Dana Breese

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Dana Breese

My American family and I arrived in Sydney, in March 1966, after nine weeks of travelling together through third world countries. Met by Professor Mick Borrie and his wife, we drove past eucalypt bush and paddocks along the (old) Hume Highway. My younger sister, Brinda, and I counted cockatoos and searched without luck for kangaroos. At last, we arrived at 18 Carroll St., Hughes, our home for the next six months.  (A week later, while bushwalking on Mt. Ainsley we saw a kangaroo!)

While my dad was introduced to his new colleagues at ANU, Mrs. Borrie took us to Telopea Park High School (her daughter, Catherine was a Dux in the 5th Form).  My mother handed Mr. McPherson our American high school transcripts expecting a smooth enrolment into Forms 2 and 4. Mr. McPherson read aloud, asking rapid questions in an accent only Mrs. Borrie could translate. He tossed our papers on his desk and, staring at me, peered over his glasses. I began to shake. It was 14C in his office but I was more terrified than cold. His voice boomed, “Of course the girls have UNIFORMS?”  My Mom said, “Well, no. We just arrived yesterday.” Mrs. Borrie offered to take us to the used uniform sale, the next week. “No uniforms?” McPherson bellowed, “No school!” THOSE words I understood. Smirking broadly, I leapt from my chair. McPherson noted my reaction, my mother’s dismayed look and said, “Right-to! The girls may start tomorrow provided they wear appropriate clothing: no mini-skirts or any of that mod look and NO trousers.” Thus, dressed in turtlenecks, skirts, nylon stockings and penny loafers, we began our Telopea Park school days.    Little did we know how happy we’d be in uniforms!

Our family’s time in Australia was always recalled fondly. For the next 30 years, my dad remembered the school song and would burst into “Telopea forever” at the dinner table, or when a boyfriend visited, just to see us cringe. Unbeknownst to me, my sister, Brinda, re-entered the U.S. with a Telopea gray jumper and recently gave it to me, insisting I bring it to our reunion. It looks as stylish now as it did then! 

I recently quit going to high school when I retired from teaching art in Denver, Colorado. For thirty years, I taught photography, jewellery making and design in large public schools. Half of those years, I taught and was also the high school art consultant.  I earned a masters degree in the history of photography and volunteered at Camera Obscura Gallery, Denver, for many years.

It was fate that allowed me to return to Australia as an exchange teacher (replacement), in 1993. I taught at Berkeley High School, now Illawarra High School, in Wollongong. At that time, I located Beverley Carron’s [Payne] and Susanna Price’s parents, and got back in touch with them. Since then, I have been to Australia five times to see old and new friends, house sit in “my” ‘Gong house, and travel.  A part of my heart is always here.

Thanks to my parents, travel has been an abiding interest.  I’ve taken students to Europe or travelled on my own extensively, often sight-seeing on rollerblades.  I’ve never married and have no children however I’ve loved being an auntie to Brinda’s three daughters.

By the way, Brinda would enjoy hearing from Diana Turner, Elizabeth “Libby” Nevison-Smith and other  2nd Form classmates.


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