MY SCHOOLING (interrupted by a serious illness): I explained why I began attending Victoria Square (Mercedes College) at the end of 1937 prior to my 6th birthday. I spent the last couple of months of 1937 in the 'third bubs' class where we mainly did what we were capable of doing which suited me very well after having done correspondence lessons when still on the farm. This was taken at the opening of the school in 1896:
Mercedes was run by the Sisters of Mercy and I really enjoyed my time there. I was only in 4 different classrooms as one teacher (Sister M. Leila) taught Standards 1-2 and another (Mother Aliquot) Standards 3-4. Standard 5 was taught by Sister M. Ligouri and Standard 6 by Sister M. Norbet. I apologise if I have spelt any of their names incorrectly. I actually met Sister Norbet a few years ago when a friend and I attended a school reunion at Mercedes, and Sister Norbett remembered me which surprised me no end. I would then have been about 78 and she not much older, probably in her mid-80s, and living in a nun's retirement home in a Perth suburbs. A modern day picture of Mercedes College:
I really did love my time at Mercedes, right through from Standard 1 to Standard 6 when suddenly my world changed, and for me, certainly not for the better. My friend Shirley Ponsford and I were the only students who were not Roman Catholic but when the other children had catechism classes Shirley and I sat at the back of the class supposedly studying. We of course listened to, and took in, nearly everything the other children were being taught about their religion and its beliefs. I do remember at times challenging things that were being taught, but only in my mind.
I do remember a couple of quite amusing incidents at my first school. The uniform was a bottle green tunic with a white blouse and red tie. The tunic was made of wool de chine and was boxed pleated so you were virtually wearing three thicknesses of wool. Even though I was born here I have felt the heat since I was a small child so mum decided to make me a summer uniform. Same colour and style as the usual one but of a much lighter fabric. When I wore it to school I believe a note was sent home to mum querying why I was wearing it. She went to the school and saw the principal and explained that she thought it dreadful that the girls should have to wear the wool uniform during our hot summers. The matter was obviously seriously considered and it was decided by the powers that be that a summer uniform would be permitted from then one. I am sure over time many, if not all of the girls, were wearing cooler tunics in summer.
The other thing that occurred when I was in Standard 1 was when we were going to the Premier Picture Theatre to see "Boy's Town" starring Spencer Tracey and Micky Rooney. It was a good couple of miles from the school but we would walk there in 'crocodile file'. The school was very rigid about us being dressed correctly...had, gloves and blazer in cooler weather. Mum had been making me a blazer and had been waiting for the school badge to be embroidered on the pocket.
At the end of 1943 a letter was sent to my mother telling her that in future all children, regardless of their denomination, would have to take religious instruction. This for some reason horrified mum who immediately said I would have to leave Mercedes. I tried to explain that I had for 6 years sat through every catechism class but had so far not felt I wanted to become a catholic but she just wouldn't listen.
While I was in the junior school at Mercedes I used to look longingly at the 'big school' and dream of when I would be over there studying for my Junior and Leaving Certificates but now that dream was being shattered. I just couldn't believe it, plus I would be saying goodbye to some wonderful friends I had made over the years. As we all came from various suburbs we didn't see each other except during school hours and with petrol rationing it was not easy to get around the suburbs and very few of us had telephones in our homes. I have met up with one or two of them over the years but unfortunately I virtually lost contact with all of my friends.
Finally, after mum finding information about various schools, she decided that Perth College would be the right school for me to attend. There were forms to be completed and one question that stood out was "When and where was the child christened?". Dad had turned his back on religion completely some years before and mum had been brought up as a Baptist who were only baptised when they reached about 15 years of age. Apart from what I had learned at Mercedes I had not had a lot of religion in my life apart from saying the "Gentle Jesus" prayer each night from when I was quite young.
For some reason I felt it would be dreadful if I should attend this new school which was incidentally run by the sisters of the Church of England, if I had not been christened. Arrangements were made for me to be christened by Dean Moore at St George's Cathedral in Perth. I have no idea why this couldn't have been done at a local church but then I wasn't really in control of my destiny at age 11.
I've often thought it was a dreadful way to suddenly become a member of the Church of England. I even went on to be confirmed the following year. A modern picture of Perth College. I rather fancy this would be the entrance to the administration block as it was a very large school and actually straddled Beaufort Street in Mount Lawley with the junior school on one side of the road and the intermediate and senior schools on the other side.
