I found out today that I am now a ‘Golden Oldie’. I attended a reunion lunch for past students of Melbourne High School and it seems that everyone who graduated over 55 yrears ago is now classed as a ‘Golden Oldie. The Old Boys Association (Unicorn Club) holds a reunion dinner every five and ten years after people leave the school, but those old men like me are now combined into one group for an annual lunch. I assume that the oldies lunch is held annually in case we don’t survive until the next five year interval. Today there were about 50 past students who graduated as far back as 1954 and as recently as 1972.
Melboure High School is a selective entry high school with a strong history of academic achievement. It educates students from Year 9 to Year 12. (In my day this was from Intermediate to Matriculation). Today, students from around the state are selected through entrance exams but in my day access was by being a top student in one of the selected ‘feeder schools’ in the inner south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
In 1910, the school orignally began as co-ed school in Spring Street in the city. In 1927, the girls moved to MacRobertson Girls High School and the boys moved to this building at Forest Hill. It was always known as ‘The Castle on The Hill’. It was built on vacant land along Hawkesburn Creek that occassionally flooded the local area. The creek was formed into a large conctrete underground drain and the school built on the vacant land.
Our lunch event today began with a tour of the school. The main building looks exactly the same as I remember apart from some recent renovations that fixed peeling paint, patched up cracked plaster and reconstructed some of the foundations..
Some of the things that I remember have gone. The school army cadet rifle range doesn’t exist any more, nor does the Link Air Trainer used by thr airforce cadtes. The old tuck shop has ben replaced with a dining hall. Rooms in which woodwork lessons were held have been replaced with other subjects and the library is now in a different place. The general office is now much larger and takes up three of the old classrooms.
New facilities include a large music centre, modern gym and swimming pool along with a new facility that teaches selected first year university subjects so that students can go on to university with a head start. Every student obviously has a laptop computer. The school is being surrounded by large apartment towers.
I left the schol in 1965. At that time, about 1/3 of students were Jewish – boys of parents who had had moved to get away from Europe after WW2. Their parents had high aspirations for their boys and nearly all went on to have successful professional careers. Today, there is a high percentage of Asian kids whose parents have the same high level of aspiration for them. I asume that they will have the same type of future.
The school has contiinued many of its traditions. One of these was started by George Langley, a Brigadier General and veteran of Gallipoli in WW1. He was principal after WW2 and began a policy that boys had to learn to swiim 50 metres before they could play any other sport. He had witnessed men drowning after a torpedo attack in WW2 because they couldn’t swim. It took me a few months in Form 3 to pass ther test! Boys still learn to sing and get involved in drama and sport. Nearly all of us at lunch could still remember all the words of the school song and we sang it with gusto.
The current principal, Dr Tony Mordini gave us a welcome and explained how he was working to continue the school’s excellence. He left us with no doubt that the school was in good hands and would continue to thrive. After his talk, we enjoyed a nice two-course lunch and a glass of wine in what was the.South Pavilion – now the Unicron Club for old boys.
Overall, the day brought back a lot of memories. Here are some of them:
The school hall was where we had assemblies and religious education. Today it was set up for a school play. These chairs dont make a large clunking noise like the folding ones that we had when we sat on them. We were constantly told “Don’t bang the seats”
The round library which was completed when I was at school is now a staff room. To avoid being in the school cadets, I worked in the libray as an assistant. Ironically, I’m one of just a few boys who served in Vietnam.
A small portion of the new library
The original pool was replaced in the 1980s. This new one is built at a ninety degree angle to the position of the original one.
The view across the oval from the tower. Only senior students were allowed to go up the stairs to the tower rooms in my day. Now, the two levels in the tower serve as a meeting room and the school archive office.
Architects drawing of the school.
The school principals during my years at Melbourne High School.