Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: Life at Paremoremo Boys' High

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I think back to old Tokoroa North School - which was relatively new and reasonably decilicious at the time - and I'm jealous.

    What was wrong with Tokoroa North School?!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Some fascinating comments on this thread. To respond to just a couple:

    3410 wrote:

    Luxury! At [redacted] boarding school we had death squads of seniors armed with cricket-balls-in-pillow-cases. Properly inflicted canings and strappings were a walk in the park, by comparison.

    Jesus wept, cricket balls in pillow cases is almost beyond brutality. You have my sympathy.

    Emma Hart wrote:

    I myself went to a namby-pamby liberal high school with vertical forms and peer support and no streaming or corporal punishment. I was going to be a pregnant failure.

    Interestingly, this was the accusation levelled against pupils of Paremoremo Girls' High School. It was once suggested by parents that the two schools should be combined into a co-educational establishment. I recall a senior teacher stating that he'd leave if that ever happened. "I don't want to be teaching a bunch of pregnant 14-year-olds," he said.

    Ian MacKay wrote:

    A friend sent her son to a school in Christchurch as a boarder about 4 years ago. On her visit to him he said" Can't wait to next year!"
    "Why?"
    "Cos next year it will be my turn to beat up the young ones."

    That is just so depressing...

    Stephen Judd wrote:

    I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise to any staff members of Fairfield College, Hamilton, between 1982 and 1986.

    I believe this makes you the same age as me, Stephen (poor you!). It really puts West Auckland into perspective to realize that even Hamilton was more civilized.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 955 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    I did a couple of lags at private, Anglican affiliated schools located in a city on a large river a little south of Auckland, and the casual brutality of those places is eye-popping in retrospect, but simply seemed to be an unavoidable part of the landscape when I was there.


    Just as a for instance, there was the teacher who used to get boys out to the front of the class, have them grasp the chalk ledge, swish a cane through the air, and then ask them why they were standing there, and send them trembling back to their desks. Mock executions are of course a violation of the Geneva convention.

    Our parents knew that most of this went on, and while they didn't like it, I think that most people simply could not imagine a school without this sort of calculated sadism.

    By most measures I did fairly well at school, and actually enjoyed it most of the time. [Although you wouldn't know this from the cache of school reports I found the other day -- I was lazy, messy, obnoxious, opinionated, cheeky, had no interest in sport, disruptive in class, and idle -- which was probably all true, of course.]

    However, what grieves me now is the huge lost opportunity of my school years, in that I can wonder what it would have been like growing up in place without such an unpleasant ethos. [Actually, I was lucky -- my last four years of school were spent at a public boys high school, and whatever other shortcomings it had (rampant homophobia and rugby-worship among them), bullying was not widely tolerated, and from memory all the caning there was done by the Deputy Principal, who had a reputation -- deserved I think -- as being a hard man, but fundamentally decent, and by no means a sadist.]

    At least for those students who went on to university, many of the most unpleasant remnants of their high school education seem to be shed over the summer at the end of 7th form.

    However, in my present job (faculty at a well known private university in New England which turns away more than 90% of the potential undergraduates who apply to it -- not that one, but the other one) I get to meet any number of students who attended high schools where they were clearly encouraged to excel and which possessed a relatively sane and tolerant environment (and certainly these schools are far from average in the US), and made a pretty much seamless transition to undergraduate study. And I must say I envy them.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    I got the same exit interview as you at the end of the sixth form and was also told what an abject failure I was going to become courtesy of a certain All Black Coach.

    The other disturbing aspect of Paremoremo Boy's High that you've failed to touch on is the number of teachers who were previous inmates.

    Overall I don't remember it being as bad as you but then I was in the 1st XV. ;-)

    BTW, are you still on the East Coast ? We have a classmate in Boston who I'm sure would like to catch up.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 344 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Yes I know Paremoremo Boys high quite well. And David you have my deepest sympathy for the horror that was your time there.

