Thursday, 7 November 2013

Youth: Hendra State High School & Me. A tale of a square peg in a round hole!

The year in 1965 and I am in my last year at Eagle Junction State School. I haven't thought much about high school.. too many places to go on my new bike! One afternoon we are sent home with a note for the parents.. standard fare. But this one tells parents the times and dates that the principals of the various local high schools would be visiting to talk to parents and the kids.

That night at the dinner table I give it to my father.. who dutifully reads it and delegates that to my mother. "You were a teacher once May.. you sort it out!" were his words. The mates I hung around with were mostly going to either Kedron or Wavell .. but my mum had an issue with Kedron. She said to my dad and me, "Well he cannot go there; fifteen girls left there pregnant in 4 years!" Now I have no idea if that was true or not.. but to me it sounded like an ideal place for a soon to be 13 year old who had testosterone coursing through his body.

But alas.. the decision was made for me.. Hendra State High School it was to be. And shortly after that my mother and I sat in the library at Eagle Junction (right next to the glass cabinet with a model of the Souther Cross made by some past student)  while Clarrie Muller rattled off what a nice place HSHS was. It had only been opened for 2 years and that stage all was new.

Break up day 1965 arrives.. the girls are crying as they won't see their friends again.. we go bowling after school and I walk Linda Morris to the train station. I didn't see her again until 1997! Amazing!

Christmas holidays are quickly over and I am at school at Hendra. Naturally I stick with a couple of mates from primary school but soon I make new friends. Bruce Vaughan, Robert Fysh, Graham Priestley, Charlie Cleator and Leigh Davenport to name a few. Oh yes.. Jim Douglas comes to mind too!

Our form teacher for Grade 8 is Miss Dahl. She has lived in Hendra all of her life and has been everywhere. Used to give us slide shows of her trips through Europe. And tell us of life as a young girl mixing with all of the great jockeys of her time. She drove a little faded red Daihatsu Champagne car and lived in one of a block of four units she owned in Manson Road.

When she was nice she was very nice.. but when she was upset.. I was terrified of her. Of course we had other teachers too. One I thought was crazy.. I mean really crazy. As an adult I later found out that he had a fondness for feeling the girls' bra straps through their uniforms.

And so began 1966 and grade 8 for this young man.

For sports I chose golf. We used to play at RQ and were taught by Charlie Earp. He also taught The Shark.. so I guess I was one of his failures! The bus trip from the school was always interesting.. as we passed the chemical and oil storage tanks at Eagle Farm, the air was heavy with some sort of chemical smell. For some reason I actually liked it.

But by halfway through that first  year.. I was way out of my depth. Algebra.. adding letters and numbers together? Man that is against the laws of nature. You have letters.. and you have numbers.. and never  the twain shall meet. I tell you it is the dark side!

I hated the place! To be blunt I could not follow what they were trying to teach me, the teachers thought I was being smart and pretending not to understand.. but it just wasn't  getting through. My father had an IQ of about 3750 and even he could do my algebra homework in a heartbeat. But he too couldn't explain it to me.

In year nine we got a new principle. Mr Winkle He was nuts. No, really bad. Was power crazy and loved to use the cane. My father's Rotary Club was having a father/son luncheon and so I was sent to see this nutter with a hand written letter (in my father's beautiful handwriting) asking for permission for me to attend this luncheon. The day clashed with the school's cross country so my father had no issue with me missing some school time. Well.. didn't Mr Winkle go nuts. He lectured me about the Rotary Club being irresponsible as was my father etc.. I suggested he ring dad at work. So he did! He had no idea who he was taking on.. I could see him turning red as my dad gave him a talking to about a "broad education" for today's young men etc.

The Rotary luncheon was great.. although a lot of club members thought dad was my grandfather because of our age difference. On the ride home in the car, dad told me that Winkle had insisted on a meeting with dad to "clear this up." My father had said fine.. we shall meet in the education minister's office next week. My secretary will arrange it and advise your secretary. That was the end of it.

Soon I didn't want to go to school.. all I wanted to do was go for a ride on my bike with my trusty twin lens reflex camera and take pictures. On the hottest days we stood on parade in the sun while Mr Morrison belted out the news.. the teachers stood on the shade. The males wore shorts (we had to wear long from year 9 onwards.. so long is what I got) and the ladies.. well I envied them in their cool skirts.

But.. I figured i would need some sort of education to get a job! But what could I do for a job when the time came? One afternoon after school I was walking home with Edward Baden and he told me he thought he might try for the public service. He had a cousin in the public service; he earned good pay and had bought a good second hand souped up EH Holden!

Only one problem for me.. I had no idea what a public servant was! So I went home and asked my father….. he quickly pointed out that all of our family worked in free enterprise.. and I should do the same! So that avenue is closed then! Glad we sorted that out!

Back at school life dragged on; I started taking more days off.. I just hated the place. I felt like a stranger in a foreign land. Maths had me foxed.. and science was close to that too! As for manual training my lack of coordination was very much apparent. Couldn't cut a straight line or drive a nail in if my life depended on it.

Eventually in grade 10  I saw an advert for a copy boy at the Sunday Truth. My brother Viv had started there as a copy boy and gone on to become a cadet photographer, in fact he was still there. So, on the train to the valley and in to the the Truth instead of school.

I was so excited until… "Job was gone at 8 am this morning son. You're Viv's kid brother aren't you? Should have told him you wanted the job and you could have had it!"

Great!

So.. back on the train and over to see my father at Milton Printing Company. Told him my sorry tale about school and how I hated it so much and what could he suggest? He picked up the Courier Mail and said.. "Go find a job!"

I didn't do that.. but I did leave that dark school and shortly afterwards enrolled at another that my mother had found.. where I met a magic teacher called Mrs Ewart.. and my education and general knowledge levels blossomed, but that's another story.

In summary.. Hendra State High School was the worst 3 years of my educational experience. The good part was my mates and the afternoon bell. My inability to learn what they were trying to teach me was pure hell!

Mrs Ewart at Power Coaching College was about to make a big change in this boy's life. As a 60 year old I look back at that group of teachers at Hendra and wonder what there wasn't a Mrs Ewart in their midst!