[Here is a very interesting and informative letter from Chris describing his life since Woodstock. It reminds of how little we knew back then about each others lives away from Woodstock and of how little we know about each others lives since then. I know some of us have exchanged this kind of information before but I would like to encourage all of you to do so again for the benefit of those who have joined the list in the last year or so. I will be glad to forward these messages to the whole class for those of you who have not yet mastered the intricacies of setting up mailing lists. Gil]
I was overwhelmed with the response that I received from my initial E-mail message to you! Thank you very much for putting me in touch among others with Kathy, Norman, Richard, and Lee. I will be writing separately to each of them. In the meantime I thought I would put down in some greater detail my family connections with Woodstock as well as a more comprehensive summary of what transpired between my leaving Woodstock in 1957 and today.
My great aunt Dorothy Theobald attended Woodstock around 1919 when apparently there was a teacher`s training course. She was a great friend of Miss Marley and of Sybil Meaney whom some of you may remember as a Piano teacher and a Cellist in the orchestra. My aunt passed away last year at the age of 97! She had spent the last 20 years with my father in Bangalore.
My younger brother Barry was also a student in Woodstock and left when I did at the end of 1957 for St. Georges. This school in fact was the one which my family was more closely connected with since my grandfather, father and uncle all studied there. The Johnson family was one of the oldest in Mussoorie and lived in a huge house in Kulri which was built around 1906. For many years they ran it as a boarding house mostly for old friends who used to come and spend many months with them year-after year. The house was sold in 1977 when Dorothy Theobald and her elder brother moved down to Bangalore to live in a cottage adjoining my father`s house in Whitefield. My father retired in 1971 and for the next 6 years lived in a house on Rajpur road not far from the bifurcation to Mussoorie. As they got on in years living in Dehradun became increasingly difficult and they decided to sell and move to Bangalore. In the interim my grandmother had also died and so his aunt and uncle sold the house in Mussoorie and also moved to Bangalore. I last visited Mussoorie and Woodstock in the early 70`s.
Unfortunately my Woodstock year-books are lying at the family home in Bangalore so that I have to try and remember the faces of all our classmates. In most cases they are very clear in my mind and I can recall events and things which I shared with many of you. I was very keen on while at Woodstock [see Norm and Gil on swimming] and in fact pursued this sport quite actively until I left University for my first job.I went on to captain both the Delhi State Team, and the Delhi University Teams in national championships. My best result was winning the 100metres backstroke at the National University Championships in 1964 and placed 4th in the National Championships. My athletics ( such as it was ) did not last beyond school in New Delhi ( St. Columbas ) where I sat for the Senior Cambridge Examination and managed to get a First Division and joined St. Stephen`s College in New Delhi where I went on to do my B.A. and M.A. in Economics.
I left Woodstock at the end of 1957 (my junior year) as my parents were given a very clear message from the school that I was unlikely to achieve a First Division in the Senior Cambridge examination should I continue at Woodstock! This was quite a shock as the transition from Woodstock to an Irish Brothers School at St. Columba`s in New Delhi was not an easy one!! However all things work out in the end and I did successfully complete school and gained entrance to St. Stephens College which is generally regarded as the best College in India.
I thoroughly enjoyed my 5 years at College of which 4 were in residence in the very attractive campus in Old Delhi. Apart from the studies and sports in 1963 I also met my future wife while she was a student at Miranda House (another College on the campus). I joined Citibank in Bombay as an executive trainee in 1965 and married Sara in July 1967. While with Citibank I had assignments in Bombay, New Delhi, Calcutta and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. I also had shorter training assignments in New York, London and Manila. We suffered a personal tragedy in Manila in 1975 when our two sons aged 5 and 8 were killed in an accident.
