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how I survived being educated by the christian brothers

Waverley College. Late fifties.

They were testing times.

A little known fact about early membership to the South Bondi Boardriders club was that a private education such as mine didn’t count for much on the beach, as a matter of fact it meant a bloke came in at a disadvantage, one that had to remedied as quickly as possible in order to gain some credence when it came to calling out the infidels from Bondi Public when they thought they had the advantage.

Like dropping in on you, or snaking your best wave, or pinching your new board for a few waves while you were lunching at Pop’s up by the Astra. Or generally treating you like a dill. And it didn’t help that you lived at Dover Heights.

But what these under-educated no-hopers didn’t realise was that there were benefits to being incarcerated at Waverley College for the best years of your adolescent life. They could skive off to the beach whenever the wind changed because public schools didn’t have platoons of chinless wonders wearing prefect badges whose main aim in life was to make a bloke’s life miserable on those days when the westerly blew and the sound of waves breaking issued large in his imagination.

They guarded the gates and handball courts, they were officers in the cadet corps, they had little notebooks that listed your transgressions and they spent a lot of time whispering in the ears of brothers, incriminating their fellow students. Especially the half-dozen who surfed.

Brother ‘Bumper’ Farrell stood about 6’3″, weighed about 200lbs, had acne scars pitted all over his face and neck and his hands looked like they had been tempered by iron and heat.

Bumper coached the under 15’s, my team. Every Saturday a game. Every Saturday after five days at a school desk learning latin and french we had to go back, get on a bus and go play rugby while everybody who really mattered was down at Bondi, out the back and playing the game with no rules.

Bumper never got that. Never understood why this particular break-away missed game after game. It didn’t last and the test came one Monday when I faked up an injury to my left leg with tomato sauce and bandaids, knowing he would call me out after a no-show for the weekend’s game against Kings School.

Which we lost.

I still remember how good those waves were that Saturday, and here’s me on a new balsa shaped by Ray Young  ..

Bumper laid out six of his full-swing leather strap whompers on my right hand then six more on my left   .. all in front of the class and every one of the prefects sitting there smirking at my misfortune. The snide bastards.

Then  ..

two weeks later in a game where I had to show up because the school had dobbed me in righteously with my father, I managed to score five tries in a winning game and almost put the opposing winger into hospital with a broken shoulder because somebody had to pay for a wasted day.

Bumper was on tuck shop duty the following Monday, standing up at the door like the pub bouncer he should have been and when I came up to the top of the queue he took me aside, gave me a big grin then banged me a shot with his fist on my upper arm that still tingles when remember it.

He was well pleased with my five. And I remember him fondly for that blow of acceptance.

A bloke has to grow up sometime.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Terry Jenkings #

    The Marist Brothers in Paul St. were the same!! Did Ray Young ever smile when you got the balsa board? I doubt it 😂😂

    September 5, 2020
  2. He was a dour old boy, though he did lend me one of his boards when the one he was building me took too long to take away up to the Goldie … he even went so far as to fly it up. A couple of years ago I found out he was living up at Bruns so I rang him up to say g’day … had a long natter about the good old days. He said he only made about 30 balsa boards as he was more interested in chemistry. The one thing he never minded was a bunch of us crowding into his loft off Wellington Street to watch him working, Waverley College and Bondi Public kids taking days off school, he made boards for most of us … good man that.

    September 5, 2020
  3. Terry Jenkings #

    Aged about 10 or 11, I went with Warren Cornish to Young’s “ converted tree house “ near Dickson Park in the late’50’s to talk about a balsa board. Young was engaged in fixing a ding and never greeted,looked up or spoke directly to us. He grunted and growled. Scared the crapper out of me. I thought this is weirdsville !!!
    I spoke to Wayne Yates about the experience years later only to learn that Young made Wayne’s first board. He was certainly eccentric.

    September 5, 2020
  4. Yates was the eccentric one .. convincing me that climbing down a 300 foot cliff outside his home was character building, but no matter, I spent the next ten years trying to pinch his girlfriends. But I’ll say one thing about that salty old goofyfoot, he sure knows how to swing a property deal. Did me a favour once by suggesting the way to go in a negotiation for a property up here. Worked like a charm. I was going to send him a sling but didn’t know where he lived ..

    September 5, 2020

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