    I was zoned to go there and my parents fought the education department valiantly to get me into Green Bay High School.

    So I went to a school with no streaming, no corporal punishment, where we called our teachers by their first names and played sports with them - and NO rugby team!

    Many of my friends from intermediate school went to Paremoremo Boys High. And as the years went by it became increasingly obvious that they were being taught to be thugs and bullies with the most appalling attitudes to girls.

    I remember playing basketball for GBHS against PBH (we won) and talking with my old friends afterwards and being just plain amazed at how weird they all were.

    Fortunately times have changed a bit and the left wing loonies that ran GBHS have become the norm :).

    cheers
    Bart

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3221 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    He predicted that we would do badly at university

    When I skipped seventh form, I got the same predictions that I would fail horribly. (If you're reading, teachers at Rangitoto College in the early 1990s: thanks so much for all the encouragement.) Was this some sort of generally agreed teaching standard? It seems to have happened to lots of us. 'Crush the spirits of the ones who want to leave!'

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3623 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    RB wrote

    I am minded now to wonder what would have happened at primary school if I had politely but firmly declined to extend my hand for strapping, explaining that it was wrong.

    The first time I was strapped I remember not really knowing what was going on, so when I was told to hold out my hand I did...

    Until I saw the leather strap swinging down towards my hand...

    At which point I pulled my hand away with all the reflex speed of a 6 year old hyperactive boy...

    The strap missed my hand and went on to slap loudly and firmly on the teacher's bare leg leaving the most startling red welt.

    And I thought I was in trouble before I pulled my hand away...

    cheers
    Bart

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3221 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    The strap missed my hand and went on to slap loudly and firmly on the teacher's bare leg leaving the most startling red welt.

    Lol. Kudos, even if it was accidental.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6150 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Oh god, I went to Rangi too, Danielle. Only for a year, mind you, in my 7th form year - 1981. I had come fresh from a girls school in Wellington after a heated discussion over whether public schools were better than private schools. I argued vehemently that public schools were just as good, and for some reason, went home in those holidays and told my parents that I wasn't going to a private school anymore, they could find me a public school in Auckland. They duly did and Rangi was it. After my small school, Rangi was a shock with it's 1500 students. That and having classes with boys. I never had any problems with bullying and the teachers were okay to me - loved Francis Bell and the art history teacher whose name I can never remember - but I wonder if that's because I had no history at the school and I was a 7th former? When I was organising a class reunion a few years ago, I found most of the 300 people who had been in "our" year. Considering that there were only about 150 kids in my 7th form, that means over half the people who started in 1977 together had left at the end of the 6th form. I was surprised by how many of them, who I had never met before, hated the school, and their time there. Some of them told me that they had been similarly told they were hopeless, and attacked for leaving a year early. I was also shocked at how many people were expelled. I know when I was there that it was supposedly pregnant teen central in Auckland. Never saw that side of it so I don't know. And I remember sitting in assemblies whilst Noel Wood warned against the dangers of drug use, and all of us who knew about his son just tittering to ourselves. I loved that year at Rangi and most of the friends I had from that year are still my friends, 27 years on. Maybe I was lucky?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Lol. Kudos, even if it was accidental.

    I forgot to emphasise it was completely accidental. I had no idea that I was meant to leave my hand in the path of that piece of leather ... that would obviously hurt!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3221 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe,

    I am minded now to wonder what would have happened at primary school if I had politely but firmly declined to extend my hand for strapping, explaining that it was wrong.

    When I was about 7, the teacher tried strapping a girl called Josie on the palm for some misdemenour. When Josie refused to put out her hand (in fear, rather than defiance), the teacher lost her temper & strapped Josie around the legs. This wasn't a bad school, but that event has stayed with me for thirty years. The teacher's name I have long forgotten, while other, good teachers I can still recall.

