Recollections Timbertop 1967
I have many memories of the exciting, interesting, challenging and amusing times that we had at Timbertop I thought that I would write one or two of them down, I wonder if others will remember the same things. You are invited to put pen to paper and make a contribution to 'Recollections Timbertop 1967' as we take a trip down a faded memory lane.
How to deal with snake bite.
It must have been about the second evening of first term TT 1967. We were all in the dining hall; the 16mm projector was set up. Mr. Roberts-Wray was, in his own special way, lecturing us on how to hike and camp, covering many of the things that Mr. Baldwin had taught us the previous year. Navigation, putting your fire out etc etc.
I was sitting up the back with Gordy Harten, Roddy Laver and Simon Alderson-Hicks.
C R-W announced "our next topic is snake bite, please pay attention" After a few false starts a film on snake bite flickered into life on the screen, it had that sort of Cinesound news sound track; it was in speckled black and white with a faint line running through it.
Experts told us in earnest voices with dramatic music, how to deal with snake bite "take a sharp knife cut between the puncture marks and have someone suck the blood and poison out" said the learned doctor with the black rim glasses. There was lots of laughter and jeering at this point, as we had been taught the tourniquet method by Mr. Baldwin the previous year, which seemed to be a much more logical and safer way to address the problem of snake bite.
The film ran for about 20 mins, at the end there was a lot of chatter, Mr. Roberts-Wray gained silence after some time and said, "Now we have all seen the film on how to deal with snake bite, forget what you saw never handle a snake bite like that, we now use the tourniquet method but we don't have a film on it yet" at this point there was heckling, more Jeering and cynical comments.
I recall, Pom, was sent out of the hall after making a very amusing remark in a voice which could be heard by C R-W about how we were in for an interesting year if this was the way we were to be taught, and asking if we had to reverse any other things we had just been shown.
Pete the Builder
G Unit, like all the units at Timbertop had two doors from the dormitory, one taking you to the outside through the ablution and storage area the other through the study and onto the veranda. The doors provided for safe clear entry and exit from the dormitory.
Some or should I say one of our number in G unit liked to exit via the windows at the end of the dorm, we were never given a reason why he chose this unlikely exit, I guess it was to save time.
One evening whilst executing such an exit at high speed he tripped and the toe of his boot punched a hole in the plasterboard wall. We had unit inspection the next morning and the discovery of this gaping hole at inspection time would have lead to sever penalties for all. A troubling situation had arisen. Not to be daunted Pete L thought laterally, he secured about 2 kilos of Ron's finest mashed potato from the kitchen. He then, with care I had never seen him exercise on any other project plastered up the hole.
The result was a repair that went undetected at the unit inspection the next day and in fact it remained undetected for the rest of the year.
It was truly testament to Pete's initiative and ability to think outside the square when under extreme pressure, to his skills as an untrained plasterer and most importantly to the enduring quality of Ron's finest mash.
Snakes…Vivid memories of Mick Collins killing a snake and every time he hit it more of the stick disintegrated until there was only a stump left and I think the snake was still alive. He then cracked it like a whip and killed it. Cooking and eating a snake...white jelly meat that tasted like nothing.
Lost…looking for Neil Moore
Alcohol…doing a social studies project on India with a few others (Nils Koren and Geoff Shaw?) and our reward for a good mark was being asked by the Master concerned to his quarters after dinner and being offered BEER!!!
Glen Bechly yelling at various people. One music lesson when he played us a gloomy orchestral piece and he asked us how the music made us feel. Someone said (I think it was Bill Winter-Irving) that it reminded him of a scary densely foliaged glen!! (You will recall Glen had a thick beard). I saw Bechly smile for the first time I think.
Mr Mitchell dragging us out in the middle of the night to look at stars and then going bananas because we weren't finding it that interesting at 2am.
Two kids (one Geoff Shaw?) pushing and fighting and smashing through one of the windows in the Dining Hall.
Rev "Possum" Smith's stories of poltergeists, exploding tins of baked beans, currawongs, cold showers and 'Red Cross' parcels of food and fruitcake from home. It was all good.
