Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Reunion

"...Fifty years rolled back, as I looked into his face..."

I need to do some recreational writing, and I do mean recreational; not the stuff I do every day - and this is part of my problem.  
The week is filled with the day job and the weekend with diversions - food, coffee houses, markets, galleries and museums; not to mention the beach and the foreshore, and the endless passage of ships taking three million tonnes of coal every week to Japan and China and who knows where else - and of course there is la Zanzara Rossa, the little red Vespa which is a great way of getting around to enjoy all of these places.
I will just have to put myself in front of this screen, crack my knuckles, and get going - but then there is another episode of Breaking Bad to watch and so perhaps I'll leave it tonight!
I have stuff I need to tell you about - my encounters with the gorgeous Margaret Olley; the Amazon River; Francis Drake - and really serious stuff like the National Stroke Foundation, Alzheimer Awareness, the Special Olympics and mental health - and I will, I will!
But first I have to tell you about the Class Reunion
If you are reading this for the first time, I wrote about the plans for the 50th Reunion of Cairns State High School, Class of '62 back in May and you can read all about it by following the above link or clicking here.

So after several months of anticipation and planning, it happened and we converged on the school, from all over the country and from overseas.  Of the class of '62 who are still with us (sadly a few are not), every former pupil was found and contacted and most of them came.  It was a wonderful weekend, culminating in a memorable dinner on Saturday with nearly 90 of us present.  We will remember those few days for a long time.  I can't think of a better way to describe the event than to share with you a letter I sent to all those lovely people who were then (although I didn't know it at the time), and are certainly now - a very important part of my life.  So here goes:

Dear Senior Class of '62 and Junior Class of '60:
Thank you all so much for coming together again, and sharing those few days at the school and at the dinner, which made me realise how much of an impact on our lives and on our development as a person, those days were.  Thank you Pam and Rod and Keith and Renee - thank you so much for the effort and the energy that you put into making this special few days happen and making it work so well. I hope you will indulge me as I briefly respond to the wonderful weekend many of us were fortunate enough to share last month.
Some of you, I know have kept in close contact over the years and when we arrived at the hotel  earlier in the week, there were at least two immediately recognisable faces for Pauline and I when we caught up with Ian and Ellen.  I fancy that many of you were like me, and you were seeing former school friends again for the first time in a very long while.  In my case, I had not seen most of you since leaving school in 1960 and I’m equally sure I was a complete stranger to many of you.
I couldn’t avoid a slight feeling of apprehension as we got out of the car on Friday for the welcome afternoon tea at the school’s Senior Memorial Garden.  We collected our name tags at the desk, not too far from where many of us in 1958 made our first steps into High School (or Intermediate as it was then).  I thought for a minute, this can’t be the right place; I don’t know any of these people, maybe this is a senior citizens gathering and I’ve gone in the wrong direction. 
There was an old white-haired bloke leaning over the table, peering at the tags, looking at the names.  As I approached he looked up and we made eye contact.  Fifty years rolled back, as I looked into the face of Michael White.   His eyes lit up, “Willy!” he said, grabbing me in a huge man-hug, “good to see you! How are you?”    And that, if you’ll forgive the apparent grammatical lapse this once, was how the weekend unfolded.
It wasn’t just a class reunion, in many ways it was much more like a family reunion.  I think it was because you are the people I first started really growing up with. (That was another lapse in syntax – sorry).  One thing about those pre- and post-puberty days; those adolescent years, is that though we were in different bodies, with different ideas and different priorities to the minds and the ideas which followed, we shared those moments together and having done so, they will always be there.
When I caught up with Arthur (Mozzie, or Mouse), it wasn’t the articulate, urbane fellow who is so highly regarded for his years of dedication to the teaching profession and all the good community work he is doing since retirement (which I admire immensely) – no, it was the skinny kid I remember from Miss Pearson’s Grade 6 class at Parramatta  who knew as much (by this I mean as little) as I did about being a fast runner or an aspiring athlete; our challenge each day was to avoid being knocked over by some of the bigger kids who probably thought a little pommy kid and his Australian-Greek mate were fair game – and we probably were.
Thanks Jacqui, for making your lovely home available to us all. Thanks Ian, for putting those photos up and fooling me into thinking I was looking at our formidable maths teacher, Jock Menzies again – it sent a few shivers down my spine until we realised it actually was Jock's son, Ian who clearly is a chip off the old block.
And thanks Allen, for what to me really epitomised the spirit of togetherness I’m sure all of us felt – your ukulele rendition, especially the encore – and the smile on your face said it all for me.
I could go on a lot more, and if you get a moment to look at my self-indulgent little blog later this month, I probably will – but I just wanted to take this moment to thank you all for being there – and particularly thanks to Pam and Rod, and Keith and Renee and John for your organisational skills and your enthusiasm without which it wouldn’t ever have happened. God, I hope I haven’t missed anyone out!I sincerely hope we don’t wait another 50 years – gosh, I hope we don’t wait another ten!  If I have offended anyone with this little ramble, I apologise.  I just wanted to share with you all, how much fun the whole this was.
With warmest regards to you all

And that was it - a great weekend - we even had a couple of our old teachers turn up - who surprisingly looked younger than many of us - they must have been children when they taught us!

And Keith, bottling that wine really was worth the effort - we opened the last one tonight - good health, happiness, and long life to you all!

Thanks for sharing this with me - now back to work!


  1. That's just a beautiful tale. How wonderful that of all the people contacted they ALL came. Reunions are much deeper than they're often painted to be - glad yours was such a success. Cheers!

  2. Thank you, PPMJ for your kind comments - feedback is always appreciated!