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 557 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Oh god, I thought that I'd managed to repress all those memories, and now they've all come flooding back. Replace "Paremoremo" with something beginning with C, and English with Maths, and you've just written 5 years of my biography. Only imagine all that combined with an English accent and starting third form in 1981 wearing a HART badge.

    I myself went to a namby-pamby liberal high school with vertical forms and peer support and no streaming or corporal punishment.

    Actually, it was streaming that eventually saved the school experience for me. It was a relief to be in a class where the teachers could actually get on with teaching, rather than trying to prevent the troglodytic scions of the squatocracy from throwing desks at the blackboard.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe,

    Troglodytic Scions of the Squatocracy

    Great name for a band!

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 557 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    It is only now, after reading your post, that I've realised my roughly contemporary schooling was comparatively blessed. I went to a small Catholic boys school in the provinces, and we had some quite old fashioned things going on even for the times - an echo of fagging still existed, caps were still available, and blazers were the norm. We also wore shorts 365 days a year in the junior school, but we were boys in the bloom of youth and young men at that age are made of stern stuff, I don't remember the cold being anything other than just part of life.

    The senior school was given powers of discipline over the juniors which would be mind boggling to today's infantilising world, prefects were the school police force with none of the deeply disillusioning and cynical nonsense of rigged student "elections" for the role - you were appointed by the rector to the position of prefect, and your job was enforce the school's values and culture. We had bullying, but it wasn't that bad and we also had a sense of otherness which bound us together against the outside world. Certainly, the powers given to seniors was in most instances a maturing experience for the young men involved. I remember one priest suddenly stopping our class and urgently gesturing us to the window, where he pointed to a couple of state school boys wandering down the road, with rounded and stooped shoulders, socks down and hands thrust in pockets. After some seconds of puzzled looking on, he said in a deeply disappointed tone "Boys, bad posture, bad posture". For some reason, we sat a little straighter after that - no one wanted to be a slummy state schoolboy.

    Of course, we had a barely sane "discipline master" who seemed to relish thrashing schoolboys. Of course, we had a priest who it later turns out was also a kiddie fiddler when he was at St. Pat's in Wellington. Of course, I had the obligatory teacher who resented the fact I could take it easy in cruise mode and then get straight A's at exam time, and clashed with my ferociously protective mum when he had the temerity to mention this view at a parent teacher meeting. Unbelievably, when I went back to my old school on the one occasion I have done in the past 25 years, he still resented me. But all in all, it was school where the teaching staff were fantastic, and the religious teachers in my experience to a man had dedicated their lives to the vocation of raising fine young men with strong Christian values. My Latin teacher was a genius educator, whose main technique for teaching Latin was to conduct the entire class in sotto voce on the grounds that if you had to be quiet and concentrate to hear him, all the better. It may have been the times, but they seemed almost as happy if you just turned out to be an atheist with a strong streak of liberation theology in a well-developed social conscience. The education on offer (necessarily because Catholic school's were broke back then and couldn't afford flash equipment) was strong on languages, history, and geography. It was an excellent, liberal arts classical education for us blessed in the "A" stream, and it has stood me in good stead all my life. I came away from school a somewhat sheltered, idealistic and naive boy, already politically aware and active, who had been confidently trained to believe his role in life was to go off and rule the Indians or, since regrettably India was no longer part of the empire, exercise command over those unfortunate enough to be churned out of the great, grey state school factories.

    And all in all, you could do a lot worse than come away with that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1743 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    You know, there's a Wikipedia page for the suburb of Auckland that David is talking about here, and fully half of it is devoted to singing the praises of the Paremoremo 1st XV. I do wonder sometimes what would happen if high schools were banned from running competitive sports teams, leaving them with nothing to concentrate on but, y'know, teaching.

    And as the years went by it became increasingly obvious that they were being taught to be thugs and bullies with the most appalling attitudes to girls.