A year later we were blessed with a daughter, Sonali and we left Citibank and India to make another life for ourselves in London. My son, Mark was born in London in 1978. We spent the next 13 years in North London in a lovely semi-rural environment where our children were able to Swim, Ride, play tennis, learn music ( piano, oboe,clarinet), play football etc. while Sara and I spent our time ferrying them to their various activities ! Our children prospered and did very well academically at a school called Haberdashers`Askes in Elstree, just to the north of London. The school is ranked among the top ten for academic results in the whole of the UK. They were both outstanding swimmers and also participated in the wide range of sports and music activities for which the school was well known. London was a great place to live and we still have many friends there whom we see regularly on our visits there.
In 1991 we came to Geneva and have been here ever since. Initially I was the chief executive of a Swiss Private Bank which I left in 1992 to set-up my own Consultancy practice. I still maintain a foot in the Banking door as a Consultant to a family-owned Swiss Private Bank. I assist them in marketing for international business in India, Persian Gulf, and the UK.
Our children studied at the Geneva International School until 1993 when we moved them to Kodaikanal International School where they were both able to complete their International Baccalaureate examinations and then go on to McGill University. The transition to India after a life in Europe was a difficult one for them but they adjusted very well and had highly successful careers in School both academically as well as in their extracurricular activities. We visited them around twice a year and got to appreciate Kodaikanal as a pretty place. I would have preferred Woodstock, but they have not yet adopted the IB, which we much prefer to the A levels! Fortunately the move to Geneva gave them fluency in French and my son studied German while Sonali studied Italian. The French comes in very useful in Montreal! Sonali is in her final term at McGill University and will graduate with a BA Honours Degree in History in June. After which she wants to work for a year while she decides what post-graduate course she wishes to pursue. There is a possibility that she may take-up a teaching assignment for a year in Japan. If that doesn`t work out she will work for a year in Geneva. My son Mark is in his second year studying for a B.A. Honours Degree in Economics. He was offered a place at Pembroke College in Cambridge University but after hearing about life in McGill chose Montreal itself. We hope to attend Sonali`s graduation ceremonies in June and will spend 7-10 days driving around Canada and return to Geneva via New York. Hopefully we will be able to meet some of our classmates during this trip.
Life in Geneva is most enjoyable ! Apart from the fact that the there is a relative lack of pollution and crime there is a lot going on both socially and culturally! Unfortunately we are not as proficient in French as our children, but we do manage to get on! In fact Geneva is very cosmopolitan and many people do speak English here. We have a guaranteed 3/4 months of good summer weather -- unlike London! We also have a small villa in Portugal on the southern Algarve coast so that we can escape the winter if we wish. With my job taking me to India, the Gulf and several visits to London each year, we in fact spend around 3-4 months travelling. Now that our children are away we only have to lock-up our apartment and disappear. For two years we had lived in a Villa on the outskirts on Geneva in a very rural setting and thoroughly enjoyed it while the children were in school here. After they left and the death of our 12 year old labrador we decided to move to an apartment and have adjusted to this life very well. Sara and I play Tennis ( as do our children ) and I occasionally swim at a pool which is close to where we live. There are fabulous walks around our apartment building - the Rhone river flows by at the bottom of our apartment complex and in summer we usually go for cycle rides in the forest around our home. If I was an artist there would be much to inspire me where we live! In preparation for my retirement Sara and I want to take up golf seriously ! We had a week`s lessons at the Kodaikanal Golf Club (established 1890`s) when we went for my son`s graduation ceremonies in 1997. Hopefully this summer we will be able to pick-up the basics. We also play a bit of Bridge though for one reason or another we have not done much of that for the last few years.
I suppose it is a sign of oncoming dotage that one starts to reminisce about one`s youth and this is what prompted me to get back in touch with the class of `59 now that our 40th Re-union is just round the corner! Having spent much of my life since school in India and then in Europe there have been few opportunities to keep in touch with Woodstock Alumni. Hopefully it is not too late and I will be able to re-establish contact with some of my classmates in the coming months! I must confess that I am still new to the Internet and E-Mail and hence have not been that prompt in responding to some of you who have already contacted me after I wrote to Gil.
