This week, Nicky Woolf delves into the Nouse archive and offers an insight into the history of personal ads and why they should be revived.
“FOR SALE – One amphibious shredded wheat. Slightly soiled.” was what first caught my eye as, yesterday night, still distressingly hung-over from the night before, I was scanning the microfilm of Nouse from May 9th, 1968. It was in the Personals section. I looked closer. “LIZ – how is your bikini?” confused me but “SUE – I love you really. Robin.” told a touching story of a lovers’ tiff reconciled. “SUPPORT the haircut for Cushman fund” was obviously a college in-joke, and “HARV. Won’t attack you in Trieste if your Munich army supports me in Burgundy. Pete.” speaks of insider dealings in an important game of Risk.
What I had on my hands was a sort of alternative history of the university; each little short was an insight into the life of a student, couple, or college. Intrigued, I read further. I found myself drawn into the world of 1960’s studenthood. It was addictive. They were not so different from you or me back in the Swingin’ Sixties. The left-wing political atmosphere among of students of the era crept into some of the ads: “FOR SALE: Cyprus. Apply Foreign Office” as did the sexual freedom of the time- “JILL- can I have my shirt and jeans back please –D.” Some of the messages were utilitarian- “WHICHEVER of my friends has left their glasses in my room, please collect them. Sally Mitchison.” –or cuttingly sarcastic- “STEPHEN wants to be a disc jockey. What a shame.” –scarily voodoo- “WANTED: wax replica of SCR president. Also 2000 pins to accompany above.” –or just plain odd- “COME BACK Banks, all is forgiven!” and I loved them all.
This, then, is an appeal to the powers that be to bring back Personal ads, and an appeal to you, the readers, to send in your Personals for the section. I’ll do my utmost to get them published in the next edition, I promise. I have runneth over my word limit, so I’ll leave you with one of my very favourites. “EXPERIMENTAL film group requires (a) Rog. Byron (b) Albatross (c) a Faerie Queen. Anyone who can supply one or all of these items, get in touch with C. Harries, Derwent. (Also needed: a Venerable Bede and a seaworthy shredded wheat).”