This week I had a chance meeting that gave me cause to reflect upon what makes our school special. I came across a gentleman, his wife and group of friends at the MacKenzie St gates. When I introduced myself and asked if they needed help they asked if they could take photos from the gate as their son had been a student at the school and had fond memories of his time here. I took the opportunity to show them around the School and have a chat as we walked. Their son had attended as an International Boarder. The parents were visiting Australia for a holiday and made the time to travel from Melbourne to Bendigo to visit their son’s old school. As we walked they explained that their son was now running a successful business in Hong Kong and couldn’t make it back for the next reunion but that they were going to send some photos back for him. As we toured some of the older buildings I was pleased to note how their eyes lit up when they recognised familiar rooms or artefacts from the past. They were animated when we visited the Headmaster’s office in Girton House. The father was very excited and said he could remember sitting there the first time he visited the school, in that very office. We had a chat about our shared experience, as I too had that memory of my first time at the school. As we moved through the exhibits in Girton House and then on to the John E Higgs Hall and the Gym and the pool the parents recounted their memories of their son attending Assembly in the Hall, winning the Age Champion at swimming and playing basketball in the new gymnasium and soccer for the school team.
What I found interesting was that their fondest response was when we walked into the Pub. For those who have not visited this space it would not be described as “State of the Art” or even particularly inviting. For these parents it was one of the highlights as they explained that they could remember their son doing his homework there and then having dinner as it was the Boarder’s Dining room. I smiled and said that it was funny that one of our least inviting spaces brought back such good memories. The parents explained to me that this was what they remembered as being special about our school. Prior to their Girton experience school was a big building full of new “stuff”. What they found in their short time at our school was that a school can also have a great culture or, as they described it, a heart. I sincerely hope that our current students are building similar memories that they or their families may be able to reflect on long into the future.