Friday, March 9, 2007

School Days

School days, school days,

Dear old golden rule days.

Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic,

Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick.

High school days! What memories the words conjure up for so many people. Often bad, bad, bad! I, however, enjoyed my high school days immensely.

St George Girls' High School, Sydney. The venue of my "dear old golden rule" days from 1948 to graduation in 1952 at 17.

Recognised for the academic excellence achieved by its students, the school prepares the gifted girl to become the successful woman of the future.

That quote is taken from their current website but it was just as true in 1948 as it is today. Well we, the students of the day, thought so anyway. You see you had to compete to be accepted there and we St Georgians were rather snooty towards the students at the ordinary high schools nearby. All high schools in my day were either boys' or girls' schools so we certainly had no problems between the sexes in school. We might have been show-offs sometimes but not because of boys.

The scholastic offerings were very good for the day: English, French, German, Latin, History, Geography, Science, Biology, Mathematics. The subjects were very academic, with Art and Music classes for the cultural side. All the teachers were women and the whole program seemed to be designed to herd the students toward Teachers' Training College. Guidance counselling consisted of an annual meeting between counsellor (the teachers' other roll) and student, with the counsellor's idea of the successful woman of the future being a teacher. Now I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew for sure that I didn't want to be a teacher.

In my day, there were about 450 students and I think most of us enjoyed the years we spent there and we were very proud to be St Georgians.

But I'm sure, with no exceptions, that we all hated the school uniform. The school didn't have a summer uniform then and you must remember that this was Sydney, Australia. A very hot place indeed for long periods of the school year. So the uniform: a navy, pleated wool serge, sleeveless, belted tunic over a long-sleeved white blouse; red and white striped tie; for winter, a navy blazer with emblem on pocket (reproduced right); long black lisle stockings; black laced-up shoes; navy velour hat in winter replaced by panama hat in summer; black gloves. The uniform had to be complete at all times off the school grounds, which we could not leave from the time we arrived until the time we left after school. In first year, the twelve year olds could wear white sox, but after that, the black stockings were de riguer. Quite regularly we had uniform parades when we lined up and the teachers and the prefects checked that we were correctly attired and that we wore no colourless nail polish or rings.

But the gym uniform really took the prize. Made of thick navy cotton, it was similar to the serge tunic, that is pleated and belted but with short sleeves, for modesty no doubt. And separate navy bloomers, same thick navy cotton. It was ghastly. Every student belonged to one of four houses for competitive sports, each with a distinct colour which we wore as a stripe on the gym uniform. I belonged to Allunga house, with a yellow stripe. These gym uniforms were usually stuffed in our lockers and probably only taken home to wash at the end of the school year. Oh, pew! Luckily, for the last two years, I was on the tennis team so I got to skip gym and to practise tennis instead.

Just like any other school, then or now, the periods were marked by bells. But before school, at the bell, we lined up, by class, in the courtyard and marched into school in single file, overseen by the prefects. Just like kindergarten children or boot camp!

Well, somehow, we all survived and yes, 90 per cent of my fellow graduates became teachers. No, I wasn't one of them. After a couple of years working, I went to Sydney University to do Pharmacy and so escaped the teacher corral.

I still keep in touch with several friends from my school years and in 1998 I went to Australia for the fiftieth reunion of our class. In our school, reunions are counted from the year you came together as a class, not the graduation year. Next year is the 60th reunion of my class. Hopefully I'll be able to attend that. I wonder how many are left of the ninety who finished their high school education in 1952 at St George Girls' High School, which celebrated its ninetieth anniversary last year.

The young lady above left is the Head Girl of the Narrogin Senior High School in Western Australia. Substitute a red and white striped tie, a red and white emblem on her blazer and add a hat, then she is wearing a uniform similar to the one I once wore for my School Days.


Liz said...

Your school days sound much like mine. The uniform was definitely very similar. We had berets that were jammed on heads as we approached school! And the dreadful shapeless gymslip. But just navy knickers and a t-shirt for PE. And for outdoor games!

You mentioned the Over Fifties blogroll: I'm on that and it would be good to see you ther too.

jmb said...

Hi Liz,
The current uniforms for the school have improved a little according to the website but the Head Girl in my post picture is still wearing a very old fashioned one. However she is wearing an earring in her pierced ear. Sign of modern times!
I have put the over 50 blogroll on my sidebar and am waiting to be added. I didn't put up the widget because I thought it was too big and ugly. I would put up a more tasteful one like that of the WetCoast Women on my sidebar.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

What a nice post and I do like your bubbly prose style! You brought back so many memories for me - of school uniform and those ghastly knickers! - We had to even do gym in them! I'll certainly be back here! Love, WL.

jmb said...

I like the symmetry of the above acronym, know limoncello is one word really.
Of course in Australia we followed the British system so we would have similar school uniforms.
Why didn't the parents complain? Tradition, I guess.

mhr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mhr said...

Well, I didn't wear a uniform in school (not required in French public schools), although I would have loved to.

Nowadays, youngsters put too much emphasis on brands and such, which only tends to outline social differences among them.

At least uniforms have the merit of making these differences less conspicuous.

I remember my personal code of dress while I was working in high schools in the UK was quite uniform-inspired (I though it was cool at the time!)

jmb said...

Hi mhr,
I can't believe the French don't wear uniforms in high school. What about Madeline with her panama hat?
Of course you're quite right about uniforms being the great equalizer and taking the socio-economic differences out of the equation.
I have a friend who taught high school here in a very wealthy neighbourhood and she always said that the students were better dressed than the teachers which wasn't at all nice.

Moof said...

Now that evoked a lot of memories ...

I went to an all girl's boarding school for high school, and we also had the horrible uniform, and the ghastly gym suite. However, uniforms aside, the education was superb ...

The motto on our navy blue and white patch said: "Virtus, Veritas, Vigalentia" - virtue, truth and vigilance - a good motto for any age.

Great post ... I really enjoyed it!

jmb said...

Hi Moof,
When I was a girl I thought it would be wonderful to go to boarding school. All those midnight feasts! I was raised on British stories of boarding school. I'm sure the reality was quite different, very restrictive 24 hours a day instead of the 7 or so we endured.
Virtue, truth and vigilance. What a funny combination. Ours was Dieu et Droit, God and Right. Don't know how we got the French one instead of the Latin.

Anonymous said...

The thing I've noticed the most is that none of the girls can tie a tie. Their ties are either loose or crooked. Some students don't button their collar or their ties are dangling out of their blasers. Still, others have their collars twisted up with their ties loose or crooked. The girl in the photo has her tie a bit loose. A previous photo of a girl representing Narrogin showed her with her tie extremely crooked...the knot is pushed all the way to her left and practically underneath her collar.