In 1948 my parents moved to the family farm at Cattai and aged nine, I was sent as a boarder at Knox Prep, where I was placed in class 4B.
The 4B classroom was adjacent to Ewan House main entrance hall and it was where junior prep was held each weeknight.
To say I was a shy, naive lad would be an understatement. So much of what I was to experience differed from my previous three years of schooling when I lived with my parents on a dairy farm at Fairy Hill, a rural district located about 10km from the northern NSW town of Casino.
The local public primary school I attended was a one-teacher, single room building with an enrolment of about 20 pupils. I was the only one in my class for the three years that I attended the school.
What an eye opener for me to enter a school with not just 20 in the school, but more than 20 in the class!
As a boarder I was allocated a locker for my clothes. A young lad named Ian MacPherson had the adjoining locker. We remain firm friends to this day.
My bed for the first year was in the junior dormitory. For the next two years it was on the veranda off the senior dormitory.
Some of the many things I had to adjust to were:
- Getting dressed in a suit and tie each day.
- Wearing shoes and socks to class every day.
- Wearing a strange looking straw hat.
- Queuing to shower each night and for the morning cold shower.
- Daily locker and bed making inspections.
- Daily shoe cleaning on wooden benches in the yard where the day boys sat to eat their lunch.
- Assembling on the veranda before each meal in Lion, Leopard, Lemur or Lynx patrol groups where we were inspected for tidy clothes, neat hair and clean hands and shoes.
- Dining at allocated tables. I recall that meals were generally tasty and plentiful – especially when ice cream was served. Not so when sago (frogs eggs) pudding or macaroni were served!
- Walking in double file to St John’s Church in Wahroonga on Sundays where we deposited our penny in the collection plate during the service and returned to school following the children’s sermon.
- Writing compulsory letters to my parents on weekends when I didn’t go on leave.
- Occasionally walking to the Upper School during the weekend for a swim in the pool. It was here that I was given lessons and learnt to swim.
- Observing some students arriving at school on bikes – not horses!
At various times, simple schoolyard games included marbles, cards and jacks. Small balsa wood gliders were used in attempts to perform air loops. Dinky toy cars were treasured for a time. A popular place to play with them was under the hedge of trees beside the path leading to Cleveland Street.
Lack of attention in class or similar misdemeanours could be punished with the student having to write, 50 or more times, lines such as “I must pay attention in class” or similar relevant words.
Another punishment required the student to pick 50 or more “rat tails”. These were a narrow spike seed cluster of a weed which grew throughout the lawns of the school.
In 1951 my parents moved to Pennant Hills and for my final five years at the Upper School I became a day boy in North House (later Reid).
Friendships made in the Prep School were strengthened here and new long lasting, continuing friendships made.
I value my eight years at Knox. The education, self discipline, need for co-operation, ability to accept responsibilities, leadership skills, ethics, sports activities, friendships and the importance of showing respect to others prepared me for a very satisfying career as a registered surveyor in private practice for 45 years in the central west town of Parkes.
Though far from thee my footsteps bend ....... there is in my heart a call first heard in the assembly hall ........ Later on in field and school ..... I learnt to understand the call ....... As through life I wend my way ....... do not think that I’ll forget lessons that I treasure yet:
Sic Virile Agitur, Virile Agitur.
Richard (Dick) Arndell (OKG 1955)