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Collage of Waitaki Boys' High School. Brasch Papers, MS 996 – 12/542.

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Collage of Waitaki Boys' High School. Brasch Papers, MS 996-12/542.

In 1924, Brasch was sent to Waitaki Boys' High School as a boarder. He joined 301 other boys (171 boarders and 131 day-boys) at a time when the school's reputation was high in both sports and scholarship. This was largely due to the efforts of the Rector, Frank Milner, a man who had a lasting influence on him. At the school, Brasch's pet hates were rugby and compulsory military drill. Aspects he enjoyed most were the surrounding environs, the library, the debating club, and the few close friendships formed. Of the place, Brasch wrote: 'Waitaki…quietly composed and healed. It worked well-being; it was a world, a cosmos.'

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Helene Brasch obtained a number of book prizes for diligence, good conduct and writing. These works included Thackeray's Henry Esmond, Scott's Poetical Works, Lockhart's Life of Scott, and Stevenson's Virginibus puerisque. Brasch followed his mother's example by obtaining 'Special Prizes' in French, English, History and Geography. This copy of Emerson's Poems was for a 'Special Literary Prize' and is signed by 'The Man' - as Brasch called the Rector.

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The Waitakian was a half-yearly publication that informed the students and a growing number of 'Old Boys' about the activities of the school. In his first year at school, Brasch became one of the junior editors, reporting on debates and non-sporting matters. In the December 1924 issue, nestled between sports results, a list of distinguished visitors to the school, and the fact that a 'cinematograph' had been installed, there appeared 'To the Wind', Brasch's first poem in print. It was signed, 'C. Brasch, IIIa.' Another poem - 'The Spirit of the Ocean' - not in Collected Poems, was accepted and published in the November issue of 1925.

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At Waitaki, Brasch and his friends, including Peter Shand, Tony Gough, and James Bertram, use to read and act out plays. A small room at the top of the staircase in the south building was where the rehearsals were performed. It was there where Bertram - who was to become a life-long friend - sketched this pencil portrait of the young sixteen-year old Brasch. This is a photograph copy.

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Hundreds of pictures and prints hung on the walls of rooms and corridors at Waitaki. By osmosis, these works helped familiarize the boys with the names of famous painters, composers, poets and novelists, and a wide range of subjects. Art works on display included those by Turner, Corot, Gainsborough, Constable, Crome, Watts, Whistler, various Italian masterpieces, and paintings from the Dutch and Barbizon schools. To Brasch, this array of prints was his informal library. Of special note, was Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia, 'floating and singing among the weeds and flowers of the willow-shadowed stream.'

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