Category: 1940s

Correspondence: from letters to emails, from letterhead to Facebook #flatnames

Letter to the author addressed to her at her named flat (1991)

Letter to the author addressed to her at her named flat (1991)

The means by which we correspond or communicate, in written form, has changed immeasurably in the last 20 years. Personally I barely put pen to paper, and when I do now, it is a card rather than a letter that I am usually writing. When I started University in 1991 I paid $50 a week for my room in a four person flat, and spent a further $5 a week on stamps.  I wrote long letters to friends and family, and received many letters in return, often addressed to me at my flat, Mouse House, at 888 Cumberland Street.

In the 1940’s the residents of The Bach, at 208 Leith Street, designed a crest and motto and had letter head printed. Examples of the letters written by Bachite David Gardiner, to the Board of Divinities, can be seen in the Presbyterian Archive at Knox College.

In the 1960s a flat called Che Choux at 64 Heriot Row (“Cabbage House”, named for the Cabbage Tree in the front garden) also had letterhead which was printed at the Christ’s College Press. Unfortunately there are no copies of the letterhead available in their archives.

In the early 1970s a flat called The Spanish Slum, 16-18 London Street, also had letterhead, though it is unknown where this was printed.

It is interesting to see the shift in personalisation of communication forms from a hard copy print environment, to the digital; from email, to social media where platforms like Facebook suddenly make it very easy to communicate with many people simultaneously. Where once flats went to the extent to have letterhead designed and printed, today’s students can easily set up a Facebook page for their flat. There are several examples, of this practice, such as The Chateau at 47 London Street, The V Flat at 97 Dundas Street and the 8 Man at 627 Castle Street.

Did you have letterhead or a Facebook page for your student flat, or do you know of a flat that had letterhead or has a Facebook page? If so, I’d love to hear about it.


The student and the landlady / University of Otago Capping Book 1947, p21

The Student and the Landlady were sitting by the fire,

The Student wept like anything to feel starvation dire.

“If I don’t get a feed,” he said, “I really shall expire.”

“Seven deaths in seven months will ruin me,” she cried.

“You wouldn’t care,” the Student said, “if I lay down and died.”

“What nonsense!” said the Landlady, “do you think I’ve got no pride?”

The Student and the Landlady are bitter foes you know;

The Student wept like anything because she bade him go.

“How cruel it is, ” the Student said, “to deal me such a blow.

Seven shifts in seven weeks I really can’t afford;

But pack my books and shirts and things I’ll go and hire a Ford –

“I doubt it,” said the Landlady, “unless you pay your board.”

Letter received from 97 year old Bachite

I’ve just heard from one of the few surviving residents of The Bach, typed on an old school typewriter on onion skin paper. Ferg has gifted me a beautiful, ragged piece of their letterhead, which depicts the crest and motto, in Greek, which in translation reads, “beacuse of poverty”.

I’m attempting to relax it using a damp cotton tea towel sitting in a roasting dish and misting it gently with water.

The Bach (1930s)

I’m in Dunedin doing some research on the book and had a wee break through today. I discovered that the earliest flat (1930s), The Bach at 208 Leith Street, did in fact have a name plate. Now to find a picture of it …