memories ....

Richard Swan

The Right to Not wear a school tie

This was in 6th form. The rule was that we were supposed to always wear a school uniform, which included the tie. I have avoid wearing tie almost entirely since I left Telopea just because of the pain of putting it on every morning. I think that I was not the only boy who did not always wear a tie.
We had several periods a week in “study hall”, the senior library. Mr Burnett, who had somehow taken a dislike to me although I never had him as a teacher, supervised the period. One day he noticed that I was not wearing a tie and upbraided me in front of the entire class. He very publicly ordered me to wear a tie whenever I came to his class.

Revolutions have started for less!

Ian Barnes offered to go a sympathy strike but then wimped out by saying that since he was a prefect he really should wear his special striped tie. I plotted what to do. I planned to bring a tie in my backpack and put it on conspicuously just before entering the library. But I think I forgot and just did not bring the tie. I got away with it for one more session – Mr. Burnett did not notice.

However in the next session he noticed—he again yelled at me in front of the class and ordered me out of the classroom. What I remember most about this incident is that some kids supported me, quietly, and at least one boy supported Burnett. I thought it was very disloyal – I did not care what Burnett thought but I did care what my friends thought.

The teacher had got himself into a predicament. I knew the school inspectors were coming the next week. I had images of setting up a chair and desk outside the library and studying without my tie. When the inspectors came by and asked why I was not in the room making use of all the books, I would explain that I was forbidden to read because I was not wearing a tie. I stayed away for a period or so and then I was summoned to the head office. Mr McPherson wanted to speak to me.

McPherson was a clever man. He asked me, as a personal favor, to wear my tie just one time to the library for Mr. Burnett. He would speak to Mr. Burnett and  explain to the other teachers that I was wearing a tie at his personal request. So, I did manage to bring a tie for the next period and walked in. Burnett did not try to score any points and I carried on studying. After that incident I don’t think I ever wore my tie to Telopea again.

In retrospect,  it was incredible that a teacher would make this kind of issue when society was worried about kids taking drugs, some elder brothers were being shipped off to fight in Vietnam and other elder brothers, like David Bisset, were taking very public, principled  stands to avoid the draft.

Science forcibly communicated at Telopea

I was very interested in science and probably a smart alec in many science classes. One year we had Mr. Street for Science. I suspect I was particularly obnoxious for asking questions that I knew he could not answer. Any way in one class Mr Street was having difficulty keeping the class under control. I must have asked one too many questions, because just for asking a question he sent me out of the room and made me stand in the teacher preparation area. After the class he walked in, told me to hold out my hand, and caned me.  What lesson was he teaching me?

How we used high tech to protect paradise

In general I remember Telopea as a kind of Camelot where rain only fell in the evening. But we know that there was bullying, I was beaten up a few times, and many kinds of hurtful behavior in our special paradise. At one point there was a rash of thefts from the area around the lockers near the staircase up to Mr. Price’s office. Len Whyte and I either volunteered or were drafted to try to monitor the area for theft. We laid a trap by putting something attractive, no idea what would have been attractive in those days, at the top of an open school bag. Underneath this “attractant” we had a switch and a radio transmitter.

We placed a huge, originally very expensive, old communications receiver in Mr. Price’s office and various of us took turns to sit by it waiting for a buzz. The idea was that if the bait was effective and the trap sprung, we would rush down the stairs and collar the dastardly thief. Of course, the bait was never taken and eventually everybody lost interest.


| BACK | TOP |