Many of us noted Australia’s ‘Mr Movies’, Bill Collins, dies aged 84. When I (and Dick Stratford) were Dip Ed students at Sydney Teachers College, Bill Collins, already well known on TV, was a lecturer — in Latin! He also like all the lecturers supervised student teachers in their prac sessions, and one such he supervised towards the end of 1965 at Cronulla High. I was also in that prac group, but supervised by someone else. (I was on Brendan O’Connor’s classes.) I think there were three of us students. Bill was rather waspish in his comments on one of our number, and we didn’t approve. I recall us ganging up on him one day about the way he was treating that colleague, but it is fair to say he took it well.
In my October 2011 post Meanwhile in Sutherland in 1954… I recalled:
[In 1954] The Odeon was still a flourishing cinema presided over by a dragon in the form of Miss Collins, aunt of the fabled Bill Collins. Here it is in the 1930s.
BILL COLLINS: Oh, dear! I was born in a place called Sutherland, south of Sydney, in the Sutherland Shire. And I was born there on December 4, 1934. The house where I was born in is no longer in existence. But it was within easy walking distance of the Sutherland picture show where my Aunty Lil was an usherette and where I became a frequent patron.
In 1934 there was the Depression. I say sometimes in moments of anguish, “I’m a child of the Depression.” And money was not easy. Life was a little tougher. But I think we were a lot happier then. The 1940s was an extraordinary period. The war was on and there were terrible things that were happening. But we also enjoyed ourselves a great deal. There weren’t many of the tensions that exist in Australia today. I can remember so vividly the night the Japanese submarines came into Sydney Harbour. And that was quite an extraordinary experience because by that time we had a trench in our backyard, as most people did in Australia. It was the worst of all times, and the best of all times. My mother’s name was Rita May Collins. Originally her surname was Miller. And my father was William Michael Joseph Collins. That’s why I became William, or Bill. And sometimes I think my father was lacking ambition. He just wanted to be in the police force and he loved being in the police force. My mother, she was a teacher. And I learnt a lot from her. It was my mother incidentally who started my interest really in classical music, for example. And my mother, of course, encouraged my reading and all the other things that I did during those years. When I was young, I would rather go to see adult movies than go to children’s matinees. I guess I was about nine years old when I saw ‘Gone with the Wind’. And I’d never seen anything like it before. I’d seen other big films but ‘Gone with the Wind’ emotionally, I think, got through to me. And I still remember vividly, one of the greatest scenes ever conceived and put on the screen, where she vows never to be hungry again…
This makes Bill Collins just one year older than my brother, by the way. I might also mention that in 1965 Bill Collins, then a lecturer at Sydney Teachers College, was the supervisor of a colleague student teacher at Cronulla High – and we rather gave him hell, I recall, as we thought he was unfair to her…
That has got me thinking about Cronulla High again. I was appointed to the English and History staff there in 1966 and stayed until 1969. I had my first inspection there:
I have been here in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills since 1992, and I brought quite a bit of unsorted rubbish with me. Some items go back, well, to Noah almost.
- My first inspection report from Cronulla High School.
Mr W is an enthusiastic and resourceful teacher who is establishing good relationships with his pupils at all levels of the school.
His lessons are thoroughly prepared and informed: he uses a wide range of material and shows enterprise in presenting this material to pupils who respond well.**
Following advice earlier this year he has improved his supervision of pupils’ work, increasing his effectiveness in teaching. The results achieved in recent examinations testify to his successful teaching: the results in Form V History and Third Level groups in English V are especially commendable.
It is recommended that Mr W’s efficiency be determined as meeting the requirements for the award of a Teacher’s Certificate.
— E. Guthrie (Inspector) July 28, 1966
I see I had Forms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 English and Form 3 History — That is Years 7-11 English and Year 9 History. No Year 12 as 1967 was the first Year 12 in NSW, and I took that (bottom) Year 11 class through.
** I am sure Eula Guthrie was not suggesting my lessons only worked with “pupils who respond well”! 😉
So I have been trying to recall my colleagues in the English Department in those years. Here is the list from 1969:
Looking at this list, what do I recall?
Jack Morrison was a good old guy to have had as my first head of department. Phyllis Wheeler was totally amazing as a person and as a teacher. Soon after she moved on to the famous Frensham School in Mittagong….
Some other names that I also recall: Geoff Borny from Jersey in the Channel Islands — an interesting character, and what a career he went on to, Paul Herlinger — responsible for some great school drama productions, including a Hamlet that starred Robert Graves’s grandson:
And more: Beth Kimball, an exchange teacher from Colorado who went on to tutor at Macquarie University then, I assume, returning to America.
Such a time it was of social change when I was 24, even in The Shire — where one Beth Kimball, an American teaching at Cronulla High School, introduced me to the following hitherto unknown exotica. Well, maybe not to the rose wine or the cappuccino, but they were new to me around that time.
Banana cake and carrot cake: both seemed quite odd things to do at the time…
You would be surprised how hard it was for Beth to locate this piece of exotica. What was wrong with Bushells or LanChoo anyway?