By Warren Nunn

As Rockhampton High School celebrates its centenary in 2019, here’s some recollections I have about my time as a student.

It’s fairly predictable to have warm feelings about high school years. Those teenage years when, for some, long-lasting friendships begin.

Ready for my first day at Rockhampton High School in 1967.
Ready for my first day at Rockhampton High School in 1967.

I started at Rockhampton High School in 1967. I was in 8D, my form teacher was Sylvia Johnson and, having come from an all-boys school, I got to sit next to a girl for the first time. Miss Johnson was also my form teacher in Year 11.

Working out who I remember

As I look at lists of students that started that same year, many names are familiar but I can’t be certain about those in my year 8 class. What I can say for sure is that there are some people with whom I’m still in contact more than 50 years later.

Here are some names I recognise from a list of those who started at Rocky High in 1967:

  • Lex Bartlem (We were in the same classes at Leichhardt Ward State School. Lex went on to become a career diplomat)
  • Greg Belz (city councillor)
  • Peter Clapin (We met by chance a few years ago and remain in contact)
  • Dennis Connors (We worked together as journalists with The Courier-Mail newspaper)
  • Judy Dobbs (Her twin boys started school the same day as my daughter at Patrick’s Road State School, Ferny Hills, Brisbane)
  • Russ Faulkner (our wives worked together as teachers)
  • Barry Hare (Australian table tennis champion at one stage. Some of us used to meet at Lee Brittain’s house and play table tennis. Barry would give me 15 points start, play left-handed and usually win 21-15!)
  • John Lisle (He was a friend after high school. A troubled individual, he took his own life. I remained friends with his parents Col and Lottie until they passed away)
  • Steve Moore (On Sunday nights, we’d walk about 5km from The Range on Southside to a dance in Nobbs Street. He came to my wedding in 1976 but thereafter we lost contact. Last heard of him working for the Australian Federal Police)
  • Ruth Nunn (No close relationship but our family name traces back to the same part of England. She actually descends from a Warren Nunn born 1832 in Cambridgeshire)
  • Noel Oxlade (We have occasional email contact. Noel was keen on planes and we used to ride out past the airport most mornings before school)
  • Twins Jim and David Purcell who lived two doors away from me in Flynn Street
  • Rod Reddy (Another Leichhardt Ward old boy. Of course, he played rugby league for Australia and also coached the now-defunct Adelaide Rams)
  • Rob Schwarten (politician)
  • Diane Sleaford (a second cousin who passed away in 2017)
  • Stan Western (I recall he joined the Navy. I met his son by chance 20-odd years later)

Others included: Rosalie Abel, Kerry Adsett, Bill Aspden, Cheryl Atkinson, Judy Belz, Kerrod Biles, Annette Bleney, Jill Bloxsom, Terry Bone, Ray Boswood, Bob Bowser, Rhonda Bradbury, Lee Brittain, Karen Bryson, Nev Butcher, Warren Casey, Karen Cheesman, Lyle Chopping, Alan Cock (later known as Bob Cock?), Jacqui Coe, Clyde Cooling, Sylvia Corones, Dale Corrie, Wayne Crone, Kristine Cruden, Ron Dagan (a near neighbour), Barry Dallow, Rod Davis, Mark Devine, Rod Dew, Stan Dillon, Russell Donaghey, David Evans, Veronica Ferricks, Kerry Fesuk, Noel Finn, Adrian Flint, Wayne Gabel, Noel Ganter, Ron Gill, Ross Goerg, Christine Hoddy, Warren Ivers, Pauline Jasperson, Daryl Kidd, Russ Kindervater, Lesley Long, Sharon Machin, Warren Malone, Gary Mannion, Wayne McDonald, Jon McGhee, Russ McGregor, Michael Moulds, Glen Mullins, Scott Munro, Lee Mylrea, Richard Nolan, Kerry Nufer, Joe Offord, Lee Pastourel, Darryl Petrinec, Sandra Robinson, Phillip Robinson, Mark Ryan, Noel Sands, John Schibrowski, Denise Scott, John Shanks, Graham Shields, Corinne Slatter, Kim Smith, Denise Stebhens, Murray Stoddart, Peter Thomasson, Lawrie Thomson, Helen Tidbury, Russ Tudman, Geoff Walters, Denise Watts, Christine Westmoreland, Bruce Wherry, Robert Whiting, Larry Wooler, Len Zornig.

Sport, play acting but not much schoolwork

Academic I was not. I can’t even say I tried hard because I had no real appreciation of what education was. I loved sport and also became involved in school productions.

Rockhampton High School 1972: Students and roles they played in The Music Man. From left are Jill Atherton and Kirsten Frisch (obscured) who shared the lead role of Marian Paroo; Ross Barraclough who was Tommy Djilas; Ross McLellan (back, glasses) who was Mayor Shinn; Ross Ahern (cap) who was Winthrop Paroo; Paul Newman, who was Marcellus Washburn; and Warren Nunn (right) who was Harold Hill. Click image for larger view.

They provide my best memories of high school years. I still try to sing the songs and remember lines from The Pajama Game, Guys And Dolls, and The Music Man.

