A Reunion of sorts...Class of ‘83 25yrs after hurstbridge high school by Scott Joynson ~ Pictures Steven Lacey Not since turning 40 (which I’m still denying) had I agonised so much over something. It had all begun with a phone call. Pre-kids all telephone calls after 4pm and before 11pm were usually for me. More recently there had been a dramatic shift and virtually all calls were now love sick teenage boys looking for one of my daughters (I’ve got two), a Kennel related call for my wife Tania, or a call for my son Jack from one of his mates wanting to talk about the latest cheats for an Xbox game. “Dad….there is someone you went to High School with on the phone.” As I head off to take the call I’m wondering who it is and what they’d be calling me about – Amway! “Gday Scott, you might not remember me but it’s Brad Hay from Hurstbridge High School.” “Braddles,” I say, reverting back to his nickname which I haven’t used since – I’m not even sure how many years. “How are you going? Gawd... long time no see”. We chat lightly and as familiarly as if we were back in the corridors of Hurstbridge High organising one of those cricket matches where the sporty nerds take on the lady killer lads from ‘down the back’. It’s then that he tells me that he’s organising a reunion and that he’s hoping I’ll come along. I return to my chair thinking about Brad’s bushy eyebrows, his thick Elvis hairdo and the day he bribed us with chocolate so as to avoid birthday bumps. I’m quizzed by the kids and Tan separately all wanting to know who would be ringing for me at home. I talk about the plans for a reunion and Tan (formerly Tania Hooper a year level below me) laughs as she says, “So are you going to go?” I smile and say, “I am, and I think you should come with me.”
Over the days that follow Tan and I chat with the kids about the different ‘groups’ that made up our year 10 & year 11 classmates. “Mum…you weren’t cool!” I assure Emily (13) our eldest girl that her mother was actually a lot cooler than me and that I recall being a bit of a no group guy moving amongst the quieter nerdy types as well as enjoying a fair bit of banter with those impressing the girls down the back. “I think I was a bit of a sporty nerd and a smart ass,” I conclude before the conversation moves to how Tan and I got together. My life nowadays is shaped by routine. Work for Dairy Farmers during the day, head home to Welcome Kennels in Yarrambat, catch up with all the gossip from my three teenagers and of course find out how my wife is coping with managing the Kennel in the mad lead up to Christmas.
At work I’m invaded by stray thoughts about the reunion. A close up of a bulging cow udder with four plumb teats and no green stain is the final picture I need to crop for the magazine I’m putting together called the Australian Jersey Journal. Yet halfway through the task I’m back thinking about the phone call. Who would have thought someone in our year level would actually saddle up for the job of getting us all together and what was the motivation, aren’t we all too busy? I ponder on the different tribes that were our peers during high school; the nerds, beauty queens, hippies, sport heads, eccentrics and the cool. Who would choose to attend and even more importantly, would I fit in?
Without needing to actually pull out my old photo album and scan faces, I let my thoughts drift to the people that I couldn’t wait to swap stories with, those faces I sat next to in the many classes who were lost when I swapped the title of student for farm apprentice.
(L-R) Jody Frith, Kathy Hunt, Kim McCrohan, Jackie Closs, Leanne Hilton and Cathy Baxter.
Would Chook greet me by grabbing a handful of my shirt and dragging me effortlessly across hotel tables like I remember in science? Jammo (Mathew Jamieson) and I were surely to fall into a witty ramble that made no sense to anyone else but made us both laugh. Across the room but not too far away would be Willy (Mark Williams) he’d have dimples in his cheeks and an eccentric smile that was infectious it would be hard not to just pull up a pew and prompt him for his life since Hurstbridge High. The same could be said for the serious expression of John Dickson with his broody eyes and hearty laugh – I’d definitely need to explore his thoughts since school. I’m distracted by the voice of yet another farmer wanting to share his latest problem and have me magically wave a wand or something to make it better. I do what I can for him before allowing my thoughts to move back to the girls from Hurstbridge High.....
Ahhh, what a fetching lot – would they turn up wearing brown or grey jeans, canary yellow shirts and roller desert boots? Perhaps Kim McCrohan would still be in that head turning mini skirt she called a school uniform dress and even now I shake my head at the fact she wasn’t sent home to add several inches to the lofty hem. Of course I’d have to seek out Philippa Webb and apologise for messing with her very organised and sensible world by tugging her head to bum braided ponytail or sliding her bag up the isle of our Strathewen bus. Vicki Johnston would have to explain how she survived falling between the moving train and the Diamond Creek station platform. I’d also seek out Cathy Baxter and Meredith York to help me piece together a night where Cumo dared me to drink Ouzo and mayonnaise while Cathy’s parents were away. Would Tania Gouma, Kathy Hunt and Melinda Shepard still cause me to fumble words, smile with blushed cheeks and reduce me from court jester to a self conscious git? The memories flow throughout the day and are only dispersed by three pairs of teenage arms being thrown around my neck when I arrive home much later that evening. It’s only when I’m back in morning traffic that my thoughts turn retrospective again. There are so many moments I recall clearly and yet if I am honest, many of them taunt me with the fact that I’m no longer the same person. As you’d expect, I’ve changed a lot since then. I still catch up with Fletch (Graham Fletcher) from time to time, but our friendship has managed to survive our moves in different directions. He knows me as I am now, but all these other people – faces I haven’t thought about for so many years – how will they see me?
(above) Anthony Gwyther-Jones, Tania Gouma (Monica Rigby at her shoulder) and Craig Sloan caught in the headlights.
