While life at Christ Church has changed enormously in many ways over the years, some things don’t change. Alumnus Paul Sherman (Cert Ed, 1967) reminisces on some of the less studious parts student life in the 1960s.
“As a first-year student, I was so impressed when we woke up one morning and found a blown-up pink elephant at the top of the chapel spire. I recall it was a third student who, along with another student, made the perilous ascent and tied it there. Fred Mason, the Principal of the time, and other members of the senior common room did not see the funny side (although quite a few did). As the perpetrator of the deed remarked afterwards ‘It was a very religious elephant. It was facing the cathedral.’ I can’t remember if he and his accomplice were ever identified and reprimanded.
One of my friends in the second year had a white van which, during the course of his college career, was put to multifarious uses. It came to our notice that a certain dance hall on the sea front in Margate was to host a big event with popular radio DJ Ed ‘Stew Pot’ Stewart as headliner. Now it was Rag week. So, somebody had the bright idea of travelling in the van to Margate and kidnapping Stew Pot and holding him to ransom for a sum of money. I was drafted into the plot (somewhat unwillingly actually, but never one to refuse a challenge). We found the venue was patrolled by grizzled heavies in tartan dinner jackets and matching bow ties and boy, did they look menacing! Well, somehow, we missed Stew Pot. Our plan was to nab him as he left, but he disappeared and word had it that he had left by car from the rear of the building. We all piled into the van and headed out of Margate and eventually on to the M2 in pursuit of the car we believed Stew Pot to be in. Well he was and pulled in at the Gillingham M2 services. As we approached, he said ‘OK. You’ve got me. Now what do you want?’ We explained we wanted to kidnap him for a ransom for the Canterbury College’s Rag week, and his reply was far from favourable and flavoured with a few well-chosen expletives, indicating that he was somewhat tired. So, tails between legs, we apologised and made our way back to Canterbury.
In those days, the block of one-storey buildings that run perpendicular to Fynden housed a number of Christ Church College lecturers, but also a couple of the new University’s junior lecturers, one of whom – let us call him Mr B – happened to be the brother of one of the Science students in my Secondary Education group. Anyway, it was the unenviable task of these lecturers in residence to ‘keep their eyes’ on us students out of academic hours, to make sure we were not up to anything egregious. Mr B had a mini. Someone had the idea that we should gift-wrap it and deliver it from the car park to outside his flat – which we did, with a great deal of puffing and grunting after midnight. ‘Imagine his surprise,’ we surmised, ‘When he wakes up and finds his baby right outside his front door.’ However, the joke was on us. He charged the Union a large sum of money for the damage done to the underside of his car!