I so enjoyed the rehearsals, trying to learn to dance (which I still do very badly) and performing on the night.

In 1969 the school did Guys and Dolls which starts with a complicated number called Fugue For Tinhorns where three gamblers sing about which horse they’re going to back.
It requires timing and precision that I didn’t have as a 15-year-old. The newspaper reviewer wasn’t very flattering but it was accurate; we just sang over one another!

The reviewer said a singing weakness, was particularly evident in the opening number, “Fugue for Tinhorns,” which has a number of repeated lines calling for crisp treatment. These were completely blurred.

I have a lasting memory of the way in which Kim Smith carried off the role of Hinesy in Pajama Game. He nailed it with an over-the-top effort. He also excelled in the role of Harry The Horse in Guys And Dolls (some audio of that below).

And, in 1972, Ross McLellan was terrific as Mayor Shinn in Music Man. One night he almost pulled off my tie which I had to quickly adjust.

Unfortunately for both Jill Atherton and Kirsten Frisch, our characters had to kiss. From memory I don’t think Jill was very keen on it.

After I left school I acquired from one of the teachers, Bob Hutcheon, audio recordings of both Guys and Dolls and The Music Man which I still have. He had striking white hair and the last time I spoke to him I think he was totally blind. He certainly used a cane.

Some audio from Guys and Dolls. One of the voices is that of Terry Bates who played Sky Masterton as well as Kim Smith as Harry The Horse. This excerpt leads into the singing of Luck Be a Lady.
Excerpt of dialogue after the opening number from The Music Man in 1972. First voice is of the character Charlie Cowell (played by both Blair Healy and Scott Gibson on different nights). It’s when Charlie meets Harold Hill (yours truly).
Excerpt from the number Ya Got Trouble from The Music Man. Sung very badly by yours truly.

At the start of the 1970 school year I decided to repeat year 10 but left part way through and worked at a clothing store.

Not really knowing what I wanted to do for a career, I headed back to school in 1971 to do my “senior” years.

However, I didn’t finish senior because in July 1972, I started as a cadet journalist with The Morning Bulletin. There began a 40-plus year association with newspapers that eventually took me to The Courier-Mail where I spent 27 years mostly as a sub-editor. As an aside, one of my colleagues at Bowen Hills was another Rocky High alumni, Dennis Connors.

Teachers’ influence continues

The teachers who most influenced me were Peter Baggett (maths), Barbara Howard (commercial subjects) and Max Barnbaum (geography).

I had “connections” with all three teachers after I left Rocky High.

I discovered that Barbara Howard was my dad’s second cousin; I worked with Max Barnbaum’s son Mark at The Morning Bulletin; and the electrician who has done work on my house in Brisbane is Peter Baggett’s nephew.

One of my memories is going to a shop in Wandal Road where I used to buy a hamburger and a “coke float”. From memory it was made from Coca-Cola and ice-cream. Sounds revolting, doesn’t it?

Anyway here are some images from way back then … when I had hair!

Lens have a look at those years

Rockhampton High School leaders in 1972. Please correct me if I’ve gone wrong identifying people.
Back (from left): Connie Besch, Lyn Cave, Sylvia Corones, Elizabeth Fury, school captains Donna Cranston and Tony Dew, Judy Keily, Helen Saunders, Karen Seery, Helen Springell, Judy Town. 
(from left): Darryl West, Warren Nunn, Noel Paterson, Chris Newsome, Greg Morris, Steve Moore, Norm Lawler, Ian McDonald, David Everitt, Robert Doubleday.
(Thanks to Jenny Leyland, Donna Cranston and Helen Springell for helping out with names as well)
Under-14 cricket team
Cricket was my passion from the time I could pick up a bat. My skill level didn’t match my enthusiasm. Names are Greg Belz, yours truly, Ray Boswood, Gary Warner, Murray Stoddart, Rod Dew, Laurence Wilson, Scott Munro, teacher Noel Cochran, Mark Ryan, Ian McDonald, Ian Perrett.

School enrolments 1967 and 1968
List of school enrolments that include some from both 1967 and 1968.

Guys and Dolls program
Part of the program for the 1969 school production of Guys and Dolls. I’ve seen the show several times since, most recently in 2014 when TV personality Daryl Somers played the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson for the Harvest Rain Theatre Company in Brisbane.

School magazine report on Guys and Dolls
The 1969 school magazine entry about Guys and Dolls.

Pajama Game program
In 1970 the school did a performance of The Pajama Game.
Grade 11 form notes 1972
These are form notes from my Grade 11 class in 1971. Given I was form captain I must have had something to do with the words above. The narrative doesn’t exactly flow.
High School friends 1972
This is an after-school picture taken in Hunter Street outside Lyn O’Neill’s place. Lyn is at left with Leigh Gower (don’t think she went to Rocky High), who is holding a P-plate on Steve Moore’s head. Jeff Munce is behind Steve while that’s me at right with the Nunn family dog, Fred. Lyn O’Neill gave me a copy of this image about 20 years ago after we met at a function in Brisbane.
Grade 12C in 1972.
I’m not in my senior class photo in 1972 because I left in the July to start work. Look at all the hair the boys had!
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