Category Archives: Family History

Muriel’s Wedding

Muriel’s Wedding

Barry Golding

 Posted 21 Sept 2019

Preamble

As a young child born in 1970 and brought up in rural Donald, Victoria, Australia I was fascinated by my mother’s sister, my urban Auntie Muriel. I was particularly puzzled, given Muriel was single (at least as I long could recall as a young child), by her wedding photo. This why I have called this narrative ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, after the iconic Australian film of that name released in 1994, but more of that later.

I sent an earlier version of this document out to family members to ensure this was accurate and appropriate for wider circulation and my sister Judith Hastings generously added a few missing ‘pearl’s. I am posting this 99 years after Muriel’s was born (in 2020).

A century on, very few of Muriel’s former close friends or relatives are still alive, and I sense her story is worth telling for others to hear and learn from. There is much in here which will inform our children and grandchildren about the very different world in which I  grew up.

If there is anything in this narrative that is factually wrong, that requires correction or amendment, or that inappropriately violates confidentiality, I am responsible, so please let me know. While Muriel was a private person in life, I sense it is perhaps time to ‘come out’.

Context

Muriel ticked lots of fascinating and different boxes that took me a long time to understand and connect just some of the many threads. This narrative is my attempt to celebrate and do justice to just a little of Muriel’s life seven years after her death in Donald, Victoria on 22 September 2012 age 92. If Muriel were born today she would likely have had many more opportunities to publicly express and explore her many differences across her lifetime.

My account consists of my personal recollections augmented from recollections from my elder sister, Judy Hastings, buttressed by documentary evidence. Only a small amount of Muriel’s records survived her last tumultuous decade, including those that were recovered in a flood-damaged and smelly state by my sister, Judy Hastings. Muriel and my mother Joan were forced out of the Goodwin Village aged care home by the unprecedented Richardson River flood in Donald during January 2011. Some other family and war records that inform this account were found via online searches as well as via www.ancestry.com.au.

What Muriel squeezed into the first 80 years of her life, as this narrative seeks to document, is truly remarkable. Between 1970 and 2000, aged between 50 and 80, Muriel and her dear, lifelong friend, Beryl Braddock, undertook at least fifteen extended international trips and many more interstate trips.

In her final decade Muriel separated from Beryl, sold up their shared double storey home at 11 Lucerne Crescent in Karingal, Frankston, lived on her own in successive rental properties in Ballarat, In her ‘Fourth Age’ of dependence reluctantly went into the Goodwin Homes, a comprehensive aged care complex in Donald. When Mue and Mum got flooded out of there in January 2011, they experienced a difficult and prolonged relocation to the ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ aged care home in Minyip until the flood damaged Donald facility was repaired.

In her final days Muriel sat quietly in the Goodwin Homes, silently fuming as carers read her the international news in the papers, including about Paris, assuming that this old lady had no idea where it was. In fact Mue had been to Paris at least five times.

Daughter of Mary and Ralph Lane

Muriel was born in Marrickville, New South Wales on 16 July 1920, the eldest of three children, including my late mother (Joan, born 12 Feb 1922, died 5 April 2011) and my late uncle, Ralph Lane (junior). There is a wonderful photo of Mue and Joan as children, both with snowy white hair with their mother Mary Lane, my Nana. Much of Mue’s early childhood was spent in Sydney, where her father’s ships returned to dock including at Garden Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney Harbour.

Mue and Joan were to spend much of their childhood and adolescence on the move between multiple schools in Sydney and on the Mornington Peninsula, and also with an absent naval father. Pa (Ralph) Lane, also called ‘Snowy’ as on account of his blond hair as a child, spent his entire working life of 50 years in the Royal Australian Navy, much of it away at sea including a dozen years at war.

Born in East Ham, England, part of Greater London, on 21 August 1897, Ralph signed up as a ‘Boy 2ndClass’ on 1 June 1912, initially serving on HMAS Tingara, a three-masted clipper ship propelled solely by ‘two acres of canvas’. Launched and operated as the Sobraonafter plying the Australia – UK cargo and passenger route for many years, it was purchased by the Commonwealth Government and fitted out as a boy’s training ship, to become permanently moored in Rose Bay until decommissioned in 1927.

