Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sepia Saturday 176 - School Days

This week's Sepia Saturday theme is about the classroom.  It could be about chemistry.  It could be about classrooms.  It could be about glass.  It could be about windows.  We can always go quite broad in terms of theme with Sepia Saturday.  In my usual frog like fashion, I shall jump all over the place.

Chemistry and I did not go together.  Poor Mrs Pyle had an uphill battle with me.  And I had an uphill battle with Mrs Pyle's fashion sense.  I could not take seriously anyone who wore such lairy ponchoes.  It is apalling to confess, but I failed Chemistry miserably.  I always maintained I must have been away the day they explained everything.  It is fair to say that I loathed the subject.  

I found some photos of Canberra Girls Grammar, my alma mater, on the National Archives website.

Canberra Girls Grammar School 1971 front entrance
These photos were taken in 20 August 1971.  I'm not really sure why.  But they certainly look like how I remembered the school.

Here is a photo of what I remember to be the science labs.  They were off to the right of the front entrance.

Science Labs at Canberra Girls Grammar 1971
I am happy to be corrected if anyone out there thinks differently.  Classmates from my year get together every ten years for a reunion and are gobsmacked by how much the school has changed and improved.  There is a massive gymnasium and swimming complex there now.  And a gorgeous arts centre and chapel.  All very swish.

I am conscious of how lucky I was with my education, teachers and facilities when I look back on my parents' school photos.  I had a pretty stable school life and much fewer students in my classroom.

This photo from my mother's collection struck me as particularly grim.

Berala Public School 1946

My mother would have been about 10 in this photo.  She is the one in the middle of the back row.  The only one wearing a tie and, I suspect, feeling very out of place.  I'm not sure why on earth she is at this school.  She did tell me that she was reefed in and out of schools in her youth because her parents disagreed about which school she should attend.  Poor Mummy.  I know she went to Petersham and enjoyed it there. And Summer Hill too.  But Berala is really out of the box.  I worry about the broken window in the background.  It's a hopeless photo isn't it?  They've even chopped one of the kids in half.  It's not my bad cropping I assure you.

Berala School had been going just over 20 years before my mother went there.  The cultural mix has changed vastly now if you check out its website here.

Are you ready to be confused now?

I found another school photo from 1946 for my mother.  Here it is.

My mother is second from the left in the back row.  No tie this time but a happier face.  And no broken windows.

Written on the back of the photo (no kids chopped in half this time) is the note Junction School 1946 and the important hint "Newcastle".  Aha!  My mother's aunt (her mother's twin sister) owned a bakery in Newcastle.  Wingfields Bakery.  So my mother must have spent some time in Newcastle and went to school there.  Hmmm.  

If you check out the map of where the school is, it would have been a reasonably easy walk (2km) to the bakery which was in Hunter Street as per this post here or home to Aunt's in Hebburn street as per this post here.

My mother was selected to go to Fort Street Girls High later in her school life and I know she really loved school then.  Here is a rather blurry photo of her dressed in her uniform outside the flat in Nowranie Street Summer Hill.

This next photo is taken at Fort Street I believe.  

Lots of windows here aren't there?  I wonder which classrooms were in the background.

Here is a photo she took of the girls outside the school when it was up near Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Observatory.  Check out those windows!

If you graduated from Fort Street you were called a Fortian.

I know it broke my mother's heart to leave Fort Street before matriculating for university.  Her mother did the best she could for her and sent her to Miss Hale's Secretarial College which was what the family could afford.  University fees were out of the question.  My mother said she sulked for years to punish her mother.  She was quite mortified about it I think - the sulking AND the not matriculating.

I believe that my godmother (my mother's very good friend at school), did go on to study Chemistry at Uni.  She and her lovely husband, also a chemist of some renown, never seem to hold it against me that this wasn't my strength.  

Twenty years ago my mother's Fort Street class had a reunion and took this fabulous photo outside the old school.  My mother died two years later.

The windows are like something out of Playschool aren't they?  Will we go through the round window or the arched window today?

It took me quite a while to find my mother in this photo.  She was a bit self-conscious and very clever at hiding. She is in the second back row, third from the left with her glasses on her head.

Here's another photo of Fort Street Girls High from the National Library's picture collection.

I would like to acknowledge the passing of another Fortian this week - my dear "Uncle" Warren.  He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

Want to find out more about Fort Street ?  Go here.

Want to see other takes on this week's theme?  Go here.


Lovely's Blot said...

Don't school photos tell you a lot! How disciplined an well behaved they look. I have an old school photo of mine where I know the photographer had to edit out the tops of all the boys fingers, who resolutely stuck two fingers up as the camera came round!

Eugenia O'Neal said...

I enjoyed this post and the look at your mother's journey through secondary education. I hope she enjoyed the reunion!

Bob Scotney said...

Your post has made me realise that I know nothing about my parents schooling which must have been before and in the early years of WWI; I've no idea where. To track your mother through a number of schools is quite and achievement.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Well that's a new tale for me, moving a child in and out of schools as the parents discussed which they preferred had to be disruptive and then again perhaps it developed deep resilience. But looking back now what seems comical likely was not so to your Mom. Good photos you found.

Kathy said...

It can be hard moving from school to school. I went to 3 schools in 6th grade, making my elementary years a total of 5 schools. Your mom was lovely.

Wendy said...

I enjoyed this leap-frog approach to the Sepia theme because every topic was interesting and/or amusing, always inspiring more thought. Your mother's sulking to punish her mother is such a universal mother-daughter thing, isn't it? Haven't we all done this to our mothers only to become mothers ourselves and then realize how our mothers just did the best they could?

