I forgot to grumble about the 'school reunion' I went to on Sunday.
I used quotes there (I used my fingers when I reported back to the family) because I was sorely disappointed by the whole thing, and being my father's daughter, I knew exactly how the event could have been better without spending any money.
I used to go to Campbell Primary School in Canberra in the 1970s, right in the thick of the Whitlam era, the epicentre of weird craft and red wine dinner parties. My main memories of the school are:
- The library. When you finished having both sides of your card stamped they would staple on a new one. By the end of the year my card was more like a thick book, and certainly didn't fit inside the little pockets at the back of the books.
- Being able to walk from the library to my open-plan classroom (the first in Canberra!) without looking up from my book.
- Playing on the oval that was shared by our school and the Catholic school on the other side. Most of the time we shared amicably. When the wind was up we'd have spats. Most of the play involved 'catch and kiss'. I was never one of the catchers or kissers, I had new glasses and wasn't very desirable so I either played 'photographer' or just went back to my book.
- Being given a week's worth of homework in the open plan set-up and either finishing it straight away & reading the rest of the week, or leaving it all to the last minute (reading the rest of the time) and finishing it all in a panic, a habit that has lasted a lifetime.
Halfway through Year 6 we moved to England, so I didn't get to 'graduate' or whatever primary school kids did then.
When I saw that the school was having a 50th reunion, I got a little bit excited, because I've bumped into old classmates here & there and liked them, and one whom I really, really like, but every time we see each other she gives me her card, which I promptly lose, and we lose touch again. (See sidebar for statement that I'm a hopeless friend.)
Meh. I got to the school on Sunday and it was just a glorified big fete. One small table of memorabilia, which was nice but... there was absolutely no attempt to make old students or teachers welcome (apart from a few general speeches outside) or even to distinguish them from current parents, so there was a big outside mosh, lots of stall to spend money on, and only one short tour of the school for the whole afternoon. I only ran into the old headmistress by accident, and she, in her 80s, was amazing.* I learned more about my old teachers from her in a ten minute conversation than anything else I saw that afternoon, and I was sad to find that my favorite teacher had not only been there briefly, but had left just before I talked to her.
I did go on the tour, and retraced my old steps from the library (which is now the staffroom) to the open plan classroom (which of course looks smaller than I remember!). They had a stall where you could buy a new book and donate it to the library, and it would have your name inside it. I bought Ruth Park's My Sister Sif, which is the least I could do for all the pleasure that place gave me.
But honestly, would it have been so hard to give any visitor a red dot to wear, or to section off places in the quadrangle for different decades so that people could stand there and meet each other? I came away feeling quite frustrated.
*Miss Dorothy Brown moved to Canberra in the 1960s to be near the snow. She skiied until she was 81, when she had to stop because she had a sore foot, but now she still goes up and walks with snow shoes! She must be about 87 now, and was very agile and alert.