Random Friday memory 17 – Caringbah 1965

In an earlier post in this series I wrote:

In mid 1965 I had another practicum at Cronulla High, eventually leading to appointment there from 1966. In third term 1965 my last prac was at Caringbah High – well worth another memory post in itself.



The campus of Caringbah High School in Willarong Road, opposite my uncle Keith Christison’s place, had commenced in 1960. After 1967 it expanded northwards. These ghostly figures are the Caringbah High School band performing for the Duke of Edinburgh who visited during the Royal Tour of 1973, the main object of which was to open the Sydney Opera House.


But that’s the school pretty much as I remember it. Now it looks very different.


See Tim Frawley’s amazing gallery Creepy Caringbah campus a ghostly reminder of old school days.

IT was once a hive of activity full of students eager to learn.

But due to an unstable foundation, Caringbah High School’s north campus was abandoned in 2010 leaving behind lessons on whiteboards and notes on desks.

Now the only activity at the site comes in the form of vandals tagging it with graffiti…

The building is a haven of high school memories for Shire locals. It was recently used as the school backdrop for Channel Ten drama Puberty Blues.

More recently the building was damaged by a suspicious fire in 2013


Fifty years since I spent several weeks teaching there, and what changes have taken place! The site has recently been sold for high rise development. Cronulla High, on the other hand, which I revisited in 2011, looks much the same as it did in 1965.


Presumably he was the boss in 1965, but I don’t clearly recall him. I do recall the most brilliant and eccentric History teacher I ever met. Imagine Mr Keating in Dead Poets Society, but older! I have tried and tried to remember his name, but in vain – despite the fact that in 1984-5 he became a regular customer of mine at Harkers Bookshop in Glebe, always buying a stack of the latest literary magazines**. I do remember he introduced me to his class thus: “This is Mr Whitfield who will be teaching you the next few weeks. Now I know you treat me like old cheese….” Class: “We like old cheese!” Teacher: “…but I want you to be nice to him…” They were. The topic, I recall, was the Treaty of Versailles.

Caringbah High, now on the extended new northern campus, is prospering. It is a selective school these days. It was a beneficiary of largesse during the Gillard years.

Students from Caringbah High School in Sydney now have access to modern, world-class school facilities thanks to a $22 million upgrade and relocation program.

Minister for School Education Peter Garrett and State Member for Cronulla, Mark Speakman opened the facility today.

The six-year project to relocate separate campuses onto a single site was supported by an Australian Government contribution more than $16 million in capital grants.

“This upgrade has allowed the school to move with the times and replace traditional classrooms with a modern learning environment, including specialist learning spaces and integrated information technology,” Mr Garrett said.

The upgrade includes food, ceramics and wood technology learning spaces, a performance workshop, computer classrooms, a fitness laboratory, visual arts and science facilities, a darkroom, and administrative and storage areas.

A covered outdoor learning area and new sporting facilities including a gymnasium and cricket nets have also been provided, along with the refurbishment of learning spaces and amenities.

** Update: thanks to Ray Christison, my cousin, who went to Caringbah High I can now tell you the teacher was Val Byrnes, or JVB.

22 October 2015 Update

Thanks to KS for this email:

I attended Caringbah High from 1960 to 1964. The headmaster was Mr Prior and the deputy Mr Sellars. I lived just around the corner. The high school site used to be a quarry and my brother and I used to hang out there. In the 1950s the quarry was drained and filled and a road was put through it . My memory tells me that it was going to be a housing estate but later was taken over by the Education Dept and the school was built.

I remember in those early days big cracks appearing in some of the classroom walls. They later developed the lower school… well after I had left. As you do memories of school can be pleasant or otherwise … Mine were pleasant and enjoyable …. Good teachers. Mr Byrnes was a history/English teacher when I was there … slightly eccentric but pleasant fellow …. Yes maybe your description of him is accurate ….

Ah yes the good old days. I still copies somewhere of the school magazine “The Banksia Bulletin” from those years .