In spirit gay

On Saturday I went to a class re-union of the Opportunity C Class I attended in fifth and sixth classes. These classes are a NSW peculiarity, dating from about 1937. Students were selected from a feeder district of primary schools for two classes with an intake in fifth class and you then stayed in the same class with the same teacher for sixth class. In 1970, when I went, the classes were not particularly favoured by the Department of Education and no new such classes had been established for many years. More recently, with the push to provide special programs of all sorts and the revival of selective education in the state system, new classes have been established and of course these days children in fourth class can get coaching for the intake exam.

For me and I guess for quite a few of the other boys the classes were a refuge from the unremittingly sporty and non-intellectual atmosphere of their local school. I was no longer an outcast or subjected to bullying because I read books and could not play sport. It was a bit of a blow when I returned to comprehensive education at the beginning of high school and found that things had remained the same in the world at large. Still is, in some ways.

There were some speeches. We sang the school song. I confess that I led the singing (in a key considerably below the original B flat major). I knew the tune best because I played it almost every week at school assembly in my role as official school pianist and find I can still play it.

The job of playing piano at assemblies was apparently an auditioned post. A girl shared the appointment. She preferred to sit with her friends on the floor on the opposite side of the hall to the piano. I was never very good at sitting cross-legged and I was permitted to sit on a chair next to the piano – nobody expected me to sit on the floor there with the third-class kids. So mostly I got or took the gig.

I hadn’t remembered all the words. Somebody else found them. There were three verses! Here they are:

Truth, trust and loyalty are what we learn at school,
We’ll strive to do our best, obey the Golden Rule.
Upon the oval green we’ll always play the game.
In every sport we’ll try to bring Artarmon fame.

We’ll stand by pledge and rule. For truth we’ll strike a blow.
Democracy you’ll learn if to our school you go.
Our thoughts, our hearts, our hopes each week join in this song.
Let’s help each other still and make Artarmon strong.

Thus loyal to our school as year on year doth run,
We’ll bring to her great fame in all that we have done.
God bless this school of ours and help us through the day
To play and do our lessons well in spirit gay.

Examination of the school’s web-site suggests that the song is no longer used. The sentiments are probably too corny and the verse too clunky for present tastes and so perhaps is the slightly old-school faux-patriotic tune (dotted notes; a Rule Britannia-ish rise to the dominant in the final phrase followed by a text-book cadential 6/4). Even so, I have a hunch it was the last word which finally did for it.

4 Responses to “In spirit gay”

  1. 'Diz' Says:

    I was at Artarmon OC in 1970 – in sixth class. I cannot remember the school song. Even reading the words sparks no memory. So much for being gifted. lol.

    Did many people attend the reunion? Of all the schools I went to, that’s the only where I’d be interested in hearing what the kids did in their adult lives.

    • marcellous Says:


      A reasonable number of people came and quite a few more provided info about themselves. I can’t remember the actual numbers.

      The thing that struck me about what people did since is first the gender differential, including the quite surprising (to me) number of girls who went into nursing (maybe it wasn’t many but to me it was surprising that anyone would! – early independence was part of the attraction, I think) and secondly, a sign of the era, how many of the boys had ended up in computing/IT. Quite a few of the girls were now teaching, though mostly as jobs compatible with motherhood – by our cohort the Department of Education had practically stopped hiring.

      • 'Diz' Says:

        No surprise to me if there’s lots of nurses and teachers. As you wrote, “It was a bit of a blow when I returned to comprehensive education at the beginning of high school and found that things had remained the same in the world at large.” Same for the girls.

        I hated high school (wagged lot of it but still managed to pass all exams). Nobody ever said “You’re smart, so really you can have any career you choose.” Was sent on a tour of RNSH in the hope I’d become a nurse. No chance. I hated the sight of blood. Went to uni under pressure to become a teacher. Dropped out. Invited back. Dropped out again.

        I can’t remember who told me that 50% of gifted children lead wasted lives, but it sprang to mind when I saw one of my former OC classmates driving a bus years later.

        Lucky for me, I stumbled into a great career and my life has been very interesting. Investigative journalist, then other interesting developments.

        My kids are all blessed/cursed with high IQ and I made it my mission to keep them challenged enough with new adventures to try and keep them out of trouble. (I knew how easy it was for me to get into mischief when I was bored.)

        They’ve lived and been schooled in multiple states – and countries – and I’ve made a very real effort to give them all the support I’d have liked when I was young.

        Even with the benefit of hindsight, I’m still not sure whether attending Artarmon OC was a good thing for me or not. I’m extremely happy with my adult life, but I think that’s more a case of good luck than good management.

        There was nothing simple about childhood in the 60s. Mind you, I can’t think of a better decade than the 70s for being a teenager. :)

        Did you buy hot chips and potato scallops from the fish and chip shop opposite the train station? I almost missed my train a few times, waiting for an after-school scallop.

      • marcellous Says:

        Ah, yes, the scallops!

        The question of whether a life is “successful” or “wasted” (if these are the appropriate antonyms) is a pretty complicated one. It’s a short step to the glass half-full/-empty dilemma and I wonder if that 50% figure you mention is just a truistic reflection of that.

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