Memories with Gavan Connell (SPC 1961-68)
author: Lorrie Liston
We thank Old Boy Gavan Connell (SPC 1961-68), pictured above, who has been living in Mexico for the past 15 years, for sharing his own memories of life as a SPC student in the 1960s.
“I have been following these snippets with interest and amusement, and thought I might add my two bob's worth regarding the dining at SPC.
But first, a comment regarding the ‘bokker’ after which Br O'Keane may or may not have been named. We had a barber's shop down near the handball courts where one went for one's ‘bokker’ in the evenings. I am not sure that has been mentioned previously. There was a row of rooms, in one of which, he did his work and the others contained pianos. The barber was a professional. Not Br. O'Keane. I think he had a shop in town and came up to the College one evening a week.
Back to the meals, the routine of which over (perhaps) decades led to the strike of '67.
In 1961 when I started, we still had the old tables of 10 referred to previously by another Old Boy, but as I recall, we had a slightly different system of serving and afterwards, in the evenings we 'bubs' as he referred to us had to take the dishes to the kitchen and load the trays of the recently installed industrial dishwasher.
Afterwards, we used to serve the Weeties, which came in cardboard boxes, about a cubic metre each, and put them on the tables for the following morning's breakfast. One thing I can recall in my eight years, even though much changed, there was always a plentiful supply of Weeties and milk at breakfast. I can still remember the two seniors at my 1961 table, Peter Madden and Bill Joyce. The latter I think was the valedictorian that year. There was also a boy called Amerigo Rizzuto whom I came across in the Army some many years later.
In 1967, when M.B. Stallard was Head of the College, there was a strike in the dining room by the students one evening.
We used to line up in class groups outside the dining room and then amble in. In the forming up stage, 'someone' came up with the bright idea that we should strike by not approaching the serving area after grace. It started as a bit of fun as I recall but was soon blown up by the reaction of the duty Brother Shiels, who unfortunately freaked out and ran from the students' dining room to the Brothers' dining room, where as bad fortune would have it, a senior Christian Brother delegate from outside the country was visiting.
The result was that a swarm of Brothers entered the dining room and threatened dire consequences if we didn't eat the meals, which we eventually did.
The unfortunate timing of the 'strike' coupled with the fact that the reaction of the duty Brother, had escalated what would have otherwise been a harmless bit of fun to make the point that we wanted a bit of variety in the meal schedules, turned the situation into an ugly witch hunt for the perpetrator.
All the suspects were interviewed by Brother O'Malley. I was one. I told 'Old Bill' that I was in favour of the strike but that I didn't start it. To this day I don't know who did but my admission led me to Br Stallard's office the next day where I was informed I was to be expelled.
My father, who as chance would have it, arrived in Australia from the then remote and now infamous island of Nauru the following week, and I met with Br Stallard with my father and 'Old Bill' present. My father had spoken to Br O’Malley before the meeting and Br O’Malley had told him and Stallard between times that someone else had been identified as the ringleader but that there were so many seniors in favour and who were active in the promotion of it that they couldn't expel us all. So I and they were spared a mass expulsion of prefects.
It's interesting that a previous person can recall that they had luncheon meat on Thursdays in the 1950s. Well on Thursdays in the '60s we had roast meatloaf with a crusty exterior served with roast potatoes, peas or beans and mushy cauliflower. And it was pretty good as I recall. I and my peers can probably recite the entire weekly menu after 55 years, which tells the younger readers why we had a strike but on Sunday evenings (we had a roast lunch) we had round luncheon meat and salad. That luncheon meat was not thought to be horse meat as in the fifties. We called it "bull's cock'.
In the late 1980s, when I was a serving Major in the Army and responsible for the oversight of cadets in Tasmania, I had cause to review the annual passing out parade at St Virgil's in Hobart. There, I chanced upon Br M.B Stallard, who was on staff. Despite a gap of 20 years he said, "Hello Peter" (my brother's name).
I replied that I was Gavan but I applauded his memory. I didn't ask him how the food was.”