Schoolyard ghosts

In December last year, my high school turned 50. My curiosity got the better of me. I had to go back. I NEEDED to go back. School had made me who I am today (the good bits I mean!).


I love reading biographies and autobiographies. In the last few years I’ve read them more than I’ve picked up a novel. The only problem though is they influence my own writing so much.


This post started off as 1900 words and very autobiographical…then I decided it was best to cut some out. You don’t need all the details of my high school days. After all, perhaps that rather unstable girl in year ten who wanted to beat me to death with a rusty rake at a party, well maybe she is genuinely remorseful 13 years later (I’m still not adding her on Facebook).


Anyway, in the words of the late, brilliant Heath Ledger (playing the Joker)…
In 1996 my parents decided, after months of my pleading, to pull me out of the religious school (placing far too great an emphasis on my disinterest in learning the ‘Book of Acts’ and not enough on my inability to do mathematic equations) and send me to Kalamunda Senior High instead.


2010 - c block. My yr10 formroom to the right, Ahead is the library. This is the lawn where I sat nervously on my first day, waiting to be sorted into classes.

I was just a few months off my 15th birthday and going into year 10. I knew one person there, a guy I’d gone to primary school with and had stayed a good friend. I sat shaking on the lawn that first day, pleading that I’d get put in the same class as him so that I wouldn’t just be ‘the new girl’, wretched and alone.

Naturally, fate conspired against me and I didn’t get put in that class. And naturally, being a fifteen year old boy, within a week he deemed me far too uncool to be seen with him anyway and that was the end of that. Thankfully that first day saw me end up with one of the kindest form teachers I could’ve hoped for (Mr Guntrip) and quickly taken under the wing of Renae, to whom I’m eternally grateful to, fifteen years later.


Year 10 form photo - 1996 (I'm at bottom left)


It was with a very strange sense of deja vu and sheer terror that I walked into a classroom last February, a decade after leaving TAFE to do it all over again. Be the new kid, in the middle year where everyone knew everyone else. Wondering if I’d fit in, if I’d keep up, if I’d be any good, if I’d pass.


Yes to all of those by the way.


Back to high school…
Year 10 wasn’t exactly my defining hour. Like 15 year olds before me and no doubt since, it was all about trying to work out who the hell I was, what I was doing and who I wanted to spend my time with. Oh and getting a boyfriend. Nothing seemed more important than that.


I did get one eventually. A redhead guy. The events that transpired swore me off redheads for life…well, until I married one 12 years later anyway. My first kiss was nothing short of completely traumatic. The words “This isn’t how they do it on Home & Away” still haunt me!


I spent most of year choosing to hang around the boys. Some may call them nerds, I just call them brilliant. Straight talking and most of the time I knew exactly where I stood with them.

1996. C block in background. - Ian, Chris, Kieran, Lucas, Russell and Andrew with Liam's making bunny ears in the background.


1997 - Yet another break time in the media room. This is my bestie, Rach.

1997 - Yet another break time in the media room. This is my bestie, Rach.











Year 11 was the polar opposite of year 10. Towards the end of year 10, Rach came over from Tasmania and we became best friends – you know, matching shoes and everything so I went into year 11 with a best mate and very excited about getting stuck into ‘upper school’.


If I had the choice to spend a week as any age again, I think it’d have to be 16. Ok not the crappy breakup bits but most of it was good and whenever I think about school, my happy memories more often than not, drift back to year 11.


At that stage I was hellbent on a career in media, PR or the theatre. Kalamunda was brilliant for this as the year before they’d spent a great deal upgrading the school. It now had a TV studio, music wing, new performing arts centre, manual arts (woodworking etc) and the jewel in the crown – our very own radio station. Our classes were mixed in with the year 12s which had the benefit of bringing a whole new bunch of friends and experiences into my life.


Me at the school fete in 1997. I was working as a roaming reporter / PR manager for the radio station and my Media teacher, Mrs Green took this photo.

Having been very passionate about media in year 10 I managed to get a job as the Publicity Manager for the school’s new radio station. This meant I had to go out and find sponsors and promote the station both around the school and the community.

By some completely messed up bureaucratic nonsense, the same people that decided to set the school up with its own radio station also decided nobody at school was actually allowed to listen to it on anything other than the PA *sigh*.

It was a proper business, we had to spend our lunchtimes at meetings or broadcasting etc. So much time spent in the media room. It was almost like a second home with couches, coffee cups and more movie posters than you could poke a stick at.


Nic in 1997. Studying in the English block.

