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3. From the School Captain

posted Apr 9, 2012, 6:23 PM by Eddie Woo

I have very fond memories of my days at James Ruse and the disciplines that embodied this unique School, when in those days having to write a letter to the Principal (Mr James Hoskins) and in turn the Dept of Education, providing our reasons for acceptance to attend this school along with a reference from our Primary School Principal. This was in the early days of J.R. and the school had recently relocated from Carlingford Rural School, then located on the hill above Carlingford. In 1961 the school consisted of some 350 students, about a quarter of this was the entrance year of 1961 enrolment. The school offered young city students the opportunity to study Agriculture at secondary level ( the curriculum was lead and developed by a father of one of my fellow students at the time), and provided what previously was only available at Hurlestone, Yanco and Farrer Agricultural High Schools, other than a handful of NSW country high schools, for predominantly country students. That being said, there were some country students attending JR at that time living with relatives in Sydney to attend the school. 

Our Principal, Mr J Hoskins, was considered at the time one of the most respected and influential headmasters in N.S.W., and as a result took the school to become one of the state’s leading high schools at the time and the rest is history, to the academic level and beyond. During this developmental period of J.R. we had regular sporting events between the other three Agricultural High Schools within the state and had an outstanding record with our sporting achievements in Athletics, Swimming, Rugby Union, Tennis and Cricket at the CHS representative level. The school along with the total support of the headmaster and staff introduced Drama (which at the time was not considered an agricultural pursuit or preferred some!!!), nonetheless commenced the start of many Gilbert and Sullivan and other dramatic plays ( no girls at JR then and had to make do with what we had for the female roles). 

The school also initiated an active Junior Farmers Club, the first Interact Club (junior Rotary) in Sydney, and the J.R. Cadet Unit. I am sure the diversity of the school, discipline, respect and leadership that was engendered during those years has remained with us all and has provided a sound platform for our lives along with the “ups and downs” I’m sure we have all experienced. On leaving J.R., I joined a major Feed and Flour Milling group in Sydney and left the city with my wife and family (son), to manage a smaller rural venture in the same industry at Dubbo, then later to the NSW north west at Caroona Feedlot,(Quirindi) for some 10 years, Moree with a multi- national oilseed processor including a short stint back in Sydney, then back to the bush at Wallabadah (near Quirindi) where we had a small grazing property, educated our 3 boys (Farrer Ag High) and our daughter (Calrossy) and started a Grain Trading business, then, hence refer to my earlier mention of “ups and downs”, and survived the “downs”, with my family, whom now, all live in rural NSW with their wives/husband and families. 

I have lived in Saudi Arabia for the past 4 years with my wife and work for a Saudi Business consortium as the Operations Director, running an Oilseeds Crushing Plant on the Red Sea, about 350kms north west of Jeddah. This has been one of my most interesting challenges of my career, both culturally and professionally, and about to embark on further project developments that are nothing short of amazing. I get back to Oz for a month, three times a year and enjoy what I believe is the best place on the planet, to visit family and friends (incl. some of the J.R. ex students occasionally). I have attended a number of J.R. ex students reunions over the years and look forward to attending many more (god willing........we are all looking at 60 in the rear view mirror now), to enjoy the company of the class of ’65 and others, differing from the physical standpoint, our personalities don’t change. 


David Kidd (1965)

2. 40 Year Reunion

posted Apr 9, 2012, 6:18 PM by Eddie Woo   [ updated Apr 9, 2012, 6:21 PM ]

There were seventy people at our reunion.  We started with just two names from the graduating class of 1965 and with clever detective work the organising committee of Andrew Beattie, David Faulkner-Dick and Mike Byron managed to locate two thirds of the students of the year.
There were some amazing telephone calls, lots of wrong numbers but as we tracked down a school mate, they generally knew of one or two other ex-students and our network and numbers began to grow.  It was forty years since most of us had been together and those contacted became as excited as the organising committee about our upcoming reunion.  We began the planning in about October 2005 for a proposed reunion date some time in March 2006.  We knew that any date we selected would not suit everyone so we just bit the bullet and picked a date, March 18 2006.
The Carlingford Bowling Club was chosen as a venue because it was close to the school and it did prove to be a good choice.  Mr Michael Quinlan and his wife were invited to be our guests and provide us with information on the school as it is now.  We also located and invited three teachers from our era.  They were Elaine Petersen, Colin Anderson and Chris Dudley.  The months passed and the list of acceptances grew and the big day arrived with an unimagined speed.  Suddenly it was Friday 17th March and the Reunion was the very next day.  So many things to do.
Although the reunion was to officially start at 7.00pm, the ex-students and their wives and partners began to arrive an hour early primarily to try and recognise and share their life experiences with their special friends before the evening began.  It was the start of a truly happy evening.  David Faulkner-Dick was the MC for the evening and has lost none of his word skills that he gained in classes.  The 1965 School Captain, David Kidd, welcomed the ex-students, Andrew Beattie invited Mr Michael Quinlan to tell us about James Ruse AHS as it is in 2006.  Many many things have changed but the core focus is still the same.  A good educational facility staffed by good people, giving good outcomes and retaining Agriculture as a subject.  Mike Byron thanked Michael Quinlan for his excellent timeline of our old school.
Ex-teachers were invited to speak to the group and starting with Elaine Petersen then Colin Anderson and finally Chris Dudley, they gave us a mixture of serious and sometimes very funny anecdotes of their times as teachers of us in that era.  Mrs Grace Schofield, the mother of one of our classmates, was the original administrative assistant and accompanied David Schofield and his wife to the reunion.  She gave us a great rendition of her time at James Ruse and proudly told us that she had turned ninety two years of age only four days previously.  Each of the speakers acknowledged her contribution to the school.  Michael Quinlan had told us that the school had twelve administrative personnel now and we reflected that Mrs Schofield was the only admin. person back then.  We finished the night with class mates addressing the gathering with stories that were significant to us.  Throughout our night “the boss” stories flowed which paid tribute to a man who shaped our lives.  The Bowling Club was only booked to midnight and it was heading towards 1.00am and the reunion was still in full swing.  The club graciously allowed us our time together and it was after 1.00am as the last of us left vowing to have another reunion soon.
What a great night.
My advice to anyone planning to have a reunion – just do it – it’s a great night.

