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IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS ASOPA

Bill Bergen recalls it was the promise of ‘study on full pay’ that caught his eye as he walked down a cold UNSW corridor in midwinter 1962. “My course load was lectures five nights a week but I did not attend Monday nights as I was in a choir. I’d spotted an alto there - the same Joan I married in 1963”.

Helene (Thomson) East writes that ASOPA was “the envy of most other colleges because we were paid decent stipends and they weren’t.

Marie Burns remembers how we came together from all over Australia, the Northern Territory and Papua New Guinea – most of us in the big smoke for the first time. “We were bright eyed and bushy tailed,” she says.

Allan Jones asks, rhetorically I presume, “How many times did we hear the phrase “getting orientated to the Territory situation”? It drove some to tell others at times to “go and get orientated” rather than the usual riposte.”

The lyrics of songs on the bus when we were liberated after dem lessonss at Neutral Bay often showed splendid creativity. Amongst the more respectable were: “I wish I was a paramount luluai” (Ian ‘Talker’ McLean), “Oh when old Smoth / He wore the cloth” (Rod Hard) and “There was Al, Al / With a sexy gal”. Others we would not want to reproduce here.

‘Moose’ Davis dozed off in an Ed Phil lecture and Dave Argent decided that a piece of straw thrust in a nostril would bring him alive. It did - with a massive grunt that served only to draw a question from Norm Donnison on Aristotle. Dave still doesn’t know how Moose got out of it, but Dave certainly did – out of the lecture room that is. Moose was a bit of an athlete, but wasn’t quick enough that day.

Helene East recalls how “the patrol officers enjoyed giving the schoolies the benefits of their experiences in PNG, at times taking a rise out of us. I was told by a PO that he owned a kunai plantation.”

Richard Jones boasts that he did not complete one Craft assignment for Handy Andy (Keith Foster) in second year. “I remember Henry MacD Bodman and Leslie William Lyons compiling brilliant little storybooks, complete with illustrated facing pages in colour for the good Andy. ‘Bugger that’, I must have thought. How did I get a pass in that discipline (and a pass overall) to end up on the Aroma coast in the Central District in 1964?”.

Some fellow, Allan Jones recalls, took us ASOPA students for a short course in teaching functional English to migrants. One session involved using phrases like, “Go to Perth”. Allan can still hear Barry ‘Cenz’ Vincent’s voice echoing from the back of the room, “Go to buggery”.

Robena Fulton was in our group at ASOPA for a very short stay. Her name lingers because of a form guide of 1962 Asopians written by Keith Bain, probably just before the Melbourne Cup. There were tips on everyone. For example, ‘Barry Field – seaside boy who likes to run on the sand’. For Robena, the comment read, ‘In foal’.

Bill Butcher rarely attended a lecture during his time at ASOPA. Allan Jones distinctly recalls a lecturer going through the roll and asking, “Who’s this Bull Bitcher?”.

Kurt Argent reminds us that one of Bob (Moose) Davis’ favourite tricks was to light your cigarette and then whisk it out of your mouth with the lighter cap. It backfired once when he was without lighter and became a victim of the same stunt. Another preservation race ensued.

Do you recall making glove puppets and writing a play to go with them. Barry Paterson, Allan Jones and I were in the same group. Allan remembers, “We attempted a load of rubbish about the UN, Indonesia and TPNG independence. We just kept the puppets moving aimlessly and squawking a lot of gibberish. The lecturer was most impressed and gave us a top mark.”.

Barry Paterson must remember how we used to pass the time in boring lectures by creating TPNG versions of Dick Tracey characters to rival B O Plenty and Itchy. Two of Barry’s great creations were Skinny Nana and Sago Cyril.

Car coats and long pullovers were the rage in ‘62 and were much cheaper at Gowings in George Street than at Garys of Mosman. Moose Davis was all for fashion and Dave Argent advised him to park in Wynyard Lane despite the ‘No Standing’ sign and duck through the Victoria Hotel to Gowings. “Imagine the invective I received when he got booked,” says Kurt. “Expensive car coat, eh?”.

Val Rivers says she transferred to ASOPA from the Tax Department, where one of the perks to get time off was to donate blood. “I was not the typical Aussie bleeder and to get my blood was a ritual. Out the back of the blood-letting lounges was a deep sink. Both my arms were immersed in hot water, the needles were inserted and blood rushed into the container. A lovely bruise extended from wrist to shoulder.” Val says she visited the Sydney blood bank with Sonia Grainger just before the softball match in which Justine Finter thought she had seriously wounded our Burra North compatriot. “Strange to say,” adds Val, “my blood was not wanted after my time in PNG”.

