Introducing Fay Bock: Fay is a Co-Tutor and longstanding member of Play Reading.
Fay’s family history can be traced right back to the Gold rush in the 1890s, when her grandfather, together with his brother, embarked on the long sea journey from England to Western Australia. Her grandfather in subsequent years moved to Melbourne where he opened a Pawn Shop and married a young bride sent out from England. Fay’s family continues to reside in Melbourne.
Fay refers candidly to her grandfather, making comment on alleged mistreatment towards his wife and children. She was told that he and his friends mistreated their wives and children including one who used a “cat of nine tails” on his family. Fay believes her Auntie “eloped to get away.”
In respect to her own upbringing and religious adherence, Fay recalls that her father, after his Bar Mitzvah, in his teenage years decided that religion was the major cause of conflict in the world and was not for him. He subsequently became an atheist. Her mother came from a more religious family so Fay and her brother participated in all of the various religious festivals and celebrations.
Referring back to her own teenage years, Fay was about 15 years old when she first became acquainted with her husband. She talks with some amusement about her final year at school, Year 12, when she would “skip classes” and go to visit her then boyfriend. Her mother would drive Fay to school and pick her up at the end of the day. However, Fay would often skip off from school to his home in Elwood. Consequently, she “performed badly” in the Year 12, October Tests. Her boyfriend then tutored her, “I got my best mark in Physics!” Looking back Fay finds this amusing, reiterating “it was not every day” that she skipped school. Intriguingly, at that time, Fay tells that she developed “a crush” on the boy who later became her husband. They started going out together just before the end of Year 12, “we became an item on December 13.” Her husband, known as Issy, “had a beautiful chin,” in this way outdoing her former boyfriend!
Fay went on to complete an Arts Degree at Melbourne University, obtaining a double major in History and Philosophy of Science. She has always been interested in Science. Fay later completed a Diploma in Education enabling her to teach Maths. However, it eventuated that she disliked teaching, “I wasn’t very good at it.” She subsequently obtained work as a trainee computer programmer with The Olympic Tyre Rubber Company in 1973. Why? “Because I could do it.”
Giving a glimpse of the early development of computers and industry in the 1970s, Fay described how they would write their programs on sheets of paper, these would then be punched onto punch-cards and taken from Swanston St (near RMIT) to the corner of Elizabeth and La Trobe Streets, where the computer operators would run the program and send the results the following day. A far cry from the immediacy of computing today.
Fay reflects however that she did not feel comfortable working in an office environment, finding that “people were petty, would talk about you in a negative way.” This presented a dilemma for her. She did not like working in an office, enjoyed working in a school, but not teaching Maths. Fay resolved this conflict for herself by obtaining a Graduate Diploma of Librarianship. This turned out to be a good decision. In 1995 Fay obtained the position of Teacher Librarian at MacRobertson Girls High School, where she spent “the bulk of my career.”
Fay got married in 1970 at the St Kilda Synagogue. Her husband, Issy, eventually obtained his Articles in Law and joined her father’s law firm in Melbourne. They had three daughters, initially purchasing a home in Richardson Street for $29,000, a reminder of how times have changed. Fay now lives in South Yarra.
Fay spoke about her husband‘s sudden collapse while having lunch with a work partner. He was diagnosed with having a brain tumour. Defying the initial predictions made in 2006 that he would live for only three months, Issy underwent a very risky but successful operation to remove the tumour. The tumour returned in 2013 after 5 years of remission and sadly he passed away in 2016. The last 12 months were very distressing for all. Fay became his 24 hour carer, supported by a team of carers from an agency. Fay spoke about this difficult period, showing courage and determination to care for her husband throughout those distressing last years. Fay reflected with feeling, “that’s why I joined U3A.”
Amongst other courses, including Spanish, Fay became involved in Play Reading “because I enjoyed it.” She had loved reading to her children but recalls feeling disappointed when attempting to read Enid Blyton out loud. As a child she had loved The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton but when she tried to read it to her children, it “was awful to read aloud.” It would be interesting to hear the perspective of others on this intriguing observation. Dr Seuss’ books became a favourite for “putting on voices.”
U3APP Play Reading has been running for many years, initially run by Moira Fielding who would select the plays and allocate the parts. When Moira decided to leave, this left a gap which Fay decided to fill, in so far as she agreed to coordinate and to organise the course for the group. Currently Ruth Yaffe selects the plays and allocates the parts. Fay stresses that her contribution is the organisation, which others are more reluctant to do. She enjoys the process of getting into a character without pre-reading the play. “Hearing your voice, tragedies or comedies, I just enjoy it.”
Fay draws solace from nature, walking and in particular her love of trees. “I am absolutely smitten with trees,” saying with some humour, “when I die, I want to come back as a tree.” Fay enjoys reading about Tree Science, as in communication signalling between their roots, providing information for other trees on available water, for instance. Fay likes to walk through the nearby gardens, to touch and talk to the trees. A few years ago the City of Melbourne had a programme where you sent an email to a tree. Laughing, Fay recalled, “I did send an email, but I never heard back.”
Fay enjoys listening to the radio “all day” when at home. “I’ve always been a radio person.” She has been listening to The Science Show on Radio National since it first started, “it just keeps up your interest in science.” Like all of us, Fay hopes Covid-19 will be all over soon and has thoughts of travelling to the Kimberleys rather than returning to visit Europe at this time.
Fay continues to work as a Relief Teacher at a secondary school, assisting students with their computers or other tasks. It is demanding and she restricts herself to manageable hours.
What does the future hold? “After my husband died, attendance at various U3A activities became a part of my life.” As it is perhaps, for others in U3A who may have lost a close family member or friend, leaving a gap to be filled. Fay continues to meet with friends, her daughters and grandchildren, her oldest grandson being “very gifted on the piano.”
So, Fay concludes, “that’s me.” She wondered if her life story would be of interest to others. Fay’s story is what U3A is notable for. Obtaining new perspectives, the opportunity to acquire knowledge on subjects that perhaps past work and family commitments have hindered. Relaxing with Play Reading or Petanque, learning Spanish, and also enjoying Israeli Dancing at Glen Eira U3A, Fay reiterated with feeling, “I just find U3A wonderful.”
Felicity May interviewed Fay Bock