Graduate Parlour Comments Book
On a shelf above the comfortable chairs and board game collection of the Graduate Parlour (GP) are several large leather-bound books.
These books are the comment books, used over the years to allow GP members to communicate with the GP President about issues relating to the GP and its residents. Take the smallest down from the shelf – labelled simply, ‘1’ – and you’ll find it starts in 1967; relatively recent for a College founded in 1347, but a completely different cohort given the short time many of our graduates are with us. From orange squash to pushchairs, revolutions to the metric system, the comments books cover all manner of disputes and problems that have been debated, challenged, and solved by a succession of beleaguered GP Presidents…
So what worried these scholars? What were the issues of the day? Well, neatly (and not-so-neatly) captured in a series of entries beginning ‘Dear Sir’, it becomes immediately apparent that provision of sherry was on the minds of many GP residents. In fact, drinks in general were a problem – there are several entries lamenting quite eloquently the lack of squash and tea. It’s not surprising, given the heavy workload graduates face, that access to caffeine was at the forefront of people’s minds. It’s doubtful much has changed in that respect.
One query that wouldn’t come up today, however, related to pushchairs. At the time this particular comment book was in use it was apparently not possible for a Graduate to bring a pushchair or pram into College. The ensuing discussion eventually culminated in the allowance the graduates can bring pushchairs into the grad parlour – the following comment that presumably this also extended to the paths one needed to take to reach the grad parlour one can safely assume was correct.
Newspapers also came up a lot, as did the change to the metric system, which apparently caused some difficulties when it came to things like charging for use of the phone. Without mobiles, or Facebook, the phone was an important way for graduates to keep in touch with families, as well as all the other practical uses it was put to.
Several of the comments books have sectioned filled with photographs of past grads, which makes for enjoyable, nostalgic viewing. Whether silly or serious it’s a great record of the lives of students who are, in some cases, only with us for a year.
1967 is, of course, not long ago at all, but flicking through the comments books immediately reminds us that while some things have changed on the surface – like access to a phone – the Grad Parlour has always been a space for community, where trivial matters like who took the last teaspoon are discussed alongside important questions like the role of family in College, and interaction between Graduates and the rest of Pembroke.