It was through the radio station that I made friends with Rod who introduced me to internet chatting, some awesome music and before too long, Nic, my first proper boyfriend who at 16 looked like a young Heath Ledger. Ok…maybe not but it’s my memory so :p

I can’t remember at what point I changed my mind and decided to be a photographer but somewhere between that first fuzzy, grey print and midway through year 12, I was sold.

I’d had a gutful of learning greek tragedies in Drama and with all of my older friends graduating I lost interest in the radio station and at times, school in general. Lunchtimes were now spent alone in the darkroom, building my folio. Engrossed in the beauty of watching the pictures appear on the paper. I lugged a portfolio and photo albums around with me everywhere and nothing was so important as getting into TAFE. Which I did… and it was phenomenally harder back in 1999. Luckily I had a wonderfully supportive Photography teacher, Mr Sillitoe (who now prefers I call him Keith). He taught me from scratch and there is not enough chocolate in the world to ever repay him for giving me this gift.

By graduation, I’d had enough. I didn’t go on Schoolies, I didn’t keep in touch with everyone. I left Kalamunda and I didn’t go back. It was a great school and I’m very proud to have been taught there. But the people made the place for me and those people were never the type to be interested in a 10yr reunion, so I never went to mine.

In December last year, the school turned 50. My curiosity got the better of me. I had to go back. I NEEDED to go back. Kalamunda had made me who I am today (the good bits I mean!). It taught me how to work to briefs, how to manage a team, set goals and collaborate. It nurtured my creativity. I was still pathetic at maths but luckily there’s not too much demand for a vendiagram in portraiture. On this point… I was completely bewildered with all the hoopla about outcomes based education a few years ago, seeing as I’d done it all in 1997!


KSHS Media Block, 2010. I spent so much time here in high school.

I took my Husband with me to the school’s 50th celebrations. Poor man was bored shitless but kind enough to tag along. It must’ve been so strange for him. He saw a patch of grass and a couple of wheelie bins or an empty classroom. I saw ghosts of my teenage self. I had to fight back tears as I walked into the media room where I’d spent so much time. I couldn’t bring myself to go up to the art studios where I’d not only had my year 12 form and 3 years of joy but had hung out in the afternoons with Nic, listening to Martin Molly on the radio and waiting for his Mum (an art teacher and later my year 12 form and art teacher to finish work).
I would’ve been an absolute mess if I’d have been able to get into the Photography room. Those four little walls hold so much of ‘me’ in them.

Where it all began. The photography classroom (shot through a glass door).


After walking around pointing out all the changes and looking like a right weepy idiot, I went to assembly for the first time in 13 years. That was bizarre. It was a bit like being in Grease. All school pride and back slapping. I felt an enormous sense of pride, marred only by the fact that most people in the hall were of my Mum’s generation. It was funny to see men in their 50s carrying on like they were teenagers again, giggling and gossiping away in assembly. Some things never change.

Then a friendly face at last. My very first form room teacher, Mr Guntrip. Huge hugs. Teariness on my part. Bad photography on Husbands part but it completed the day…almost.

In the library sat the time capsule. Not my year, I’m not sure we had one, but for the year above mine. The year I was 16 and all the friends that I’d made through the radio station, Rod and the decision to mix up the 11s and 12s. Bumped into my old radio station boss, Lisa and her Husband, Anthony pouring over the table’s contents with me. Cassette tapes of the radio shows, photographs, favourite trinkets. Yearbooks, more photos.

I had to leave. A girl can only dredge up so much of the past before she forgets to actually live in the present.  I’m eternally grateful to the school and the people I shared it with (with a few minor exceptions). It did great things for me.

I get amused though by those kids that say they can’t wait to leave school though…you’ll see. One day you’ll be wearing the rose tinted glasses  about your school days too.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


3 thoughts on “Schoolyard ghosts

  1. He he, it was a weird day and awesome to see you there Kell. You reminded me and Lisa of so much we had forgotten of that year. Pity that stupid can of coke exploded and ruined half of the stuff in the time capsule (never should have put that in there…..)

    • Thanks for stopping by Anthony =)
      Sucks about the Coke, I didn’t know that’s what had happened. The day felt really surreal because in my head it isn’t that long ago and is as clear (clearer) than it’d happened say 6 months ago. To think of us all in our 30s is very strange. It doesn’t feel like 15 years have gone by.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Schoolyard ghosts « Blackcurrant Photography – Perth, Western Australia. Blog, portraiture, gifts, souvenirs and fine art photography. --

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s