Will they expect me to be the same, just an older version of who I used to be? I’m overwhelmed with doubt. It occurs to me that while I have fond memories of school, perhaps they were my own deluded gilded version of the past and that the truth was I moved around our year level because very few would put up with me for any length of time. I agonise over the fact that I haven’t been starving myself or running 10km daily for the past 6 months so as not to appear in front of my peers as the doughy bellied middle aged bogan I see brushing his teeth in the mirror each morning. Worse is the thought that I am not at all successful. While I have enjoyed my journey in agriculture from farm apprentice to Executive Officer it is still Australia’s least important sector of the GDP in which I am employed. I find it best to busy oneself with the riggers of work when the internal critic gets on a roll. In fact arguing with an Agriculture Department official over the fact that one of the members of Jersey Australia had all but called him a tosser on our website forum seem a welcome distraction, and all the while the days to the Skinny Dog Hotel reunion pass all too quickly. Even as late as 5pm on the night of the reunion I consider piking on the event altogether. It’s only the stabilising effect of a Coopers Pale Ale and a good self talking to (yes we all had crushes and just because it seemed like the worlds most humbling of crushes, you are not going to let it affect you now!) that finds me waving with Tan to the babysitter and setting off sipping and shifting quietly in my seat.
“G’day Haggis, you haven’t changed mate... Oh I guess no one calls you Haggis anymore?” “No but plenty of people in there do”. Damien Rigby points me into the firm hand shake of Bradley Hay. Thankfully the medicinal beverages I consumed during the journey to Kew have blunted my nerves and my wide smile is met by identical mischievous smiles all around the room. At least 25 years have passed since I last saw most of the faces in the room and all at once I find myself without fear – just full of curiosity to know more about each and every person. Even at the height of embarrassment when I don’t recognise Sonia Free who had spent the most time with me in classes from Primary School to my final year at Hurstbridge High - all is forgiven. Now in the chatter, handshakes, roaring laughter and many stories, everyone is enjoying the feeling of being amongst trusted friends. It is surprising how many of the group have changed so very little, Laurellee Cowan comes to mind, whereas others were full of surprises. Eddie d’Cruz typifies the night for me, we all saw glimpses of his wonderful sense of humour at High School but here without his self conscious side we all experience the full version of his energy and fun. Our gathering had a liberal quantity of alcohol poured into its participants by the time the clock showed midnight. Perhaps it is this alone that adds to my sense of us being ‘one group’ rather than a get-together of cliques or groups. Tragically by the night’s end I had confessed my heartfelt crushes, apologised too many times to those who appeared unaware of any injustice and blurted too many stories of my journey since high school to faces that did well to pretend that they remained interested. In the days following the reunion I felt sorry for those who were not at the Skinny Dog as they failed to witness a quirky version of what a minister might call ‘fellowship’. I’m not one for organised religions but harbour a belief which might be described as the best bits of the mainstream faiths. (left) Eddie d’Cruz, Grant Perkins, Vicki Johnson, Neil Owens and Robin Owen.
(above) Meridith York, Cathy Baxter, Dayna Hope and Justin Osborne (who travelled down from Kalgoorlie!) check out the brochure promoting the Hurtsbridge High play.
Why would I offer that thought? I was deeply troubled by the losses our group had suffered with the deaths of Mathew Jamieson (who battled cancer bravely) and Janette Pueschel (run down by a car in Surfers Paradise). Their deaths reminded me of my own mortality which is easily overlooked when battling the small stuff that clutters our lives. My ramble ends here with the belief that the reunion was a roaring success, those who chose to pike rather than attended should make the effort to be at another get together if one eventuates. I’m thankful to Grant Perkins, Brad Hay and Damien Rigby for making the night possible - if it had been left to me I’d have remained busy with cows, kids and telephones. Scott Joynson email@example.com (right) Duncan ‘Sarg” Winton blinded in front of the camera...he I’m sure has plenty of shots as he roamed the room with his impressive lens.
(left) Eddie d’Cruz and Robin Owen discussing some of life’s mysteries.
(below) Dayna Hope and Olga Balijack pose for a passport photo.
(above) Olga Balijack receiving a cheque from David Cook...blackmail perhaps?
(right) Laurellee Cowan makes the trip down from Sydney
(below) Jedda Loft, Eddie d’Cruz (where’s his hand), Cathy Baxter (I’ll have what she’s having), ? and Dayna Hope form part of the front row for the group shot.
(right) Grant â€˜Terryâ€™ Perkins perfoming the master of ceromonies part of the evening.
(below) Sonia Free and Tania Gouma attack Jean Wooley with their flashes. (below) Jean Wooley tortured by the paparazzi.
(L-R) Jackie Closs, Kim McCrohan, Kathy Hunt, Andrew Constable, Jodie Frith and Steven Lacey.
(above) Tania and Scott Joynson at the bar while Jonathan Rann catches up with the polished and imposingly fit Duncan Winton.
(above) Sharon Watkins alongside her partner, Robyn Armistead, Jackie Goss, Kim McCrohan (getting ready for a nana nap), Kathy Hunt and Jodie Frith.
(L-R) Jodie Frith, Kathy Hunt, Alicia Ramplin, Robyn Armistead and Scott Joynson.
(below) Karlene Neal and Julie MacFarlane enjoy a bevy before the flash that burns their retinaâ€™s.
(right) Grant Perkins laughs at the unusual pairings... Scott Joynson and Sonia Free above Mrs Rigby and Mark Williams during the group photo.
(below) John ‘Yoda’ Uland with Robin Owen caught checking out the school photos as Alan Weaver heads for the rest rooms.
(back row) Debbie Robinson, Jodie Frith, Kathy Hunt, Kim McCrohin, Jackie Closs, Leanne Hilton, Cathy Baxter. (front row) Graham Guy, Anthony Guither Jones, Andrew Constable, Steven Lacey and Sean Smith.