Speech by Robert Goot on the occasion of the closure of Vaucluse High School
SUNDAY 9 APRIL 2006
Let me at the outset congratulate Nick Woolf on his outstanding job in initiating, arranging and co-ordinating this event. It is wonderful to see so many old but familiar faces. In particular can I welcome Wayne Prince the 1961 Vaucluse Boys’ High School College Captain. Peter Hourigan has just given us a history of the reasons for, and the negotiations leading to, the merger of
Dover Heights High School and VaucluseHigh School resulting in the expanded RoseBay Secondary School at Hardy Street, Dover Heights
Peter’s history however is inaccurate.
In fact, my brother Murray, in his 1962 speech for election as Prefect and College Captain for 1963, predicted the closure of this great educational establishment. In his election manifesto. With uncanny foresight he called for the merger forthwith of Vaucluse Boys’ High School and Dover Heights Girls’ School and the distribution of free condoms to all male pupils.
As with most election promises there was a long gap between the promise and the realisation. At least we now have the merger of the schools. We are however still waiting for the free condoms and they better arrive soon otherwise they will have to be replaced with free Viagra. In 1960 I attended my first assembly in this assembly hall on the first day that the school opened. I looked around that day and I could tell instantly that I was surrounded by the future cream of
“Mumbles” Manning in science. Sydney’s society. Keith Harris, the Principal, looked around and knew he was no longer in Mudgee. He would remind us of this fact in picturesque ways for the next five years. He was not a person who was concerned with political correctness nor had he previously been exposed to anything approaching a multicultural society. The school in those days had a large population of boys of the Jewish faith and on certain Jewish holy days the school population was significantly depleted.
When we returned after those days Keith Harris was fond of saying how clean the school had been, and how well behaved the pupils were, in our absence. Mr Howarth, Keith Harris’ faithful deputy would alternatively nod sagely or glare at us with his ruddy complexion. But as I looked around then I could identify the future top: professors, diplomats, bureaucrats, policeman, international sportsmen, medical specialists, lawyers, dentists, professionals of all kind, tradesmen, businessmen, pimps, criminals, judges and magistrates (the juxtaposition of the last few is entirely coincidental), as well as assorted eccentrics, no-hopers, misfits and the very occasional thug.
Vaucluse Boys’ High School was a great melting pot in those early formative years. Earlier today Joe Zaresky wanted a group of former students to assemble on the Bank at 11.30am. I stood him up. I have never been “up on the Bank”.
That was reserved for high achievers singled out at assembly for special mention especially sportsmen. Bruce Francis had a permanent spot. Ted Gill (Mr Marvolin) made sure of that. Jim Stone and his brothers and the Bund boys also figured prominently on the Bank.
And talking of the Stones, Mrs Stone and her lady helpers (there were no males in the tuck shop in those days), ran a fantastic tuck shop which I notice no longer exists in its original space which has been subsumed for something called “design and textile”. How times have changed.
The school premises ended just outside this assembly hall. None of the development that now appears, the Science block and other structures “up the back” were there in our day. Rather there were cricket nets and open space. I remember well that is where we listened breathlessly to the Cassius Clay (as he was then known) Sony Liston World Heavy Weight title fight.
I remember also the playgrounds where we gathered in shock as the news of the assassination of JFK sunk in and shattered our hopes and innocence.
I don’t recall the library however. My wife told me that she didn’t find that at all surprising. But my brother assured me that there was a library in the school at the time, although not as elaborate a space as now exists.
I went up there earlier today to look at the memorabilia of the school and saw amongst other things the Caning Register which quite frankly I never knew existed. On closer examination it appears that the Caning Register commenced in 1971 which explains both why I was not aware of it and why it is such a slim volume.
And of course there were the staff: : Judy Gold a young beautiful Latin and English teacher who made sure that Damon Runyan will never be the same.
Mr Jerabeck who taught French and bullying.
Mr Minter the maths master. Mr McDonald the chalk throwing history teacher whose teaching was marginally better than his aim.
Gary Hare who is present here today and who finally saw the light, took our advice and left teaching in 1966.
“Happy Harry” Kresner - the brilliant Ancient History and English teacher with more one liners than Bob Hope including:
- “Goot, you’re so low that you could be on stilts wearing a top hat and still get under the belly of a snake”
Peter “Charlie” Crittle the Wallaby front row forward practising his tackles on pupils before he went to the Bar to monster witnesses.
Dieter Kloessing who was an expert in music and drinking and who got the insensitivity prize of the decade for insisting that the school band play ‘Lilly Marlene’ to an audience comprising a large number of Holocaust survivors.
Sue Langker, Mandy Tunica and Maureen Jarrett in their own ways every boy’s dream teacher; and
Ernie Tucker - captain my captain - who taught us to seize the day.
They were great times at a great school and I thank you for allowing me to share these moments with you.
Robert M Goot AM SC