KENT ST HIGH SCHOOL: 1945 – 1947
If someone had suggested that I would be standing here 73 years after I first joined a year 7 class, I would have thought he/she had completed lost their marbles!!
For one thing, I was as quiet as a mouse, and the only time I can remember saying anything in class, it was because our year 7 teacher, Mrs Brown, had been teaching us in algebra that multiplying 2 minuses together gave a plus, and I raised my hand and said I didn’t understand. Her retort was “don’t be cheeky, sit down!” I realised years later that she couldn’t explain it because she didn’t know how.
To put you in the picture of Perth in 1945, it was A VERY SMALL CITY. The city’s entire population would have fitted in the new Perth stadium with room to spare, and the total State pop. was under ½ a million.
Few people owned a car (I never saw one at the school, and I don’t think any student in my time got a lift to or from the school). Transport was by bus, train, tram, or trolley bus. and some students took a lot of time getting to school. A lot of the students came quite long distances. Two girls in our class came from Bateman. They rode bikes to Canning Bridge, picked up a bus that took them along Canning Highway to Berwick Street, then another bus to Rathay St. They got pretty wet in winter.
Most of us had a relative who had died or were away overseas in the War.
Parents of many of them were under a lot of stress and worry – the War didn’t finish till later in year 7. But later that year servicemen from Europe began returning home. My 25-year-old brother who had been a bomber pilot came home after being a pow in Germany for 2 ½ years. I lot of these servicemen were suffering from what we now know as
Lots of food was practically impossible to get – meat and butter were rationed – but we didn’t go hungry. I fondly remember bread and dripping (from roast meat) as a luxury!! A lot of parents
The school was 5 years old, and its intake was from ‘South of the River’. That is, as far as I can ascertain, the area bounded by the river, Applecross, South Perth, Carlisle, and Rivervale. The only other government high schools were Fremantle Boys, Princess May (girls, and next door to the boys), Claremont State School (to year 9), Perth Boys, and Perth Girls.
There were 13 Private schools that went to year 12.
And of course, there was Perth Modern – entry being by scholarship.
The building at the time was a u-shape with offices in the centre and classrooms in both arms of the U, and with an asphalt quadrangle in the centre, where all activities took place. There were no useable playing fields in 1945, that came later. On the north side of the quadrangle was a building housing the manual trades centre for boys, and the domestic science centre where us lucky girls were taught to cook, sew, and IRON!
Before we left primary school, we were all subjected to an Intelligence Test’ and according to the results’ we were placed in one of 3 classes for year 7 – titled Professional, Commercial, or Technical. There were only 3 classes because we had all been born in 1932 and that was the year of the lowest birth-rate ever for W.A. (per capita). The classes were quite large because by 1945 there were no teachers left in any schools who had been eligible to be ‘called up’ for war service. So, for the few previous years retired teachers had been recruited from their lives of quiet bliss!!! (I’m sure, looking back, that the Mrs Brown I mentioned earlier who we rather rudely made fun of, particularly in winter when she wore an old fox fur round her neck to keep warm) would have been much happier to have been left in retirement.
On the other hand, in year 9, we had the good fortune to have Mr. Calderwood as Class Teacher (who I thought was very old but may not have been). He was kindness itself and spent a great deal of unpaid time helping his students.
Getting back to the different streams we were put in, it meant that in the Technical or Manual classes which I think were mainly boys, probably left school as soon as possible to go into apprenticeships or other manual jobs.
I have no knowledge whether there were girls in that stream.
I’m not sure, but I think the commercial stream was mainly girls who intended to become office workers. I don’t know whether they had typewriters or not. If not, how did they learn to type?
I was in the ‘professional’ group, where one studied maths and science to a higher standard than the other streams. I don’t know why it was called ‘professional’ because, unless parents could afford (which usually they couldn’t) to send us to a private school after year 9, there was little chance of us ever going to university. Some could go the Teacher’s college when they were 18 and become ‘monitors’ and train for a qualification at the same time. And nursing was a popular occupation for girls (no boys) when they turned 18. (That was discriminatory, wasn’t it???) I think most of us went into banks, insurance offices, and similar occupations where you started at the bottom (e.g. postal clerk, messenger, tea maker) and worked your way up. At least when we were finished year 9 at 15 unemployment was practically zero, particularly for girls who usually had to leave work when they married – and most did, because that was our lot in life!! You made way for someone else to have your job.
School activities in my memory were pretty pathetic!
Girls had to do some sort of dancing exercise in the quadrangle, and we were dressed in strange muslin homemade short dresses, a bit like fairies! Muslin can be likened to mosquito netting. We pranced about and probably grizzled a great deal…..
Written by Helen Baker (nee Bayliss)