Former Rowville Primary School student Darren Arnott was inspired by last year’s (1998) 25th Anniversary Celebrations of his old school to recall and record his memories of his days there when the school was hidden in a bush setting.
Rowville Primary School
I began as a student at Rowville Primary School in 1975 and I have very fond memories of my time there.
The school was surrounded by bushland and paddocks and there was an abundance of wildlife. At one stage we had several small bats and a possum living in our classroom, which makes me think that we probably should have closed the windows more often. Being amongst so many trees, there was a great deal of bird life. I particularly remember seeing (and hearing) bell birds, willie wag tails, kookaburras, rosellas and magpies. I once found an echidna burrowing in the school grounds, not far from the building. It probably couldn’t reach our classroom window.
There were also snakes, usually copperheads or red bellied black snakes. Both quite nasty if they bit you. We used to play football in a grassy area just west of the school grounds towards Stud Road. On several occasions snakes were sighted in the long grass. The teachers would go hunting for them with rakes while we would all watch from a safe distance waiting for someone to lift their rake high and swing it down fast, at which point we knew that the snake was dead or the teacher had tripped over. Either way, it was a fascinating diversion from football. The snake was then left to dangle on the wire fence near the bike shed for the kookaburras to eat or for one of the more foolhardy boys to throw at a passing girl.
A popular pastime amongst the boys was looking for lizards in the grass and hunting for jewel spiders in the shrubs, being very careful to avoid the leaf curlers because they would bite. I remember stirring up bull ants’ nests. We would poke the nests with sticks then run to the taps and return with mouthfuls of water to spit on them. It was most satisfying being the all-powerful humans conquering the puny but aggressive ants. I soon stopped this after one crawled up my trouser leg and bit me. Of course being an all-powerful human, I conducted myself in a most dignified manner and casually strolled off to the sick bay, bravely refusing all offers of assistance. (Not really…. if I remember correctly, I stood there and screamed until a kind Grade 6 student carried me to the staff room. I was five at the time mind you).
I rode to school on my metallic green Repco dragster (a much sought after means of transportation at the time.) Pedalling down Deschamp Crescent wearing my brown corduroy pants, desert boots and pale blue Rowville Primary School skivvy, I was a sight to behold. The path from Stud Road to the school ran past the south side of the house that is now the Stud Park Veterinary Clinic. At the time it was the closest house to the school. I remember riding up the path from Stud Road on cold winter mornings. You could just make out the shape of the gum trees through the fog. The spider webs in the bushes by the path were a beautiful sight covered with dew. Once you were halfway up the track there was no sound of traffic, just the call of magpies in the morning or the ten to nine school bell, depending on how late you were running.
Occasionally, in the hot summer months, the canteen would sell frozen ice blocks called Sunny Boys and Sunny Razzes. Sunny Razzes used to be my favourite. They were raspberry flavoured and I would grab one whenever I could. To this day, I still enjoy Razzes or the nearest thing to them I can find – often, possibly too often. It was always a race to try and finish one before the end of lunchtime. If you ate one too quickly you would suffer the inevitable brain freeze which would make even the most coordinated of students walk around in a daze and finally stagger involuntarily into the nearest solid object. If you didn’t finish in time there was always the option of sticking the remaining ice down the back of an unsuspecting student guaranteeing a short but amusing display in contortionism.
People who didn’t live in Rowville always looked on me with pity when I told them that we held our Grade 5 camp in the school grounds. They didn’t realise that all you had to do was walk a hundred metres or so away from the school building and you could see nothing but gum trees. In my opinion it was the perfect environment for a school camp. We set up tents and I think we spent several days there. We hiked during the day and went spotlighting at night. I remember seeing plenty of possums, sugar gliders and bats. It was all good fun, apart from the unusually heavy rainfall for that time of year. Thanks to my time in Cubs, I lived by the “Be Prepared” motto and had packed a ridiculous number of tarpaulins and plastic sheets. I had an idea to join several tents together and make a large communal covered area between them. It worked very well and we remained dry until the wind picked up. The whole thing acted like a huge sail. I think it was the extra tent pegs that I had used that saved us from an encounter with the propeller of a low flying plane and a long walk back to the campsite.
School excursions were always a highlight and whenever we returned on the bus we would sing a song as soon as we turned off Wellington Road and into Tirhatuan Drive. It went to the tune of “Found a Peanut”.
Come to Rowville, Come to Rowville,
It’s a school of misery,
There’s a sign up on the gateway,
Saying welcome to thee,
Don’t believe it, don’t believe it,
It’s a pack of flamin’ lies,
If it wasn’t for the teachers,
It would be a paradise.
Build a bonfire, build a bonfire,
Put the teachers on the top,
Put the school in the middle,
And burn the flamin’ lot.
This song was very popular with the students but, understandably, not with the teachers.
When I was in Prep I had a teacher for a while called Mr Hess. He was a bit of a hippie and played the guitar. He sang songs from groups like Simon and Garfunkel and Peter, Paul and Mary. To this day I tend to drift off whenever I hear “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Feeling Groovy”, or perhaps it’s just my overindulgence in Sunny Razzes causing one too many brain freezes.
First published in the March 1999 edition of the Rowville-Lysterfield Community News.