Retrospectives Toxic Custard newsletter

Thirty years on

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

This is especially so for school reunions. My eldest son is pondering whether to even go to his – the people he wants to stay in touch with, he does via Facebook.

Fair enough.

I however do go to my school reunions. Melbourne High School has an active Old Boys Association which is very well organised for them.

The 30th (gulp) reunion was on Friday night.

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The old school. 30 years on #gulp

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Those of us who got there by 5:30 got to have a tour of the school. Much of it looks about the same, but most (but not all) of the old portable buildings have been replaced. Overall the grand old school building is looking good, though a little shabby in places. There’s never enough funding for as much maintenance as they’d like.

And… gasp… we got to go to the top of the tower. I never got to go up there as a student.

The view was spectacular.

View from the tower at Melbourne High School, looking west across the city

View from the tower at Melbourne High School, looking northeast

View from the tower at Melbourne High School, looking east

The reunion proper was down in the pavilion as usual. Of the 300-odd-strong cohort, about 60 attended, perhaps not too bad after this long.

Some speeches, a flood of memories, some reflection on those who didn’t make it to thirty years, then some raucous singing.

The song “Forty Years On” might have been specifically designed for school reunions, and it’s damn devious of the school to implant it in our brains while when young so we can belt it out in our senior years.

Most valuable was some good chats with old friends who I hadn’t seen in a while.

One bloke I was with at primary school too. We had a strong bond in grade six (what’s that, 36 years ago?), but we lost touch in high school — and having thought about it over the weekend, I think that was my fault.

Melbourne High School at dusk

So it was good to catch up, have some laughs and reminisce over old times.

Great to see them all in person. Better than Facebook and Linked In.

And the view from the tower was better in person, too. Well worth going.


25 years on – school reunion

The weather on Friday night wasn’t favourable, but I think we all had a good time at the 25th school reunion in any case.

Amusingly, it clashed with the year 9+10 social in the main building. When I first arrived (wearing a black suit) I was asked if I was with Security.

Melbourne High School in the rain

It was a mixed group of 25 years/1988 and 20 years/1993. I assume the Old Boys Association reckoned that was the best way to make it viable to run it. About fifty of each group showed up.

Things I learnt on the night:

Melbourne High SchoolI seem to have forgotten the words of the second verses of the school song Honour The Work, as well as Forty Years On and Gaudeamus Igitur

Apparently of the staff at the school in 1988, a staggering 15 are still teaching there 25 years later, including my year 12 maths teacher Mr Ganella, who was there for the reunion. He doesn’t look a day older, except his hair’s a bit greyer.

Likewise, as on previous occasions, many of my classmates looked the same… some a little greyer, rounder.

At least one hadn’t put his boys up for Melbourne High, in part because of the travel distance involved from Eltham (fair enough — when I was there, some students travelled from as far away as Mount Eliza, Launching Place and Gisborne) and because his friends had been scattered around Melbourne (perhaps I was lucky, as many of my friends were in the inner-southeast).

Some have been through some big challenges in their lives, but all those who came seem to have got through it okay with an optimistic viewpoint, and many seem to be living the dream — with things exactly how they want them.

I don’t recall looking at the 1988 honour board before, but I note a high proportion of people from my original year 9 (1985) class, which is kind of nice.

The most well-known last day prank in 1988 was a (lewd in parts) spoof of the school newsletter which was distributed to all year 12 classes. I finally discovered the anonymous students behind it.

A higher-profile incident was this one at Box Hill station, which other students volunteered to clean up — the description of the incident from the stationmaster is particularly amusing — and you can see from the uniform why we called them gumbies:

Finally, pranks obviously still take place… in one of the hallways of a newer building, I found this picture, supposedly of distinguished old boy Michael Gudinski:

Distinguished Old Boy: Michael Gudinski?


