From Terry Woollcott
Memories of Telopea…in no particular order
I remember hot, bright afternoons, the dazzle and blue of the water; the smell of chlorine; the noise of the whooping spectators; girls in their sleek speedos doing that snapping thing to the leg elastic and boys surfacing, flicking their hair and water from their faces. (That always seemed to me to be a ‘boy-thing’. Girls usually ducked back under the water coming up face-first so their hair was smoothly back.) I was in a swimming carnival once, in first form; qualifying by coming third in my age class. There were only three of us. I came a tortoise-like last in the inter-school carnival. Backstroke, mmm my favourite.
In the Hall of the Mountain King
I can remember my first music lesson at Telopea. I was in the front row, knowing not very much about music. We had to all sing the tune of Peer Gynt’s Hall of the Mountain King: ‘Ta-te ta-te ta-te ta, ta-te ta, ta-te ta, Ta-te ta-te ta-te ta-te ta-te ta-te ta’ (now you try…) and the girl behind me was driving me crazy. She sang with a slight lisp but worse than that…she knew that stuff! Had her hand up all the time. Turns out she had been winning Eisteddfods all her life for piano and sight-reading. Two years later she was my best friend.
Music and Motion
One year here was a production in the assembly hall consisting of choral, instrumental and possibly even gymnastic excellence. Our art class was coopted to produce the set decorations. Choir practice was at odd times during the day and if it was a maths period, I was suddenly in the choir. I never got picked for it but I went to practice enough to look as if I had been. But I found a niche and there I stayed. I got to turn the pages for our pianist (my best friend). What a sweet deal that was. And on the night, after she had done her bit accompanying the choir in ‘Carry me ackee go a Linstead Market, not a quati wot sell…’ and ‘The sun whose rays are all a-blaze with ever living glory…’ (then a solo piece for which I accidentally turned two pages at once…oops, sorry), we sloped, unaccompanied, through the empty school. Ah, the delicious thrill of being out-of-bounds!
My friend and I were both excused from sport on medical grounds. We started our non-sports career supposedly studying in the library. That didn’t last long. First we moved up to room 3 opposite the assembly hall where we could look out the window at some senior boys who were practising there with their electric guitars. Later we moved to room 11 where there was a piano. My pal was the best player and had studied music from the cradle. We would play and sing all afternoon. Then we started playing and singing at lunchtime and that’s when the jazz band formed. A few other kids turned up and eventually brought their instruments. We had drums, a trumpet, clarinet, trombone, a guitar for a while and of course, a piano. In that small room it sounded great and lots of other kids were attracted to the music and would crowd in the doorway listening. At some time, maybe an assembly, Take Five played LIVE! ON STAGE! to a packed hall. From the back of the hall where I was sitting, it sounded awful! No, really.
Our school song, sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum, was never pronounced right, according to our deputy head. ‘It’s scolarshiP’! Not scholarshipS!’ ‘TrAdition, not trErdition’…Naturally we kept getting it wrong. He should’ve said nothing.
Occasionally we’d have a field-trip to some event or other. I remember one such event at the Albert Hall (all exhibitions, plays, ballets etc seemed to be held there…there was nowhere else to go). Our art class was attending an exhibition of John Perceval’s agonised half-born humanoid pottery sculptures. They were all distorted, squirmy, tendrilled creatures glazed in high-gloss streaky maroon, purple and bile. They certainly had a lasting effect on me. The stuff of nightmares, but as it turns out, they were his nightmares.
Room 11 had a trapdoor in the floor at the back of the room. Considering the amount of time spent in that room, I can’t ever remember going down it, though I do remember opening it. My brother said he had (I didn’t believe him) and it was full of plumbing and cables. Not very exciting, but now I wonder why I didn’t have a look for myself. I certainly had every opportunity. Did anyone else venture down?
It was just a bit of fun. Most of it was silly, some of it was clever (very clever indeed) and it was a bit (a lot, actually) gushy and romantic in places. About eight people were responsible in greater or larger amounts, to its creation, so at least eight students were improving their creative writing, penmanship spelling and grammar skills. It really should have been viewed as a valuable literary exercise. Because it was such a group effort it was passed around a lot and unfortunately that was its downfall.
We had a student music teacher. She’d not been there long and our class was very rowdy with a large sample of disruptive boys. (You know who you are.) During a previous lesson they’d brought her to tears and now she had her revenge. One of them was passing the book and she confiscated it. Ironically, he was not one of the book’s contributors so it was no harm to him. It was to myself and three others. We were all called into the men’s staffroom where Mr McGann and another couple of teachers interrogated us about it and even read out the purplest passages, to my mortification: ‘Who wrote this rot?!’ ‘um…I did, sir.’ ‘…and this piece of juvenile drivel?” ‘er…me, sir.’ etcetera. It seemed to last forever. One of the girls, I think, cried. Eventually he let us go. He said the ringleaders would be suspended and the book destroyed (but not before they’d all read it through first…and had a good old laugh). But did they really? I wonder…I bet they still have it!
Later a couple of us got together and started another one, but it didn’t have the same variety of input. It was good, but it wasn’t the same.
Deputy Head Mr McGann and a chemical experiment ....
My parents took me visiting the McGann's once. Barbara and I went up into her room and played at chemistry using a candle as a bunsen burner and a jar of water as a beaker of something-or-other, The water boiled; the jar exploded and put out the candle. There was a nasty smell and a worse mess to clean up. Were we in trouble? probably.