Betty Cuthbert, taken by me , during an early athletic event in Sydney circa 1950 , the letter E pinned to her stands for the Ermington Public School, which she and twin sister Marie , also fleet footed , attended . Marie , unfortunately , blurred, was cut out of the photograph . In the school photo below , from which Betty is missing for some unknown reason , Marie Cuthbert is in the third row from the front , fourth girl from the left,white ribbons in her hair . In the back row , third kid from the left in whites, is this writer.
My abiding memory of attending the school at the same time as the Cuthberts was the annual event in which the fastest girl runners and the fastest boys, me one of the latter , were pitted against each other . The Cuthberts romped home against the rest of the field ... beaten by girls ! Still, Betty went on to win three Gold Medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and another at Tokyo .
In the l960s , I recalled this ignominious defeat in a piece I wrote for the Rotorua Post when I met up with her again when she was on a tour of New Zealand , part of a clipping from that story below .*****************************************
The Cuthbert family ran a plant nursery at Ermington, within walking distance of the school . There was a view from the nursery across the Parramatta River and industrial plants , a paint factory in particular , from which fumes wafted . After I left Ermington and went to high school at North Newtown and then Fort Street, I daily took the train from West Ryde which went by factories emitting strong smells .
On hearing in 1969 that Betty had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I speculated that those industrial fumes may have been responsible for her condition . I recalled the brother of a friend of mine who lived down near the river had come down with some strange illness.
Taking to the hills
Despite being beaten by the Cuthberts , I took up cross country running and used to scamper across the Carlingford Heights like a Beagle , athlete Albie Thomas prominent in those days . At North Newtown Intermediate High I was in the athletic team which in 1953 won the Mick Simmons Trophy for the Champion School and the Junior Panel at the Combined Intermediates School Carnival . Some additional after school training took place at Burwood at an athletics field where Betty may have become involved at some stage , not sure about this .