I am a better person for having known and become friends with Steve. 30 years ago, in 1985, I started teaching at Hampton Senior High School, in Morley, WA. I quickly fell in with a motely bunch of teachers at the school.

There was Elvira, the Drama teacher, as warm and caring a person as you could meet. She lived the idea of life-long learning completing a Masters and then her PhD in her 60s and 70s. Her PhD was on David Williamson and upon reading it he wrote Elvira the loveliest letter.

Elvira’s best friend was Maggie, the Art teacher. You know that saying, those that can do, those that can’t teach? It’s an embarrassingly trite saying, used by the lazy. Maggie’s art smashes that saying to pieces. She could have lived the life of the artist and some might observe that she did. But she loved kids and giving and teaching was her art.

Another of the gang was Sandy Kuba, the English teacher and righteous socialist with a marshmallow heart. I caught up with Sandy at Elvira’s 80th birthday earlier this year, not having seen her for over 20 years. We fell into conversation as if less than a week had passed. It helped that in Tony Abbott we had a mainline of conversation and laughs.

The dance teacher was Bev Dunlop. She was feisty and driven and man did she know her stuff. I notice that on the Hampton High website Bev is cited as starting up the specialist dance program that went on to become a WA Department of Education “Gifted and Talented course”.

Bev was part of the gang. There was a couple of the Phys Ed staff at the table, including the inimitable Colin Viska who played for Claremont for a couple of years in the mid 70s and East Freo player George Christie, who played in the 1985 Premiership team alongside the great Brian Peake. The English Lit teacher, Gerrard Morris, was another character, an impish smile that could flip to devilish in the blink of a wicked and very witty eye.

And there was Steve. The Youth Education Officer. This was a teaching position without having teaching responsibilities. The YEO ran all after-school activities, school camps, the school Socials and Yr 12 Ball, as well as the Student Council and the School Magazine. The YEO also organised all Yr 10 work experience.

The YEO was the coolest ‘teacher’ on staff. And Steve was all that and more. He was a decent, reasonable, smart, straight-talking guy with a great sense of humour, sense of social responsibility and sense of the value of sport. We fell in step immediately. Steve loved music, particularly folk and old blues. I may have brought him up to speed on punk and opened up his ears a little more to country but he gave me an education in the blues, courtesy of artists such as Odetta, Mahalia Jackson and his favourites, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

Earlier this year Steve and I went to the Northcote Social Club to see Dave and Phil Alvin perform. They were touring on the back of a great album in which they cover the old bluesman, Big Bill Broonzy. What a night. It was a blast to be reminded of how deep popular music’s heritage runs and how eerily contemporary songs from the 20s and 30s sound. Steve was in heaven. I loved the night, as much for being in Steve’s company as I did seeing the band. Steve and I haven’t hung out like this since the very early 90s. I moved from WA in 1992. So it goes.

Many things bonded our motley group of teachers at Hampton High in the mid-80s but the glue was the Hampton High School production. This was Elvira’s show. She directed, Maggie designed the sets and costumes, Bev directed dance sequences, Sandy kept the kids in check backstage and during long, long rehearsals. Colin and George lent their support to anything that was needed. I assisted Elvira with direction. Steve managed us all through the highs and lows of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and other wonderful school productions.

During those years, Maggie and Steve became an item and then they became a couple. They have been together ever since. Taking a cue from Steve I applied for a job as YEO and landed a dream job at Perth Modern School (where Bob Hawke had been a student). While paths of the Hampton High teaching rabble inevitably head in different directions we have maintained friendships as best possible and where that hasn’t been able there is certainly a deep and enduring fondness for each other and those years.

As coincidences go, Elvira, Maggie and Steve now live in Melbourne too. It is much harder to stay in close contact but from time to time we catch up or bump into one another. Seeing old friends from distant times always alights recollections that don’t seem to come to you in any other way. As I’m typing this up, and out of the blue I can recall when I took over renting Steve’s house in North Perth after Maggie and Steve’s orbits found their alignment. Steve had a chook pen and I said I’d be fine raising chooks. I wasn’t. I enjoyed the fresh eggs; tending to the chooks, not so much. Oh, and that’s right, Bev and I were share house buddies in North Perth for a while as well.

