Gembrook Primary celebrates 140 years

Alex Pantorno and his Grandmother Elaine Pantorno. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

By Tanya Faulkner

Tales of years gone by were recently shared at a school in a small town in the Dandenong Ranges.

Gembrook Primary School turned 140 this year, inviting past and present students to gather at the school and reminisce over the past.

On 20 October the school celebrated with a special assembly, a day of learning and games from past eras and an evening barbecue, jumping castle, games and an open-air cinema.

A representative of the school said the grounds, whilst not at the schools’ original location from the 1880s, still holds significant historical structures that date back to the early 1900s, including several connections to past Gembrook residents.

In 2019 a number of the school’s buildings were renamed in remembrance of those who had come before, including the Barak Centre is named in honour of Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri people, and famous Australian Artist William Barak (1824-1903), and The Wilson Centre is named in honour of Miss Anne Wilson, a teacher who lobbied the department of education to purchase land and build a school in Gembrook in 1914.

Assembly was attended by three past students, Harold Ramage, Elaine Pantorno and Evelyn Atkinson.

Being generations apart from her grandson, Alex, and the current students of Gembrook Primary School, Ms Patorno told wild tales about her time at school in the early 1900s and how things used to be, way back when.

School Captains Aiden and Lia interviewed the visitors about their memories of school life when they attended, learning quickly just how different the times are now for students in school.

Other past students Roger Armstrong and Lyn Begg provided written recollections that were read aloud by student leaders Max, Shaminka and Isla.

The school day was unusual with students dressed in costumes from previous eras, an extended play time with games from days gone by including marbles, quoits, elastics, hopscotch, card towers, paper planes, hoola hoops, an egg and spoon race, and more.

Class time included several learning styles of the past such as dictation, calligraphy, and reciting, while other activities focused on the number 140 such as creating sums equalling 140, using 140 sticks to make a tower and a 140 collage.

Gembrook students also added a handprint to a 140-year anniversary artwork which will hang in the school upon completion for the school community to enjoy.

This will sit alongside several other momentums scattered throughout the school from birthdays that have been and gone, including a time capsule planted at the front end of the school, a magnolia tree planted at the 100th birthday, and many other artworks in the school grounds.

The School Council and PFA rounded out the day by hosting a lovely evening event which included the ever-popular sausage sizzle, popcorn and icy poles, a jumping castle and games run by the OSHClub team, followed by an open air showing of the Disney movie Elemental on the oval.

Over 200 people were in attendance to celebrate this milestone birthday for the school.