Alex Daw said...

Thank you Lovely. That's a funny story about your old school photo. It must be quite a challenging job mustn't it keeping kids still long enough.

Alex Daw said...

Eugenia - thank you so much for visiting my blog! I'm glad you enjoyed the journey. I think she just loved the reunion and catching up with everyone.

Alex Daw said...

Bob I am so fortunate to have inherited both parents photo albums. We also have very good record keeping here in Australia and the local family history societies have lots of eager volunteers who create searchable indexes which makes things much easier too. Well in Queensland at any rate.

Alex Daw said...

Hi Pat. Thanks for visiting my blog. Yes I think it was disruptive and led to my mother being quite shy and reserved. I think it was all to do with religion. She came from what they called a mixed marriage - C of E/Catholic. Having said that I have not yet found any evidence of her going to a Catholic school. But I haven't dug really deeply.

Alex Daw said...

I changed schools only once really - for the last two years of high school. I remember how challenging that was and really empathise with kids who have to move a lot because of their parent's occupation.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Wendy - thank you for visiting my blog and for your lovely feedback. Yes, I was a great sulker. Not a very attractive quality I must confess.

Brett Payne said...

I very much agree with your sentiment about the importance of being in a stable school environment, rather than chopping and changing frequently. I was lucky enough to have attended only two schools, a primary and a secondary, and our decision to move our kids from one primary school to another was only made after some considerable debate and angst.

A wonderful collection of photos, thanks for sharing them.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Brett - I'm so glad you like the photos. I confess I am still not confident with photo wrangling and am really trying hard to use Picasa properly and Paint Shop Pro when I can. Any advice you can offer on what size the photos should be for best viewing et al would be gratefully appreciated.

Liz Needle said...

What a fascinating record you have produced. Schools were pretty grim places back then. I remember my first school in 1945 as being a very scary place. Fort Street is a very famous school and your mother was lucky to be able to attend there, I think. Thanks for sharing her story.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Liz - Thanks for visiting my blog and for your feedback. I think school has got a lot more friendlier over the years hasn't it....a bit more relaxed...thank goodness.

Sharon said...

Yes, the photographer in the 1946 photo should have chosen a better place to take the photo! The broken window and pipes give it a very grim feeling. Or maybe they were after fundraising?

You school looks very similar to the one I attended in Victoria. I suppose the education department had a set design they worked on?

Alex Daw said...

Dear Sharon - I giggled when I read your musing about whether they were angling for funding. Perhaps they were. Thanks so much for joining the throng and following my blog. I'm very chuffed.

Karen S. said...

What wonderful photos of your mother's school days, how lucky you are to have them. Ties on girls that is new for me! I like the school photos, and the one of the outside view of the science class reminds me of my own schools! Thanks for such a fun and humorous post, it was most enjoyable!

Alex Daw said...

Dear Karen - Thanks so much for your lovely comments. I am lucky aren't I? I was lucky to have the best mother in the world too.

Dakota Boo said...

Great collection of school pictures and history.

barbara and nancy said...

There's something kind of sad about your mother's education. That your parents tried so hard to get her into the right school. And then she wasn't able to go to college. It just doesn't seem right.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Dakota Boo. It was fun finding the ones of my old school. My mother had heaps of her school days and it was quite difficult to choose which to publish.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Barbara and Nancy - yes I think there were a lot of regrets. My mother was very talented in so many ways -expressed in things like photography, drawing, dressmaking, home renovations and the like. I was always conscious and very grateful for the education (and the love of it) that she and my father gave me.


Lovely storytelling over a great selection.
Loved that blurry pic, with her hat and gloves,
which look too warm for the season...
The value of education is priceless and I can understand
your mother's disappointment, but parents also had
constraints to deal with, money matters and sometimes the need to relocate. Not so clear for a child. I also remember where
the science labs were, top floor, right wing, of the main building, adjacent to the library.
Funny the things we remember!!

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Ticklebear for your understanding. Parents do have to make tough decisions and it probably broke her mother's heart too. It is funny the things we remember. Mrs Pyle's purple ponchoes are burnt into my brain !

Tattered and Lost said...

Group school photos are always so interesting. Seeing the kids next to each other gives you a much better feeling of what the place was like. I only ever had one group photo taken in the 5th grade.

These are quite wonderful.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Tattered and Lost - they are amazing photos aren't they? Thank you for your feedback.

Brett Payne said...

I suppose it's a question of balancing the speed of download with the resolution that gives the clearest image of the subject, and that will depend to some extent of the picture. For a class photo, for example, it's probably a good idea to use a larger image than for a head-and-shoulders shot of someone - unless, of course, you're wanting to display all the wrinkles ;-) Naturally it will also depend on the quality of the original. I tend to upload my images with a maximum dimension of between 850 and 1000 pixels. This in spite of my blog only displaying images at a maximum width of 430 pixels - at least the viewer can click on them to enlarge if they wish.

Ann ODyne said...

The hat and gloves may well have been too warm, but strict uniform adherence was the rod of my high school years (completed 1965) and if we were seen between school and home without both on there was big trouble. There was also a specified day that the tunic was abandoned for the summer straw hat and dress. We were all terrified of school authority. This regime changed completely in the 1970's for some reason, and now look at what goes on in public. Swearing, vandalism, noserings and tattoos. My headmistress (RIP) would pass out if she saw any of it.

Ann ODyne said...

great post Treefrog and I am so sorry your lovely mother left us too soon.
Now that people I went to school with are posting class photos at FriendsReUnited, I am so glad I always deliberately stayed away on photos day. I must have sensed the internet was looming. X X