Pictures can be viewed here:
Mike Byron (1965)

1. Where have forty years gone?

posted Apr 9, 2012, 6:18 PM by Eddie Woo   [ updated Apr 9, 2012, 6:19 PM ]

The class of 1965 sat for our Leaving Certificate in the warming months October and November.  The exams were mostly held in the then brand new auditorium of the new school down the road.
We formed a little group outside after the last exam and all promised to stay in touch as we wished each other well.  Well that was forty years ago this year and where has the time gone and what has happened to over sixty students.  I personally have only seen a handful of ex-students since that very last day and it has bothered me that I don’t know the outcomes of so many people that I had spent a full five years in their company.
Ours was a significant Leaving Certificate exam as it was the last regular Leaving Certificate as the Department of Education was introducing a six year secondary school system (ours a five year system) and a markedly different exam called the Higher School Certificate.  Factually there was another much smaller Leaving Certificate exam in 1966 for those students who felt they needed a better exam result for university entrance purposes.
What was 1965 like???  The Beatles were everyone’s favourite group.  The Mini Cooper was the fastest volume production car on the road and Prime Minister Menzies had just introduced conscription into the army for males turning twenty.  We were facing a threat from Indonesia and it was felt an increased military force was needed.  Australia had also just sent a battalion of regular soldiers to Vietnam at the supposed request of the American government.  Employment was booming and being long-term unemployed was almost unheard of.  Surf board riding was the sport of the moment and the coolest of the cool were those who had surf boards strapped to the roof of their cars.
What was James Ruse like in 1965?  Mr Hoskins was very firmly “the boss” and was an enormous patriarch.  He also had the gift of being able to remember the names of all his students.  I did accidentally meet him in the middle 1980’s and he knew me right away even though I was twenty years older and bearded.  He even asked about my younger brother who was also a James Ruse student.  There was also Mr Cameron who was the deputy and I am led to believe that he passed away very soon after we left school.  There was a myriad of teachers, some were notable and some were not.  Amongst the notable was Mrs Lino, who has just recently passed away, and of course Colin Anderson.
We, as students, learnt to drive the tractor helping to construct the oval.  We did agriculture lessons in “the loft”.  It was a tiny room with a tin roof, freezing in winter and unbearably hot in summer.  We cheered wildly in the red rattler train on those cold frosty mornings as the train wheels were spinning on that last steep climb into Carlingford station.  However, the train always did manage the climb and always got us to school.  We wore our hats and blazers everyday although many ditched the traditional school case in favour of the very cool duffel bags.  Something that “the boss” was not very happy about.
At about 3.00pm on a November week day afternoon in 1965, our time at James Ruse came to an end.  I very quickly became involved in work, cars, girls (they were a novelty for the then students of the all male James Ruse AHS) and, of course, study towards a career.  I also quickly lost touch with the greater majority of my classmates.
After forty years have gone past, I began to wonder what has happened to all those who were in the class of 65.  Forty years is a significant milestone.  I contacted the JRAHS ex-student coordinator who told me that she only had details of one other from our year.  I contacted that person who was actually a friend back then and we have begun the rewarding job of tracking down old classmates.  While speaking to them as we find them, there are some real successes, some sad stories as a few have passed away and a few had led fairly unhappy lives.  Most have gone onto rewarding lives.
At least six of the class of ’65 served in Vietnam as either national servicemen or as regular soldiers.  I was one of them.  Many of us had our first taste of military in the school cadet corps.
Now we are in the process of organising a reunion for March 2006.  We would desperately like to hear from anyone who was in our class in the early years, right up to and beyond the leaving.
Mike Byron (1965)
PO Box 172
Gulgong NSW  2852
Phone: 02 6374 2005

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