“It is not only absence that makes us think fondly of our schooldays; it is our present realisation that life does not begin on leaving school. It is there for the taking all our days and we should concentrate more on the good parts. Petty acts and petty speech practised often will not cease at seventeen, so develop your fond heart now. Live and let live so that you, too, may not look back in anger.”
These powerful and moving words took me by surprise a few weeks ago when my family history interest led me to go through a collection of family papers and memorabilia. They were in the first newsletter my parents had received from the Sydney Boys High School Parents and Citizens’ Association when my brother went to that school in 1960.
Black and white, without photos, but professionally and clearly set out and printed by The Central Press Pty. Ltd. – Homebush and Sydney, the newsletter’s information and style is welcoming and conveys a sense of an interesting and open organisation. It makes a good impression.
I don’t know if that was why my late mother kept this particular issue, tucking it away with photos and school reports. She saved no other issues.
In 2012, however, I am glad she did. The front page is given over to a preface, written by Margaret Whitlam, member of the Sydney Boys’ High School P&C, a parent doing her bit to support her sons and the school they attend, seven years before Gough Whitlam became Leader of the Opposition.
It is elegant, direct and personal writing, conveying the urgency and drive of a parent who wants the happiness of her children, and knows this can only eventuate if we create a tolerant society and a big-hearted world.
I don’t imagine many boys read the P&C newsletter in 1960. Lots of parents, however, did. The organisation was active, well supported and contributed in many ways to the school’s success.
The tributes and obituaries for Margaret Whitlam published over the last few days reinforce my sense that she lived by the advice she offered the boys in 1960. She chose not to practise petty acts and petty speech, but lived and let live, developing her fond heart early and nurturing it throughout her life.
I don’t know if it was for this advice my mother kept the newsletter, but I’m grateful.