The Class of 1961-1962

A large group of us seated in front of the hallowed walls, doors and columns, of the College on the Hill, in wet October weather.

A group of 65 of us — ex-Armidale Teachers’ College students — braved the weather and returned to our alma mater on Wednesday, 19th October, 2022, for a 60th reunion held over three days.

We now know that the heritage-listed Armidale Teachers’ College was once the site of a former prison, before it was demolished and rebuilt in its current form from 1928-1930. As we began our studies in 1961, we students knew little about the history and construction of this amazing building. But now, as we enter our eighties, it has become a passion for many of us, including this ex-student, to learn more.

I don’t remember ever using the classical front steps or the terrazo staircase of the Teachers’ College to enter its hallowed walls. From memory, we used to enter via a side door on the eastern side: the tradesmen’s entrance. It doesn’t matter, because the walks up and down the hill from Smith House and Newland, not to mention the sporting events, must have kept us fit: just look at the photo of us—smiles and all— sixty years on!

For this October, in 2022, a decade after the first successful reunion in 2012, the two amazing organisers, ex-students Brian Moore and Jean Black, had planned slightly fewer active events for us, given the march of time. Yes, without Jean and Brian, we would never have had these three wonderful reunions (I was overseas for the second one!) to look back on. Can you imagine the painstaking journey they took in order to gather our names, two hundred and fifty of us, and to find email addresses? I am led to believe that Moorie and Jean surfed through the 1962 photo of the whole group, in order to begin their search. A Facebook page was then set up by David Hawke for us to message one another.

The last reunion in 2012 was a landmark event for us. It would be 50 years since we left Armidale Teachers’ College and ventured into the wide world of teaching. Sporting events were on offer, bowls and golf, which were well-attended. Also, a wonderful session viewing the Hinton art was greatly appreciated, as well as tours around the area.We even had a dance, just like in the gym at the College. The floor was crowded with couples dancing to the College Saints’ tunes, and it finished with a Greek-style conga line around the dance floor.

In November of 2012, the spring carnival was in full bloom, and roses, roses, roses were on display! Fast forward to October, 2022: Was it global warming that had sent us wet and rainy weather, with Dumaresq Creek flooding all over the road and wet hairdos for some of us? Still we were so glad that we had come.

Like last times, Jean had hired a room at the Armidale Services club for “Meet & Greet”, on Wednesday, 19th October, 2022, commencing at 5 pm. She’d organised hot and cold finger food, and drinks were available at the bar. What a buzz it was to recognise all the faces of men and women whom some of us hadn’t seen for a decade or more. Sure there were changes, and a few had not come back — some had passed on — but most were still here with us! Smiles and a certain radiating “energy” filled the room with warmth and love.

On Thursday evening, 20th October, we had the Formal Dinner at Armidale City Bowling Club in the large TOPS Function Room.

The evening started off with historic student photos, lots of them, organised by ex-student Peter Pine, and shown on a continuous video presentation as we arrived. Prayers, grace, and memories of students who had passed on, led by Kay Hogan, was greatly appreciated by the rest of us. Jean had organised the music for the college song just before the sit-down two-course meal. Alternate dishes were served at large tables amid conversation: lots of conversation!

Sounds of Gaudeamus Igitur and hits from the sixties, played during the dinner, were mostly drowned out by conversations between old friends trying to catch up on lost time.

A standout feature of the evening was the Remember When stories, prompted by returning student, Anne Skyvington, and embraced enthusiastically by many others, who entertained us with laughs and nostalgia from memorable events and hijinks narrated from the two years spent at College. Messages from abroad were also relayed to the audience.

The crowning glory of the evening was the cutting of the enormous celebration cake. Married couples who had met at the College — Roger and Angela Britton, Robyn and Peter, D’Arcy, Roslyn and Bob Barwick, Narelle and Des Hoy, and Bill and Sybil Orr, were called on to officiate.

The Amazing Celebration Cake Organised by Jean Black

Another absolute blast was the 10 am Tour of the College, followed by morning tea, on Friday 21st October. It was so special to be filled in on the current uses and status of the Armidale Teachers’ College by the President of “the Friends”, Graham Wilson. At a meeting in April 1997, it had been agreed to create a Committee to save and protect the building. This group became the Friends of the Old Teachers’ College (F.O.T.C.).

As we sat in the refurbished hall, still packed with so many memories for us, Graham talked about how the College had been saved from mothballing by the Friends of the College, and about the improvements that will happen, now that the Education Dept has taken control back from the University. We learnt that this hall is where the New England Conservatorium of Music (NECOM) now rehearses and performs recitals for the public.

Our heartfelt thanks must go to Graham and to FOTC for the wonderful work they have done, and are still doing, to save the ATC for future generations, and for the benefit of reunions like ours.

Coming down the staircase from the hall after Graham’s Talk: See portraits of former principals, including ours, George Muir.

So many wonderful memories have been stirred by this 60th Reunion: the bus tour around the region, lunches and dinners with old friends, walks around the town, and many many more… What are the standout memories of the three day Reunion for us? There are too many to choose for recounting here. But the absolute delight of old friends meeting up once again, and wanting to chat well into the night, was so heart-warming for this enthusiastic returnee and writer, that it will have to feature!

This amazing building will live forever in our hearts, the 1961-1962 alumnis of The College On The Hill.

Anne Skyvington