In early 1971 the National Party decided to replace long serving leader Keith Holyoake before the elections in the following year with his Deputy Jack Marshall. The likelihood of National serving another term in office was considered highly unlikely by all except the most diehard party faithful. At the same time as he became leader the Trade Unions were being particularly troublesome and Jack had precious little free time.
Despite all this turbulence four unknown Victoria University students with vastly differing philosophies to Jack were invited to the Prime Minister's residence one Sunday night for a family roast dinner.
Here's how this came to be -
The four students (of whom I was one) were in the final weeks of study before their finals exams and the normal weekend social activity was being replaced by more serious application to course material.
Students however are notoriously easily distracted.
On one wet Sunday afternoon one of the students (Noelene) left the flat to attend a service at her Church. Nothing particularly different about that...but Noelene herself was different to the others in many other respects.
She was an academic studying Political Science and saw and lived her life in an ideal world. She was also socially naive in the extreme. At the age of 20 she certainly had never been kissed before and had conjured up all sorts of fanciful romantic pictures of her white knight whisking her off into the sunset. She was also totally inobservant and impractical in the extreme - her attempts at cooking were legendary - she could burn water!
Bored with study, the three remaining non Church goers decided to play a prank on the gullible Noelene.
Given New Zealand's small size and openness the Prime Ministers phone number was easily available in the telephone directory, so they connived to give the number to Noelene on her return from Church with a note that "Jack Marshall had called and would she ring him back."
Given Noelene's major subject was Political Science the pranksters figured that she should have recognised the name and become suspicious...but not our Noelene. She immediately flew into her romantic mode and couldn't get to the phone quick enough to tell her knight that she was ready and waiting for his arrival!
The pranksters were at once alarmed and amused at Noelene's alacrity.
When the phone was answered by John Marshall Noelene immediately accepted that her flatmates had got the message wrong and yes she was so glad that he had called.
The pranksters however were not party to the phone conversation and imagined that their flatmate was now talking to the Prime Minister in a very intimate manner.
We all left the room where the phone conversation was taking place - splitting our sides in laughter.
Clearly Jack Marshall was trying to appease Noelenes ardour - unsuccessfully for about half an hour when she reluctantly and bemusedly set the phone down.
Confused, she sought consolation from her flatmates.
It was only then that the pranksters fessed up as to what they had done.
To her credit, Noelene could see the funny side, and she had a surprise of her own - she hadn't been berating the Prime Minister but someone of her own age - presumably Jack Marshall's son.
She decided to call back to the Marshall home and explain that she was a victim of her flatmates prank. John Marshall was sympathetic and after chatting to Noelene for over an hour invited the whole flat to the Marshall home the following week for their family roast.
It was a most relaxed and entertaining evening with the Prime Minister highly amused at the outcome of the prank.
In the final twist I was met at the door by Jack's younger son Andy - whom I had known for a couple of years at University but hadn't made the connection with the Prime Minister.
Noelene had had the last laugh!