SOME MEMORIES - Contributor Michael Casey (ex-student and Old Boy)
Was Matron Rhodes ‘Sister’?
Reading the story about Matron Rhodes in the last newsletter, it set me to thinking that I have fond memories of ‘Sister’ at Clairvaux, that is all I can recall of her name, she who was a lovely lady who couldn’t do enough for you if you were sick etc. I recall the time when the Asian Flu hit in 1955 nearly every boarder was sick in bed. She would have been rushed off her feet. I thought that I had missed out, but no, I was the last one to catch it and spent a week in bed like everyone else did. Had lots of T.L.C. though from Sister.
Another story with ‘Sister’ was, it was the end of the school year and Bro Eric and Bro Jerome put on a play out of one of the school magazines we used to get in those days. I forget what the play was about but I do remember I played the part of a GIRL!! Her name was Gloria. ‘Sister’ used to call me Mickey not Clarkie like everyone else, On the night of the show, ‘Sister’ took great delight in dressing me up in one of her dresses and putting makeup on me!!!! and all the other kids too. The play went down well, I didn’t have too many lines to remember but for the last week at school everyone called me Gloria!
Short Term Boarders
About short term boarders, there was a mate of mine Peter Gow, in 1955 who came from Blackhall’s Park in Lake Macquarie City Council area. He stayed 7 months, left to go home for the Feast Day of John the Baptist De La Salle which was a long weekend and was never seen or heard of again as I recall.
The Great Debate (An ongoing search for the boy who was at the school the longest)
I don’t qualify but I did spend 10 years at boarding school, or maybe 9 and a half? Five years at Star of the Sea Convent in Newcastle; 3 at Clairvaux and 1 and a half at St Bernard’s. YOU GET LESS FOR MANSLAUGHTER! PS I always thought that ‘Tich’ held the record?
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES - Contrubutor Dennis McHugh (ex-student and Old Boy)
I read in a Newsletter about the wireless being installed in the dining room in April 1945. I wonder what the cost of a radio was in those days. Bro Michael apparently decided the school could not afford such a luxury so Bro Mark asked us all to make donations. It was a good acquisition and during four years of listening it gave me my first appreciation of classical music. At breakfast every morning it was tuned to the Hospital Half Hour, each programme being selected by patients in various hospitals and was usually a mixture of popular and classical music. From the supervising brother's viewpoint, it also kept us quiet!
Good to hear that Vic Byrnes is still with us, hi Vic, yes we must all be 80+, I wonder if you stayed in that cold town Orange, though probably no worse than Katoomba, Canberra is not much better, Laurie Hergenhan was the smartest of us all moving to Brisbane.
I had a file of old copies of the Newsletter, before the days of email, and there I found a letter from Bro Godfrey, written in 2000 from the Philippines. It was all interesting especially to those of us who were at the College in the 1940s.
The early 1940s was the era of collecting autographs of family, friends and anyone important to the collector, sometimes just a signature, sometimes with an added verse or advice. The last page of the 1942 and 1943 college annuals was blank with a heading, Autographs.
At present I am clearing out all sorts of old papers etc and I found an autograph book that must have been given to me for my birthday in 1940. Turning over the pages to 1942 I find signatures of Ken Mitchell (School Captain), Maurice Sheil (signed as Admiral, HMS Pinafore), Tom Maher, Syl Noonan, Bill Godsell, Joe Tulinsky, Edward Becker, Ted Hurley, John Dunk, Don Foy - ever an extrovert, signed himself as Donovan Chester Alexander Francis D'arcy Damien Foy Beverage Brother, Brian Sinclair, John Swadling as Josephine, John Madigan as Captain Corcoran, Peter Westoff as Dick Deadeye (all characters in HMS Pinafore), Bro Celsus, Bro Michael, Bro Patrick and Bro Virgil.
TIT WILLOW - Contributor Peter Dawso Dawson (ex-Student and Old Boy)
I have some nice memories of Beefhead at S.B.C.K. But one that stands out from the rest.
One Saturday night at dinner, Brother Leo told us that he had a surprise for us after we had eaten, he made the big announcement we are now going to be entertained with a song from "Beefhead" Francis. Apparently Warren had sung this piece at the recent eisteddfod in Lithgow I think.