Term 1. I remember it was a very hot, dusty summer day. Before we left, Dad ran over the previous term report, reminding me of my many weaknesses and "what I should work on." We drove to Timbertop in his brand new Ford Falcon; gold with a customised roof and engine. An immaculate car which, three years later, I pranged. I hit a parked car whilst passing a tram right in front of Lauriston Girls School at about 3.20 pm as all the senior girls were exiting the school. Not a good look particularly when my girlfriend Prue was attending the School. I think I can safely say that after this "event" our relationship lost a little of it's "fire." A fire that rapidly went out.
Back to the trip. Dad was little annoyed because the car was getting dust on it, something that did not occur in St Georges Road where we lived. I was always little anxious when we had no other school passengers on board because when we had other school passengers, it confirmed that we were going back to School on the right day. A concern that arose after an incident that traumatised me three years earlier during my incarceration in Junior House. That year, in second term, we mistakenly returned to school a day early. Instead of taking me home, Dad agreed with John Anderson (man mountain, ex "All Black" and teacher) that he should not take the trouble to drive back to Melbourne and return with me the following day. It would be better if I just remained at the School for the next 24 hours on my own until the other boys returned. Anyway, at least he hadn't decided to explain the facts of life to me as we motored up to Mansfield.
That year Dad got his pilot's license. Later he often flew to Mansfield with me and the issue of other parents who were hoping to get rid of their children (usually myself, Kiff Koren and Charlie Moore) We should have suspected something; Dad was the only person who had a parachute! On our arrival at Mansfield we were picked up by a taxi and taken to the School despite our attempts to bribe the driver to do otherwise. I will never forget Kiff being sick into a brown paper bag as we passed over the Great Dividing Range. At the request of the same still ever hopeful parents Dad flew us to Corio in following years. We illegally landed on a field near the school and were collected by Dad's friend and our house master, Ces Parsons. Like everybody else at the end of term I returned by train from Timbertop by train, or what was left of it when we reached Melbourne. A trip that would do justice to a St.Trinians film and unfortunately a line that is no more.
I can remember walking into I Unit and wondering when "Vogue Living" would arrive for a photo shoot. One of the new boys who I think was a royal from Thailand, no doubt following the trend set by HRH. Prince Charles, had a huge plastic bag full of dried mango which he intended to live on for the rest of the year. Not sure how that went. He was in just as much shock as us and suffered trauma when he was told to make his bed!
I had tried to prepare for Timbertop. That summer I had engaged in an intense sun baking program on the beach at Portsea. I had my bronze medallion. Who can forget diving for bricks in the Kilpatrick Pool under the gentle instruction of Irky Weber? I had my St Johns First Aid Certificate, my heavy wood-chopping/hiking boots, a pair of skis with screw on edges (constructed the previous year under the careful guidance of Peter Jardine, carpentry and mechanical drawing expert) and a pack full of expensive and heavy equipment; which I later found out I had no idea how to use. Three years ago I gave the tent, ground sheet, pegs, pack and a packet of "dogo" biscuits (which the children would not eat in their school lunches) to the Timbertop Museum. I could not believe anyone would want it all! Mum had been trying to get rid of it for years.
I think in the first few weeks we participated in what would now termed an "orientation program" We learnt about fly traps, snake bites, bushfires, burn, bash and bury and we ate "dogo" biscuits which came in a gold tin box wrapped in white wax paper. We went star gazing with Mr. Mitchell. We climbed to the summit of Mount Timbertop. We walked to and from Sheepyard flat where we spent the night in our heavy new canvas tents with separate heavy green ground sheets, pinned down with heavy steel tent pegs always being careful not to camp under red river gums. We floated down the Howqua river eating blackberries. I think our first serious solo hike (students now have to be accompanied by a teacher) was up Mt Buller, then Little Buller and maybe on to Mt Stirling. My dear friend Jamie Wood, who is a merciless diarist, could verify this. I remember as we approached the summit my hat blew off (it was Dad's cherished 2/14th army slouch hat which I had "borrowed" without his permission). Down the sheer cliff I went doing my best mountain goat impersonation and I retrieved it, and my life, from a snow gum branch. We also began our cross country program. I still love running. I still have my cross country card and I can still do an excellent Arthur Mitchell forgery!
