Name: Graham Norman Harris
Years at Trinity: 1949-1961
OTG involvement: Played with Old Trinity FC for 4 years.
How was footy with Old Trinity?
Well, we never won a Grand Final, but we had a lot of fun. I’d played football for the school and was captain of every team from the Under 10s through ‘til the First XVIII, but I never captained the Firsts. We had a really good relationship at Old Trinity, a lot of friendships. I lived in North Balwyn and we had quite a few BBQs for the team at my house in Elliot Avenue. Guys who weren’t even playing football – like James Smith, who was the umpire – they’d come around anyway. We had a great time there.
What sort of a kid were you at school?
Geez, I was a handful – I was never going to be a prefect! I mean, I loved school but there was always a bit of temptation there. I never got into any real trouble, but I had times when I had to wash my mouth out with soap and water because I swore about something, or I got the cane off Alf Bright or Mr Leppitt or Jock Herbert. They were always six of the best! I don’t regret any of those things, but I certainly remember at one stage of the game, I had to drop my dacks and put my bum up against a brick wall in order to cool it down because it was that red after getting six of the best off Mr Leppitt. That’s a true story.
What did you do after school?
Believe it or not, my parents came along when I was leaving school to a careers night, and spoke to the careers officer, Ian Munroe (who I had a great respect for, lovely man). Ian Munroe said to my father, ‘All your son wants to do is work in the butcher shop that you’ve got,’ but my mother and father had accolades that I was going to be a solicitor or a doctor or some superstar. My father turned around and said, ‘I’ve paid $30,000 a year for a butcher!’. The end result was that after that discussion, I worked in the butcher shop with my father, then went and got my own shop which was very successful. Then I sold the shop and bought into the oil business with Caltex, and ended up with the largest distributorship in Victoria. Life got better from there – I sold out to Caltex, worked for them for four years, then I retired! When we sold the business, it was doing about 160 million litres, with 40 subagents and about 30 people on the staff. So yeah, it was good little business!
Have you got any kids?
Well, I’m married for a second time. In my first marriage, I had two girls, then my wife was killed in an accident in America. Then I met my wife, Pauline. She’d previously been married and had five girls, so we ended up, between the two of us, with seven girls! Of course, the girls have all grown up in leaps and bounds and married, and now we have seventeen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. So yeah, it’s all happening! Bloody expensive at Christmas time though.
Do you have any best memories of Trinity?
Oh, I’ve got a thousand, but most of them are probably unprintable! Playing for Arnold House, being captain of the team – they were all great thrills. Playing sport was the main thrill I got. I was never ever a superstar in the scholastical side of things.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best piece of advice I was every given was that there are two sides to every story. Don’t take anything at face value, you should always be available to look at both sides. I’ve carried that right through my business life, right through my life up until now and I’m 75. Even today, if someone comes up to me (I’m President of our local Gold Club and people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, this happened, that happened,’), I’ve got to make sure I hear the other side of the story before I make a decision as to what has to be done.
Is there anything you’ve regretted along the way?
My friend, I’ve never had one regret in my life about anything I’ve ever done, ever. I think I’m very fortunate. I’m very happy to be able to say that if I were to die tomorrow, I’ve had a very happy life. I’ve been lucky enough to be reasonably successful, and I’ve had a great time. As a young man, I worked very, very hard, and that’s paid off in the long run. I’m in the stage of being part of a successful retirement with a lovely lady and some great kids.
What impact did your time at Trinity have on you?
Trinity grounded me. They created what I consider to be a pretty good person out of me. I think, as a result of the time I spent there, I’m a people person, and I understand people. I think that basically came from being educated the way I was.
Was there anyone in particular who contributed to that?
There was one guy who had a great influence on me, it was Ian Munroe. He was teacher, I think he died a few years ago and I wished I had’ve been there at his funeral. Through circumstances in school, he was teacher who I had three years in a row. In actual fact, I was a bit of a smartarse, and he was the bloke who pulled me up and got me back into line. And I appreciate that, and I admire him for it, he was a great guy.
What about your friends at Trinity?
Oh, don’t get me started! Twelve years, every day of the week. I didn’t have a bad friend at school. I had a great time at Trinity, I didn’t want to leave school. My father was hopeless, he used to tell me I’d have a beard round my knees by the time I left. But sooner or later you’ve got to bite the bullet and go to work, and as soon as I got the opportunity to make something of myself, I got on with the job.
So what are you doing now?
Well I’m retired now, and I’m loving it. It’s really good. I was frightened to retire because I thought my wife would have me painting the house or doing gardening, which I hate. But what happened was she encouraged me to go down and play a bit of golf. And I started playing golf, and I’m not a good golfer but I play four times a week, and I’ve been the President of the Thurgoona Golf Club in Albury for about 8 years. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my position, the golf, and making golfing friends. We’ve been on a few trips to New Zealand, to China, to Thailand, the Hunter Valley, everywhere. It’s just been a great association. When I gave up work, I needed something to replace it, and golf, and the friends I’ve made at golf have replaced work. It’s that good, I wish I had’ve retired earlier!
Have there been any places in your travels that have really stuck out to you?
We’ve been all round the world, and been on some wonderful trips. We’ve met some lovely people, been on cruises, on aeroplanes, seen many different things. But the best place that I’ve ever been to is Australia. And, to take it a little bit further, Albury Wodonga! Where I live now, I think, is the best place on Earth, and I’m very happy. That’s the most important thing, I’m very happy.
What’s your secret to being happy?
It’s all about having a good life, working hard. Part of it is having a bit of success, that gives you the ability to do things you would never have done, if we weren’t successful in business, then we wouldn’t be able to go on trips around the world and do things like that. But I’ve been there and done all that, so I just think I’ve had a very complete life. Actually, there’s one thing that could have improved it. If Collingwood had won a couple more flags, I’m a one-eyed Collingwood fan and I can’t believe that we’ve lost twenty-seven grand finals.
What’s the plan now then?
Just at the moment we’ve got a hiccup in our life – my wife’s got cancer and she’s not travelling too well, but she’ll fight it and she’ll beat it. As soon as she’s fit and well, we’re going on a trip to the Kimberleys. We’ve been all over Australia, but that’s the only place we haven’t been. Then we’ll go to our unit in Surfers’ Paradise, which we’ve had for 20 years – we go there every year but didn’t last year and really missed it. I’ll also come down to a school reunion next year with my best mate, and the best man at my wedding, Kim Bleakney, another Old Boy. That’ll be just the second one I’ve ever been to in all my years out of Trinity!
Graham recently got in touch with the OTGA looking to touch base with a few of his old schoolmates. If you know have any contact with (or if you are) any of the following people, please message the OTGA Facebook page so that we may pass contact details on to Graham:
- David Alexandra
- Tony Ang
- Lindsay Boyse
- Bruce Curtis
- David ‘The Trog’ Deague
- Mary Didgh Nancarrow
- Garry Donaldson
- Noel Frame
- David Grant
- Ian Henderson
- Robert Hyndman
- Andrew Kuek
- Michael Leffer
- Max Peters
- Gary Playfort
- Hugo Postema
- Tom Smith
- John Tickell
- Richard Un
- Paul Vandersluys
- Peter Vandersluys