SMB.

 

I guess the question of the night is:  WHY ARE WE ALL HERE?

 

What was it about those days - 50 years ago that is so indelibly stamped in our memories that we feel compelled to gather here tonight for a toast to those times past?

 

For me it was a very vivid time of my life. The transition from high school to going out in the world to make a living and taking responsibility for my own life was an experience I will never forget. 

 

As a teenager I decided to keep a diary of my life so that when I finally had children of my own I would remember how badly I was treated by mum and dad and not make the same mistakes with my own kids.

 

However, that diary now provides compelling evidence that my parents were saints and my brother Peter and I were total rascals to say the least. Girls, alcohol and driving in a reckless manner are well documented. 

 

For the real mischief, I had a complex code system that was intended to hide the true facts of our shenanigans from mum and dad should I have the misfortune of them reading my writings. 

 

Unfortunately I never recorded just how the code worked – I must have done a version of the ENIGMA code – so, with the passing of time the true facts have been lost.  However my memory still vividly delves into those days and nights of mischief and debauchery. 

 

Those SMB days will never be forgotten by any of us here tonight – for me some of the lecturers that had the “pleasure” of my company left their indelible mark on me that changed my life forever.

 

 

First up - Harry Arblaster – as I remember him – short, balding, and wore glasses - the Principal of the SMB.   Somehow I clicked with Harry and he always seemed to have a soft spot for me or maybe that was his gift, and many other students also felt the concern he had for them. One thing about Harry Arblaster – he did take his job seriously and he had a genuine affection for us students although there were times I’m sure that he would have happily killed the lot of us.

 

At he end of 1962 Harry got me a holiday job at the Ford Motor Company in Geelong working in the Metallurgy department.

 

And then 2 ½ years later when I was a total “out of control nightmare,” Harry “suggested” that I take some time off from my studies and he got me a job working in a geophysical prospecting crew in Mt Isa – Boy was that a wake up call!

 

Geoff Mainwaring – taught me art – every Saturday morning I would go down to the SMB to my art class.  I had a very good friend; John Boermans – he was a full time art student and he sold me my first single lens reflex camera – with that camera I took some of the photos that appeared in the SMB magazine.

 

And then there was:

Eric McGrath.  Taught me English – Eric had a major impact on me for the rest of my life. I suspect Eric liked a drink or two – he always looked as though he was suffering from a massive hangover.  He was the ultimate skeptic and I adored him for his cynical point of view of the world. I remember Eric’s biting, contemptuous wit that could cut you into little bits if you incurred his wrath. Eric’s contribution to my life was to question everything and recognize the responsibility to make ones own decisions about how to face the world.

 

 

Phil Day – Geology.  Phil was a real character and his passion for Geology was infectious. I still have a real interest in Geology to this day and it’s thanks to Phil.

 

So, here are some entries from the diary – hopefully they’re not going to bore you all rigid.

 

Tuesday 6th February 1962.

 

This Morning I went down to the SMB with dad to see Harry Arblaster about doing a Civil Engineering course however he talked me into Metallurgy on the strength that there is not as much maths incorporated into the course – I hated maths! I enrolled for the course and paid my fees.

 

Monday 12th February.

 

Today I started my metallurgy course which on the completion of 4 years should entitle me to my diploma.  I went down to the SMB with John Boermans and Bruce Houston.  

 

All the students of the school were ushered into the Chem Lecture room and Mr. Arblaster gave a “Welcome to the School of Mines” address. Then we were left at the mercy of the SRC representatives who presented us with cards and pins and ordered us to write our names on the cards and pin them to our breasts and wear them for the next 2 weeks.

 

After this they led us over in single file, to the M.B. Johns building opposite. They had students holding up the traffic while we crossed the road. They also carried into the establishment, a toilet bowl mounted on a sort of sedan chair structure.

 

Sitting on the toilet was a bust of a voluptuous goddess, cast in plaster. This was adorned with lots of toilet paper.

