Dear Mr Frankland
I think this must have been late in 1962 or early 1963; you had been the Principal of our tiny, two roomed, two teacher school for a number of years by then. 1963 would be my last year with you before heading off to Boarding School.
You and Mrs Frankland together with your family had joined us for Sunday lunch at the farm. You were helping Mum with the washing up in the tiny pantry room after we had eaten, I had stepped into the adjoining kitchen without either of you noticing and I heard you say.
“The boy is not dumb, Carol; he is just bone lazy”
You had been discussing my chances of passing the selective schools exam in the middle of 1963, Jerry had sat for this and passed with flying colors four years earlier.
Now, with things being what they were on the farm; Mum was hoping I could follow him to the cheaper Government Boarding School, especially designed for the sons of farmer’s, rather than having to go to the more expensive option of Steve’s old Private School in Albury.
The entrance exam for this School was testing and Mum was obviously concerned my lack of interest in anything, let alone education; would be to my detriment.
This was your solution:
“I tell you what I will do Carol; I stay after school two or three days a week to catch up on paperwork for an hour or so, why don’t I get him to stay back for some intensive spelling, reading and arithmetic?”
My fate was sealed, and for the next six months I would be forced to sit in the classroom after school and complete reading, spelling and maths assignments before I could be allowed to leave.
Just what you thought of this geeky, skinny kid being thrust into the maelstrom of masculinity that the Farmers School offered rather than, the more genteel and civilized atmosphere of Grammar School, I will never know.
Jerry and I could not have been more different, he was a farmer born and bred, and; also stockily built, able to hold his own against anyone, whereas I was a sickly, weak, short sighted kid, scared of violence and aggression.
The reasons for me passing this exam, would never have been explained to you in anything other than in terms of how well Jerry had done at this school. I am certain the financial imperatives would never have been mentioned, but I think you understood.
I passed the exam and was accepted for the Farmers school, but that is not what I am writing to thank you for.
During those afternoons in the quiet classroom, you instilled in me a love of simple arithmetic, a passion for spelling and a joy in reading that I have never lost, and for this; I am eternally grateful.
The capacity for quick calculations, an almost messianic belief in good spelling and a voracious need for something to read at all times, are the legacy I took away from our time together and I am humbled when I think of the time you spent with me, well beyond the call of any duty.
On top of this; my time with you got me excused from many of the chores that would normally have been mine to do in the afternoons after school.
I will take reading a book in the quietness of a deserted school room, any day; over cleaning shitty straw from cattle sheds!!