Graham Reid | | 5 min read
School photographs like this always remind me how much younger I was than my classmates. At the time this photo was taken I was 16, I didn't turn 17 until halfway through that year.
Which means I was 17 when I went to university the following year.
It wasn't that I was clever and had been accelerated, not at all.
I'd been in lowly classes to this point, and the 6B of the photo – which sounds very close to the top of the 6th form – was actually for second year 6ths, those who'd failed UE and come back for another go.
When I arrived at Auckland Grammar School – just my local which had a roll of about 1200 at the time – I was 12.
On the first day we were put into classes based on our intermediate school results (I suppose) and I was placed in 3C, the Latin class just above the bottom one.
Boys who didn't do Latin were in the General classes, four of them too.
My friend Brett Bensky whom my parents often compared me with – and who was just three weeks older than me – went into 3A. I well remember my mother picking us up and on driving home asking what classes we'd been put in. She was heartbroken when I told her and I was scared of telling my dad.
After about a month or so the school did re-testing – maths and reading/writing if I remember – and people were shifted around.
I went down to 3D.
I did well there (not hard in retrospect when I think of how many misfits and really dull boys were also in the class) and so the following year I was pushed up a little and into 4C.
Progress of a sort, but in the 5th form year they made Latin optional which meant the guys in the General classes were now part of the whole shuffle.
I went down to 5D. I think my dad gave up on me around then. He wrote on one my report cards in the parents' comment section which was returned to the school, “Hammer him along as I do”.
But I passed School Cert (some in my class didn't, I got 222 in four subjects) and went into the 6th form. Maybe 6Gen I think it was.
And that year failed UE, but in a strange way: I got bare passes in English (54%) and Biology (51%) but did fairly well in History (60%). However you needed to get over 200 in four subjects and marks below 30% weren't counted: I got 22 in Maths and 21 in French.
So I failed and ended up in 6B to repeat the year.
Many of my friends went into the 7th form and did bursary and scholarship, but in 6B we had a lot of fun. We were merciless on teachers like the half-blind, deaf and vague PAS Stein who walked with a cane.
He – like many of the teachers – was well past retirement age and when I told my dad my maths teacher was Mr Stein he said, “Christ, he was an old man when I was there!”
Because we just assumed we'd get UE accredited later in the year we clowned around, climbed out Stein's window and pulled cruel pranks, skipped classes, did the bare minimum and had to endure the snide comments from sadistic bastards like Mr Bone who repeatedly said, “They don't want boys like you up the hill”.
It took us a while to figure that he meant we weren't university material.
We mostly weren't, I guess. They certainly didn't want me there after two years of “failure to make satisfactory academic progress”. They kicked me out.
Unfortunately some classmates in this photo didn't get UE accredited later that year, I was among the lucky few.
The guys wearing badges were prefects (aka sportpeople), some represented the school in hockey or soccer, and Geoff Howarth in the middle of the second row – just beneath and to my left in the row behind -- went on to great fame in cricket and was the New Zealand captain with a very creditable record of international results.
But I seem to recall a battle with the bottle for quite a long time.
It was a lonely job being captain.
There are a lot of people here whose names I don't recall (teachers only ever referred to us by surnames anyway) but in the back row I see Nathu Rama who was a couple of years older than all of us. In exams he could write really fast and for the most part just wrote out everything he knew about the topic, sometimes not answering the question. He filled pages and pages.
He became a dentist and there was some financial scam or scandal later on I was told.
Also in the back row two along is Alastair Irving with Louie Hyman to his left.
Alastair was very funny, he and I fancied the same girl and would play tennis on the courts where she played in Epsom trying to impress her. He had a car and a license, I can't remember the girl's name.
Louie was one of the few Jewish guys in the school and during prayers – which were very Christian – he would join the other Jewish guys in a classroom. No one thought much about that, the head prefect was Jewish around this time. I had a large Jewish “family”.
Second row back far left is Radford (I think) whose father was the school music teacher (and looked like Dr Zachary Smith in Lost in Space), the Tongan guy was Josh (I think) and the school had quite a number of Tongans who mostly lived in a hostel off St Andrews Road in Epsom.
I see a few great sportspeople there aside from those with badges but the names have gone: I can identify Mike Sargent in the centre above the board, and on the far right of that row are Ed Ryks (whose dad was a shepherd at One Tree Hill park where they lived in the farm cottage on site) and Allan Parsons my best friend at the time who went on to become an airline pilot, the calling he'd had since he was about 14. He even took flying lessons when were at school.
Lotta stories about him and me: he had a huge 1940 Willys car and we painted the bonnet psychedelic in Phil Ray's garage under his house. I also painted “Willys” across the back in psychedelic lettering, which was kinda stupid because if people heard us stealing their milk money or we got into trouble at parties they would see us driving away and the word disappearing into the darkness.
We wouldn't have been that difficult to find.
But we survived as did most of the boys in this photo I believe.
Looking at these photos – and I have others of rugby and cricket teams (school and club, I played two games every Saturday for years and years) all I can see is how young I was compared with everyone else.
And how I would always smile in photos when others would look glum or staunch.
Telling perhaps that Ed and Allan, my friends, were also smiling.
Maybe we knew something?
Maybe. Not enough to pass UE though.
These entries are of little consequence to anyone other than me Graham Reid, the author of this site, and maybe my family, researchers and those with too much time on their hands.
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