Memories on Br O'Keane
author: Lorrie Liston
Memories of Br O’Keane have continued to stream into the Green, White and Blue e-newsletter after our recent stories detailing the “mystery of Ballarat’s weird obsession with the bocka” and its possible connection with SPC’s very own Christian Brother.
Old Boy Reg Fenton (SPC 1953-56) also remembered fellow Old Boy Jim Gallagher’s (SPC 1956-60) memories that Br O’Keane’s nickname was “Coke”.
“As I recall, it was a play on his surname with an irreverent undertone – coke being an abbreviation for cocaine – a slow-acting dope. I hasten to add this rather unflattering nomenclature in no way was meant to be taken as a reflection on character or ability of the good Brother who was, indeed, a well-respected member of the St Patrick’s fraternity,” says Reg.
“I’m afraid ‘political correctness’ did not have a great influence on us lads in those days.”
Old Boy Don Grant AM (SPC 1943-50, PY1951) also joined in the conversation around boarding meal time routines.
“During my time as a boarder, there were several terms used in relation to the delivery of food.
“The "Server out" served out the main dish, ie the meat. The "Rip" had the job of, after Grace before meals was said, to move swiftly to form a queue to get the dish/es of food from the kitchen. He would return to the table and help to serve out the vegetables if any. As quickly as he could, he would then return to the kitchen to get any "Oddy", which was additional food if there was any surplus. There was no guarantee that there would be any Oddy! So speed was essential. However if Rip was seen to run, he was sent to the end of the queue.
“Sunday evening meal was a piece of cake and cocao. We used to augment this by bringing Bonox to the table and getting hot water from the kitchen. Bread pieces in the Bonox was sustaining. Sunday lunch was usually a roast. Saturday evening meal was a piece of cheese; again augmented with provisions from our tuck lockers. There was usually no shortage of stale bread but little butter.
After each meal, a large tub of hot water was delivered to a long bench where four of us would wash, dry and set the three tables (each of 10 boys) in each group.”
Don said he has neven seen “Oddy” (referring to additional food) as a written word, and reasons it may have been transformed into “Otti” as mentioned by Old Boy Michael Meere (SPC 1960-63) in a previous story in the GWB.
As for the table seatings, 10 boys sat at each table, one at each end and four each side, Don remembers.
“Depending on your class, the seating varied. Worst case was where the Intermediate class occupied the top five seats and the "bubs" the lower five. Each end rotated so the younger ones never got a chance to serve the food. Guess who got the most!
“’Server out’ sat at the head of the table and Rip and Oddy on each side of him.”
Don also shared more memories of Saturday night routines.
“After the evening meal, we had prayers in the chapel - the old wooden one - and then attend "pictures" in the hall. During the pictures if your name was called, you were in trouble. Some boys were never seen again. They packed their bags, were removed from the school and expelled. Lesser punishment was a thrashing or extra school work instead of watching the films.”
Don also remembers managing the Young Farmers Club, which looked after several hundred hens. There was also a small team, which collected the boys’ laundry and moved it down to the laundry. That was great fun.
“And, each class usually had an SP bookmaker which occasionally caused some problems. I also ran a doubles card. If the bets were too high we off-laid with a nearby bootmaker. Always a risky business to break bounds. I got into bother with Br Healy.
“You had to be determined to get into trouble. When we were to get the strap we usually played a game of handball to toughen up our hands.
“And, at one stage, the Headmasters from all the schools met to only allow one school in the Gardens on Sunday as the fighting between schools had become a major problem.”