Times have changed. Australia no longer values agricultural education and many of it’s colleges and research stations have been closed. I retain fond memories of my alma mater and there remains a strong bond between my classmates to this day.
We share something very special. Australians call it mateship.
The residential college on 6000 acres of land was located 20 miles from the nearest town of Shepparton. As 16 – 22 year-olds most students possessed drivers licences and a few even owned cars. (Indeed the college provided driving lessons and licence testing as part of the curriculum.)
However, possession of any of the following items on campus could result in immediate expulsion.
1. A car
3. A girl, having been, or in the throes of being, or even in the vague hope of being, biblically known.
You might think that 200 young men confined in such circumstances would revolt against the system, but the 1960’s in rural Australia were much simpler times. There were no recreational drugs. I was not even aware that such things existed. The only electronic devices were a communal black and white television in the dormitory common room, and our own transistor radios.
There was just one telephone for student’s incoming calls and a couple of public payphones.
Hitchhiking was our primary means of travel, to Shepparton or Benalla on weekends, or longer trips home during holidays.
The distinctive Dookie College blazer was recognised by motorists throughout Northern Victoria, and although it was a long walk to get to the Midland Highway, once there we were guaranteed rides to almost anywhere in the State.
There were six agricultural colleges in Australia’s eastern States
(Roseworthy, Longerenong, Dookie, Wagga, Hawkesbury and Gatton) separated by a distance of 1500 miles, and an intense rivalry existed between them in two fields of human endeavour;
A. Inter-collegiate sports held annually.
B. The pursuit of Marilyn.
I have no idea how these Marilyn shenanigans commenced, but by 1965 they were well established.
When I arrived at Dookie there was a framed print of the famous Marilyn Monroe 1953 Playboy Magazine photograph hanging in the dormitory common room. Junior students were instructed to guard the picture against theft because it had become traditional for other colleges to mount expeditions at unexpected times to steal the picture as a mark of collegiate superiority.
The picture vanished from Dookie soon afterwards and students at Wagga Agricultural College in New South Wales advised that they now had possession. The only rule was that the picture had to be hung in the publicly accessible common room of each college, so a car (illegal expulsion-threatening) load of Dookie boys then drove many hours through the night, stole the picture back, and were rewarded with hero status upon their return. We all once again basked under the warm glow of Marilyn’s magnificence until some other little bastards came and stole it once more.
During my three years at Dookie, Marilyn traveled thousands of miles around Australia in the grasp of some of the finest specimens of young Aussie manhood imaginable.
These were times of simple pleasures, many of which will come to light and be magnified tenfold at our 50th anniversary reunion in 2015.
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