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