Before Facebook and Twitter, we did analogue social networking with paper and pen

Tonight I’m going to a school reunion. Almost unbelievably, it’s 25 years since year 12 in 1988.

To mark this occasion I’ve dug out something even older than that.

Once upon a time, before Facebook and Twitter, we couldn’t write on each others’ Walls or send a Tweet. On occasion in class, we’d pass a piece of paper around instead and write notes on it.

Here is one that survived, from July 1986.

Analogue Facebook wall, from a class in July 1986

As you can see, the chatter amongst myself and my friends at aged 15 was pretty moronic — a mix of tech talk (if you think the Mac/PC/Linux debate is heated, that was nothing on Commodore/Spectrum/Amstrad), Monty Python quotes and personal insults.

I don’t know if any of the other participants in this page of silliness are around and reading my blog… Most are referred to by initials only, so if they wish they can out themselves if they do happen to see this.

Clothes Retrospectives

No old school tie for me – how about old school cuff links instead?

I’m not a great cuff link wearer, but recently I inadvertently bought a shirt that needs them, and I couldn’t find any at home.

I noticed the school Old Boys association sells them, so (I guess to mark 25 years since I did VCE — gulp) I bought some.

Melbourne High School Old Boys Association cufflink

I don’t mind these… they aren’t too obvious when seen from a normal distance. I’m glad I got the plain pewter design though, not the coloured enamel ones… for an old boy design, I think I prefer it to be subtle rather than SHOUTY.

I don’t wear ties anymore. One commenter on a previous post about shirts noted the idea of collecting differing cuff links instead of ties. I’m not sure I’d go down that path, but I would consider getting a few more of different designs.

PS. Any other MHS ’88 people reading, apparently the 25th anniversary dinner is on 31st of May. Hope to see you there!

music News and events

Happy Australia Day (and make sure you have a ticket)

Yarra Trams: Australia Day 2012

The words on the left are from I Am Australian, by Bruce Woodley:

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream, and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

Wikipedia says the song was written in 1987. I’m pretty sure either that year or the year after, we sung it at Speech Night at Melbourne High School. (Woodley, like his fellow seekers Athol Guy and Keith Potger, went to Melbourne High.)


Twentieth reunion

Friday night’s 20 year school reunion had all the standard components: old mates chatting; drinking; fairly raucous singing old the school song; a meal; more drinking; a few speeches, that kind of thing.

And a school tour. If my kids had been there, I’m sure they would have thought it was very Harry Potter, especially the school tower, which now contains the school’s archive, with many and varied items of interest. The library is now the staff room. The computer room is now the geography department. The hall has barely changed — even some of the seats are the same.

Colin, the President of the Old Boys Association is an ex-teacher at the school, and this made for some amusement, as he attempted with his best stern teacher’s tone to get people to quieten down during the speeches.

A number of blokes I knew well at high school but whom hadn’t been in touch over the years (including the previous reunions) showed up, which was great. Most looked similar to how they had done years ago. Many now have families and kids.

John and Tristan decided that Essendon coach Matthew Knights was the most prominent old boy of our year, though he didn’t attend on the night.

Some noted my efforts, which was nice. And Andrew, who I had a lot of laughs with in years 9 and 10, surprised me by saying how much he enjoyed the How To Destroy Your VCR web pages.

One of the current assistant principals spoke of the current school’s battle — to prevent a 25 storey building going up behind the historic 1927 building, spoiling the vista. Most of us were roused up enough about this to give money on the night to the fighting fund.

Was a great night. To be followed up with a flurry of emails and Facebook additions, no doubt.


Not everybody made it

This year marks the 20th anniversary of my leaving high school, and the Old Boys’ Association has a reunion dinner organised which I’ll certainly be going to. I’m even thinking I might go early for the tour of the school, to see how it’s changed. (A teacher I knew at a different school is now principal, for a start.)