Then from the mouth of this 16 year old came a lovely baritone voice as he gave us an unaccompanied rendition of "Tit Willow" from the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera "The Mikado".
Needless to say we were very pleasantly surprised & extremely impressed. It was a great way to finish our meal. I don't know if Beefhead continued to entertain his mates but we were suitably entertained.
A LETTER HOME - Contributor Brian Fahey (ex-Student and Old Boy)
I recently came across a letter I sent home to my mother when I was a junior boarder. I had asked her for two things. I asked could she 1) PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE send any spare tea coupons she had (I think it was Bro Mark who asked us to do that) and 2) a dress.
I needed the dress to play a girl (one of many) in the Gilbert & Sullivan Operetta at the end of the year.
KILLER STRIKES AGAIN - Contributor Warren Francis (ex-Student and Old Boy)
One of my clearest and favourite memories of being a boarder back in the day involved fellow boarder Killer John McCoy. Killer was standing on his bed, pillow in hand, ready to hit the first boy who came through the dormitory door.
Shock and horror it was Bro Cassian! He was NOT impressed and us boys were not game to laugh.
Ah well, boys will be boys as the saying goes.
ANOTHER WORLD- Contributor John Whelan (ex-Student and Old Boy)
It was 1951. I was 14 and about to commence life as a boarder in 4th year. I lived in western NSW and was totally ignorant of city life. I went down to Dubbo on the train and took my first ever ride on a plane, a DC3 belonging to Butler Airways.
I was sitting in the aisle seat. There was a girl of about 16 sitting in the window seat. I didn’t talk to her, she was obviously much too grown up for me. I didn’t know anything about girls, still don’t!
Along comes a hostess handing out barley sugar. I didn’t know what that was for but being 14 I took a handful and classed that as a bonus. The girl haughtily declined any. I was looking at the scenery out the window or trying to when the girl asked had I ever flown before, I said no, this was my first. I’ll give her her due, she swapped seats with me, saying she had “flown thousands of times before.” Before long, we were flying over the Blue Mountains, it was getting a bit bumpy when all of a sudden the girl threw up all over the cabin, and me. Afterwards, I figgered she would have been ruddy crook on her first flight!
I digress, I stayed with some family friends and they took me shopping for school uniforms as per the list the school sent me. Among the paraphernalia was a straw hat with the St. Bernard’s hat band on it. I wasn’t into hats let alone straw ones. The family included a couple of girls about 18 years old, again much too sophisticated for me, they persuaded me I should buy said hat and took me to Central Station to see me off, they also conned me into wearing this boater.
There were so many St. Bernard’s boarders on the train that the school had reserved a carriage just for us.
I was an object of curiosity to these hardened city slickers and several well aimed comments were directed at me, my hat, my apparel in fact, everything about me. I wasn’t all that impressed. One of them then suggested that I follow the school tradition and turf the boater out the window. I said I would do that if they threw theirs out first.
They weren’t expecting that challenge and didn’t have a ready answer so they did.
Hat less, we arrived at Katoomba station to be met by Bro. Leo who had also been at De la Salle Dubbo. He asked me in front of the others why I wasn’t wearing my hat, I told him I’d thrown it out the train window, he got angry and asked me why. Just following the school tradition I told him and I remained hatless for the next two years.
SCHOOL LIFE- Contributor Marcel Diebold (ex-Student and Old Boy)
Before St Bernard’s I was at Merrylands High School (the first year it opened) from 1st year to half way through third year, but it seems I was too difficult for either the school or my parents to handle. Hence my parents sent me to ‘St Bernard’s Penitentiary’ where their best friends had their son Frank Schmidt staying.
My colleagues can give you some better stories of the ‘French wog’, as I was known, as I was apparently a trouble maker involved in most fights - in defence mode. My only supporters were John Sumner and of course Frank.
I loved all sports with soccer being my strongest and which I still play now in the over 35s Sunday Comp.
Half way through 5th year (doing Maths 2 honours) it was evident that my English was still too poor to pass the LC, hence could not Matriculate which was an undesirable reflection on the College standard. So Bro. Leo expelled me on those grounds. (Unlike my 2 brainy younger brothers, one a GP in Tamworth the other a surgeon in Armidale).