    A friend of mine, after four years at our liberal co-ed school, did his 7th form year at Timaru Boys' High, where they sang Jerusalem in school assemblies. He was appalled by the attitude of his fellow students to girls, and they in turn were appalled that he could talk to boob-bearers as if they were people.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • Donald Reid,

    I, to, attended a fascist boys school and probably around the same era (I've never been much of a historian, but how did the Victorian age extend so far into the 1980s?).

    School was, for me, totally absurd, extremely violent, strange, sad, but also sometimes quite funny. I think this is why so many men of our generation have such an affinity for Monty Python and punk rock.

    Dunedin, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    boob-bearers

    I can't help it but this just makes me think of very solemn looking men wearing suitably uncomfortable clothes carrying purple cushions. And as the enter the room someone would announce "all rise for the royal boob bearers"

    Probably the result of watching too much Monty Python

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3221 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    I too spent my informative years in a testosterone-fuelled sadist academy well-known for its rugby and rowing culture. Hint: it ends in lake.

    I was a smartarse and got thrashed for it on a few occasions and mostly without much complaint. However one day I was caught smoking and fraternising with some girls from our sister school during lunch and was marched off for some re-education of the cane kind. In a moment of sheer brilliance, I refused.

    Cue much huffing and threatening and general hilarity. My Mum was phoned and she proceeded to tell said cane-toad that if he laid one finger on me she'd have his balls etc etc. I could hear her not quite yelling at him that I had permission to smoke at home and even bring girls around if I was lucky enough to find one naive enough. He couldn't help himself and started chuckling and after hanging up told me to piss off and try not to get caught again.

    Having said that, my teachers were generally supportive and only a couple could be seen in retrospect as psychotic.

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Why has the 'tradition' of my old Marlborough Boys' College (one of the many High Schools I was sent to) of an "Undie Run" and the respondant MGC "Bra Dash" not been in existance in my day!?

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    I was zoned to go there and my parents fought the education department valiantly to get me into Green Bay High School.

    So I went to a school with no streaming, no corporal punishment, where we called our teachers by their first names and played sports with them - and NO rugby team!

    Many of my friends from intermediate school went to Paremoremo Boys High. And as the years went by it became increasingly obvious that they were being taught to be thugs and bullies with the most appalling attitudes to girls.

    I remember playing basketball for GBHS against PBH (we won) and talking with my old friends afterwards and being just plain amazed at how weird they all were.

    Fortunately times have changed a bit and the left wing loonies that ran GBHS have become the norm :).

    I don't think GBHS experiment of the 70's and 80's will be repeated in a hurry after years of academic underperformance and financial mis-management a statutory manager was introduced a couple of years ago (not sure if they're still in place). The school is slowly gaining the confidence of the community again I understand.

    And guess what... hard to believe but they've introduced a uniform !

    I suspect if you were about to enter high school now it would be Western Springs College that your parents would be fighting to get you into.....

    how weird they all were.

    I can assure you despite all the odds a few of us from PBHS (Mr Hayward included ) turned out OK

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 344 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    If I've done my detective work right, Paremoremo Boys' High was my dad's secondary school.

    I've asked him what it was like in the late 60s and early 70s. I never got many answers. For my part I was safely steered away into a Catholic boys' school with a similar obsession with rugby, but thankfully much less violence (although some teachers did persist with corporal punishment, this being in the late 1990s and early 2000s). I thought I had it rotten. Clearly I was wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1549 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I think I attended the same boys high school - except it was in Dunedin and probably more evil - I escaped in the middle of 5th form to a coed school and was promptly placed in a class of 36 - 6 of which were boys .... total culture shock.

    I too was sort of offered to skip 6th form ... but in a different sort of way - come the end of 6th form I was accredited and few of us were pulled aside and offered "would you like to sit bursary this year" ... rather than hang out for a month and do nothing.

    We did - what a mistake! what were we thinking!

    We knuckled under and worked together to crack this bursary thing - I'm pretty sure we all passed - everyone else who'd been accredited slagged off and went to the beach - still being 16 I couldn't just hare of to Uni - instead I went in to 7th form - and slagged off for an entire year, even occasionally went to the beach, sat bursary again and got a lower score in most subjects ....

