Lions First test on 18 July 1959.[1]

Members of both teams arrived. Around midnight a voice was heard confiding in an Irish brogue that, “she asked for something to remember me by, and all I could give her was a bebe”.

Those were the days when men were expected to dress in sports coat collar & tie for lectures, which were also held on Saturday mornings. Although the flat had a washing machine, it was easier to use the bag wash at the bottom of Pitt Street. One could last a month with a wardrobe of at least 30 pairs of socks, and a half dozen drip dry shirts. The washing machine was electively out of action for a month while we experimented with home brew in preparation for a ‘garden party’. The resulting ‘beer’ resisted containment in bottles, but when imbibed was pleasingly soporific.

At the end of 1960 we passed Toad Hall to the next intake. Although it may have passed into Selwynite occupancy, it appears that it went to good hands.

Notes

[1] Read more about students and the All Blacks-Lions First test in, ‘The Shambles’, Scarfie Flats of Dunedin, pp. x-x.