Extended Article from Luce No 18, 2019

Judy Gregory's Recollections of JCH

Judith Gregory, formerly Reyne (1947 Leask)


Recollections of Janet Clarke Hall in the 1940s

As I look back on my three years in residence at JCH at the end of the 1940s, I acknowledge that they were among the happiest years of my life.

I entered JCH in 1947 as a very immature 17-year-old. I had grown up during the war and my father (who had survived Gallipoli and then been injured in the Jordan Valley in World War I) felt honour-bound to enlist in the Army again.  We were chiefly a household of three women during those war years – my mother, my sister and I. Life was very quiet. There was very little social life and we rarely went out at night in streets pitch dark in the blackout. 

When my father returned from the war, his company transferred him to Sydney. I was very lucky to win a residential scholarship to Janet Clarke Hall and thus attended Melbourne University, which I had longed to do.

Shortly before I entered College, I had met a former JCH student, who advised me to get there early to ‘bag’ my bed! In those days, first year students slept on one of two balconies – the ‘big balcony’ on the top floor and the ‘little balcony’ on the second floor. These bare dormitories had no glass in the windows, just large window openings covered with flywire. This was considered extremely healthy at that time and a number of boarding schools had the same arrangement. The advice to ‘bag a bed’ quickly was due to the fact that students who had beds on the window side of the balcony, often had to get up in the night if it rained and move their beds into the middle of the floor so that they did not get wet!

Nobody seemed to think this arrangement strange!  From second year on, students had bedroom /studies of their own, but the freshers who slept on balconies shared quite spacious bedroom/studies with another fresher. This was a great way to make new friends and many of those friendships lasted for life.

First year students came into JCH a week before the official start of the university year. This was in order to complete the ‘domestic economy’ course that had been stipulated by a generous benefactor of the College, Mr. W. T. Manifold, who had provided the funds for the Manifold Wing. The ‘domecon’ course was thought a strange imposition by outsiders, but the freshers at JCH at that time thought it great fun to have the run of the College for our first week and to be able to walk over so easily to familiarise ourselves with the university, too. Most of us quite enjoyed our week of domestic instruction and duly sat a written paper and a practical test, in which we each had to cook a different meal and then eat it. I still remember having to make ‘white rabbit stew’!

I enjoyed the inter-disciplinary make-up of College life, so that we made friends with people studying courses other than our own and had good conversations over lunch and dinner, ranging over subjects wider than our own disciplines.

The rituals of College life appealed to me very much, too: the fact that we wore academic gowns and trenchers to Chapel and gowns and frocks to dinner; that there was a procession of Principal and tutors into the dining hall each evening; that grace was said in Latin and that the academic procession out of the dining hall was brought up by Florence, holding high the Principal’s tray of coffee.

I also very much enjoyed the social life that residence in JCH provided. I had only been to one dance before I left school. That was a large party at 9 Darling Street and I had suffered the agony of being a wallflower! So I welcomed the easy social life inherent in College life.

As we were still an integral part of Trinity College in those days, there were frequent activities with Trinity College students – we attended Chapel three times a week and once on Sundays and I sang in the Chapel choir. The JCH Drama Club organised play readings which were held in Miss Joske’s sitting room on some Sunday evenings and Trinity men attended those.   

There were also the common room dances. These catered well for those new to the College, because they were ‘program dances’. Each of us had a program attached to our wrist by a ribbon and young men approached to write their name against a dance on the program. It was thought very old-fashioned and amusing, but it was a JCH tradition that we all enjoyed.

Among my happy memories are some sunny Sunday mornings, when we came back to College after Chapel to find sacks of peas and chairs set out in the courtyard garden (which was bigger then than it is now). Glorious music was pouring out of one of the tutor’s study windows – Kathleen Law, Science tutor, who was a lover of classical music and liked to immerse us in it. We settled happily to podding the peas for Sunday lunch.

This was very soon after the war and there was still some food rationing, yet the College food was plentiful and excellent. In the kitchen we had the delightful Morris, who was Italian, and his wife, Mrs. Morris. They were a remarkable team and we thought it a miracle that they continued to provide us with delicious meals. We were the envy of the other colleges.   

Among the highlights for me were the Trinity College plays. Each year I was thrilled to have a part. In 1947 the play was Sheppey by Somerset Maugham.    Then in 1948 the very talented Joy Youlden directed Congreve’s Love for Love for the College. It was a very polished production and we swept about the stage in imitation of the choreography of the production of School for Scandal, which had been brought to Melbourne the year before by Laurence Olivier with a company from the Old Vic.    

In 1949 Joy Youlden was our director again in the wonderful The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan. Even Farrago was astonished at the high standard of the production. It was a joy to be part of it.

Miss Enid Joske was Principal throughout my time in College. She cared very much for her students and we recognised what a great responsibility it was.  We were allowed out until 10 pm as long as we signed the book by the front door. To be out later than 10 pm, we had to gain permission. This involved seeing Miss Joske in her study early in the morning and that could be a daunting experience!

Miss Joske used to walk around the passages quite late at night to see that all was well. She always had a bag of bananas so that she could give one to a student who seemed troubled or unable to sleep.

Janet Clarke Hall had a very happy atmosphere. I was very grateful for my years there and very proud to be Senior Student in 1949. It was a wonderful haven from which to launch ourselves into the world.

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