I’ve been invited to a reunion. Fifty years ago (50) I was in my final year of high school, along with perhaps a couple of hundred other kids. I was sixteen, and I wouldn’t turn seventeen until my final exams were done and dusted.
It was a different world back then. Not everybody went on to the final two years of high school – many (especially girls) left school after three years of high school to join the workforce, or take up apprenticeships – for the girls, many saw that period as the hiatus before marriage and children. Those of us who did fourth and fifth year were supposed to be looking at university, or a professional career. My brother had to finish his Leaving Certificate (that was what it was called) to make the qualifications for pilot training in the RAAF. Me, I just wanted to go to university. I didn’t know what I was going to study, what I was going to do with that degree. A short term goal that led to a great deal of navel gazing a few years later.
It’s interesting looking back to fifty years ago. I’d attended the then brand new Bentley High School for my first three years. At that time it could not cater for senior students, so I had to go to Applecross High School, which my brother attended for all of his high school years. He’d left when I arrived, but his name was not forgotten, so I was ‘Fred’s little sister’ to several teachers. I was used to that from primary school. However, most of my friends from Bentley had gone to Kent Street High for their final years, so I knew hardly anybody, and the one friend I’d had at Bentley was in a different class to me. (She did maths and science, while I’d taken the ‘soft’ options of languages, history and the like.) But I knew two other girls who had been in my class at primary school, one of whom had been my best friend. They had been given special permission to attend Applecross for whatever reason. And one of those two was even in my class, so I became friends with her friends. Later, a new girl arrived from New Zealand. Although we weren’t all that close at high school, she became my very best friend during the university years, and after. (She’s the one who invited me to the reunion)
My BFF and I had attended the twenty-fifth reunion, but there were few people there we knew. Only one of my little clique turned up – the girl (woman) I knew from primary school. We chatted with several people, swapping stories, sharing reminiscences about some of the teachers. But we hadn’t shared many experiences with most of the people there.
I’ll share one little story. Quite a few of us (including me) despised sport, which happened every Wednesday afternoon. But there was a bright side – in Winter you got to pick a sport away from the school itself. My little clique decided we’d like to play squash, so we’d catch a bus to a local court, play a few games, then head off home. Needless to say, the games we played became shorter and shorter, or didn’t happen at all. Then one Wednesday afternoon, the entire upper school was ordered to attend a meeting on the oval. Except those of us who played hooky didn’t know. As I recall. the teachers were staggered at the number of no-shows. That was the end of our short Wednesdays. From then on if you didn’t play sport you did supervised private study in a classroom. (Even then, rock paper scissors was a popular subject for study. It worked fine – as long as you didn’t play it across the aisle between the desks.)
I don’t think either my friend or I were all that keen on attending the fiftieth. But she was persuaded to go by the woman who had been my best friend at primary school, so she rang to persuade me. The upshot is I’ll be going over to Perth in October to attend a reunion with a bunch of other old farts. It’ll be interesting to see who I recognize, and how much people have changed. And, of course, there will be people missing, people who didn’t make it to 2017, including at least one from my class.
As it happens, this year is also the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s sudden death. Ah, memories. He was only fifty-five. He wouldn’t have made it to a fiftieth class reunion.
Now for a few pictures.