The Hostel

In March 1957, I moved into a large three bedded room at the Baptist Youth Hostel in Wellington.The hostel was centrally located on Boulcott Street not far from the Catholic church and beside the Baptist church. Our bedroom window overloked the front path, giving us an excellent view of all the comings and goings. to the main door. Apart from the big house, there were various outbuildings which contained church offfices and other bedrooms for the male residents.

I was the first to arrive in the room and chose one of the beds by the window. After four years of boarding school, I was used to sharing my sleeping accommodation. On day two, Jo arrived and picked the other window bed. That night we hardly slept. We talked and laughed and became instant best friends. (And have stayed mates ever since) The next day, Marg came from Whanganui and took the remaining bed. She had the handy ability to sleep anywhere at any time and we named her The Domouse after the A. A. Milne poem with the same name. We slept above the staff room and we were often rebuked for making too much noise even though Marg’s aunt was one of the staff members.

Everyone shared the sitting room and the dining room on the ground floor. At the back of the hostel was a strip of lawn and the flat roof of a building on Lambton Quay. I am not sure what it was but we climbed up there to sunbathe. The sitting room was the gathering place and with its gas fire became a friendly and warm oasis in the cold winter months. I learned to drink Nescafe instant coffee with plenty of added sugar. It was the student drink of choice. We all got to know each other and I was very glad to turn 17 in May and become the same age as my contemporaries. There was quite a bunch of first year students starting University that year so we exchanged information on books and courses and tips about seminar leaders. The realy good thing for my social life was that mixed groups would decide to go to the movies or take a walk on the weekend so I learned to co-habit with boys. Even so, I remained shy around anything male.

I am trying to remember the hostel rules. The main door was locked at 10 0n week nights and 11 on weekends. Sometimes we would be studying in our bedroom wearing pajamas and have an irrresistble urge for fish and chips. We’d pull on our raincoats and shoes, roll up the legs of our pajamas and dash to Cuba Street to buy some and then rush back before the door was closed. I guess other rules were about the times of meals and noise.

I enjoyed hostel life but in our second year the three of us decided to look for a student flat. We were joined by Helen who turned out to be the only one with any cooking skills. One reason for our decision was that we had signed onto a program that paid us a monthly allowance if we committed to teach in a secondary school after graduation. That regur cheque would pay for our rent and food. Or so we hoped. Next week I will write about that apartment.