Friday, April 9, 2010

Gorman House and Noel Wicks



My father in law, Noel Wicks, is aged a sprightly 83.

Whilst I was looking up something on the internet last year, I came across an article on the history of Gorman House in Canberra, which features some interesting comments about Noel.

The article is at:

That article describes Gorman House as follows:
Gorman House was built in 1924 as a hostel for Commonwealth Public Servants. As the place of first contact for so many Canberrans, Gorman House featured strongly in the social history of Canberra, particularly during the city's early development as the Federal Capital of Australia. Thousands of people lived at Gorman House during its 48 years as a hostel. Ex-residents remember it warmly for its atmosphere of camaraderie and for its simple but graceful design. Now a lively and centrally located Arts Centre, Gorman House is important in a new way to the Canberra community.
Following is an extract from that article:

According to Mrs Freda Bennett of Campbell and Audrey Trevellyan of Griffith, Mrs Dickson replaced Mrs Holmes as manager, who in turn gave way to a Mrs Coles. Mrs Coles was renowned for listening at keyholes late at night, knocking on doors and demanding "Have you got a man in there?".

In 1949 the post-war push of men back into the civilian work-force had its impact on Gorman House. The hostel re-admitted male residents, although according to some, this was not the first time a man had been there after 11pm in the previous ten years.

Noel Wicks was the first man to take up accommodation at Gorman House in 1949. This may have required courage, as not all the girls were keen on the idea. Gone were the cosy nights, making toast and cocoa in the lounge by a roaring fire in their pyjamas and dressing gowns. Men meant propriety, which was a lot more trouble.


Mr Wicks came to Canberra from Brisbane on a Public Service cadetship. He remembers that quarters for men and women were segregated and that more men joined him at Gorman House soon after, so that before long the numbers of men and women were pretty even.

"Rooms were Spartan" he said "There was a desk, a bed, a chair and a basin. We had a cupboard and probably a table. There was no curfew, but guests of the opposite sex were supposed to be out by 10 or 11 pm. But, the rule was ignored."

On one unfortunate occasion, Mr Wicks recalls attempting to assist someone who had locked themselves out of their room by climbing up the nearby drainpipe. Sadly, he fell but luckily his dignity bore the worst of his injuries.
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Now, in a parallel universe, Noel wasn't shinnying up the drainpipe to help a damsel locked out of her room. Instead, in that other universe, Noel was on his way to an assignation but mistakenly used the wrong drainpipe. The lady who answered a tap on her window to find a strange man outside, some distance from the ground, let him have it on the nose. But, as I said, that was in a parallel universe...

Pictured below:  Noel at Pialligo Nursery in the ACT, 2009 (click on pic to enlarge):

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