My school career crashed to a halt the day Mr. E. K. Harris expelled my spotty face, and the rest of me, from Vaucluse Boys High School. It wasn’t a happy relationship. One of us had to go.
Set free at the tender expulsion age of 14 and 9 months I saw out the year at a fabulous experimental school in Paddington called Guriganya, which is Aboriginal for ‘decisions made while using bong’. The founders had the best intentions: they wanted a school that was free, free of rules, free of history, and free of shoes. Wear your long hair out, and pay in cash.
Along with about 30 other lost souls I became the class of 1972, and what a year that was. The collective had long and hazy meetings and even managed to have one without the restrictions of clothing. They were the parents, of course, and some of them even managed to prey on some of the kids my age. One of the female parents tried to have sex with boys my age. Including me. But I was sheltered by one of the other mothers when that particular woman came searching for me.
The lack of structure became frustrating for all but the 7 year olds, who just ran feral up and down Oxford street. My small group of teenage colleagues were too cool for that. We just wandered around, trying to like, arrange concerts, man. We did get one or two off the ground. And we helped out at others, at Paddington Town Hall, and the Cellblock Theatre.
The best part of that was silk screening the posters, at the Uni of Sydney Art Workshop. We went there late at night, and a nice hippy would show us how to make a psychedelic poster, and to use day glow ink. We would print all night, and walk home before dawn, across the bottom end of town, through Victoria Park, and across Central. We went past a donut factory in Surry Hills, and sometimes scored a couple.
Naturally we also went out on poster runs and used wallpaper paste to slap our posters over the top of the organised posters on building hoardings, until two really heavy undercover policemen slapped us around and told us that the real Bill Posters was paying them to leave him alone – and to arrest us.
It was boring, walking around the inner city at night without shoes was bad – cuts, cold and dog poo. People tried to beat us up, or worse.
The ethos of the counter culture was to tune in and drop out, or something. Where were our parents? Out screwing around, stoned, freedom?
I hit 15, and went and got a job as a copy boy for News Limited.
They put me in the copyboy office, there were two old clerks who dispatched us to all four corners of the complex whenever someone needed a boy. I got sent up to the roof to wait for the helicopter in the rain, until I realised it was just an induction trick.
I thought the career path made sense – I wanted to be a journalist. But the copy boy route meant a spell in the sports dept, and those journalists were very blokey. They started at 5am, did the first edition pages for The Mirror, and then debunked to the pub at about 10am. They wandered back at midday for the Final, and usually drew a straw to see who would stagger back, a little dusty, to deal with the Late Final Extra, which went to the galley at 2.45pm.
One boy who looked a bit private school ended up on the executive floor, which was notable due to airconditioning (!) and plush carpet.
I found my niche in the typing pool where a bank of stenographers with porcelain headsets took calls from journalists in the field. Often court reporters, they would run to a public phone and dial the pool. The girl would type each story par at a time, each par on a pad of four copies that came off the typewriter in a perforated bunch. The par would go onto a little conveyer just behind the typewriter, and hit the copyboy at the end desk – me.
At about 11.30, it would be crazy up there, with as many as 6 girls typing stories, prefacing each par with a code for the journalist name. I would assemble the story, par by par, in four piles. When it was done, I would staple the stacked par sheets, and take all four stapled sets to the sub editors. One for the news desk, one for the city, one for the editor (Mark Day) and one for my file.
I liked reading them as they came in, and now understand my ability to juggle multiple tasks was cemented in those times, making multiple stories, and running them around the newsroom. It also showed me the rules – five ‘W’s (who, what, where, when and why and the one ‘H’, How. The stories were written so the sub could use the first par (page) as a short, or two, or three, or all pages. They just threw off the pages to account for story length!
The other great thing I was trusted with was to go get the lottery results from Lottery House at Wynyard. Back then there was a 50c Lottery, a $1 Lottery, and the Opera House Lottery. There were no casinos, no pokies in pubs, no scratch lotto. These were innocent days. There were illegal card rooms though, I knew of one near Taylor’s Square.
My copy boy days came to an end when I decided to pursue my great love of the music industry and become a lighting guy at the age of 15. I had used my copy boy pay ($18.57 per week) to buy some equipment. I was off.
It was March 1st, 1973. That was the day I registered the business name Zapco Lightshows.