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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 1. March 3 1968

Conrad Bollinger asks: — "How 'red' was my Salient?"

Conrad Bollinger asks:
"How 'red' was my Salient?"

Salient is thirty, which is hardly ancient: but traditionalists can't help celebrating anniversaries.

The sort of sentimental tribute which is usually demanded on such occasions necessarily involves traversing tracts of history within memory: and to do this, one needs to be aware of certain dangers. Reminiscence can drivel into a string of irrelevant anecdotes; the revived flush of past battles can discolour the perspective; hindsight and unconscious suppression can conspire to avoid essential but embarrassing details. Worst of all, as the great Raleigh warned us long ago, "Whoever follows truth too hard upon the heels may haply have his teeth struck out".

My first-hand experience of Salient spanned its middle decade. The first issue I had any part in celebrated its 10th birthday, produced late in my first long vacation as an undergraduate. Over the next few years, much of my extra-curricular energy was spent in Salient's columns, and when some and when some years after graduating I retunred to pick up the broken threads of a Law course (never completed), I was persuaded to go into double harness with Tony Wood as co-editor.

Policy, style, contents, tone, aesthetic appearance, typography, all tended to take on the complexion of this eccentric and often ill-assorted assemblage of individuals that each editor managed together round him. The editor's own personality was important — but few of them were so dominating as to be impressed indelibly on the whole product. Salient has always been very much of a team effort, and the less of it actually planned written or laid out by the editor in person, the better it usually was — and the more in touch with the current spirit of student life.

Salient had a "red" tradition in 1948, going back fairly continuously to its foundation ten years before — not "red" in the sense of conforming to the "party line", but in the wider sense embedded in the term "university red" current in those days: questioning accepted institutions and orthodox points of view, disrespectful of sacred cows, and pugnacious about principles like academic integrity and civil liberty.

Salient was constantly surrounded by the smoke of battle. Any afternoon or evening the little office off the upstairs gym in the old ramshackle Stud. Ass. Building (built 1909, demolished 1959) was certain to be the scene of a verbal blitzkrieg. If it wasn't the delinquencies of the Exec, or the shortcomings of the History II syllabus or the stew in the caf, it was the latest wharf strike or the war in Korea. Everything was grist to the mill of controversy which kept Salient's wheels turning.

It is naturally the loudest hullabaloos that come back most readily to mind. These included the night the Stud. Ass. Exec, was tossed out by a special general meeting for "bringing the college into disrepute" by resolving to congratulate Czech Premier Gottwald by cable on "the triumph of democracy" in his country when the communists pushed the right wing parties out of the government in 1948. No cable had in fact been sent, but the issues were debated eloquently until midnight in a feverish atmosphere that seemed to presume that the world was awaiting Victoria's decision ....

We churned out a special issue of Salient on the gestetner that night, and forgot to leave space at the top of the stencil to accommodate the printed masthead, so that Page 1 had to be printed upside down. (Oh well, we shrugged: everything was upside down tonight.) Incidentally, a full ticket of proven true-blues was elected that night as a "caretaker" exec, until new election could be held, but the elections duly put a number of the delinquent "reds" back into office.