Unapologetically wallowing in SBHS nostalgia

26 May 2021 evening: Thanks all for your interest in this post and the previous one! However, rather than try topping either now — or more likely posting a filler, I am taking another short break — maybe two days. Feel free to explore more of the blog in the meanwhile.

Over recent weeks I have posted several items about my classmates of 1959 and lately on Facebook I have been the poor old bastard looking back from 60+ years! And why not? Who knows how many of us, myself included, will be around to see 70 years on!

There was a time I thought this outrageously scary:

Nice song though… But 40 years on is 20 years ago now! Amazing.

Oh yes — and Latin. I have a soft spot for Latin, which I studied at SBHS and later at Sydney University.

Gaudeamus igitur,
Iuvenes dum sumus;
Post iucundam iuventutem,
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus,
Nos habebit humus.

Ubi sunt, qui ante nos
In mundo fuere?
Vadite ad superos,
Transite ad inferos,
Ubi iam fuere,
Ubi iam fuere.

Vita nostra brevis est,
Brevi finietur;
Venit mors velociter,
Rapit nos atrociter;
Nemini parcetur,
Nemini parcetur.

Google and you will find a translation. “Ubi sunt, qui ante nos/ In mundo fuere?” indeed. As I remarked on Facebook: SIXTY years on for yours truly! 🥰 Ubi sunt quī ante nōs fuērunt? And thank you, Edgar Bembrick (passed away 1960?) — I am glad I studied Latin!” And yes, that is a more classical version of the Latin tag.

And on Edgar Bembrick? I referred to this post:

I studied Catullus in 1959 under the tuition of Edgar Bembrick in his last year teaching. I have posted about Latin and Bembrick before:

I had studied Latin at school, mainly under the legendary Edgar Bembrick – his last class in fact. He died in 1960. See also my post 1957 or MCMLVII. So Latin as my fourth subject, just for one year, looked an easy choice. Except it turned out there was so much of it! Not just Cicero, but Livy and Horace – the Epistles, with Mr Duhigg, whose Cambridge accent charmed me.

Out of curiosity I have just done a quick search, finding that Edgar Bembrick was born in 1890, appointed to Canterbury Intermediate High in 1922, retired in July 1960. He was at Sydney Boys High long before I started as a student in 1955 — he’s in a 1943 staff photo. He was ill for some of late 1959 — cancer, I think.

Here he is, second from the left, in 1951 at SBHS:


And here am I when I first encountered him — though a Mr Maddox actually taught first year Latin, while second year was W E T Porter, a SBHS ex-pupil from 1904! Bembrick arrived in my world in third year, 1957 and we had him until his final illness in 1959.

So those 60 years on — here you are. I noted again: Even makes this ex-staff and ex-Class of 1959 pensioner a touch teary.

And way back 60+ years — though this is a publicity shot and we rather hated those hats!

Many years later:

In Surry Hills, around 2007


Responding to comments made by Marcellous, here is another video from that Class of 2019. I had posted it on Facebook. Do note the white ribbons, signifying the White Ribbon Campaign, a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.

And in reply to Tikno, in 2017 this got a lot of publicity:

And something else to show another side of the school, from Mothers Day 2021:

Radio Daze…

Old bastards like me instantly know these faces — all three of them!

Top (he’d like that!) is Jack Davey (1907-1959) and below are Bob Dyer (1909-1984) with Pick-a-Box contestant extraordinaire Barry Jones (1932-), who later went on to become one of the most respected Australian politicians ever and a serious writer/historian.

Giants of radio in the 1950s, Davey and Dyer went on the TV after 1956, Dyer much more successfully. Davey by then was a sick man. I thought of them after reading a Facebook post by Warren Fahey: “Happy birthday BOB DYER. ‘Pick a Box’ Bob Dyer was born this day in 1909. He was great radio and as a kid I waited breathlessly for the quiz answers and, of course, a crack at ‘the secret sound’. I also liked Bob’s hillbilly singing and banjo uke playing….”

As for 10-12 years-old me in Vermont Street Sutherland, I was glued to Radio 2BL every afternoon from 5pm…

More odd posts from March 2008

Imperial Views, Colonial Subjects: Victorian Periodicals and the Empire

Posted on  by Neil

See Images from an Exhibition Sterling Memorial LibraryYale University August – October 1999.