From there I went to Patrician Brothers Fairfield but had to drop back to 4th year (in a class of 60 students). That only lasted 1 month as I saw it a waste of time when in maths they were teaching us how to draw a perpendicular line with a compass which I learned in 2nd year when I was getting 98% in geometry & drawing! Anyway, I left and my parents finally gave up on me.
EPSOM SALTS - Contributor Ross Murdoch (ex-Student and Old Boy)
One thing I do remember from St Bernard's days was the glass of epsom salts we had to drink every Saturday morning, at breakfast. We had, at our table for six, a young bloke called Colin Fraser. He had an unidentical twin known as "Fatty" Fraser (he'd probably be able to sue us these days!).
Colin was fairly slight of frame, & had VERY white hair. He used to charge the blokes at his table sixpence (??) if they wanted him to drink their epsom salts! No wonder had had extremely white hair.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD - Contributor Michael Casey (ex-Student and Old Boy)
I spent from when I was 5 years old to when I was 15 years old at boarding schools. Firstly at Star of The Sea Convent at Newcastle, then Clairvaux and St Bernard’s in Katoomba and they all did the same thing with the desserts - and that was serve every thing up with custard!!!
I loathe the stuff. Peaches, pears and jelly, it was all covered in the stuff. Sometimes the custard was burnt - gave it a bit more flavour? My wife and her family love it. They all think it's quite funny, but to this day I wont touch the stuff!
THE MANUS ISLAND CONNECTION - Contributor John Whelan (ex-Student and Old Boy)
Prompted by the fact that Manus Island is so often in the news these days, I am reminded of Charlie (Chas) and his younger brother Eric Munster. They hailed from Manus Island.
An Australian Army platoon was stationed on Manus. With Christmas on the horizon, the platoon corporal, a 6 foot six juggernaut aptly named Shorty asked Charlie’s father if he could spare a chook for the boys.
Getting the nod, Shorty dispatched the Munster’s prize rooster with a well-aimed shot from a 303.
The bullet then passed through Charlie’s leg, we all saw the entry and exit scars. We never heard what his parents had to say about it but Charlie claimed that the rooster was the first Allied causality in the war in the Pacific and he was the first “wounded in action”
There was a tremendous amount of equipment shipped to the island by the American forces, most of which was still crated and abandoned. During term holidays, Charlie would return to Manus and resurrect a jeep.
Everything was brand new; the only expense he had was putting new tyres on the vehicle and shipping it to Australia. He had no trouble selling them, a nice little earner if you just happened to own the right bit of real estate.
From memory, he did this several times.
The Japanese eventually overran Manus, the Munster family escaping to Australia in an open boat. There is no known record of Shorty’s further escapades.
VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE 1958 - Contributor Ron Clark (ex-Student and Old Boy)
The Scene: Intermediate Year at SBC and "Vocational Guidance" time.
The Vocational Guidance people arrived and future career paths highlighted.
We were given a very comprehensive list of about 200 Vocations/Jobs and asked, after deliberation, to chose just 3, and list in order of interest.
Merv Healy was Dux of Our Year. A straight "A" Student and a really admirable good bloke. He filled out the first two choices quickly, but could not decide on the third. After some frustration, he completed the list...just to have it completed.
I can't remember the first two, but will always remember the third! It went something like this:
All went very quiet for a while. Then Merv started to receive Lighthouse Keeper material. Quite a bit, I remember. Apparently Merv was the only student in NSW to have listed Lighthouse Keeper. He struck a responsive chord!
He was told that several Lighthouse Keepers in NSW were about to retire, so career prospects were very good!
Merv was truly amazed at this response. He was also the target of considerable ribbing from other Boarders and Day Boys (probably from the Brothers too).
1947 QUIZ KIDS - Contributors Ross Murdoch and Dennis McHugh (ex-Students and Old Boys)
Ross Murdoch found an interesting website that is well worth a look: Visit Our Site
One of the then quizzers, Dennis McHugh, commented further:
Thanks for forwarding the news about the 1947 quiz event. I went to the SBOBA reunion in 1987 and Brother Leo gave me the cutting from the Blue Mountains Gazette, dated 7 October 1987, but it contained just the photo and the associated news item so the rest of it is new to me. The original report in 1947 and all the responses to the 1987 article I found very interesting. I must admit I had forgotten most of the details about the Quiz Kids Session, my main recollection is of how nervous I was, sitting up on the stage in front of all those people with the honour of SBC on my shoulders! It cured me of ever wanting to be a quiz kid again. Tony Cunningham was the other rep for the seniors. We were both in fourth year.
