I turned 21 in 1964. The next Australian election was 26 November 1966. I voted in Cronulla, then still in the seat of Hughes. Les Johnson, who died at the age of 90 this year, was returned for Labor. Overall the election was a landslide win for the Coalition, which won twice as many seats as Labor. I had voted for the Liberal candidate, Don Dobie. The Prime Minister after that election was Harold Holt, who famously disappeared a year later.
No teacher at Cronulla High ever would have been so stupid as to challenge Jack on his knowledge of history, economics, politics or sociology. The school had a real mix of students, ranging from the sons and daughters of the British physicists sent to Australia to establish the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, to the wild kids from the isolated National Park village of Bundeena, who crossed Port Hacking by ferry when the weather permitted, and the kids from Kurnell, where the new oil refinery and chemical works desecrated the environmentally and historically significant site of Captain Cook’s landing place. We were the second year at the school to reach the Leaving Certificate and the 30-year reunion revealed that we had turned out the usual sprinkle of teachers, doctors, lawyers, tradesmen, real estate agents and a murderer.
My other abiding school memory of Jack is from our Leaving Certificate exam days. I had pretty well completed my exams, and was down at Cronulla Point considering the surf, which looked too big for me.
Jack emerged from over the rocks; long blond hair, suntanned, six foot tall. ”Got to go,” he said. ”Got my ancient history honours exam.” He headed off bare foot, carrying his flippers, to trudge the couple of kilometres up the road to school. It’s my recollection that he got a maximum pass – three first-class honours and two As in the Leaving Certificate – and may have topped the state in Ancient History.
But these were the ’60s.
Captures the time and place rather well, if just a few years earlier.
At some stage, probably more than once, I would have taught some Year Seven class or other what had become a standby item:
Yes, The Silver Sword. Have you read it, perhaps in Year Seven? Its scenes, though barely 20 years on, seemed in a rather distant past. Alas for this world fifty years on from when I first engaged with this text. You know what I mean.
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