Not all these come from that exhibition. I grew up reading old bound copies of the Boys Own Paper and Chums. This post is inspired by Good luck, Davo.


The Illuminated Magazine (vol. II) January 1844


Allan M. Taylor. “The Chums: An Australian Sketch,” The Boy’s Own Paper (vol. XI, no. 419) January 22, 1887.

Stanley Wood 001

Stanley Wood was a prolific illustrator of British newsmagazines during the Great War. His style appears to have a lot in common with later pulp fiction novel covers and comic book covers. It is quite hectic and full of dramatically moving people with exagerrated facial expressions.”


Worse than *stranger danger*! Shirtless for Empire in the Boys Own Paper.

More nostalgia

Posted on  by Neil

I used to read this regularly, well into early adulthood. Did you?


From 1960.

Yet more nostalgia

Posted on  by Neil

Thanks to Collecting Books and Magazines Australia I found the very volume, or one of them, that I read practically from cover to cover at Aunt Beth’s place in Sans Souci some time around 1954.


The next item for nostalgia may seem rather odd:


Aside from their being a familiar sight at SBHS during the 50s, it was perfectly normal for Year 9s (Third Years) at Cronulla High to bring them into class and rest them by their desks during English lessons in 1966, my first year of teaching…

Different times, eh!

Towns I’ve stayed in 1 — My father’s birthplace: Shellharbour NSW

Posted on  by Neil

Also where my father and mother married, and a place I spent much time in up to the early 1980s.


That 1906 map — five years before my father’s birth — links to a full size copy on the Internet.

Not everything in the “good old days” is good

I think I have mentioned before that at 77 I am totally into nostalgia at times — hence the last two posts, and this next one which again reaches back to 1955, my first year at Sydney Boys High, the year I turned 12, and incidentally the year my brother Ian married. This is Ian (right) on his wedding day:

The marriage lasted around ten years, four children ensuing. Interestingly, after 50+ years I have renewed contact with Aileen, the woman he married in 1955, who kindly sent me this painting a few months back. She is quite an artist.

I belong to several nostalgia groups on Facebook, the most active lately being Memory Lane – Growing up in Australia with currently 17.5K members. Mostly it is lovely stuff, and I have submitted a few things myself. But at the same time I have noted some there for whom the following quote from Carolyn Gold Heilbrun — an interesting person — is I suspect true.

Thereby can emerge what we may call “Hansonism” in Australia, but even worse and nastier things — and it is disturbing that hints of such dangers do emerge from time to time. Generally the administrators and bulk of group members crack down on such things. The majority of posts are just personal and loving memories, or quirkish bits of trivia, and so on. Many are excellent, really valuable social history.

Today in my trip down Memory Lane I am deliberately taking this path because while it is part of the zeitgeist of 1955, it is something I am now deeply ashamed of. Billy Ling, my old classmate, if you are out there I am very, very sorry!

Woodwork and Tech Drawing were taught in our day only in First Year at Sydney High, and to do them we had to cross Moore Park into what was then deepest Surry Hills to what was then Bourke Street Junior Tech. We were always warned never to go there alone, but always in pairs. The warning was serious! Today of course is very different.

Bourke Street Public School
A Woodwork Class at Hurstville Boys High in 1930, but Bourke Street 1955 was identical.

I was hopeless at Woodwork and messy at Tech Drawing, a bit embarrassing given my father and brother and grandfather Whitfield were all carpenters and builders.

But the memory that shames me concerns one afternoon when we were lined up waiting for Woodwork class.

Billy Ling was the only Chinese person in our entire year — Australian-born of course. I was not normally a bully — I lacked the physique or the inclination. But this day for some reason I got stuck into Billy Ling. Perhaps he had provoked me — I don’t recall. But I did make a totally obscene reference to his skin colour, in the racism scale beyond the usual Ching Chong Chinaman stuff. Yes I was 11 or 12, but I really did set out to hurt him, and looking back am not only ashamed, but realise that a great deal about the “good old days” is not good at all, that our journey towards a multicultural inclusive Australia has been the right journey to make and is a journey that we must never look back from.

1955 — after all it was still White Australia. By 1958-9 it was beginning to break down. In our senior classes at Sydney High we had some new students thanks to the Colombo Plan — with names like Oon Tat Goh. And one of my circle of best friends 1957-8 — before he went off to London and St Paul’s School — was Ashok Hegde. His mother made the best curries I had ever tasted — not hard given Oz curries then were made with Keen’s Curry Powder! His father was, I think, an Indian Trade Commissioner in Sydney.

