Introduction of Reunion Groups 2013

It is said that we grow old by deserting our ideals and that years may wrinkle the skin but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.  It gives us great pleasure to introduce to you the reunion groups of 2013 who have not deserted their ideals nor their enthusiasm.  As for those wrinkles, we’ll say that due to the Protection of Information Bill, we’re not going to discuss them.  Instead, what enthusiasm they have shown!  Allow me to demonstrate by telling you a bit about each class. 

 The Class of 1953 celebrate their 60 year reunion with 8 of the class attending Founder’s Day.  Denise Smith Swift is the reunion co-ordinator.  They noted at the 50 year reunion that they met promptly, definitive proof that they had improved with age.  Eleanor Bleksley MacKensie who was living in Nova Scotia, Canada, sent a handcrafted quilted wall hanging depicting the class of 1953 for that golden reunion.  It can be viewed in the glass cabinets in the foyer.   Their 40 year reunion saw them surprised by a new verse having been added to the school song and the camera shy at reunions being cured.  The school building in their time was in upper Church Street.  They were terrified of principal Miss Miller but recognised her fairness.    This class is proud that no other reunion group here today can boast about being at school during World War Two.  Sirens for bomb drill would sound during the school day and so they went to school wearing a string threaded with an eraser.  The eraser would serve to cushion their teeth in case a bomb was dropped.  Seventeen girls matriculated as in those days many class mates would leave school at the end of Grade 10. 

The Class of 1963 celebrate their 50 year reunion with the reunion co-ordinator being Wendy Robinson Collier and 18 of the class attending.  It is a joy for Mrs Collier that her daughter, Debbie Collier Reid from Cape Town, is here today too celebrating her twenty five year reunion.   One of the movies of 1963 was the original The Nutty Professor and Mrs Collier could not have known watching it in matric that her hugely successful daughter, nicknamed Loskop at school, would become a nutty professor of law at the University of Cape Town.  An amazing co-incidence is that Mrs Burleigh Lombard Tunbridge, also from the Class of 1963, also has a daughter in the class of 1988 who is also residing in Cape Town.  Mrs Sally Watson Potgieter was headgirl of this class and was the guest speaker at the reunion of 2003.  She was deputy principal and an English teacher at Riebeek for many years and respected by the girls she taught.  Without ipads, magic tricks, sweet bribes, youtube clips and all the gimmicks of technology employed by teachers today to grab the attention of learners, Mrs Potgieter would have the girls spellbound by her mere presence, quiet control  and wealth of knowledge. The late Yvonne Lemley Hoare was in this class as was Mr Hoare’s sister, Anne, before her parents moved. Matriculating at a time of Martin Luther King Junior’s I have a dream speech and the song Blowing in the Wind being popular, this group have done well to fulfill their dreams and find life’s answers other than in the wind.

The Class of 1978 celebrate their 35 year reunion.  The reunion co-ordinator is Allison Pearce Watson and 23 ladies are attending today.  This is the class that came to school on their last day on a fire engine.  This fiery group would tease their sensitive Miss Springer, the science teacher, by taking off their blazers one by one row by row and then cardigans one by one row by row.  We do hope that it ended on cardigans! …and we hope that the present learners don’t get any ideas about trying this out. Lesley Ann Skinner Gilbert from this class and mother of Joslyn Gilbert Oosthuizen and Rozan Gilbert, also Old Girls, remembers the late Mrs Lewey, the typing teacher, telling the girls to walk in single spacing down the corridor instead of single file.   This group will be travelling to Lalibela for the weekend after lunch. 