Ralph served on ships in and beyond both World Wars, for 30 years between 1915 and 1945 as a ‘telegraphist’, manually sending and decoding messages sent in Morse Code. During World War 1 he served on the battle cruisers Australia, New Zealandand Indomitable. He was also present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

In World War 2 he served on the HMASCanberra, Australia, Hobartand Shropshire. He took part in the ‘Battle of the Coral Sea’, 4-8 May 1942 as well as ten other major naval battles in the Pacific. I recall him being farewelled on discharge from the Royal Australian Navy as a Lieutenant Commander on 3 April 1956, six months before the Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne. Of the first 500 boys enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (formally created only one year before in July 1911), Ralph (called ‘Jerry’ by his fellow seamen) was the last serving member. His long and valuable military service was acknowledged in 1951 by an M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire).

Some of Ralph’s post war years were based at the HMAS Cerberusnaval base in Crib Point on Westernport Bay, training many other communications sailors. The Frankston area was therefore the logical Lane family base and became Mue’s home for most of her life, aside from her early years in Sydney and her later years in Ballarat and Donald. The first house Judy and I remember was ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’ backing onto the train line to Crib Point. Later it was at ‘23 Kelso Street, Frankston.’

In his spare time ‘Jerry’ was active in the Frankston Yacht Club, a passion taken up strongly for a time also by his son Ralph and also Muriel. At one stage Mary and Mrs Glowery (the wife of a naval colleague of Pa Lane’s) ran a part time tea and sandwiches shop in the then ‘Log Cabin’ near the Frankston Pier.  In later life both Nana and Pa Lane became passionate croquet and lawn bowls players respectively.

My childhood recollections

My older sister, Judy and I used to go down to our grandparents in Frankston during summer school holidays to give our parents a break. Muriel then lived with her parents, Mary and Ralph Lane, and we slept in the same room as Muriel in the red brick house at 23 Kelso Street. Curiously for us as young kids, Mue had a different surname. ‘Sherwood’ was the surname Muriel retained until she died in 2012. While her death certificate states ‘divorced’, if Muriel was here she would dispute this.

As young kids we innocently asked lots of inappropriate questions including ‘Who is that man was in your wedding photo?’ and ‘Why aren’t you still together?’ The standard, defensive answer from both her and her mother, Mary, was that he was a no good drunk and the subject was quickly changed.

Muriel was incredibly generous to Judy and I as kids. She took us to the snow for my first time at Mount Donna Buang. She took us into the Sherbrooke Forest around Mount Dandenong to search for lyre bids. She tapped into my interest in rocks and fossils, generously taking me to Fossil Beach at Balcombe Bay near Mornington and also to scour the 5-6 million year old Loveniaand shark tooth-rich shoreline and cliff deposits in the Miocene Beaumaris Sandstone. We went panning for rubies and zircons in the table drains at ‘Foxey’s’ Hangout (on the corner of Balnarring and Tubbarubba roads on the Mornington Peninsula). We collected zeolite crystals from amygdaloidal cavities in the basalt on the cliffs at Cape Schanck.

Mue walked with us, talked with us and tapped deeply into our childhood interests. She played endless games of cricket with us in the back yard and on the beach. We stuck thousands of used matches on trays of various shapes and sizes in geometric patterns. She bought us bamboo ‘hula hoops’ when they were the craze from the late 1950s and ‘did the hula’ better than we did.  She organised bottle-collecting forays for Judy and I amongst the ti-tree on the Frankston foreshore. We got to keep the money from the sale of the bottles from the ‘bottle-o’ to buy sweets and ice creams.

At Frankston we first saw black and white TV (that only began in Melbourne 1956) and regularly watched GTV-9 ‘In Melbourne Tonight’, hosted by Graham Kennedy between 1957, with Bert Newton from 1959. We excitedly went to the Skye Road Drive-In Theatre and sat through one memorable, humungous thunderstorm. Judy and I both recall Mue calming our childhood fears by telling us that each thunderclap was God moving another piece of furniture. Mue was nominally Church of England but was definitely not a churchgoer.

It was all stodgy English food in the Lane household at Cranbourne Road and Kelso Street, all prepared by Nana. Given Pa spent much of his life at war with ‘the Japanese’, it never included anything remotely Asian. Mue could sort of cook for herself and make coffee but food preparation and entertaining for others was not up there as her main priorities. When they were together Beryl was the cook. They both enjoyed getting out (in Beryl’s case, ‘dressing up’ with full makeup) and also eating out.

We spent endless summers at the former Lane family owned ‘Bathing Box’ on the Frankston beach, swimming and hiring the plywood paddleboards, exploring the inky and grossly polluted Kananook Creek where it enters the bay. We watched people catch fish and dive off the Frankston pier. We walked the rocky shores to collect shells and worn coloured glass around Canadian Bay. We looked for Lyre Birds in Sherbrooke Forest, visited Stan and Anne Lucas’ apple orchard at Tyabb, visited her taxidermist friend Eileen at the Melbourne Museum, and sat and watched Muriel talk and smoke with her close Frankston friend, Marj Whykes in her rambling timber house on Skye Road, while us kids played under the cypress trees.