Steve and I watched a lot of footy together during the 80s. At Subi Oval mostly. Watching Subi. They had a pretty good run from 1984 to ‘88, after Hayden Bunton Jnr returned to the club, winning the Premiership in 1986 and ’88. A good friend from that era, Mick Lee won the Simpson Medal for best on ground in the ’88 Grand Final.

For the record, Steve also donned a WAFL jumper. In his words, “my football playing days – now there’s a very short story. I played for Subiaco reserves. I went straight from school footy to playing against men – a bit of a shock. My opponent in the first game of 1972 was Brian Peake. He was BOG and that was his only reserves game. He went on to be an All Australian, captain of WA and took to arriving at Geelong in helicopters. I spend most of my two years at Subiaco in the medical rooms with recurring hamstring issues …”

I have been thinking a lot about this because of an accidental meeting with Steve at the AFL Grand Final this year. As you know, the Eagles played the mighty Hawks. I think I could count about 30 people I knew who had flown across from WA for the Grand Final. Including Mick Lee. I only knew he was there because as I stood outside the MCG in awe of this magnificent wonder of the modern world I was more preoccupied with FaceBook, of course.

I had a single ticket to the game, courtesy of Johnny, one of (my wife) Vicki’s cousins. The seat was in the Southern Stand, level 2a. This is a small area, probably holds 300 people, wedged between level 2 and 3. I sat in the same area last year. The position affords a more than reasonable view of the ground between the wing and forward flank at the Punt Rd end.

I arrived at level 2a about 40 minutes before bounce-down, to soak up, well, everything and the vibe. The MCG is at its most spectacular on the last Saturday afternoon of the AFL calendar. Like a picture postcard of an exotic land. For one moment everything feels right. You can see through and past all the commercialism, all the white noise, all the charades to the heart of a people that want nothing more than a fair and best contest. Skill, adventure, daring-do. Where the pinnacle and the base are as one.

These are the best 44 players going around (as glued together by dedication, skill, best practice coaching and fate). And we are there to pay respect. Beyond the cheering, one-sidedness and eventual Premier, there is this. The moment. One and all drawn together to celebrate a meaning we can’t quite define but a meaning that we are nonetheless deeply immersed in. 100,000 fans roaring the start of the Grand Final sends shivers up my back.

I came out of the darkness of the stairwell into the blazing light. I’m trying to locate my seat as well as digging the moment. I hear someone call my name. It’s Steve. He’s leaning against the wall as if waiting for me to arrive. The day just got a whole lot better. We do the whole can you believe this routine and I’m chuffed.

Steve is here to watch The Eagles take their amazing year to its well-deserved conclusion. I’m hoping they don’t. We laugh about our (pretend) status as enemies. We explain how we got our tickets. Steve’s story is much better than mine.

Steve had organised his Grand Final ticket and was all set for the big game. A few days before the game he got a call from an old mate, Jan Cooper. They’ve known each other for over 35 years. Jan has been into her football her whole life – her father John had been the president of Swan Districts and a WAFL commissioner for a long time.

Jan called Steve to invite him to be her guest at the Grand Final. It was a special day for her. She was being recognised as the AFL 2015 Football Woman of the Year. As the AFL website says: “She has been instrumental in changing female football from a few small leagues across Australia to being on the verge of having an elite competition”.

Part of that recognition included being part of the Grand Final fanfare, sitting in the back of a ute as it drove around the boundary of the MCG, waving to the crowd. Jan had even invited Steve to join her for that ceremony.

Steve declined Jan’s invitation. Well, not really. He asked Jan if Maggie could take up the offer. Jan is great mates with Maggie and immediately said you bet. You see, Steve had felt bad that he got a ticket to the Grand Final and Maggie had missed out, so this opportunity worked out well for everybody.