The MHSOBA web page has a summary listing of which ex-students they know about: name, years at the school, postcode. The postcodes are mostly in Victoria, with the odd UK (or possibly Canadian) format postcode, and one or two at five-digits, apparently in the USA. One I know to be Polish, and a couple in formats I don’t recognise. Some are blank – out of contact.

And there’s another column: “Dec”. Of the roughly three hundred names, three four have this column filled-in. If I’m reading it right, these are the people who — like my friend Charles (who attended another school) — didn’t make it to their 20th anniversary year. It was a big year group, and I didn’t know these guys personally, but that saddens me a bit.

Maybe we should toast them on the night.


15 years on, when afar and asunder

It was my school reunion last night. 15 years. I’m getting old.

It was good to see people again. I went to the one 5 years ago – less people turned up this time, but still a crowd of about 60. As last time, we were all a little fatter, balder and/or greyer, apart from the bastards who hadn’t changed at all. And it’s interesting to see where people ended up – a bunch of IT people, a few artistic types, a couple of airline pilots, an accountant or two, a car designer, an environmental scientist, a couple of teachers, a couple of cops (one of whom, eerily, is the spitting image of a guy I know in the CFA)… and all the rest. And of course we did the traditional things – drinking, singing the old school song, drinking, telling tales of personalities and pranks from days of yore, and more drinking. Good stuff.

Things wound up in time to catch the penultimate train home, and I found myself with a bunch of the blokes, standing around on the concourse of South Yarra Station causing trouble. Which just shows that nothing’s really changed since our school days.

Something hit the back of my foot. A blind guy almost walked into me, and he asked us where the next city train was from. One of our number, who was possibly more intoxicated than was apparent from his speech, posture and stability, glanced at the big screen, and not only directed him to the wrong platform, but also made the mistake of directing him by pointing and saying "That way!" Fortunately sanity prevailed and one of the others who could read the screen properly, and knew how to guide blind people around stations, took care of things.

My 23:58 train arrived. Walking home the street was dark and quiet… except for the Internet shop. I glanced in the door as I passed – half a dozen hard core netters were wide awake, surfing for all their worth into the night.

Surely I’m not the only one getting old, going to reunions every few years to reminisce? Do some people avoid them, figuring the only people you’d meet are those you specifically didn’t bother to keep in touch with?



[Me before I had any grey hair, in 1988]For those who share my age of 28, this year is the tenth anniversary of leaving high school, which means it’s reunion time. Mine was last Wednesday night; a chance to get a look around the school to see how it’s changed, and to catch up with a few people that I haven’t seen since that fateful last day of Year 12.

Some people are fatter, some greyer, some with less hair. Some looked identical to how they looked in 1988. Most certainly seemed to be wiser. A few still at university (some with no prospects of escaping – and loving it). Lots of professional computer geeks like me. A cop, a photographer, a physiotherapist… a bit of everything, really.

Of the 300-ish of us who left in 1988, about 100 turned up, which is not a bad number. And as I gazed around the room during dinner, I came to the conclusion that people at peer group reunions fall into four categories*:

  • The people you knew who you’ve kept in touch with
  • The people you knew who you haven’t heard of in ten years, and so are subsequently surprised to see how much fatter/balder/thinner/greyer/the same they are
  • The people you recognise because they were well known in the group, but whom you didn’t actually know
  • The people you recognise – but don’t know why
  • The people you don’t recognise at all because it was such a big group

After dinner, a few drinks, a few anecdotes (one day I’ll have to discover the full truth behind The Box Hill Incident), and yes, some fairly rowdy singing of the school song and various other ditties, I was left wondering where my co-conspirators in our last day prank were – and whether or not anybody else remembered it. It involved water pistols, bean bag beans, and an unprovoked and fairly messy attack on some otherwise innocent teachers during a junior assembly. Perhaps it’s a subject to be raised at the next reunion.

*It took almost five years for anybody to notice and point out to me that there are actually five categories listed. D’oh.