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Dental Graduates of 1972

The Thirty Year Reunion of Birmingham Dental Graduates 1972


I nearly didn’t get into dental school because of some damn fool notice in the gents toilet. It read “Caution, very hot water”, and I was washing my hands just before going in to my admission interview at the Dental School. No, the notice should have said “Caution, extremely highpowered hot water”. I only thought of this as the hot stream bounced of the porcelain straight into the lap of my only interview suit.


How I ever passed the interview I will never know, sitting there with a large, damp stain on my trousers, as I stammered my inadequate answers through glasses rendered opaque by the rising steam. A mole later told me that the decision to admit me was finely balanced after I left. The Dean thought I was most unsuitable: “The incontinence and blindness are bad enough, but we would be forever on tenterhooks hoping the condition wouldn’t spread to his arms before we managed to get him graduated”. But apparently the oral Surgeon on the panel swung it my way saying, ‘Nonsense, his poor sight and bladder control make him ideally suited for a career in prosthetics. Good eyesight is a positive handicap making dentures, it’s all done by feel anyway. Unlike oral surgery, where it’s all done by... .’


‘Prats’, quipped the Dean, bringing the conversation to an end. Anyway, I got in.


And that led directly, 35 years later, to my attendance at the 1972 graduates 30 year reunion, courtesy of the trustees of the Thomson Trust. For those who don’t know, by virtue of this bequest, medics and dentists are treated to a thirty year reunion on the house. I am not aware of any other universities that do this. Good old Brum.


So what’s it like to confront people you last saw in 1972 as they strode off confidently with their newly-minted dental degrees, full of the confidence of youth before they misspent it? A very pleasant experience.


Though now in our dotage, and with failing follicles a-plenty (hair, ovarian), we seemed remarkably healthy, sane and, yes, dammit, cheerful. Unlike other generations, we had survived intact (apparently some of our older cohorts used these occasions to parade multiple divorces and/or references to the GDC. Not us, by all accounts paragons of virtue). Apart from the twenty three old “boys and girls”, there was a top table of current members of staff and a guest speaker (a pharmacologist, as I recall, though some bright spark said he thought he was on drugs, not in them). I sat next to a member of staff who has remained a friend ever since, though we only meet every few years. And I must say, he gave the best and most polished “spontaneous” speech I have ever heard. It all passed too quickly: hardly had we been reunited, sat down to the meal, heard the speeches and mingled, than it was all over.


But how we laughed on the way out, remembering how primitive things were in the old days: compo bubbling away in the hot water-bath like those lava lamps that were so fashionable at the time, primitive fixed orthodontic appliances, great rods of steel, real oxyacetylene welders and brackets the size of railway sleepers and x-ray units so leaky and powerful they would fog the holiday snaps of Brummies landing at Elmdon Airport.


So what are the pitfalls for those of you waiting your turn in years to come? Well, long forgotten (and hopedforgotten) nicknames resurface (why exactly was she called “frenchy”, and was “shagger” actually a virgin?). You realize what a near miss you had when the person you really fancied has aged particularly badly. And the beer seems to get stronger, unless you are not used to drinking the way we did when we were students.


Still. I can recommend it thoroughly, the thirty year reunion. I enjoyed it so much that I went on to medical school so I could have a second one!


Ray Lowry

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