Category: Ephemera

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.


A cat, a flat, and the legend of “Mr Tui”

Tui, 85 Clyde Street






85 Clyde Street, Tui’s Tavern, was named by Gene Graham for the flat cat who in turn was named for Tui Takeaways, a long standing provider of a greasy package of ‘chips and stuff’ for many generations of students at Otago.

Gene remembers the sign was “made with spray paint and a stencil and a box of double brown”.

Tui’s takeaway at 20 Malcolm Street (the current site of a cafe, Food Department), for many Scarfie’s past, was a scene of sustenance, refuge, ‘spacies’ and trivia on the way home from a night out on the town – or a few jugs at The Cook. After serving generations of students at all hours, Tui closed it doors in December 2005.

Kum Yuen “Kim” Chin, a.k.a. Mr Tui (Snr), ran the Tui Cafe from the 1950s-1970s at it’s location at 54 Albany Street. His son, Mr Tui (Jnr) took up the apron later on.


Advertisement from Otago UNviersity Capping Book 1961 p14

Mr Tui (Jnr?) is remembered for delivering large quantities of ‘chips and stuff ’ to parties in the student ghetto. The stuff being an assortment of deep fried goods – the more memorable being potato patties (‘just big chips’) and ‘random fritters with peas and stuff’. He’s also fondly remembered for his trivia questions.

Jim Mora reminisces about the original Tui on Albany St in the 1970s in a Critic retrospective of 80 years writing editorial. (Note Jim also lived in a couple of named flats “Nightmare Abbey” and “Free Latvia.)

Roi Colbert, writer, commentator on music and anything he feels like, and  ex-proprietor of Records Records, reflects on Orientation Week and recalls unflattering memories of Tui Takeaways.

The OUSA Fish N Chip Review which was initiated in 2000, reported on nine different establishments in 2005. Gruesome descriptions of the age of the oil used wouldn’t entice me back, even if the place was still open – even for a game of Devastators or Mortal Kombat. Needless to say,Tui didn’t win the cup.

Joe Tui features first in Fighting Talk’s 50 Most Powerful People of 2005, “A surprise selection, perhaps, not least because of the regionally-specific nature of Tui’s operations. Owner-operator of Tui’s takeaways in Dunedin, ‘Mr. Tui’ as he is affectionately known to his patrons, is the dominant force in the underground fish ‘n chips market in the Otago region. Tui has been feeding drunken Dunedin students for many years now as they make the fabled trek across the road from the Captain Cook Tavern to stuff their faces on chunky greasy goodness. One could say Tui is feeding the future face of the nation. And with rumours circulating of an impending Tui’s franchise with tentacles reaching into the North Island, this man may be set to grasp culinary power on an unprecedented scale.”

The Joe Tui club was created in 2006 in New Plymouth. “FOR SEVERAL GENERATIONS OF OTAGO ALUMNI, JOE TUI’S name is legendary, synonymous with late nights and fast food. The latest incarnation of Tui’s café has recently closed, but the name lives on in New Plymouth, where the Spotswood College Joe Tui Club continues to induct Otago graduates into its inner circle as they join the college staff.” University of Otago Magazine, Issue 14, June 2006, 47

After Kim Chin’s death in 2002 an obituary was published in the University of Otago Magazine, ‘Remembering Jo Tui” University of Otago Magazine, Issue 3, October 2002, 40-41.

Some Tui related links

Fond farewell to ‘chips and stuff’ Critic 2006, by Jon Ong

Dunedin icon closes its doors Critic 2006, by Dave Taine

Tui’s Takeaways Memorial group on Facebook

I’ve taken the Tui Challange group on Facebook

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.