Last weekend I flew down to Sydney partly to attend the 50th anniversary party for the Class of ’65 from Harbord Primary School on the northern beaches. Many old school photos were exchanged, including the one above showing me (circled in red) at the age of seven.
The function was at Manly Bowls Club in the heart of Tony Abbott territory and the night went pretty much as I imagined it would. Some of us have lived fairly happy and prosperous working lives, others less so, and a surprising number are dead.
One of the latter was Sid Dawson, who I wrote about once before here at Troppo. That’s him in the top row third from the left. Sid was a quite disturbed child, the grandson of renowned Australian baritone Peter Dawson (or so I was told). Our kindergarten teacher used to lock him in the box where our sleeping mats were kept when he was naughty. It can’t have done much for his already dodgy state of mind. Apparently he spent much of his life in and out of prison and died quite a few years ago now.
Frank, on the other hand, did quite well. He’s the boy to my immediate left in the photo (which he sent me a couple of days ago). Frank became a successful accountant and is semi-retired now, living at Beacon Hill and doing a bit of consulting and a lot of gardening.
Debbie is the little girl with dark curly hair in the row below me and slightly to the right. I worshipped her from afar in primary school. Her family were all keen tennis players and they took me and Debbie to White City (in 1967 I think) to act as ball-persons at the NSW Open. I tried to get the autograph of big West Indian fast bowler Wes Hall who was there with American tennis player Arthur Asche and a posse of adoring buxom blonde young ladies. I went up to him and said “Mr Hall, Mr Hall, can I have your autograph?”. “Go away boy and don’t bother me” he said. Debbie said she didn’t have any problem getting his autograph, probably because of her tanned 14 year old legs and very short tennis skirt. Debbie has had a failed marriage (to a lawyer, bloody typical) and now lives at home caring for her aged parents. Her dad had a stroke a couple of years ago and her mum’s memory is fading (like my mum).
Ruth isn’t in the class photo but was there at the reunion. She was the school maths wizard. She and my best mate Rob Peters (a doctor in Maitland these days) were “an item” (as Ruth put it) through our high school years. However they were both devout Christians, and Ruth notes that their relationship consisted entirely of walking home from school together each day holding hands. Ruth spent her whole working life until age 50 caring for her disabled parents. Only when they died* was she able to go to university and eventually become a high school maths teacher (which she still is).*Deb tells me that Ruth’s mum is actually still alive.
Kym isn’t in the class photo either (at least I can’t pick her). She was in my Year 5 class where the teacher was a frightening old dragon named Miss Kellsick. Kym was very bright but nervy and inclined to chatter. Miss Kellsick had her permanently petrified with fear, but caught her chattering one day when she came back into the classroom suddenly. “You are a disruptive influence. You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re going to have to pull up your socks, young lady.” Kym was so frightened that she reflexively bent down to pull up her socks. Miss Kellsick, convinced that she was being mocked by an insolent child, sent her to the headmaster’s office. Kym says Miss Kellsick traumatised her to such an extent that it took her years to recover. It might be one reason she became a social worker, helping troubled children.
And so it goes … Another reunion is planned in 5 years, when nearly all of us will probably be retired.