The Class of 1988 celebrate their 25 year reunion with 19 girls attending and the reunion organiser being headgirl Ingrid Lunow McFarlane.   This class can proudly boast of keeping Riebeek’s flag flying through the generations : Ingrid’s daughter, Lindsey is in Grade 10 at Riebeek.  Michelle Crouse McAuley’s daughters are in high school at Riebeek and Sally Schimper Leach’s daughter Kirsten is in Grade 10.  Carole Murphy Dawson raised two young men and has a niece at Riebeek teaching Grade 5s: Miss Theresa Bezuidenhout (Class of 2007 ). At the other end of the parenting spectrum are those whose little ones are still in nappies or racing through toddlerhood – Sharon McArthy Peo and Sandra Myburgh Gerber, amongst others, who hope to score parenting tips from their more experienced classmates, who have raised teenagers while keeping their sanity intact. The class of 1988 remember huge compulsory maroon underwear checked during regular inspections.  The school levy which was not compulsory was R8 a term, a house badge cost 15c and the cost for dances was R4 a couple.  They were issued with government regulation material for needlework, travelled to the Muir Riebeek SCA camp at Sumcay by train, learnt to drive on the school’s VW sponsored blue citi golf and were in matric when the new principal Mrs Stear took over the helm of the school.  Mistakenly believing that they would need to teach her about Riebeek, the Class of 1988 soon came to realise who knew more!  The 1988 headgirl and deputy headgirl Cheryl McFarlane Corcoran started a tradition of the headgirl marrying the brother of the deputy and though this has not really taken off, we encourage the Prince and Ballie familes to reconsider this in the spirit of tradition.  In Grade 9  Mrs Gillian Bennet Bean took the class to J Bay for a weekend and was adored for the way she made newcomers feel safe when they did the walk of shame from HG Mathematics down to her classroom in the bottom corridor for SG Mathematics.  This class gave Miss Rose, now Mrs Hickson, a kitchen tea and loads of recipes and in return she gave them hell on earth in gruelling phys ed classes. Taught by Mrs Woods for two years – their Grade 5 and Grade 7 years, they were the lucky charms that led to the birth of her first son in 1983.  The grass mound was a stage and orals and history plays were presented in props room costumes.  Mrs Woods took the class to Brigitta Daniel’s farm for a class weekend and dared all to run to the graveyard and back in the dark. They survived the nightmares!  A special thanks to the Hellman sisters for joining us from Germany: Heike (Class of 1988)  and Frauke (Class of 1986.)

The Class of 1993 celebrate their 20 year reunion with Mary Anne Medley Logan as reunion co-ordinator . Though their matric farewell theme was THE LOST CITY, WE ARE PLEASED THAT 34 OF THEM, the largest reunion group, MANAGED TO NOT GET LOST AND FIND THEIR WAY HERE TODAY. Mary Anne is the head of department of English at Woodridge. It is a testimony to the quality of our headgirls that Christine Eksteen of this class (and the International Associate Director of Medical Affairs for Shire Pharmaceutical) said recently of Mary Anne: “a high achiever and popular at school, Mary Ann inspired me because as popular and bright as she was, she was always friendly and polite and had time for everyone in the school.  Even today she remains an encouraging voice among our peer group.” 

Describing themselves as diverse and colourful as a bag of liquorice all sorts, they remember the sight of their Captain Mrs Stear peeping over glasses to give the signal for silence in assembly and wearing a gas mask in class to teach a war poem.  They loved their expedition to the Knysna forest and Mrs Janet Skeates of the Class of 1977 (then Maasdorp) teaching them to knit.  They remember gazing at the stars in astronomy club and Mrs Woods’s passion for drama and dance.  They forced teachers to do the hula on their desks and tortured unsuspecting victims with Mrs Schwechheimer’s stuffed bottled lizard.  Again, we hope the present learners don’t get any ideas… 

The Class of 2003 are the babies of the reunion groups celebrating their ten year reunion with headgirl Dr Michaela Hopley Lotz being unable to attend but involved in the planning and Shelley Biggins, the Miss Personality of her year,  as the reunion co-ordinator.  26 of this class are joining us today.  While their matric farewell theme was Passage to India, there was no long passage or journey for Miss Algery van Aardt (a student teacher) and Miss Jayde Inggs (grade head and Grade 7 teacher) as, being on staff, they were here anyway.  Miss Inggs remembers this class as being an Ubuntu bunch with all the girls getting on and no cliques in the class.  Also from this class is Mrs Woods’ daughter in law, Elana Coates Woods,  daughter of Mrs Vermaak, Bianca Vermaak van Eck, and Dr Janny Myburg Fook, daughter of Mrs Myburg. Another member of this class is deputy headgirl Dr Donne Niewoudt completing the trio of doctors from this group.  Its louder members included Joy Mkuja, Jenny Cuyler  Cohen and Leanne Condon Coetsee.

In addition, there are a number of Old Girls here today who are not part of official reunion groups and we welcome them warmly. 

It is a great joy to us that the following formidable English teachers are gathered here today as they are truly in a class of their own:  Mrs Marilyn Dodd Woods (Class of 1968), Lesley Bright Young (class of 1977), Sally Watson Potgieter (class of 1963), Anne Wates Peltason (class of 1965) and  Mrs Natalie Stear (former headmistress).  These iconic Riebeek teachers played inspirational roles among Riebeek girls resulting in many of them choosing careers that allowed them to spread the love of the English language. 

They instilled in us the notion that the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players with their exits and entrances.  What a difference the ladies of these reunion groups introduced to you have made on the stage of life and as they make their entrances at our reunion celebrations we salute their enthusiasm and ideals.  Their souls are certainly unwrinkled.


 May 09, 2013
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