Louis Ashworth for Varsity, Daisy Cox, Daniel Hilton

The state-of-the-art top-secret archives at Varsity HQ are open to very few. Frequently, (depending on the impulses of an intermittent card-access system), they are not even open to us. Within that small plywood cupboard are stored secrets and mysteries of the university’s past that would give the Pope’s Archivum Secretum a run for its money. As the keepers of this sacred, immaculately disorganised flame, it is up to us at the archive to provide today’s Cambridge with the lessons and wisdom of its history.

“Within that small plywood cupboard are stored secrets and mysteries of the university’s past”

A peruse of its yellowed pages reveals some customs that could definitely do with a revival. The noble and historic sport of punt jousting, raised to a half blue in 1951 (according to an intrepid Varsity reporter by the name of Watt Aliar), might make a welcome interruption among the disembodied heads of floating tourists; brave, pole-armed undergraduates could stand and fall where the likes of “Ivor Longpole”, or (legend of the game) “Jane O’Shitbull”, once sent our Oxford rivals flying into the Cam. We may however be thankful that certain other customs have been consigned to the black-and-white pages of Vintage Varsity. There was once a time when students with the audacity to leave their attic rooms were required to do so within a gown: the emergence of the undergraduate body from under their academic robes in 1961 caused a scandal akin to that of mass public nudity as they marched up King’s Parade, fending off reactionary counter-protestors demanding to “bring back the cap”.

“a menacing black shoe stomping on a defenceless kebab”

One of the great pleasures of the archive is spotting the seeds of now-iconic institutions being sown among students oblivious to their eventual pre-eminence. Who, after all, when reading in 1990 of a new “arts and entertainments centre” being opened past the train station (innocuously named “The Junction″, in an attempt to interface town with gown), could envisage the ear-ringing, ice-cold, 4am pilgrimages that would soon lead out of its doors. Similarly, reading 1950’s Varsity, it is entirely possible to pass by the reputably named ‘Gardenia cafe’ without recognising the warm glow of steamed up windows immediately familiar to any Cambridge student who’s stayed up past 1am.

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Moving forward half a century reveals how this nearly wasn’t the case: when in 2003, everyone’s favourite college (Gonville & Caius) announced plans to convert Gardies into further overpriced student accommodation. Varsity mounted a heroic counter-offensive to save the “legendary kebab emporium”, starting a petition against the closure signed by 800 students, and producing one of its all-time greatest cover pages – a photograph of a menacing black shoe stomping on a defenceless kebab. The headline in October, 2004? “We don’t like to boast, but we saved Gardies!” So next time your life is saved by a falafel burger, or a great wad of chips stuffed into a pita bread, remember which student paper made it possible. It wasn’t the Tab.