Reunion blues

1B 1960

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.


Kym second from rear at left; me right rear standing with glasses; Debbie immediately in front with black & white spotted top; Frank right front seated; Ruth with glasses standing behind him. Oh yes, and there’s Kay rear right standing. She became a primary school teacher and eventually got posted back to Harbord PS where she still teaches.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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8 years ago

Yeah. Such are the days of our lives.

I’ve been somewhat involved in a reunion thingy myself (it started back in 2010 being 50 years since our Matric Year in 1960). There were 35 of us who apparently had survived all the way through secondary education (though apparently only 18 actually passed Matric of which 8 were female – not so bad for 1960).

The thing I get is that reunions are kinda like a low level Lewis Terman longitudinal study: who did what, who succeeded and who failed etc. Strangely, I don’t think Terman’s 140+ IQ “geniuses” did any better overall than our reunion groups – though I guess passing Matric in 1960, especially for those of us from working class backgrounds, is kinda like being selected, I suppose.

Anyway, good luck with your future get togethers, as I hope for the same with mine. Though fewer of my group appear to have died – only one confirmed that we know of, but lots that we’ve completely lost touch with and just don’t know about.

8 years ago

Now I really don’t get this, Ken. Is it just that I leapt in with a reply that’s very short on “sensible” (as Nicholas might have it) and therefore totally off-putting to the rest of humanity ?

Your post was decent and emotive, and it appealed to my instincts towards being human. Am I just weird or is the Club Troppo band non-human ?

Why is nobody talking to you ?