Sometimes many years go by before truth emerges. We learn only now that Lorraine Westover used Lee Cronbach’s highly esteemed education psychology text as a lever for foot exercises. Dr Cronbach died in 2001 at the age of 85 for unrelated reasons.

Rod Hard recollects “some great times” sharing digs with Roger Stanley in 1963 and the variety of residents in the other flats. “Two girls from Melbourne treated us as their in-house desperates if their social life slowed down. The two spinsters at the top of the stairs considered us upstanding examples of the youth of Australia - heading into uncharted wilderness to save the fuzzie-wuzzies. They obviously never heard us after a night on the booze. I’m looking forward to catching up with the Pom in Pt Macquarie and reminiscing over happenings neither of us would ever put into print”.

Roger Stanley shared a room with Rod Hard for most of the second year. Rod recalls “a kitchenette where we developed and honed our culinary skills. I’d been given a pressure cooker as a going away present by my mother and cooked up stew on the weekend – to be heated and reheated during the rest of the week as the staple diet”.

Rod Hard’s enduring image of Roger Stanley is as a person who “lived the whole year in brown cords, green jumper and desert boots”. Rod says, “I cannot recall Roger's toiletry being anything other than the Pom’s proverbial weekly tub”.

John Toms recalls a trip with Howie Ralph to Surfer's Paradise and north to Mackay “chasing waves up and down the coast with a group of surfy fanatics from Cronulla”.

Dave Argent asserts, “My father claimed that the best two years of his life was at Teachers College and I concur”. Always suspected Dave was a bit of a conch.

John ‘Tomzy’ Toms, Ted ‘Horsebox’ France and Grahame ‘Ben’ Uhlmann flatted together in Mosman. The lounge room was capacious enough for basketball and elevated enough to drop empties in futile attempts to hit the 'A' on John’s Austin parked in the street below. Tomzy’s definition of a fun night was “Ted throwing Grahame’s bedding out of the window and Ben locked out downstairs with not much on”. Ah, student days.

Brian Smith says the Mosman Hotel was a home away from home for many. “The number of cooling ales consumed there by the likes of Scobie, Moose, Chappie, HMcDB, Big Dick (oops, sorry, Richard) and, on the odd occasion, myself must have set the publican on the road to riches”.

In Justine Finter’s second year at ASOPA the small group of PNG students chose her as spokesperson to discuss the matter of “a staying-away from home allowance”. “We felt at a disadvantage as our Australian compatriots were receiving a Territory allowance and they were not there yet. With the support of the students union, we approached the college administration and it was suggested we were “too well dressed”. “They’re your standards not ours,” Justine asserted.

Brian Smith reminds me of the parties at Obelisk Beach, just a short scramble down the cliff from the School. “I remember the ease with which full kegs were taken down that rough track and the difficulty with which empties were dragged back once the contents had been transferred to participants”.

Dave Argent remembers how he and other miscreants ducked lectures at ASOPA to attend a St George versus England league game. The Sun newspaper published photographs of people in the crowd. “Many a Sun was bought by the truants that day,” says Dave.

Schminkel was a term of affection used by kiap’s to refer to CEOs. Pat Dwyer writes, “I only ever heard it at ASOPA. It was in use in 1960 and I understand was coined by Jack Mater (kiap and later a prominent Sydney barrister). Does anyone know if it means anything other than CEO? It sounds vaguely Yiddish - as spoken by a nanny”. My vast research resources have yielded only that it is a German surname. But I am attracted to its clear resonances of gullibility combined with wet-behind-the-ears enthusiasm.

Little known, but Henry Bodman was a streaker. Covering the Clifton Gardens pub to 27 Spit Road journey au naturel. “Something nothing,” as he might say. This left the rest of us dragging and rolling a gasless keg along the same uphill route. To decant it into saucepans thereby trying to satisfy unquenchable thirsts.

Dave ‘Kurt’ Argent says, “My IQ wasn't the lowest at ASOPA. Phil Ralph (1st Year) and others of us were wont to duck lectures and go to Balgowlah Bowl where, as students, we received a discount. When challenged about his status, Phil asked the proprietor to phone the College and check it out.”