Mind you the journey has not been evenly progressive. James Flowers recalls that in his time at Sydney High in the 1970s he was subjected to racist taunts — “yellow tongue” for example. He is now a Research Fellow at Kyung Hee University, Korea, in Traditional Chinese Medicine. He was born in Singapore. In the early 2000s he was Secretary of the Sydney High School Old Boys Union. His school experience appears in my book From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt (Longman 1995).

I have never forgotten Billy Ling, and am not even sure what happened to him. I think he may have left at age 15.

Blogging the 2010s — 90 — September 2016

My 17th September as a blogger, and my sixth in Wollongong! 

1950s Sutherland: sheer nostalgia 60 years on

Do go to the source, Picture Sutherland Shire, for (currently) 465 images.

Yesterday I wrote: “We spent much of 1953-4 looking for Russian spies in the bush in West Sutherland, being excited further that they were building Australia’s first (and still only) nuclear reactor just across the Woronora at Lucas Heights.”


And here is Sutherland Shire Council Chambers in 1954, the year of the Royal Visit:


Note which flag flies highest. We were still “British Subjects” in those days.

At Federation in 1901, ‘British subject’ was the sole civic status noted in the Australian Constitution. The Australasian Federal Convention of 1897–98 was unable to agree on a definition of the term ‘citizen’ and wanted to preserve British nationality in Australia. An administrative concept of citizenship arose from the need to distinguish between British subjects who were permanent residents and those who were merely visitors. This was necessary for the Commonwealth to exercise its powers over immigration and deportation. Motivated by the nationalism of Arthur Calwell, the Minister for Immigration 1945–49, this administrative concept was formalised in the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. In 1958 the Act was amended so that naturalisation could only be revoked if obtained by fraud. This prevented a naturalised person being stripped of citizenship and deported.

Throughout the 1960s, Australian citizens were still required to declare their nationality as British. The term ‘Australian nationality’ had no official recognition or meaning until the Act was amended in 1969 and renamed the Citizenship Act. This followed a growing sense of Australian nationalism and the declining importance for Australians of the British Empire. In 1973 the Act was renamed the Australian Citizenship Act. It was not until 1984 that Australian citizens ceased to be British subjects.

Next to Council Chambers was the Library. In 1954 I was a frequent borrower. The children’s books were in the room to the right of the front door.


And local shops that I would often have been in. The car could even be our Standard Vanguard, if this photo was taken around 1953. We had graduated to a Vanguard Spacemaster by 1954.


Not exactly crowded is Sutherland’s main street, is it? I suspect too by the light that this is summer.

South Australian superstorm and outage

Yesterday a superstorm led to a total power failure in the entire state of South Australia. Think about that:



See SA power outage: how did it happen?  One element some have raised is the fact that South Australia relies more than other states at the moment on renewable energy.

Key points:

  • South Australia has the highest rate of renewable energy in Australia
  • The ‘one in a 50 year’ weather event ‘couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen’
  • SA to be an example for other states and territories when planning for significant weather events

So, maybe not.

Earlier this week, the Grattan Institute released a report detailing the pressure high uptake in renewables had put on the state’s wholesale power prices, and how it was being viewed as a test case for the rest of the nation.

But the report’s author, Tony Wood, said the blackout was as a result of a particularly violent storm and it was usual for a system to shut down to protect itself from further damage.

“My understanding, at least at the moment, is there’s no evidence to suggest these two issues are related,” Mr Wood said….

Mr Wood said the investigation into exactly what happened would help other states and territories plan for significant weather events hitting power infrastructure, even though South Australia’s network was quite different.

“South Australia itself is a more concentrated grid city network than say, for example, Queensland which is more strung out.

“You could imagine a situation in which a city in Queensland, such as Townsville and Cairns could have been affected by a similar freak storm, which took out all the power in that city, it doesn’t necessarily mean that would cascade through all the way down to Brisbane.

“These systems are designed with a lot of redundancy, a lot of protected systems. At the end of the day, the main issue is to ensure the safety of people and the safety of the system is protected by the system itself automatically shutting down.”

We haven’t heard the last of this though.

7884738-3x2-700x467Image of South Australian storm by Erik Brokken — on ABC News