RECESS RECALL - Contributor Ron Clark (ex-Student and Old Boy)
Two very talented brothers, John and Michael Murray, attended St. Bernard's in the mid to late 1950's/1960.
They were very close as brothers, very bright, great company, and had a wonderful sense of humour.
They were also wonderful mimics!
On Tuesday nights, at 7.30pm, ABC Radio broadcast "The Goon Show".
Homework could wait. On the following morning, at Recess (around 10.30am?) John and Michael would give a "Re-run" of "The Goon Show" from the night before.
John and Michael did it all from memory (and probably some notes as this was before any recording gadgets were on the market).
They were so talented, and so modest.
They were Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, and Spike Milligan, with voices and mannerisms.
They just got together, in front of the Chapel at St. Bernard's, and gave us (anyone interested) a hilarious show.
Practically verbatim...and so accurate!
They had a regular and appreciative audience. The highlight of a Wednesday!
I have not seen John or Michael since.
If they happen to read this, thank you to them for "something really special"!
LET THEM EAT CAKE? - Contributor Jim Joyce (ex-Student and Old Boy)
In 1956, my family moved to Tasmania and left me, a day boy, to become a boarder. It was a shock to the system and fortunately Col Ogilvie stepped in and decided to look after me.
The major problem, as all the boarders of that time will agree, was that we were all starving. There wasn't enough food to feed a canary let alone a bunch of growing lads.
One day, Colin produced some cake and shared it amongst a few of us (John Lyndon, do you remember?).
It turned out that Col had managed to relocate the cake from Father's cupboard (which was located in Father's office), to his starving mates (i.e John Lyndon and myself). Father's office was always open and the cupboard had glass doors where the food inside was always visible to hungry passing eyes. After Father advised Brother Leo of the ever decreasing quantity of cake in his cupboard, Brother Leo had locks fitted to the glazed cupboard doors. Problem solved? Not quite!
After a few days without cake, Col again came good with some tasty samples for his mates.
When we asked Col how he had managed to extricate said cake from a locked cupboard without breaking the glass doors he nominated two key factors
(1) The cupboard was not fixed to the wall and could be slid forward with a little effort, and
(2) There was no back in the cupboard.
Thus was provided a source of essential food for a small group of starving young boarders for quite some time before the amount of cake disappearing became too significant to be ignored and Father's office door was then fitted with a lock.
I don't think Brother Leo ever worked out how the cake could have kept disappearing through locked cupboard doors. He probably thought Father was eating more than he was admitting to. Ah, happy days.
SOME GREAT MEMORIES - Contributor Br Ted Becker (Patron, ex-Student and Old Boy)
I was interested in David Burke’s/Ross Murdoch’s accounts in the last SBCOBA Newsletter (August 2010). The purgative way that was followed by the matron in their time moved me to set down some thoughts of my own. In regards the above practice, I cannot be sure if the favoured treatment in my day was Epsom or Glaubers Salts, but I guess the effect was pretty much the same. In this and in many other ways we shared experiences that bind us together as Old Boys.
As I write this, I wonder who besides the likes of Joe Tulinsky, Mark Formby, John Walker and Syl Noonan are likely to be reading this piece of ancient history.
Who, for example, can recall the Fowl-house Brothers – that irrepressible trio from 1942 – Maurice Sheil, Colin Barlow and Brian Higgs? What a great group of funsters! How they lit up those days with their exploits! Maurie was the leader of the group – a natural wit (Dick Deadeye in the Pirates of Penzance that year to Tony Madigan’s Captain Corkeran and John Swadling’s Buttercup. Later, Maurie was to entertain professionally.) He was a good athlete. At night study or in a break between classes he could stand on the teacher’s platform and launch himself though the air to plant his hands on desks either side of the aisle three rows from the front. Swinging his legs through, he’d land on his feet inches from the back.
