The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1934
"Redeamus in Tempora Prisca"
"Redeamus in Tempora Prisca"
Victoria University College dates from the nineteenth century, having opened its doors in 1899. Stop, though! It does not do to be too inaccurate, even with regard to events of that far distant date. The doors that it opened were not, strictly speaking, its own, but those of others, from whom it rented rooms.
In the closing year of the nineteenth century, then, and in the opening years of the twentieth, citizens of Wellington became accustomed to seeing little flights of students hastening in the late afternoon from the old Technical College in Mercer Street, where they had been attending a class in chemistry or in physics, to the Girls' High School Building at Thorndon, there to attend classes in humanising Latin or more humanising mathematics. On foot, in tram-cars or on bicycles these students travelled; and, though the bicycles were propelled by student power—for, happily, the pestilent motor-bike was as yet a rarity—the speed limit often received scant regard.
Incidentally, it may be explained why these migrating flights were, for the most part, northward. Although there were then no full-time students, Science then, as now, loved the light, and Professor Easterfield was able to get into his lecture room at the Technical College earlier in the day than his co-adjutors of the Arts Faculty could get into theirs at the Girls' High School. His spare and frugally-equipped laboratory, too, could be open in the day-time, although the principal laboratory classes were held at night. It is a survival from those old days that still, in the better equipped laboratories of these modern times, night work is not unknown. When, in 1903, a biology laboratory was established, it was in a room occupied during the day by Miss Baber's kindergarten, near the Girls' High School.
The four foundation professors faced the positions with the adaptability and determination that have made the British pioneer successful so many times and in so many fields. Each took on cheerfully an amount of work that must have crushed into oblivion his earlier ideas as to the scope of a professor's duties. And these men must have felt how well the students reacted to their zeal. In spite of all difficulties,—perhaps because of the difficulties—there was a heartiness and a manifestation of grit on the part of the students that had a marvellously unifying and co-ordinating effect. It showed itself very noticeably in those early days. Then, too, the social gatherings of students and staff were not gatherings of College clubs, but jovial family affairs. One remembers well what part Von Zedlitz, whose chair was the fifth to be established, took at these gatherings, introducing a vein of wit, of mirth and of jollity that was as heartily appreciated as his deep scholarship.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the time that followed closely the foundation of the College, was the establishment of Spike, and the encouragement so given to the literary ability of gifted students. And it can scarcely be denied that there was among the students of those days a much larger proportion of literary ability than has been shown in later years. Always we have had from time to time students among us who had ideas to express and who could express them well; but the earlier times were marked by an efflores-cence of good writing both in prose and verse, and poetry showed itself in both. This was often evident in the special features that marked the observance of capping day. The capping extravaganza was a very distinctive feature, and it was sometimes marked by imagination and by literary merit that raised it far above the level of a mere topical production. It is true that in recent years there has been some slight recovery in these respects. It may be that we shall come again to make the capping extravaganza a thing worth having in itself, and not regard it as, first of all, the mechanism for raising funds. And, with that achievement will come again the capping song, now known only as a survival of days when no capping was decently complete without some fresh and appropriate expression from the College bards. In those good days of recovery may the capping! songs be aptly referred to as "flung from roof and rafter" as they have been never yet, even in the days of bounding youth.
—H. B. Kirk.page break page break