1937 - 2008


By Aaron Ninedek

I first met Sam when we both went to University High School back in about 1952.

I was a year or two ahead of him and Sam had this theory that people in more senior years ignored people in junior years.

While this possibly may be true it certainly wasn’t in Sam’s case. He was impossible to ignore. He was not the sort of person who would NOT be noticed.

It was not so much his red curly hair as the temperament that went with it. Not temper – but animation would be a better way to describe it. He loved to participate and enjoyed being part of the action. If there weren’t any action he would create some but never anything bad enough to get him into trouble.

We used to live near each other. I had to walk past his place in order to catch the bus, or the tram, or when we went to the footy (carna blues) or to meet up with our very good friend Philip Mirjam. We called Philip, FARPILLARPIP, using the code speak popular at that time. If Sam could hear us now I am sure there’d be a big smile on his face as he remembered FARPILLARPIP who died back in 1957.

While we were still at Uni High the famous card school started. Living near us were Ron Segal, Harry Scaife and Ernie Frederick. We became the core group and over time it expanded to include Ken Hamer, Mel Black, Daryl Burr, Roger Morris and numerous others who came and went.

We played cards together every week for more than thirty years and would you believe that we told the same jokes every week and we laughed at them every time. We had a reunion at Ron’s place in October 2004, about twenty years after we stopped playing regularly. Again we retold the same jokes and again we laughed at them.

Sam was there. He had a wonderful time, as did we all. Sadly, Harry Scaife was no longer with us for that night and since then we also have lost Daryl Burr. Ernie couldn’t make it that night but seven of the original group were there as well as Steve Leighton who joined in.

Philip Mirjam was never part of our card school but he was an active member of Betar, a Zionist youth movement. Philip was a charismatic personality and persuaded Sam and me to join. We became active members. In 1956 I was chosen to go to Israel on a year-long leadership training course at an academy known as the Machon. This was quite an honor because only four people were chosen to go from the whole of Australia in my year and expenses were fully covered by the Zionist Federation.

As I was coming back to Australia at the start of 1957, Sam was on his way to Israel. He was the next person from Betar chosen to go so I didn’t see him for two years – my year away plus his year away.

On our return we became even more active and rose to quite high leadership positions.

Apart from High School, the card school and Betar, Sam and I were good friends in other ways. Most of Betar’s activities happened around St Kilda and Caulfield so we people from Carlton had to hang out together a lot getting there and back and in between meetings. We’d also go to the footy together and on trips in his car – first a pale green FX Holden then later a darker green Ford Zephyr.

We’d also walk a lot. One year, we decided to go to Shul (i.e. synagogue) on Jewish New Year. Not allowed to drive or take public transport we walked. Someone asked us whether we went to Shul and we replied, “Yes we did.” And then we were asked, “Which one?” and we answered, “All of them!”

This was only a slight exaggeration because we started out from Sam’s place in North Carlton and walked to Talmud Torah or Tummo as we called it, which was only a short distance from his place. Then we walked from there to Carlton Shul, then to East Melbourne Shul, then all the way to Toorak Shul and eventually to St Kilda Shul. A total distance of some 10 -12 km. I can’t remember if we went any further or how we got back. I suspect that we went on the second day, waited until dark and then caught a tram.

We also got good exercise throwing boomerangs. Yes, we made them come back. The only trouble was they usually came back to some place 100 meters away so we had to chase them. Or they would come back straight at us so fast that we had to make some pretty fast moves to get out of the way.

For as long as I knew him Sam was always turned out well. He even looked good in the school uniform and in the Betar uniform. He was popular, well-liked by all and made a tremendous first impression. He was well spoken, well-meaning, with considerable musical talent and an excellent leader.

We lost touch for a few years – he lived in Sydney for a while and also in America. But we picked up the friendship again over the past few years. The Betar youth movement created an enormous extended family and many of us are still in contact after more than 50 years. We even have our own website and CD where Sam is mentioned many times. We all remember the good bits and if there were any bad bits they have been forgotten.

Sadly, Sam is the third member of the card school that we have lost since 2000. Even though we don’t play much anymore, I feel certain that at some future date we’ll all be up there somewhere, sitting around the table, playing cards, still telling the same jokes that we always told and what’s more – still laughing at them.

Sam Offman