Peter Unmack – enrolled 1950 Shirley Unmack (Nee Ievers) – enrolled 1951
When asked to reflect on their time at Bendigo High School—especially some of the memorable moments—it’s not the big events, like the visit of the Queen, that first come to mind for Peter and Shirley Unmack.
One of Peter’s enduring memories is an ingenious school fete stall.
“For the school fete, each form had an activity and we were spread around the old quadrangle,” he says. “I recall at one window you could buy donuts. These were being cooked in the science room in large vats of oil sitting over Bunsen burners. They also had a competition to drive a nail through a plank of wood without bending it. I was so good at it they banned me.
“When the Queen visited, I remember we were all assembled and had to stand for quite a long time, waiting. Every student was given one barley sugar to tide them over.”
When asked about memorable teachers, Peter mentions ‘Stumpy’ Rowlands, Florence Anderson and Miss Groom.
Shirley recalls ‘Basher’ Taylor and the Principal, Mr Crocker, who taught Form 6 Applied Maths and Calculus.
Both Peter and Shirley agree that Miss Florence Anderson “just had it” as a teacher.
“No one ever played up in her History and Latin classes,” Shirley remembers, “yet she wasn’t mean or harsh. She simply had great discipline.”
Peter, however, confesses that he failed Latin in fifth form and had to repeat it by correspondence in 1956.
“With regards to ‘Stumpy’ Rowlands,” Peter explains, “he was our Chemistry teacher and called ‘Stumpy’ because he was so short. He was fresh out of college and all the students failed the first term. At the start of second term he gave us such a dressing down that we all got brilliant results for the rest of the year.”
“’Basher’ Taylor was a maths teacher, but they gave him Latin to teach,” Shirley remembers. “’Basher’ had no capacity to discipline us and no self-confidence. I actually thought he was called ‘Basher’ because he was bashful. I felt really sorry for him because the kids played up—but I did too sometimes. He was completely out of his depth.”
In the 1950s, the school social was an important event in the school calendar. It was where many life-long friendships were formed, including Peter and Shirley’s.
“The year I was in Form 5 and Shirley was in Form 4, the social included a ‘ladies choice’ dance,” Peter says. “Shirley came straight over and asked me to dance. Then school broke up for the holidays and Shirley didn’t know if I would return to do Form 6. Lucky I did.”
In 1956, the year after he finished school, Peter began working in a pharmacy located in what is now the Hargreaves Mall.
“I studied by correspondence—work all day, study all night—for two years, and then spent the final two years at the Victorian College of Pharmacy.”
Meanwhile Shirley spent 1957 in Bendigo before moving to Melbourne to complete her studies. The couple had one year together in Melbourne and were married in 1962. Peter moved back to Bendigo where Shirley was already working.
“I went back to work at the same pharmacy I had been at before,” Peter explains. “I was there for a couple of years before I got a job at Bendigo Base Hospital where I worked in their pharmacy for 34 years.
“In 1997 I went back to commercial pharmacy again—they are quite different jobs in many ways. At the hospital we were often required to make up the medications, whereas in a commercial pharmacy the role is more about dispensing and education.”
Peter and Shirley have four children, one of whom is also a pharmacist.