His partner in mucking up, Colin, achieved fame and admiration with his ability to put away a prodigious number of servings of curried spaghetti (the curry was the only flavouring besides the salt) at one sitting. I can see him now sweat pouring off his brow, as he forked in the fare that was unappealing to some others at table with him. We just kept passing those plates down to him…
Before this, we would have had the dividing of the butter ritual (real butter, by the way, from our ration coupons). The task was not lightly assigned. The modest slab of butter arrived on a bread and butter plate in one piece. It had to be divided precisely into six (or eight?) pieces - each exactly the same. The operation was carried out under the close scrutiny of 6/8 pairs of eyes. No need for Vernier calipers! Could it have been (the future Dr) John Walker who was entrusted with the dissection? Another dainty dish from those times came to us as scrambled eggs, although we all swore it was only custard powder and pretty watery at that. I don’t want to go on and on. Each year group would have its own tales of horror food simply because all boarders are voracious eaters and all remember Mum’s cooking. But you must remember that, for our group, it was wartime rationing as well…
How some of us looked for the chance to have a smoke on the QT! We were always able to run ahead on the walks to the Ruined Castle and get in a few puffs before the Brother arrived with his troupe. But, back home, right there in the college grounds, we had discovered a great place to sneak a quiet one – under the floor of the cottage which stood alongside the basketball courts on the left side as you looked down from the school buildings. This was where the Chaplain used to live. We were all right until he complained to Brother Patrick that he was being fumigated by the smoke coming up through the floorboards. I think he commited the sin of detraction, didn’t he? Anyhow, that was the end of that - and this is the end of this.
I look back on my four years at St. Bernard’s with warm appreciation. Great Brothers, good mates, wonderful experiences! I would not have wanted to be anywhere else than there in those days and I thank God my parents gave me the opportunity. Good wishes to everyone! In this and in many other ways we shared experiences that bind us together as Old Boys.
I could say I was only checking to see how mentally alert you were - you chronologically gifted souls from bygone days. However...Yes! Maurice Sheil was NOT Dick Deadeye. Dick Deadeye was Peter Westoff and Maurie was Sir Joseph (along with his sisters and his cousin and his aunts). John Swadling was Josephine and Sweet Little Buttercup was Barry Ford. Swad was only ten years old!
Mea culpa...from Br Ed
ST BERNARD'S HAD TALENT - Contributor Ron Clark (ex-Student and Old Boy)
In 1958, our Intermediate Year Class at St. Bernard's enjoyed impromptu horse race calling from one of our fellow classmates, John Atkins. John arrived at SBC that year as a boarder, from memory, and was quite a memorable character! John specialized in his "Ken Howard " rendition. Ken Howard was the doyen of horse race callers in New South Wales at this time. You could hear his distinctive, and famous voice on Radio 2UE (later 2GB) calling the Saturday afternoon races, all around the State, and all around Australia.
John needed no encouragement to demonstrate his remarkable prowess as Ken Howard. He sat at the back of our class and his speciality was to don the "airways" as soon as a teaching Brother left the classroom. With not a moment to lose, his clear and confident voice transported us all to Randwick, Rosehill, or Flemington. John had perfected not only the mimicry of Ken Howard, but also his persona.
All the famous expressions were there:
"You can bet London to a brick on...";
"...salutes the Judge!";
"Put down your glasses (binoculars)!"
And others, even to the advertisements:
"...that rich, red Fountain Brand Tomato Sauce!"
..."Yes Sir, Gents...want to look your best on the racecourse this season, Gents? Scarf Suits! Scarf Suits of course!"
Wonderful memories! John had such a gift! A reminder of how one person can make a difference.
ST BERNARD'S LONGEST SERVING BOARDERS
After much debate is was decided that
Equal First is Michael (Pud) O’Donnell and Colin (Titch) Rhodes with Close Runner-up David Burke (just one term short of the other two)
and possibly Patrick Elsley next. Les Young was disqualified for trying to claim double the years spent at SBCK as he had the two toughest
teachers during his time and we also acknowledge that Michael Casey (was known as Michael Clarke when at school) did spend the same amount of time at Boarding School as Pud and Titch -
just not all at SBCK.