Steve explained this as we stared across the ground from our position on Level 2a of the Southern Stand towards the Members where right about now Jan and Maggie were enjoy fine champagne and a great lunch. We know that was happening because Maggie was texting Steve all the wonderful details.

Talking very selfishly, I was happy with the outcome. Steve and I had not watched a footy game together since about 1991. Even though we were rivals for this occasion we were still at the footy cheering the game.

Steve was sitting about ten seats away (in the same row). At Quarter time we caught up to compare notes. Steve was not happy, I was still very nervous. By half time the game was over and our conversation was about old times and friends.

Steve was a decent guy in 1985 and in 2015 I do believe he is even more decent. Quite a fabric can be weaved together from remembering good times and hearing about the many adventures an old friend has embarked upon in the years since you last hung out together. If you have seen the Pixar film, ‘Inside Out’ you’ll understand the difference between general memories and core memories. Steve and the Hampton High gang are core memories.

About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day


  1. Heartfelt stuff Trucker. This was not just another excuse to write about the Grand Final, this was a true tribute to an old mate. Bravo.

  2. Yes Dips, a readable Trucker Slim piece at last! #talentwastedonHawthorn?

  3. Love it, Trucker.
    Wonderful writing. Wonderful story.

  4. Wonderful piece Rick. Your description of “paying respects” before the GF made me shiver with recognition. I ran “the Eagles” and “well-deserved conclusion” through my sarcasm-ometer a couple of times. Surprisingly it read “negative in the context of the piece”.
    I have commented to your mate Les Everett that it feels like we both have a Roadrunner and Coyote thing going, but for about 3 months from November to January we have a Joyeux Noel truce. Both going to see Gillian Welch at Perth Concert Hall on 30 Jan and sharing a meal before normal hostilities resume.
    The Avenging Eagle is a product of Hampton High (am I allowed to say slightly before your time?) She was a Phys Ed and School of the Air teacher in the Goldfields herself by the mid 80’s.
    Funny how we can find common ground for 3 months of the year. Joyeux to you and the Rickettes.

  5. Great stuff, Rick.
    Most enjoyable. Thanks.

  6. Paul Campbell says

    Terrific, Rick. Happy New Year.

  7. Just got to this today Rick. It’s a lovely, affirming read.

    I know it’s not exclusive to the teaching profession, but one of its enduring charms for me is the sense of community. I like the chance to work and socialise with like-minded folk, among others of course. I also like the ongoing influence that some continue to exert over me. In particular situations I often think what would X do now, even though I haven’t worked with X for a couple decades. It’s a kind of silent mentorship.

    Big Bill Broonzy- I believe the man responsible for Key to the Highway- goes well too.

    Thanks Rick.

  8. Peter Fuller says

    I loved this story, and you demonstrate why friendship is such a powerful factor in our lives, and why it is worth making a significant effort to sustain those relationships. It also says why an effectively-functioning school staff room is a wonderful environment in which to work.
    I number myself among the haters of the ‘Orrible Horks, so the first Saturday in October was a particularly unpleasant day. However your friends’ grand experiences and your grace (remarked on by Peter B.) has taken some of the edge off my recollection.

  9. Trucker Slim says

    Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts.

    Dips, dead right.

    JTH, don’t fret, there’ll be more “unreadable” pieces coming down the line! #4peatplease

    PB, yes, that was a sarcasm free line! And may 2016 bring all the best for you and AE

    MR, I like that, silent mentorship.

    PF, The game was most def the thing for me but chancing upon Steve and hanging with him for the afternoon was a delight.


  10. Gerard Morris says

    A lovely piece of writing Rick. Sitting here with Bev and a cuppa looking at photos of your happy grin. I too was at the GF but had been hoping to see the Dockers. Now that we have your Hale and Guerra to guide us we might yet give you Hawks a run. And I finally got to see the Boss live: unreal.
    See you at the G in September.

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