With greetings and best wishes to all of you `59 ers!! Viva Petrouchka - I still have a photograph of our bovine skull and class flag somewhere!
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[Here's Chris's letter to me of a few days ago forwarded with his permission. Gil]
I apologise for not responding sooner, but I am getting inundated with E-Mail coming from so many of our classmates that I am finding it hard to keep up !! I don`t yet have the ability to use the internet from home and therefore have to send these messages from office and often don`t get the time to sit down and let my memory go back to the Woodstock days !
I was very sorry to hear about the deaths of three of our classmates ! Cancer is such a horrible disease and one hopes and prays that cures will keep being discovered. My mother died of cancer in 1989 at the age of 84. She was first diagnosed with cancer 25 years earlier and after a masectomy and radiation treatment she was free of the disease for many years before it came back in a massive way . Fortunately she was in no pain during the last year when the disease took hold. I was particularly sad to hear of Hugh`s death as now after reflection I remember that he was on the hike with us ( Ian Leech also remembers the bear incident ) to Nag Tiba.
I am absolutely thrilled to hear the news about so many of our classmates -- I`m still trying to digest it! As you said it is marvelous to hear what interesting lives many of us have led and the different places and events that we have participated in.
On the dangers of khuds in the hills and more particularly around Woodstock I certainly do remember the death of the chowkidar near Zigzag! [See Norm, Gil and Robert F. on Khuds] Certainly I seem to rember one hike that a group of us took around Jabbarkhet in very wet and stormy weather when we were walking along very narrow goat tracks (slippery with wet grass ) and I had visions of falling and sliding down the bare hillside to my death ! I remember that it was before my 13th. birthday and I had this feeling that I would never make it to being a teenager ! I also recall there was talk of someone who went behind the fence on the upper playground and fell down the vertical cliff behind the Junior school buildings. You may remember looking at this cliff when you went to the Dispensary ! I still get the shivers when I remember the doctor ( he was the spitting image of Dracula ) and his blood-tests in the dispensary!!
I was surprised to hear from Norm`s note about the monkeys around Woodstock. As far as I can recall the only monkeys we saw were the langurs which were found in the forest around Woodstock & Landour. I do not rember any rheus monkeys around the school at all!
Do any of you recall the attempts we made at exploring the caves around the base of Burnt Hill ? [See Gil on Caves] I remember there were stories that someone had actually gone for miles and practically reached Rajpur ! Of course we were in Ridgewood and pretty small and could actually get into what were very narrow fissures etc. Come to think of it we were pretty fool-hardy as we didn`t have helmets or proper lighting etc. and could well have got stuck underground. On one 3-day hike that we did to the caves, I can remember falling ill with flu and spending much of the time in my sleeping bag ! I suspect that although the caves still exist, we would not be able to gain entrance to them with our middle aged spreads!( speaking for myself !)
*From talking to people who have been going to Mussorie over the years since we left I am very glad that the school is acquiring property from the various Missions. Apparently The Mall and most areas of Kulri and Camel`s back have been completely spoilt by the hundreds of ugly buildings which have sprung up! It seems that one cannot see the Doon valley on the Mall walk between Hampton Court and the Library ! Even the area around the north side of Camel Back has been over-developed. Fortunately Landour is still more-or-less the same since apart from Woodstock the other big land-owner is the Army and they are preserving their land very well.
Norman talks about how cold he felt in Woodstock ! Don`t I just remember it! The only warm place was in bed and that took some time to get comfortable in after one dived in! I do recall the eyes watering in some of the classrooms ! With the way the School is spread over the hillside, I cannot conceive of an efficient and cheap way of providing heating ! As far as maintaining the pathways around Landour are concerned I am glad to hear that the school is taking over as some of them were pretty badly maintained. I remember working off many detentions by clearing the pathways between the Hostel playground and the tennis courts !!
Thats all that I can think of for the moment, but no doubt will be back to you again very soon!
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