What amused me sixty years ago

Sixty years ago (1955) I was in my first year at Sydney Boys High School.


That’s my mother and I in Vermont Street, Sutherland, 16 April 1955 – GPS Regatta Day. I hated the hat… And Sydney Grammar won that year.


Among my borrowings from the school library – or Sutherland Library – of which there were many would have been:





First Edition May, 1922.
Second Impression October, 1922.
Third Impression January, 1923.
Fourth Impression February, 1923.
Fifth Impression May, 1923.
Sixth Impression September, 1923.
Seventh Impression December, 1923.
Eighth Impression February, 1924.
Ninth Impression May, 1924.

Made and Printed in Great Britain.
Wyman & Sons, Ltd., London, Reading and Fakenham.

I remember laughing myself sick over “William” books. Mind you, looking at them again on Project Gutenberg they don’t seem quite as funny as they did at age 11.



It was raining. It had been raining all morning. William was intensely bored with his family.

“What can I do?” he demanded of his father for the tenth time.

Nothing!” said his father fiercely from behind his newspaper.

William followed his mother into the kitchen.

“What can I do?” he said plaintively.

“Couldn’t you just sit quietly?” suggested his mother.

“That’s not doin’ anything,” William said. “I could sit quietly all day,” he went on aggressively, “if I wanted.”

“But you never do.”

“No, ’cause there wouldn’t be any sense in it, would there?”

“Couldn’t you read or draw or something?”

“No, that’s lessons. That’s not doin’ anything!”

“I could teach you to knit if you like.”

With one crushing glance William left her.

He went to the drawing-room, where his sister Ethel was knitting a jumper and talking to a friend.

“And I heard her say to him——” she was saying. She broke off with the sigh of a patient martyr as William came in. He sat down and glared at her. She exchanged a glance of resigned exasperation with her friend.

“What are you doing, William?” said the friend sweetly.

“Nothin’,” said William with a scowl.

“Shut the door after you when you go out, won’t you, William?” said Ethel equally sweetly.

William at that insult rose with dignity and went to the door. At the door he turned.

“I wun’t stay here now,” he said with slow contempt, “not even if—even if—even if,” he paused to consider the most remote contingency, “not even if you wanted me,” he said at last emphatically.

He shut the door behind him and his expression relaxed into a sardonic smile.

“I bet they feel small!” he said to the umbrella-stand…

And back to Sydney Boys High in 1955. I posted this in 2007.

Sydney Boys High School 1955


Yes, fifty-three years ago next February this little boy from Sutherland started at age 11 to go to Sydney Boys High travelling through a Surry Hills Ruth Park would have recognised. The god-like Fifth Form students — High School only went to Year 11 then — included quite a few who became, well, god-like figures.

Did you know that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can trace its origins to the Department of External Affairs that was first established in 1901? Since that date, five old boys of Sydney High have headed the Department with responsibility for foreign or external affairs: Sir John McLaren (1887), 1929-1933 (as Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department); Sir Alan Watt (1918), 1950-1954; Sir James Plimsoll (1933), 1965-1970; Sir Alan Renouf (1936), 1974-1977; and Dr Peter Wilenski (1955), 1992-1993. James Plimsoll and Peter Wilenski have also acted as Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1959-1963 and 1989-1991 respectively…

In fact quite a crop have been through the old SBHS, as you can see. I belong to the much greater ranks of Undistinguished Old Boys…

One of THE most god-like to us in 1955 was Marcus Einfeld, son of Jewish Labor Party politician Sydney (Syd) Einfeld and his wife Billie. He did indeed go on to a distinguished career, and it is sad to read what is befalling him at this time. Just what he did remains to be tested, but if proven it really would make you wonder why on earth he did it, as Legal Eagle does in How the mighty may fall.

It is doubly sad because Einfeld was so often on the side of the angels, as in this talk in 2001.

Go to my original post to read the talk, as that link now leads to a “not found”. You can see the 1955 prefects here.

By the way, 1955 had been very wet.


The February 1955 Maitland floods rank with the 1989 Newcastle earthquake as chief among the news events and natural disasters in the Hunter’s history.