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.
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.