Category: 1970s

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… 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.

Xanadu on Eden Street


Illustration of Xanadu by Pattern Wilson (1898)

Back in the mid 1970s there was a flat called Xanadu at 3 Eden Street. The name was painted in an Asiatic typeface in black on the white front door. The flat adjoined a corner store run by the Verkerk family.

The origin of the flat’s name may be lost in the mists of time but is has been suggested it had its origins in the poem Khublah Khan written by Samuel Coleridge, in an opiate haze c.1797 [1].

Whether or not this is the case, the flat was certainly around too early to be named for the 1980 roller-opera starring Olivia Newton John, and the hit song of the same name written by Jeff Lynne.


Eden Street no longer exists but was only a couple of blocks from the main University campus to the west. The street was built over in the redevelopment of the intersection of Union and Eden Street when Otago Polytechnic was expanding. The flat would have been where H Block is currently situated.

The original location of Eden Street can still be seen in a map (below) from the DCC Rating Information Database.


View of Eden Street. Map from DCC Rates Database, modified by Judy Fisher.

The photographs below show the intersection of Union and Eden Streets with Verkerk’s store on the left and Xanadu adjoined, and the photograph of flatmates outside their named flat are taken in 1976.  Judy Fisher (third from the left), a resident of Xanadu from 1976-1977 remembers:

“We walked out of that door turned hard left and back  into the shop, where they made the most amazing bacon burgers  and chips … Mrs Verkerk always remembered us all  20+ years later, when she was in the new store ( which her son owns now).”[2]

The family shop, known as the  Campus Wonderful Store is still 138 Union St where it’s been feeding local students with pies, chips and grocery items for decades.[3]


Photo taken from the intersection Forth and Union Sts looking towards the site of the flat Xanadu (yellow building) and the Verkerk’s store on the corner of Eden and Union Sts. Image source: Verkerk Family (via Judy Fisher)

photo (8)

Flatmates outside Xanadu, 3 Eden Street (1976). Image Source: Judy Fisher


[1] Holmes, Richard. Coleridge: Early Visions, 1772–1804. New York: Pantheon, 1989.
[2] Fisher, J. Email 23 May 2016
[3] The Verkerk’s intend to build a new store on site with apartments above. See Corner building opponent’s concerns dismissed, ODT 10 November 2016.

Hobbit, 575 Cumberland Street #flatnames

Hobbit 575 Cumberland Street (1973)

“Hobbit” flat. Built 1901, demolished 1970s. DCC Archives, City Engineers Album – Cumberland/Castle Street Deviation, 1973

575 Cumberland Street doesn’t exist anymore, it was demolished in the 1970s when Castle and Cumberland Streets were deviated to their current course. Below you can see photos of a couple of hand drawn maps. The first, a detail, shows 575 Cumberland highlighted in green. Compare the larger hand drawn map (note the green on this larger map is NOT 575!) with the image from the DCC Webmap. You should be able to see the site of 575 Cumberland Street two sections south of 58 Albany Street.

Many thanks to the DCC Archives for providing these images.


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.


Flat names trickling in

It’s amazing. I’m the grateful recipient of a growing treasure trove of stories, information and photos about past named flats in Dunedin – the stories are mostly coming arriving from alumni of the 1960s and 1970s and you’ll see a few posts below where I’ve started listing these names, and the addresses if I have them). There’s a few from the 1990s too.

820 members of the FB group.

Do you remember the 1970s in Dunedin?

Do you remember or have any detail about these flats, or others from this period?

Gilgamesh (Castle St), Nightmare Abbey (Castle Street), Hobbit’s Hovel, The Bay of Pigs (Cumberland St), Convention Centrewhich (Cumberland St), Toad Hall (Pitt or Cumberland St), Mustart Mansion, Ratvia, Slagg Heep (158 Dundas Street), Toad Works , Acropolis (Clyde Street), The Spanish Slum (16-18 London St)

Do you remember the 1970s in Dunedin?