 

Inside the MB Johns building they lined us new student up into three lines and read us the rules.

 

Some of the rules were:

 

(1)  All first year students will wear white clothing during winter so there will be more warmth for the third and forth year students!

(2)  If a first year student is standing urinating at the toilet and a 3rd or 4th year student wishes to relieve himself, the first year student will apply pressure on his organ with the index finger and thumb and take a step back and to the left, standing at attention as a mark of respect to his superior.

(3)  1st year students will not fraternize with members of the opposite sex!  (I don’t I took much notice of this rule!)  It may however become necessary at certain times to make an inspection to confirm this rule is being adhered to and that no infringements have occurred.  (I guess that what all the de-dacking was about!)

(4)  1st year students will not be seen in groups larger than two otherwise it will be assumed that a counter revolutionary group working in opposition to the SMB is being formed.

 

When this great speech and indoctrination ceremony had finished, we had to crawl up individually to a statue of Venus with her back to you. We were required to lift the red dress draped over Venus and kiss her on the arse. 

 

While we were doing this, a dob of modeling clay was slapped on your head and another similar dob of clay was dobbed on your face. Then we were made to run up a flight of stairs through a stream of water and herded into a room that had the windows open - allowing rotten eggs to be pelted at us. 

After this we were released to have dinner.  (Remember we called lunch “dinner” back

in those days)

 

I also remember, I guess it was probably the next year, when the indoctrination ceremony involved blindfolding the new students and making them drink and eat from a piss-pot that was filled with beer and cold sausages.  Does anyone else remember that?

 

Wednesday 21st February 1962.

 

I got up at 5.30am to study! John Glenn made his historic flight in a space capsule this morning. He completed his 3rd orbit at around 6am just as I sat down to study! Today

the papers were full of it.

 

Monday 12th March 1962

 

I went to the M.B. John’s building at 9am and got ready for the procession - had a hair

cut – put on some make-up.  I was in the SMB Ladies’ pipe band. And we had SMB

football jumpers on with pointy Morley spinning cone underneath as “nungers!”  Our dresses were made out of crepe paper. We carried sewerage pipes – we were the

“Ladies’ Pipe Band.” 

We marched up the middle of Sturt Street to the Bishop’s Palace – Some of the other things the SMB had in the procession were:

 

(1)  A load of cow manure carried in a box by two students with a sign above it with an arrow pointing down. The sign said this procession is all bull…

(2)  Tuddy Johnson had a 44 gallon drum made into a Roman chariot. He called himself

 “Bug Her”

(3)  Mike Whiteside was dressed up as “Spat-at-us” The GLAD-EE-EATER. He was munching

a bunch of Gladiolas!

 

The pipe band was a huge success.  Aunty Pat took some pictures of us walking down

the street wobbling our hips. Boy, was I sore afterwards!

 

When it was over we were supposed to go to the city oval and march some more but we were all too buggered.

 

Tonight I went to the SMB party at MB Johns. It was really a mighty party.  I took a young woman home … she shall remain nameless…

 

Wednesday 14th March. 1962

 

Tonight I went to the SMB hay-seed – it was the best dance I have ever been to. They had it down in Cobalt Hall. They had 1 ½ tons of straw scattered around in bales and there were abstract paintings on the walls. To produce these paintings one of the kids had painted his feet with house paint and walked over the paintings to create the desired abstract arty effect. Ron Rosser’s orchestra was playing – they are really mighty on jazz.

 

28th March 1962.

 

We had a tug of war over a filthy slimy ditch in fairyland around at the gardens this afternoon. It was the chemists, Geologists and metallurgists against the Engineering students.  We lost and got dragged through the bog but we caught most of the opposition and threw them in the mud!

 

There was a photo in the Courier newspaper the next day of us being dragged through the mud.   