    Really I should have done a 'gap year' and lived in the world instead

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2032 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Hi Glenn

    after years of academic underperformance and financial mis-management

    No comment on the financial mismanagement, I had no idea I was only a student.

    But on the academic underperformance - that was a matter of perspective. In my year we sent 7 or 8 of us off to University. Which was an astoundingly low number. Except that of those only one dropped out and 5 went on to get PhD level degrees! The rest of the 7th form class had learned that University was NOT where they should go for their careers and so they didn't go.

    I can assure you despite all the odds a few of us from PBHS (Mr Hayward included ) turned out OK

    I believe you, and I suspect that most of the boys stopped being weird pretty soon after leaving. Just that at that time it was a striking difference.

    And wasn't Mr Harward a neat teacher :).

    cheers
    Bart

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3221 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    Crickey, David, there's a post to stir a few memories. I went through west Auckland public eduction a few years after you I guess (we had Sixth Form Certificate, and corporal punishment had been banned a year or two earlier).

    Fortunately, West Auckland Grammar School (WAGS) was coeducational, which smoothed off some of the roughest edges. And while there was a rugby culture, there was no disadvantage to not being part of it. You were welcome to pursue field hockey, soccer, or nothing at all.

    The gross inadequacy of the uniforms in winter (incidentally, classrooms were either unheated, or had electric bar heaters ... rendered useless by the fact they were attached to the ceiling) is a strong memory.

    Paired to this, was the WAGS administrators' obsession with the minutiae of uniform infractions. One distinct memory of 3rd form involved girls' hair being inspected for non-colour-compliant hair ties. There were three permissible colours, from memory, and those girls found to be deploying others were sent off for punishment. A good screaming at, presumably.

    In subsequent years, the same administrators fought pitched battles with boys over earrings and facial hair (both prohibited). I distinctly recall that, in my last few years, they'd given up trying to enforce this for Maori and PI students (presumably because these students told them to "eff off") - but the intimidation of the white guys continued apace. There were times when it seemed there was 5 minutes of uniform enforcement for 1 minute of teaching at WAGS.

    The teachers were, I suppose, the usual mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The ugly generally tried to instill fear/respect through uncontrolled screaming. They included the ugliest, stupidest maths teacher ever to deter interest in that most damned of subjects; a bug-eyed Christian sadist; and (briefly) an overtly racist Maori deputy principal.

    I must say, though, I am surprised to see you put much of your misfortune down to being streamed in 3A. Try being unstreamed in west Auckland. The only consolation was that most of your illiterate and overtly violent 'classmates' dropped out when they were 15.

    I don't think teaching can occur in any meaningful sense, when, as in our 3rd form English class, one group is reading Homer's "The Odyssey", while another group can barely spell their names, and struggle with "Hairy MacCleary" or similar.

    Despite this far from inspiring context, a large number of those who made it to 7th form went on to do very well at Uni, some going on to Masters' degrees, and a few on to PhDs.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Allan Moyle,

    The Dickensian violence of a mid to late 20th century NZ school education. It was not just high school.... I can't say I did not deserve to be disciplined at times, but having my open palm "bladed" with a metre rule at age 8 opening the skin on my thumb joint and left to bleed for an hour certainly stands out. After that I really did have an issue with any teachers who chose corporal punishment as the consequence. A Form 1 teacher who on the last day strapped 4 of us, causing one boy to lose bladder control, and finally snapping, when I deigned to move my hand out of the the way for the 3rd of three to make him miss and thrash me all over in a rage.
    Fortunately High School was much better, teachers with a passion for their subjects and a willingness to engage set me on a path of loving learning, improving results right through to achieving a Master of Science, with only a few dinosaurs in the system still intent on thrashing you with the cane.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 86 posts Report Reply

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