There were lots of things about Muriel that set her apart from other women I knew from my sheltered Rechabite Methodist upbringing in rural Donald. Mue was a chain smoker of cigarettes. She enjoyed a beer or shandy on a hot day with her father and sometimes a sherry before dinner. Before she turned grey she always had short-cropped, fair hair and almost always wore slacks. She was fiercely independent and there were no men in her life aside from her brother and father, both called Ralph. Like her young brother Ralph, she shared a passion for playingfootball.

This was around 75 years before Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs played their first women’s match (in June 2011) that kicked off the AFLW (Women’s) football league in 2016. There is a wonderful photo of Mue as a young woman age 26 in 1946 alongside the passionfruit vine at the then family home, ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’, wearing a Melbourne football jumper, long football socks and lace up football boots about to kick a football. She was excellent at kick-to-kick  well into her 40s. If only Mue had been around to play today for Melbourne in AFLW.

Ralph junior, born ten years after Muriel on 16 March 1930, died on 29 May 2014 was also a keen and talented footballer. He played 71 games as a ‘wingman’ for Melbourne in the VFL between 1951 and 1956, including in the winning 1956 Grand Final team, and later with suburban McKinnon in the Federal Football League, including three premierships between 1957-9. Muriel took me to several of these McKinnon matches, always loudly barracking with great passion for her brother and his team and abusing the other team and particularly the umpire. Mue kept following the football, barracking for Melbourne … and enjoying the ground passes that came her way … once Ralph become Ground Manager at the former VFL ground in suburban Waverley.

Mue was a bright, independent, engaged and worldly young woman in a world where women usually took second or no place. Her hobbies, appearance and dress would have marked her out in that era as what was then called a ‘tom boy’. She matriculated and was Dux of Frankston High School. She began training as a primary school teacher but quickly found she had little patience with what she called ‘snotty-nosed kids’.

Mue enjoyed sailing, mainly with the men, on Port Philip Bay. Judy and I recall she also enjoyed gardening, mowing the lawns at Kelso Street and tending the garden, particularly the camellias and hydrangea. Her serious hobby, which we as kids participated in, was collecting stamps. ‘First Day Covers’ were shared with other collectors from all over the world. I became aware through the ‘Gibbons World Stamp Catalogue’ and Mue’s many stamp albums of the world of valuable, old rare and misprinted stamps, stamps with watermarks, overprinting, perforations and curious postmarks.

This was my first window also into the many different countries around the world. Stamps were material evidence of how the national names had changed over time with the demise of the British and other colonial empires. In later life Mue gave it all up and disposed of her extensive album collections, but continued to collect stamps for many years including for my nephew, Lachlan Hastings.

During my childhood years Mue worked in the accounts branch of ‘Tas Pickett’, a former tobacco manufacturing and distribution company then located at 95 Lennox Street in Richmond. Nearby was the four-storey, red brick ‘Pelaco’ shirt factory, with its distinctive neon sign above. Mue would usually commute via train from Frankston to Richmond, packing a lunch that often consisted of baked bean sandwiches, leaving her car at the Frankston railway station car park. In the earliest of times I recall, the car was a green Morris Minor. Part of her remuneration package comprised the company cigarettes (for her) and tobacco (for Pa Lane’s ‘rollies’). When Muriel left the company she was thanked with an inscribed silver tray.

Later Mue worked in the back office of the ‘Safeway’ supermarket, still located in Balcombe Road, Mentone. Her job as a ‘comptometrist’ operator is now an obsolete profession. In the days (during the 1960s) prior to calculators, large companies employed people to run adding machines all day, checking the figures that would be entered in the General Ledger. The now extinct mechanical adding machines she used were called ‘comptometers’.

Mue loved reading. Books that my sister Judy recalls her reading were mainly the leather-bound English classics: Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, as well as books about military battles from World War 2. Like her father, she enjoyed doing crosswords and always kept a Dictionary, World Atlas and Thesaurus handy.

Muriel almost never wore a dress aside from the one in her wedding photo. There was always a battle between her and her sister (my mother) Joan when it came to her dressing ‘appropriately’ for formal family occasions like weddings. ‘Mue’ as we called her, was more at home in a boiler suit fixing the car. She treated her car like a child, lovingly changing the oil, servicing the engine and polishing the chrome and duco.