 

Quoting from the Courier article - Fairyland had a dirty welcome for these School of Mines students as they headed for the muddy water yesterday on the end of a long rope. At the other end of the rope , safe and dry on a Fairyland island were 10 victorious Engineering students and a large group of their supporters.  A faction war between the 2 diploma schools was settled by the novel means of a tug of war.  Supporters of both 10 man teams and a collection of impartial on-lookers gathered in the vicinity in mid-afternoon as the teams roped up for action.  The Metallurgists stationed on the shore began with a strong pull which bought the nearest opponents tottering towards the steep island bank. Then the opposition settled down in strength and as cries of “PULL” on both sides the metallurgists slid slowly towards the edge and plunged in.

 

Wednesday 27th 1962.

 

When we arrived at school today there was a set of green footprints coming out of Harry Arblaster’s office, around the edge of the building to the stud room, around the back of the main building and stopped outside the male staff’s toilets (The sign on the door had been changed from Male staff to “Extrusive Brethren”) 

 

At lunch time Tony Brauer and another student had hoisted a Russian flag on the school flagpole at half mast. Some dear old lady passing by saw the flag and thought that the Russians had taken over. She went straight to a phone booth and rang up a member of the Ballarat City Council who recognizing this as a state of emergency relayed it to his superior Arthur Madden, the town Clerk.

 

Arthur Madden, being a man to keep a level head in times of crisis decided this was a job for either the Police or the Army.  After flipping a coin he called the Police who came up to the SMB with sirens wailing and orders that this insult to the Russians be taken down! Later on, in the afternoon, Harry Arblaster received a phone call from a prominent military gentleman who considered this flag was an indication as to the political leanings of the student body. It took Harry an hour of solid talking  before he finally persuaded the gentleman it was nothing more than a “student prank.”

 

Saturday 30th June 1962.

 

Spent most of the day studying for exams that start on Tuesday. Bought new pair of Saxon shoes at Prichards for 6 pounds, fourteen shillings.

 

 

 

Monday July 2nd 1962.

 

A few entries from the next few days as exams were held.

 

I studied furiously this morning and we have Geology Prac, and I don’t know my minerals!  This afternoon I went to Cobalt Hall and did the exam.  When I had finished I was sitting way up the back on my own – everyone else had left, however I don’t think the time was wasted.

 

Here’s another entry:  I studied tonight as I am very worried about Physics. I think I will pass all the other subjects but Physics has me packing!

 

 Friday 13th  July 1962.

 

I studied all morning and then went down to school after lunch. The exam went better than I thought it would.  I was very pleased with my effort until later at Peter Dale’s coffee shop I compared my answers with John McDonald.  By the way John you will be pleased to know that later I note that you got top in Maths C with 90%

 

Sat 4th August 1962.

 

I went around to Robert Chong’s place for dinner  - lunch I guess it was – We had a delicious Chinese meal of chicken and vegetables. The chicken was chopped up with the bones in it with a big knife and served with the bones in it.  We ate it with the bones in it – just chewed it up! After the meal we walked around to my place where I introduced Robert to Mum and Dad.  We had a cup of tea here and then walked around the lake and dropped in on a girl – Gaye Lhose.

 

 

 

Monday 13th August 1962.

 

The Russians put one man in space YESTERDAY and another TODAY

 

Wednesday 9th October 1962,

 

Today we went on a Geology excursion to the Werribee Gorge – we looked the place over very carefully after walking a bloody long way. We saw some very good examples of anticlines and synclines also unconformity between Ordovician shales and Permian boulder clay or tillite. When we got down into the gorge we rounded a corner to see a group of nude men lying around. Then, Phil Day, the Geology lecturer, stripped off his clothes and jumped into the icy Werribee river, stark naked followed by 10 other nature boys – there was lots of jokes and laughter flying around.

