Category: 1960s

Purple Orgy / Roger Wilco on Howe Street

Purple Orgy (1968) and Roger Wilco (1977) were situated at 57 Howe Street – later named Juice Box (2011) and more recently, Treasure Island (2016).

Purple Orgy

There nothing to verify the meaning of this name except for the purple paintwork.

Ziggy and the Green Spleens 1968241

Purple Orgy. 57 Howe Street. DCC Archives, City Planning Collection (c.1968)

Roger Wilco

See the flatties in 1977 along with their sign for the flat Roger Wilco (posted by Karin Williams).

May O’Hagan recalls living in Roger Wilco in 1978, “The huge sniff balls. The discussions on anarchy. And the green van inscribed with ‘I’d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-fontal lobotomy’.” On questioning her about the nature of sniff balls, she elucidated,  “We saved our roaches, then cut them up into little pieces, then wrapped them into a ball in cigarette paper. Stuck a needle in the ball (about the size of a marble), put a match to it and passed it around and sniffed it.” (Facebook comments 17 July 2015).

Kate Ryan “The flat actually had a painted sign that ran like a ribbon on one weatherboard at the front…..it said “Play is better than work”, I wonder if it is still there under the present paintwork, it had been painted directly on the house” Lachy Paterson “I think Karin painted that slogan, also from a Kliban book.” (Facebook comments 18 July 2015).

The flat, Roger Wilco, spawned more named flats across the country: Gumboot Wilco (Invercargill), Cousin Wilco (Palmerton), Island Wilco (Rarotonga), Country Wilco, and Wilco National Park (Auckland). 

The origin of the flat name Roger Wilco was a cartoon character created by the American B. Kliban who was particularly popular in the late 1970s. You can see a picture of the Roger Wilco character in the The Stanford Daily, Volume 172, Issue 18, 18 October 1977, this image was reproduced from his book, “Whack your Porcupine”, 1976. Roger Wilco has an other meaning, it’s roots are in radio communications lexicon, a hangover from WW11 – Roger (acknowledge) Wilco (Will comply). It has a particular connection with airmen. It’s not known if there is a connection between this and Kliban’s character.

Kliban describes himself as a beatnik in the 1960s, wearing black turtlenecks and drinking a lot, which I’m sure, along with his art, was a point of connection for many students at the time.

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Roger Donkin remembers The Shambles, 1960-62

Roger recalls a disastrous cooking/decorating experience at The Shambles. If you dare, here’s a recipe for ‘dough boys’ to try. No responsibility taken if they explode, of course.

Golden Dough Boys

2 c flour
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1 d butter
1 egg, beaten

Mix with enough milk to make a light dough and form into balls.

Put the following in a saucepan:
1 c sugar
1 c water
1 T golden syrup
1 T butter

Bring this to the boil and add the small balls of dough. Cook for 15 mins.

Roger Donkin remembers The Shambles, 1960-62

Shambles (1950s and 1960s)

Where Scribes Bookshop is now, on the corner of Great King and St David Streets in Dunedin, there was once a notorious flat, called the Shambles. It was well known for it’s parties and as a location to go to continue drinking once the pubs had closed.

It’s not entirely clear from where the name of the flat originated: it may have been the shambolic nature of the place itself, or it may, as has been suggested by a former resident, been named for a place in Manchester of the same name.

Shambles is an old name and derives from Viking word Shamel apparently meaning ‘bench’, ‘booth’ or ‘shelf’ and the name is found in many places in the UK where there are market places.

The most famous example such a place is the Shambles in York which is allegedly mentioned in the Doomsday Book, one of the few streets that is. This would make it over 900 years old.

This is a quintessential medieval street with upper storeys of buildings stretching out across the street precariously towards each other. The street was once a flesh market (hence also being known as Flesshamel) – that is, a street of butchers. Livestock were slaughtered in the streets and it’s been suggested that it is this resulting mess that provides the word shambles with its contemporary definition. In fact the OED gives three definitions: 1) a mess or muddle, 2) a butcher’s slaughterhouse, 3) a scene of carnage.

Reports about the Shambles in Dunedin, of parties and exploding pans of golden dough boys from the 1950s and 60s, suggest the OEDs third definition may be most approprite for explaining the name of our Great King Street residence.

A connection with Caxton Press

While browsing some old editions of Home and Building via the NZETC, I came across a wonderful article about the Caxton Press.

This is relevant to the project for a couple of reasons: the project on named flats has it genesis in a print culture study, and therefore owes a great deal to the history and culture of print in New Zealand. Secondly, Baxter’s poem “A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting” was published at Caxton.

First page of baxter's Small Ode on Mixed flatting, published in 1967 by Caxton Press, CHCH

A Small Ode On Mixed Flatting. Christchurch: The Caxton Press, [1967]. Brasch PR 9641 B3 S5.

Of additional interest to me is mention of Caxton and other NZ presses preserving the craft of printing by continuing the work begun by William Morris at a time where in the UK, industrialisation of the printing industry was subsuming it’s craft history. ‘“I began printing books,” said Morris, “with the hope of producing something which would have a definite claim to beauty, while at the same time they should be easy to read and should not dazzle the eye or trouble the intellect …”

View the article here: The Caxton Press / Brian Bell, Home and Building, Vol 18 No.1 1955, p15f

Nightmare Abbey – 680 Castle Street

Abbey College, hall of residence, was once Abbey Lodge, it’s a crazy rough cast Spanish styled motel. It doesn’t complement the Victorian and Edwardian architecture of the area.

Once upon a time in the 1970s there was a flat on Castle St, opposite Abbey College called Nightmare Abbey – did the name of the flat influence the name of the hotel???? Jim Mora, broadcaster and resident of Nightmare Abbey is convinced it did.

Nightmare Abbey – 680 Castle Street