Skiing on Wooly Butt Spur
Toad of Toad Hall
As the barge-woman, I was supposed to be overweight and very buxom and was dressed accordingly. Mr. Mitchell kept telling us to project our words to the back of the hall. My first line was to Toad who was disguised as a washerwoman. I took an enormous breath and said" A nice morning ma'm," projecting my words to the back of the hall as directed. Just as the air left my lungs, my buxom breasts dropped to my stomach and I became an instantly very pregnant barge-woman! The audience collapsed into hysterics! A very difficult situation for a 15 year old, non- actor to recover from. Dad was pleased because it gave him a good excuse not to pay the school fees.
The play was a great success. Kiff Koren as Toad stole the show. I cannot remember what role the American Cameron Thompson played maybe Ratty. However I recollect that he told me he previously played Oliver on Broadway. Jamie Wood, who recently caught up with him in New York, says that he cannot remember if this is true. Damien Ball was Badger and I cannot remember who played the draft horse. Shayne Milsom was the Policeman. So good was the performance that the ABC wanted to tape it but the school will not, for their own reasons, permit it.
Gordy Harten Reading the Lesson
After lunch, John O'Donnell and I decided to walk to the Darling Huts, a new construction about 2 ks from the school. Somehow we got lost and four hours later arrived back at the car. John says we were not lost just disorientated.
Thanks to all who have worked so hard to put the Reunion together including David Henry whose endless wit and antics have always kept us laughing, Chris McKeown who has been an organizational powerhouse, Rod Druce who created the web page, all the Unit reps including Shayne Milsom and Geoff Shaw, all who spent hours on their phone and computers getting their troops together, the GGS Staff including Andy Beachamp and Kate Rafferty. Finally thank you all for making an effort to come to this celebration.
I have a few recollections that may be of interest.
Myself and Simon de Wolf were either talking after hours or smoking some harmless weed that our parents managed to smuggle through customs. As a result of this idle pastime we were requested by Mr Bechly, who discovered the crime, to attend Rocks residence for a friendly chat.
Knowing what was in store, and not having time to add the obligatory 2 x pairs of underpants, made the cold walk up the hill a little more unpleasant than it would normally be.
Bechly knocked on Rocks door and proceeded in for a chat which seemed to take an hour. Simon, the gentleman he always was, elected to go first (in reality he drew the short stick). The whacks followed by short, sharp moans were ringing in my ears when I decided to get rid of some nervous energy with a set of weights that Rock kept at the front of his residence. Rock used these for other recalcitrants that had committed minor crimes such as robbery and murder. To my “relief” I tripped on a small boulder at the base of Rocks stairs and proceeded to fall backwards with the weights snapping my arm.
Wondering what to do next, go direct to the San or wait and tell Rock, I decided on the latter. Simon appeared after a couple of minutes rubbing his backside not looking like he had a great time. I told Rock at this point that my arm was broken. In his caring manner he said “BULLSHIT, GET UP HERE and stop mucking around”. I held up my arm which started reasonably straight and then took a 90 degree turn towards the ground. He looked at the arm, then at me and said “you will do anything to get out of a caning. Get to the Matron. Don’t think this will get you out of a caning at a later date.”
I don’t know if he forgot or just made me suffer for the balance of the year but that final caning did not occur (not at Timbertop anyway). Gary Woodhams was the reason for my final caning, but he can tell you why.
Did anyone else ever locate the fishing hut with the huge padlock which was situated two miles down the Howqua towards Howquadale?
The contents of the cabin could be viewed through a small gap between door and frame. I have a recollection that it was owned by a Doctor who, to say the least, may have had a drinking problem. The hut was stacked with large white Carlton Draught cans along one wall (“depth charges” I think they were called). The door was solid but you were able to dig away a bit of earth at the north corner and, just like a dispensing unit, the cans would flow down to the bottom of the hole and easily retrieved. They lasted all year. I can remember a few boys being aware of it, one being Peter Lie and possibly David Henry but who am I to cast doubt on the early sobriety of those two.
AH the joys of hiking.
Finally, Jamie W , I have no recollection of being in a fight with anyone (see J.W earlier notes) let alone falling through a glass window. I can remember it occurring but “not guilty your honour”.