I started high school in 1977, and attended thus: Form 1, Form 2, Year 9, Year 10, Year 11, Year 12 (when we ‘did’ HSC or Higher School Certificate). If it was explained to us why we leapt from Form 2 to Year 9, I don’t remember the explanation though I suppose it is relatively self-evident (Grade 1-6 in Primary School, Years 7-12 in secondary, though why it’s not therefore Grade 7-12 I can’t imagine). All government schools I was aware of were either primary or secondary, so the break seemed ordinary though I guess there were some private schools that ran straight through 1-12.
The weird thing about high school was that whereas in primary you all stayed together, in secondary you had core subjects that you took as a form (or ‘year’) and then, increasingly, electives which you ostensibly voted to participate in though (I can’t remember all the details) in the first and second years I think these were less electives and more just being split up into different groups to participate variously in a range of activities. My school was touted in some quarters as progressive, so that it had a lot of space and facilities for technical aspects eg woodwork art domestic science metalwork. It was a new school and had being going for two years when I started there. It was about 1/3 girls, 2/3 boys. For this reason and others it sucked a big turd in the mud as a school, but that is not what I am here to discuss today.
Year 10 was a really interesting year, as it transpired. It would not have had to try very hard, it has to be said, to be more interesting than the previous ones, which were gruelling and depressing (sure I buy into the general perception of the groovy seventies, all natural grain and polystyrene, but when it comes down to it, the seventies for me were completely foul). Year 10 was 1980 and I discovered new wave music (Devo, The Pretenders, John Foxx, Elvis Costello, The Models, The Reels, etc) and became part of a small group of people, boys and girls, who would meet every morning early – before anyone else was at the school, what the fuck were we thinking!!! – and hang out and, you know, rap (in the old sense. Not rapping. Just, uh, talk). We were a morning group only I think – the girls were part of a wider group of girls, probably in truth kind of reject girls or certainly not the coolest girls. And the boys were similar. It was probably written in the stars, not that any of us ended up married to each other, to the best of my knowledge. Actually I don’t know what happened to the girls but I know what happened to one of the boys (aside from me). He ended up alright actually. Actually actually I’m trying to remember who was a part of it all. I recall, for instance, one of the boys in question who was most definitely at the table on the north side of the school building, presumably one morning early, saying he hated the Birthday Party and when asked if he’d heard them saying ‘no, and I never want to hear any of their shit music.’ This was not a joke. But apart from remembering him being there and saying that, I can’t recall why he was there because was he a usual participant in this insane reverse-of-cool brigade? He certainly had the social standing to be so but I don’t otherwise recall him there.
More importantly I recall Anjelica (spelling?) and Kerrie, who were friends I guess wherever they found themselves but were not necessarily best friends, if that makes sense. Kerrie was adopted and had some odd attributes, particularly when it came to jokes made against her other friend Jackie, which consisted for instance of hiss-yelling ‘half breed!’ at her. Jackie would just go red and silently chuckle. Anjelica was known to us all as having a fierce crush on a science teacher which was no doubt one of those now, in hindsight, outrageous wastes of energy (I assume) that passed the time in those days. She also really liked Alice Cooper, a well-known singer of the day. She was Chilean by birth and, we were led to believe, was somewhat wealthy and pampered though who knows where these ideas come from, considering that if she was really a princess surely her parents would have sent her to a private school not our dirt farm. Ditto Kerrie in hindsight. Perhaps it suited them to pretend they had more privileged backgrounds than they really did. Two more things I recall about Kerrie: she was the first person I ever saw wear an Esprit top (the three lines and lack of a vertical on the left of the ‘E’ caused me to read it only as ‘Sprit’; more importantly I think it was the first time I recall/ed seeing an item of clothing where the ‘label’, i.e. the brand name of the clothing manufacturer itself, was a major feature of the design of the item). Also, she told me about 3RRR-fm – though I think I already knew about it – in disgusted terms, as a station that only played ‘new wave’ music, as you might describe a radio station where the announcers communicated only in farts.
So I can’t really remember what time we got to school, it was early, possibly around 7:45 for a day that started around 8:30, but those times are only guesses. It suited me to leave home early as there seemed to be little for me there and I had begun the long process of exiting from the domestic sphere as much as possible. At a certain point Anjelica and Kerrie would excuse themselves by Anjelica saying she was going to the toilet and asking/telling Kerrie to come with her. Once Kerrie told me that these visits involved Anjelica brushing her hair absently and asking Kerrie if someone or other liked her. Presumably for Anjelica (perhaps both of them) it was time out from the weird world of boys, and perhaps it was the same for the boys. Kerrie and I talked on the phone quite a bit around this time, I can’t remember who called who. She liked a boy called Scott who the first two girls I went out with also went out with, so I guess girls who liked Scott liked me.
I wonder when I last saw those girls. A few – maybe 5 – years after I had finished school and perhaps when I was back in my mother’s house for the last time, ‘cleaning up’ (not particularly effectively) before the house was sold, Kerrie called. She sounded a bit drug-addled or perhaps this was an affectation. I somehow got the sense that she had turned gay but who knows, this may also have been affectation, in the way she spoke, and no-one could accuse me of being very perceptive very often particularly about people’s behaviour or predilections. She just kept saying it was weird how we were talking and I was like (thinking) so what, get off the phone. As for Anjelica, I have no idea what happened to her or where she went. It occurs to me that perhaps she didn’t even finish high school or perhaps she did it somewhere else. I certainly know I never saw her again after 1982. I also certainly know I never think about either of them, or rather, I probably go years at a time without thinking about either of them, and I would be fairly certain neither of them ever think about me, either.