Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Death of A School."

In my last post, I spoke about one of the many incidents that happened with me (as opposed to, TO me,)  and it was a lot of fun remembering that particular event. I sat here and laughed out loud while I relived the scene of the Brother driving up to me.

One of the comments from Sandra was that "And the School is still around grooming young farmers."
Sadly that's not the case, the school did close it's doors back in 2009 and I still remember feeling a great loss when I heard about it.

I attended the school back in the seventies and it was many things to me.  I had my first non-sibling punch up there and I was terrified during the lead up to it. Of course after the fight (which I started like an idiot,)  I had a nice fat lip, black eye, and broken nose to go along with the start of a great new friendship, Charlie Mac beat the ever living snot out of me, laughing with every perfectly aimed and landed punch he threw from the fists of a kid whose dad had been a Golden Gloves contender and was intent on his son following in his footsteps. Oh the choices we make sometimes!

I wont say I was taught discipline there, but it was most definitely refined by the Christian Brothers, my dad was an excellent disciplinarian quite possibly because practice does in fact make perfect and he practiced on me on a very regular basis. The Brothers brand of discipline though went beyond even what my dad knew, in fact with the Olympics just around the corner I dare say that if they had a competition for discipline the Brothers would win Gold and my dad would be a distant Silver.
Some people I'm sure will be horrified to know that part of their corporal punishment regimen was the use of old Tractor Fan Belts, literally right of the old crappy John Deere Combine that I drove. Depending on the Brother and the severity of the offense it was a quick march upstairs, lay on the bed, pants down, bare butt exposed and lay there like that while he went and fetched the dirty old fan belt to strap you with, that was Brother Morgan's favorite. Yes I copped a few of them and believe me when I say, I couldn't sit down for an hour or so. Others like old Brother Newman preferred a sharp right jab followed by a left hook, Brother Couch's weapon of choice was the good old fashioned cane, Brother Hanley he was very old school and would just tug your ear, funny as it may sound I preferred any of the others over the ear tug.

 My point is, that although I copped my fair share of Brotherly Discipline, I deserved it and it didn't kill me, and it didn't leave any scars, and it didn't screw me up for the rest of my life, it didn't take away my childhood, it taught me in no uncertain terms that I was responsible for my actions and I was in no doubt at all that for example; when I was pinching a couple of beers from the Brothers dining room I had better not get caught, but if I did it was a fair collar and I knew I deserved what was coming.

Another great gift from the school was Hard Work. When I first got there I resented all the work we had to do, but man, it prepared me for later in life. I had just turned thirteen when I started school and here's a list as best I can remember of some of the jobs I had.
Baker, Slaughterer, Butcher, Steam Engine Attendant (we had a giant wood fed boiler for our laundry room,) Laundry worker (we took turns on Saturdays laundering the whole schools dirties...) Truck Driver, Front End Loader Operator, Bulldozer operator, Grader Operator, every imaginable farm implement you can imagine operator, Barber, Movie Projectionist (the old type where you had to continuously wind the arcing rods to provide the back light) Cook, Shearer, Painter, Mechanic, All the jobs related to Animal Husbandry and other than the painting I loved every job I did!

Back then we never had electives or options we did what they told us to do, when they told us to and every single boy participated, when it was Aussie Rules season, we all played footy, no one got to sit out, every single boy, good bad or indifferent played footy. Swim season, everyone swam even if it meant doggie paddling to finish the 50meter butterfly race. Annual Squash tournament, complete participation, Basketball, Cricket, Tennis, Track and Field... There were no onlookers, no bystanders and honestly, although I'm sure there were individual incidents, for the most part there was no mocking of the participants ability or lack of ability, we all just competed and at the end of the school year the Brothers actually gave trophies out to the individual champions, we never got team trophies, we never got participation trophies, the whole school would sit there and watch as the best athletes, scholars and citizenship awards were given to the best individuals.

99.9% of the time when it was lights out at night time, we slept, read our books under the blankets with a torch (Aussie flashlight) but we never gave Brother Morgan in 1st and 2nd year or Brother Couch in 3rd year any reason to crack open the punishment devise cupboard.
We were allowed to have a radio/cassette player but I swear the only time we could use them was on Saturdays while we did our jobs around the farm. We also wore school uniforms every day and on Sundays it included the tie!

So, whats my point to this long winded post? I already told you the School closed its doors in 2009.

In 2008 I took Patty back to visit the School, it was also the first time since I graduated that I had gone back and to this day I really wish I'd never visited after I left, some of the changes that occurred in my opinion and some of the Old Boys (Aussie for Alumni) I spoke to agreed, caused the closure and in my corny way it's heartbreaking.

They did away with Uniforms,  
The kids like to show their individuality...
They did away with compulsory sports,  
Some of the kids don't like to participate, and some of them aren't that good so we don't want to expose them to ridicule, so now we allow those that want to participate to travel into Mullewa or Geraldton to play on their school teams... Oh the cost is absorbed by the parents and the State
They did away with compulsory work,  
We're a school now, the farm is pretty much done we survive on Government assistance instead of primary production...
They did away with the all boys aspect and turned co-ed,
It was felt that we were being exclusionary by not allowing girls to attend...
They did away with corporal punishment, Parent believe that they should be the only ones to discipline their children and nurturing is a far better method... Yea I know, but seriously, they never killed any of us!
There was rap music blasting from the dorms,
The students should be allowed to express themselves and a the cursing is actually freedom of speech so we don't like to interfere with that...
There were kids gathered in groups sitting on unmade beds,
It's their bed, if they feel like making it then they can but we don't actually enforce made beds anymore...
There were kids, literally smoking on the lawns and trampolines that I personally had helped install,
There was a complete and utter lack of discipline, farm equipment sat rusted in the sheds, the cricket and tennis courts were overgrown with weeds, the basketball courts were disintegrating, big chunks of blacktop missing, backboards hanging from a couple of screws, the picture screen half torn off, because the boy and girls have their personal DVD players now so we don't go to the expense of renting the movies for them... And on and on and on.

I know we need to move forward and progress should be seen as a good thing, but in this case they destroyed the very fabric that made me who I am today. That school formed me into me, molded the person I am, it helped create a person that I actually do like, I like who I turned out to be and it is heartbreaking to see it gone.I know if I had been blessed with kids and we were living in Australia they would have been sent to that school and they would have hated the first year and they would have cried when they were sent back after the three school breaks we got per year, but by the time they hit 2nd year, they'd begin to look forward to riding the bus down that dirt road and up to the Colditz looking buildings, and the smiling, disciplinarian Brothers that stood there to welcome them, and you know what, by 3rd year they would be in love with that whole institution and they would come home as men among boys, yes I know that's a bloody cliche` but if you ask me that's where the phrase was invented, by some Tardun Old Boy...

So to me it is a sad turn of events, and I think it's one that could have been avoided, and yes there are some Old Boys that will say the Brothers were too hard and maybe they were but I think if the system had been tweaked rather than overhauled Tardun Christian Brothers Agricultural College may still be open and I'd be planning my thirty something re-union instead of sitting here Writing in Spite Of Myself.


  1. So interesting. I think you're right though. I mean, that's not to say I'm really down with the whole fan belt to the behind bit. But it sounds like they are letting the kids run the chool now. And, yeah, that's a j*great* plan. And not making them work? So crazy. My husband has a brilliant work ethic and I think that all comes from him growing up on a farm and learning how to work hard.

  2. So Erin, are you telling me you've never used an old fan belt on your kids? *tsk* *tsk* they don't know what they're missing.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting.