Our Story So Far
This information has been taken from Kim Perrow’s speech which she delivered at the Bendigo Gymnastics Centre’s 30 year reunion, held in April 2010.
“I suspect there is nary a person under forty who went to school in Bendigo who hasn’t heard of Mr Palmer, whether it be through gymnastics, soccer or diving. After taking men’s fitness classes at the YMCA from 1973, Mr Palmer started teaching in the Catholic Education System as a travelling PE teacher in 1976. He then taught overseas for a year in 1977 before returning to Bendigo and starting the after school gymnastics program in McCrae Street in May of 1978. Some of you may remember when there was only the upstairs section of the building. The area downstairs was bitumen until that building was constructed in 1980 by Mr Palmer’s father, Robert Palmer.
Back in my day (1978-1985), we used to get away with a lot of things that would be frowned upon now, like taking time off school to travel to other schools such as East Loddon, Wycheproof and Shepparton to demonstrate and coach gymnastics to students. We’d go in Mr Palmer’s white van, lying on the gym mats in the back! It has always struck me how few injuries there were at gym. In my eight years, my worst injury was taking the skin off my shins coming off the trampoline into the foam pit or ripping the skin off my hands from bar work. I attribute this to Mr Palmer’s fantastic warm ups. They didn’t feel like warm ups because they were so much fun. Who could forget the first time ever I did ‘Salute to the Sun’.
Another great aspect to gym was the friendships made there. When school friends would ask if I could do something after school, I’d say I couldn’t because of gym and they’d say ‘who’s Jim?’Being about the only gymnast at the school, I’d get a bit of teasing but it didn’t matter because I had a whole other circle of friends waiting for me at gym. We shared a passion for our sport and also learnt empathy, cooperation, perseverance, and social and emotional skills. We learnt to listen, follow instructions, and we also learnt to support each other emotionally, particularly when we were competing.
The gym club started artistic competition work in 1979. I cannot explain to you, Mr Palmer just how much you shaped my life. Mr Palmer, your dedication to children and gymnastics, and your patience and enthusiasm have not gone unnoticed. Yes, gymnastics is a fantastic sport, it is a great discipline that assists in all areas of your life; and I believe there are many reat sportspeople in Bendigo that owe some of their success to the grounding they got in your gym club, no matter what sport they ended up playing. That said, it is you that made the Bendigo Gymnastics Centre a home away from home for so many kids.