Saturday, May 15, 2010

Walking down nostalgia lane

In April I reported on the death of Cherry Robertson.

This morning I had to take eldest to netball. Just before we left I grabbed a book to read, Cherry's Long Youth Long Pleasure: Adventures Behind the Scenes at the University of New England 1956-1980 (Lightning Press, Armidale, 1982). Talk about a walk down nostalgia lane!

The book covers Cherry's working life from her nervous return to work as a secretary through her time as secretary/administrative assistant at the newly formed Robb College.

It covers part of what, in many ways, is now seen as UNE's golden period before the combination of Government policy changes and internal university games threatened the University's very survival.

This is not an academic work, but more a diary, organised on a year by year basis. It's value lies in the uniquely personal perspective on the culture and life of what was then a completely unique Australian institution, one that was almost fully residential so far as full time undergraduates were concerned, yet was also an institution pioneering external distance education.

During the first part of the book I was still at school. My perspective of UNE was formed through my family with their close and intimate connection with the University. Then, for part of the book, I was a student, seeing things from a different perspective. Now, so many years later, I am writing as an historian.

It is not possible for me to be fully objective about UNE. The connections are just too close. That said, as an historian I am fascinated by what UNE life tells us not just about New England, but about the changing culture of one university at a time of major social change.

I will do a full review of the book later. For the moment, I just wanted to record that as I read the names and descriptions of events, I thought what a unique social record her book was. 

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