 

 

Tuesday 23rd October 1962,

 

Today at school a broadcast came over the wireless which was so dire in it’s tone that I thought President Kennedy had declared war on Russia.  It was however a threat of nuclear war with the Soviets if they did not immediately remove all offensive missiles and equipment from Cuba. He also proposed a blockade of all Soviet ships in the Caribbean and Kennedy said all ships will be stopped and searched for weapons – if they are carrying arms they will be turned back. At present a fleet of Soviet ships are speeding towards Cuba and are reported to be carrying nuclear rockets for Cuba, The American ships are due to intercept them at midnight tonight.

 

Wednesday 24th October 1962.

 

Sports against the teachers college called off – Went around to Joe Harts place with John McDonald to see Joe’s rock collection.   He gave John and myself quite a few good specimens.

 

Thursday 25th October.

 

The Cuban crisis appears to be cooling off and the threat of a Third World War seems to be lessening.  Tonight I studied.

 

Thursday 11th April 1963

 

Today we finished school for Easter.  John McDonald and I bought  2 bottles of beer and came around here and we drank them. I gave John some rocks for his collection.

 

Monday 5th August 1963,

 

Today we had a pep talk given to us by Harry Arblaster. He was at his most irrational best. He is going to fine and suspend students caught throwing flour bombs. He also wants the students to stop wearing “stove pipe” jeans as he calls them. He claims they are old fashioned. He also wants hair to be cut.  I wouldn’t mind betting that this remark is directed at Pete and myself. He also stated that we should not eat our dinner down the street.  Later Harry was talking to me and said he was very pleased to see that I wore a tie.  He said that he thought the only way to get the other students to wear ties was to put up a notice banning the wearing of ties.

 

Tonight we had a SRC meeting. The school is going to have an Asian / Australian club. Also the SMB has been approved by the local athletic club to form an athletic club of its own. I bought up the question of buying some new draughts and some chess pieces, which they are going to do.

 

We must have been giving Harry a hard time, because on Tuesday, the 6th August, I wrote:

 

Harry gave us a big lecture today about dress and appearance. He stated that all students shall not wear jeans. And also will have their hair cut, done or permed! Ties shall be worn at all times. He also said that students caught throwing flour will be fined One pound and suspended for a time. – and also, throwing water is valued at one pound fine, per pint of water! Also jeans are valued at 1 pound for two legs.

 

Wednesday 7th August 1963.

 

It was one of the heaviest frosts Ballarat has ever experienced this morning. It was the TRI-SPORTS today. I gave John McDonald a game of billiards and he thoroughly thrashed me.  After dinner Ben Burrows, John McD and myself bought a couple of bottles of cheap sweet sherry and went down the bottom of White Flat and knocked them off.  It didn’t seem to have much effect on us. We all went for a burn around town in John De Carrows A model Ford. Later we were ballsing around White Flat in the car and Harry Arblaster turned up and told us to calm down.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Into the mix of our lives as students came the Vietnam War and the introduction of the draft. 

 

My birth date was picked and perhaps, like some of you here, I was faced with the uncertainty of what being in the army would mean to my future.

 

If anything changed my life, it was this war. I had no wish to go to Vietnam – I barely knew where it was.  I received a student deferral, but eventually I knew I would have to show up.  My friend and fellow Geology student, Goral Dimo and  I went to New Zealand for a Christmas job.

 

When it was time to come home I made the decision to stay in New Zealand and start a new life pursuing my passion for photography and film-making.

 

Some of you did your duty and served in Vietnam and for you, I have the utmost respect.  The truth is, it was a terrible time and indelibly affected all of us.

 

One of my saddest memories during my time at the SMB was when my good friend Shane Carroll was killed in a car accident on his way home from a holiday job.  I will never forget his funeral and how a group of us after the funeral got very drunk – probably here in the Craig’s bar it was, that we drowned our sorrows. Later on, a group of us went up to the lake and somehow finished up in the water in our clothes.  After I staggered home, my mother found a small perch fish in one of my pockets.

 

One of my best memories – winning the billiard tournament and being presented with a plaster cast of a bum with plaque on it that honoured my talents as a billiards player – “Arse will beat class any day!”

 

And those are some of my memories of my time at the SMB.