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2. Col Anderson's Speech

posted Apr 9, 2012, 6:53 PM by Eddie Woo
A selection of Col A's words on the occassion of the reunion dinner 7 November 1992.

JAMES RUSE REUNION: Sydney, 7th November 1992

Why do people come to reunions? Why on EARTH do people come to reunions. I don't mean just this one.... even on television lately there has been a plethora of reunions: Murphy Brown went to one recently. I watched the programme avidly to see if I could pick up any hints as to what I might do for this one. At one stage Murphy's former teacher said to her "Call me Mack (or whatever his first name was)". Murphy was chuffed - delighted. I knew then we were in a different ball game. Not much use my telling you, you can now call me Col. You ALWAYS did.
Even GOLDEN GIRLS recently featured a reunion.... and the highlight of that event was that       had a heart attack! And she was one of the students! I hope none of you decide tonight to prove that life imitates art......
So why reunite? What it is in the human psyche that tells us, at a certain age, that we need to undergo such a ritual? Are we, like certain types of birds that fly north for the winter seeking warmth and pleasure? Or are we like lemmings... anxious to fling ourselves off the cliff? Are we masochists or optimists? I mean, let's be honest. When you walked (ran? wheelied?) out the gates of your old alma mater all those 25 years ago, and flung your much hated hats in the air, surely the last thing you could ever have imagined was wanting to see most of your old school buddies ever - and I mean ever – again
So why this? Well, I have a few ideas on the subject:
  • you are here to check out just how OLD everyone ELSE has gotten. Not you of course. You may be in your forties but you certainly don't look it... but God, look at....well, look around...... how many of you today honestly and truthfully knew exactly who every one was without looking at the name badge huh?
  • A chance to boast.... modestly of course. Just Look At Me NOW !! My job, my wife, my car, my kids, my house, my yacht, my hobby farm...... need I go on?
  • To seek confirmation: did so and so turn out to be the arsehole you always thought he would? And isn't it devastating when you find out that old so and so turned out to be totally charming and nice.... and the only reason he ever looked like turning in to aforementioned arsehole was because he had to put up with the arsehole that was YOU!! That's is always a sobering moment. Reunions are full of such surprises..... perhaps it is our willingness to open ourselves up to such surprises, both good and bad, that makes these things attractive. There's a bit of a masochist within us all.
  • I asked this question of a Rusian who was a year behind you guys - Geoffrey Lawrence, now Associate Professor at my university. I attended his year's reunion down the south coast a couple of years ago. Geoff suggested that one of the things reunions did was remove some of the mystification that goes with some professions. This sort of thinking works along the lines of:" Hell, so and so's a bloody doctor! I always thought you had to be REALLY SMART to be a doctor!" One can find out that, for example, accountants really are boring and that some of our former best friends have become bank managers, for God's sake, or even (mention a few real professions here....e g. Scotty as a research scientist and so forth)
  • I think too that reunions become attractive when you suddenly realise that life is flying by at much too fast a rate...... in other words, after many many years of kidding ourselves that youth is eternal and that we will remain forever young, we suddenly become aware of our own mortality. We seek some reassurance that sometime, somewhere, We Were Champions...... at football, in class, in shows, in the playground, behind the toilets.... .wherever. Dear God, please... .there was a time..... .wasn't there? There has to have been!"
  • the other side of that one of course, is a desire, and it is a healthy and true desire, to return to one's roots. There is nothing wrong with wanting to revisit the past – one doesn't have to want to live there. Or, as             would have it: "the past is another country...they do things differently there". Yes, we did do things differently there but what we all did - and I want to assure you that I include myself in this - what we did do there has helped shape what we are now.
Of course some of Ruse's influence (and when you say Ruse you inevitably think Hoskins) is obvious in many cases. But a lot of it is almost subliminal - where did I acquire that part of me? where did I start to think of that? why do I feel the way I do about .......something else?
  • Well I have asked the question as to why you want to reunite. And I have provided some supposed answers...... some of them flippant, some of them serious. What about me, why did I want to be here this weekend - and let me tell you that I wanted, with every fibre of my being, TO be here this weekend -I am even missing final rehearsals for a production - which opens on Wednesday night for God's sake, in which I play the main role to be here with you........Well, I guess it is because of all the above reasons. I wanted to see how you had all turned out. Quite a few of you I have regular contact with but with so many of you I don't. You were all SO important to me, so DEAR to me..... if Ruse helped to make you what you are, let me tell you that you made me what I am. .I treasure very deeply my time with you. You taught me to revalue myself, to find a self-respect I had never known before, to find an identity that I have clasped to my heart. And when I say you, I include my colleagues - Elaine (Miss P!) Leslie (Lil) (and name a few others) and, of course, this wonderful, grand, extraordinary man, Jim Hoskin. He - and James Ruse Agricultural High School - turned my life around and I will always be aware of and thankful for that.  
  • The interesting thing about all of this is that, I have never been back to my high school for a reunion. I went to Newcastle Boys High School - a selective school just like Ruse but UNLIKE Ruse a school, such super macho bullshit I have never had any desire whatever to return there. My nickname at that dive was THE PROF a term of total non-endearment. I was little, wore glasses, liked Shakespeare and ..well, let's not beat around the bush wasn't what one could call the ultimate in Orstralian bush tucker men. When earlier this year I became an Associate Professor of Drama at Charles Sturt University I longed, I absolutely longed, to meet up with some of those Novocastrians bastards......Just to be able to say: "Look –I really AM a Prof.....and what is more I get PAID to be a Prof you pricks!".
No, Newcastle Boys High School is not my old school, not my Alma Mater. James Ruse is that. John F. Kennedy proclaimed once ICH BEIN UN BERLINER - I am from Berlin;,. I am proud to proclaim that I AM A JAMES RUSIAN.

A reunion gives us the chance to become aware of what has made us what we are. We reunite to give thanks for that and, at the same time, to share a real sense of community, a sense of values, a sense of worth......and, most importantly, a sense of real and genuine love.

Well, there are the words. Now let's get on with the deeds, in the spirit of that motto that rules our lives, not to mention the pockets on your chest and the bands on those hats: GESTA NON VERBA.