Spectrum 803. Stone walls do a prison make
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Sally Fodie lived in the Mackenzie country and spent much of her childhood at her family's high country station of Totara Peak. In 1964, Fodie began boarding at Waitaki Girls High School in Oamaru. Homesick and miserable, she could only rebel against authority. She tells her story to Jack Perkins.
Fodie describes the sense of adventure as she and her family roamed across 18,000 acres of Mount Benmore Range attending to farm work. She tells how the adults sat up the front of the truck whilst the kids and dogs bounced along in the back and slept in shearers’ huts away from the main house.
She explains how a lot of her time was spent exploring the riverbed, trout fishing, ice skating and swimming in rivers and creeks on her own. Fodie speaks fondly of her Omarama primary school teacher, Bill Brown whom she remembers gave pupils the individual attention necessary when dealing with two classes of varying ages.
Fodie left for boarding school at age thirteen and describes her time there as horrific. Having spent the previous summer at Lake Benmore assisting her father rescue sheep from the lake she compares high school to a prison where felt trapped and miserable. Her unhappiness led to rebellious behaviour which resulted in punishments like losing her ‘exit weekends’ and having her hair cut short.
Fodie describes a couple of other incidents of how friends rebelled, were caught and how she saw the matron and headmistress ‘work’ together against them. She observes she was so miserable all the time she couldn’t concentrate and learned nothing. Fodie says she didn’t tell her parents about her misery because her older sister had done well at school and she felt it was her problem.
When she was fourteen and home for the Christmas holidays their farmhouse burned down. The family had tried hard to prevent the blaze spreading by throwing water and dirt onto the flames however her parents got burned in the process. They successfully re-directed a creek down to the house, but it had not been enough. With no phone or neighbours, they lost everything except for her guitar and a few photographs.
The local community put the family back on their feet; families in the Omarama Ministry of Transport village, the local gun club and the Women’s Division fund-raised and donated chattels replacing everything in the house. Fodie explains how her parents stayed in the shearers quarters until they were able to bring a pre-fab house onto the farm.
She returned to school more miserable than ever and by halfway through the school year she ran away to her sister’s house after being told she had to get her hair cut. Fodie describes how the headmistress made her feel guilty and lured her back to the school with the promise of no haircut but once she returned, they cut her hair immediately. She says this sums up the way the school worked.
Her mother came and collected her a week later. Fodie began correspondence school at the farm until age fifteen when she left home and took up nurse aiding in Oamaru. Although bitter about her secondary education she recognises that it hasn’t held her back, since she ended up in the role of Auckland Harbour Ferry Master.