3 MINUTES WITH...
Seven (7) questions for seven answers
- Peter Schniering, born 1946
- I lived in Beirut from 1955 to 1963 and attended the Anglo American Section of the Salesian school from 1957 to 1962
- I live in Sydney, Australia
- After leaving Beirut in 1963 I lived and studied in Germany until I migrated to Australia in 1972
- I revisited Beirut several times in the 60’s/70’s and latest in 2006.
- During one of the visits I went back to the Salesian School and also caught up with Bro.Dell on several occasions.
1. How was life in Beirut different in those days and what are your most vivid memories of that time?
Beirut was a great place in the 50’s. We lived at the Raouche and my most vivid memories are of the freedom we had in a beautiful country. The sea was still clean, the concrete jungles,the high rise buildings everywhere and the slums along the shore to the airport did not exist.
There were empty spaces,lovely beaches, sand dunes and beautiful pine forests instead.
Goat herders with cattle and camels would roam the Raouche in search of food for their animals – in fields now covered by sky scrapers and concrete.
The tallest buildings used to be 5 stories. Traffic was a fraction of what it is today.
A tram – you could board anywhere because they travelled at about 10 km/h – would take you from Rue Bliss (AUB) to the Bourj for 5 piastres.
A Serveece would cost 15 piastres for the same journey.
It was peaceful and safe to travel anywhere.
2. How do you think that the years of school in Beirut have influenced your later life?
I have fond memories of the Salesian School – despite Father Bias. I learned English and Arabic there. Made many friends. Joined the Boy Scouts and went on Summer Camps.
It would have been influential in my decision to migrate to Australia, where one of my best friends from those days also lives.
3. Whom did you stay in touch with over the years?
I have stayed in touch with several friends over the years and renewed old friendships via the Internet.
4. Would you have liked to stay in Beirut after having finished school? And do you think your life would have been different?
I would have loved staying in Beirut longer and my life would have been different, although I would not have stayed in Beirut beyond the early 70’s and would not like to live there now.
5. Do you think you will return to the Lebanon one day? And if so, or not, why?
In June 2006 I returned for several weeks and whilst I greatly enjoyed reunions with old friends, rekindling old memories and enjoying the hospitality of the Lebanese, I was appalled at the indiscriminate building that had gone on in Beirut and everywhere including the mountains. See attached photo of the site where the Salesian School once stood !
The sea is polluted, the once beautiful beaches on the way to the airport ruined, many beautiful old buildings are neglected and traffic is a nightmare.
I will return but the last visit has changed my perceptions and makes me cherish Lebanon, as I knew it, even more.
6. Are you interested in taking part in future reunions of ex-students?
Reunions would only be possible if they coincided with a visit.
7. What do you think of this website and how can we improve it?
The website is great. It would be nice to see more history of the Salesian in the 50’s and 60’s.