Uniforms and books were bought but....I didn't attend Perth College until the beginning of the second term in May of 1944. A burst appendix and peritonitis caused me to miss 3 months schooling. It's a long and rather boring story, suffice to say I'd been sick off and on for about 4 years until January 1944 when I became critically ill with severe pain, high fever etc etc. One day the pain stopped and mum called our GP who came immediately and ordered an ambulance which I shared with a young fellow from the same street who was on his way to the infections diseases hospital with scarlet fever. Remember, it was war time and even ambulances were few and far between.
I was fortunate that my GP enlisted the aid of a prominent surgeon who explained to mum and dad that if he didn't operate before midnight he would not answer to the consequences. They of course gave their permission and he found lo and behold, my appendix had burst. The reason I had not been diagnosed as having appendix problems was because the darned thing was sitting up near my right kidney so no normal appendicitis pains at all. The surgeon said it was touch and go when he removed the appendix but he managed to do so without damaging the kidney which was fortunate for me. I spent 4 weeks in hospital at St John of God Hospital in Subiaco and the nuns (all the nursing staff were nuns back then) were wonderful to me, even the one who put iodine on the dressing into my wound instead of using flavine!! Boy oh boy!! Did that sting!!
When I was released from hospital at the end of January, the surgeon said I was not to ride a bike, or go on any public transport unless I was seated, for at least 2 months. While I was still very ill dad promised he would buy me a bike if I got better and of course I did so he did and it was waiting for me when I arrived home. It was a blue Malvern Star and although it looked new I was told that the bike had actually been made up from old bikes and painted because you couldn't buy new bikes (yes, 'cos of the war). It was quite a heavy bike with a back pedal brake and after a couple of weeks mum let me get on the bike but she stayed with me the whole time holding on to the back of the seat so I wouldn't fall off. When I think back on it now I can't believe how amazing she was doing that. By that time she would have been about 47 so no spring chicken any more. Eventually I rode that bike to school for a year or two before we once again moved home.
As far as public transport was concerned I had, of course, go into Perth to visit the specialist and with dad working then mum and I had to catch a bus. She would pay full fare for me and I would get quite nasty glances from adult passengers should I be sitting down when they were standing. Mum would speak up and tell them I was ill and show them my adult ticket. I found it rather embarrassing but we got by OK and fortunately didn't have to use public transport very often.
A modern picture of Perth College (this I think would be the entrance and the main adminstration block as it a very large school that actually straddles Beautiful Street in Mount Lawley.
As I disliked being at this school so much I tried to think of a way I could leave as soon as possible so decided perhaps a commercial course would see me able to leave when I was 15 and obtain an office job. When mum enquired she was told the commercial course took 2 years and there was no vacancy for the coming year of 1946. I was really dismayed if it meant staying at the school for a further 3 years so asked mum and dad if there was any reason why I couldn't go to a commercial college in the city. They made enquiries and I was enrolled at City Commercial College in Hay Street, Perth. I studied shorthand, typing, English, maths, bookkeeping and business principles (didn't think much of the two latter subject so decided I definitely didn't want have any job that dealt with accounts. I sat for and passed my Junior Certificate with 5 subjects. I also received a gold brooch which was awarded each year to top students at the college. I am still very proud of it. Unfortunately when I finished my first year there I was still only 14 and dad said I was much too young to start work. I returned to CCC in 1947 and mainly concentrated on my shorthand and typing. Actually I was approached and asked if I would like to become a junior shorthand teacher. I was appreciative of being offered the position but as I was rather shy the thought of teaching young people perhaps older than myself filled me with horror so I gracefully declined their offer.
Luck came along when the Principal telephoned my dad and told him a very good position had become available at an insurance company and he felt I would be ideal for that job. I went for an interview and the job was mine if dad would only let me begin work. He relented as by then I was nearly fifteen and a half and it was a good job with quite good pay. I began my very first job on 7 May, 1947 which was the same week we shifted from Swanbourne to another rented house in Fitzgerald Street, North Perth. More about all that when I get into the 1946-1950 part of my story.
I have no school photographs to show as I know none were taken at any of the schools while I was there and, if I remember rightly, I feel it may have been because of the war. Maybe film was in short supply?