50 years ago in Kolonaki
Fifty years ago this month, American Philhellenes Tom and Betsy Shortell opened a new school in Athens that would go on to have a profound effect on the lives of many ex-pats and Greeks alike, creating many fond memories and life-long bonds.
David Adler was one of the first pupils to attend Campion when it opened in Kolonaki in 1970 and, according to his account below, his parents employment by the school was the sole purpose of the family’s sojourn in Athens.
I hope you enjoy David’s story as much as I did on the anniversary of our school’s 50th academic year.
Fifty years ago at the tender age of 10, my mother, stepfather, sister and I arrived in Athens on our way back to the UK from a short stint living in Ankara, Turkey where my stepfather had been lecturing at the university there.
We set up camp in the seaside town of Rafina, my mother having rejected Dafni as being too busy! We had a caravan and camper van and the campsite in Rafina was ideal especially as we only intended staying for a holiday. Visiting the historic and cultural attractions was our sole purpose.
An advertisement in the Athens News changed all that! Teachers were required for a new school about to be set up in Athens. This new school was to run along the British educational system and targeted ex-patriots and diplomats living in Athens who wanted their children to have a “British” education. The founders, Tom and Betsy Shortell, (the first Citibank in Athens) accepted my parent’s applications and they were employed along with Richard Forbes, who was to be Campion’s first Head Teacher.
A small converted house in Kolonaki was to be the school’s first premises. My mother refused to commute from a campsite so a mad rush to find an apartment ensued resulting in our first apartment in Athens being in Ippocratous Street. A permanent site was secured in Rafina to leave our caravan as a weekend “home”.
I was registered to attend St Catherine’s British School but was told that it was full and I would have to go on a waiting list. This nearly resulted in us leaving Athens but very kindly Campion agreed to allow me to attend (I was now 11!)
I had to join a class of pupils two years older than I, very confusing and rather daunting for an 11-year-old. I had to grow up pretty fast to fit in. Luckily, for me, it all worked out well, the boys tolerated me and the girls mothered me. I made a very good friend and he and I did everything together. Athens then being such a safe city, we were allowed out on our own and enjoyed life to the max.
We were to see two moves in Campion’s premises to Ambelokipi and then to Psychico before we were, unfortunately, forced to leave by the regime of Papadopoulos but that is another story.
I was so in love with Athens and missed it so much that when I was nineteen, armed with my TEFL certificate I returned and taught in frontistiria for two years.
To this day Athens, and indeed Greece as a whole, holds a special place in my heart and I am proud to have been one of Campion’s first pupils.