I recall at one stage she drove what I think was a ‘Nissan Bluebird’ and also a Nissan ‘Cedric’. Her choice of Nissan cars was in part dictated by family connections via Beryl. Beryl worked ‘pulling petrol’ and doing front of garage work at Jackie Proctor’s Motor Garage in Playne Street, Frankston. Jackie, a totally bald, safety obsessed, self promoting motoring enthusiast was the brother of her very good friend, Joy Proctor and was also the Frankston Nissan dealer.

During my early teens Beryl moved into ‘the sleepout’, a separate flat renovated by Pa Lane at the back of the family house at 23 Kelso Street in Frankston, joining the family for some meals. Ralph spent his retirement days sitting in his chair smoking and doing cryptic crosswords. He did not cope well with retired life out of the armed services in a house shared with two strong and independent women and a relatively flighty Beryl. Mary had run of the house, budget, children, family and kitchen for all of their married life and Pa was literally a duck out of naval water. Nana would growl and scowl, ‘Get out of my kichen!’ whenever anyone, including the husband she called ‘Jer’, ventured in.

If Muriel and Beryl had been around to be part of the same sex marriage debate and subsequent legislation their lives and life opportunities might have been very different. When I asked my mother about their relationship in my early 20s she asked me never to utter the ‘L word’ and insisted they were just close friends. The beautiful truth is that they loved and cared for each other deeply for decades and became inseparable lifelong friends in an era where nothing could be spoken about love outside of heterosexual marriage.

Pa escaped to and loved the solace of his backyard shed and vegetable garden, making and fixing stuff. He built us some wonderful wooden boats. Once the navy and recreational sailing were over he developed a strong loathing of the sea. He would spit in it every time we walked along the seashore, guaranteeing he might one day be encouraged to swim in it if it got over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), but only on 30 February, a day that for some reason never came around.

Pa Lane gradually developed signs of dementia. The symptom I remember best was his habit of saying ‘Yesssss’ and smiling, regardless of the question that was posed. Muriel actively supported and acted as a staunch carer and advocate of both her parents through the final difficult decades of their shared later lives and the health issues they both faced with increasing dependency.

Pa’s lonely life in a dementia ward at Mont Park Military Rehabilitation Hospital came to an end when Mue got him moved to Seaford Nursing home so Mary and Ralph could be together. They died within three months of each other after celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary together.

When I went away to boarding school at Wesley College in the mid 1960s Muriel and Beryl would drive down from Frankston to meet me while I took day leave to visit Albert Park Lake. In 1966 I recall a memorable meeting at the then iconic ‘Rob’s Carousel Restaurant’ on the Lake next to the golf links. They were decked out in headscarves in Beryl’s low convertible sports car, perhaps a Datsun 1600 Roadster, an indelible image I now associate with the Thelma and Louise film. They took the then very revolutionary ‘drive up’ option, ordering their food from their convertible with a telephone similar to the typical speaker set up in the then very popular ‘drive-in theatres’.

Some Rob’s Restaurant patrons from the same era recall it as ‘the grooviest, funkiest thing in the 60’s when everyone else was being deadly serious … with swizzle sticks, fancy match books, saucy waitresses in leotards offset by patrons in grey cardigans and patent shoes.’ Rob’s (that opened in 1963) was the Hard Rock Café of the 1960s. It was reputedly revolting food in the revolving restaurant part, but we mainly drank thick shakes in the car. Muriel and Beryl, then in their 40s, were right up there amongst it all as I joined them as a self-conscious, clumsy, acned adolescent in my Wesley College school uniform.

Mue also kept contact with her nearby brother Ralph and his wife June (nee Kennedy), but particularly her nephew Chris (born 1957) and her nieces Elizabeth (known as ‘Libby’, born 1960) and Catherine (known as ‘Cathy’, born 1962), regularly visiting their family home in Bayview Road, Beaumaris. Similarly with Judy and Wayne’s children, Sean and Lachlan Hastings but it was less often that Mue came up to Donald. In part this was because Mue was often not on the same ‘wavelength’ as my father Jack and she was not afraid of vocally standing up for her sister, my mother, Joan. When Mum married and moved to Donald with Jack in the middle of a prolonged drought, Mue felt like it was like moving to the end of the flat, dry earth.

In the years I was at university, travelling interstate with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band and moving to Daylesford in the mid 1980s, my trips down to Frankston and regular contact with Muriel dropped right away. In the same era my younger brother Peter (born 1955) spent much more time with my grandparents and also with Mue and Beryl.

Peter developed a close lifelong friendship with them both. In the decades that followed between 1970 and 2000 Muriel and Beryl winged away as often as they could, often swinging home via the Golding family home in Columbus, Ohio and later in El Paso, Texas. Mue maintained regular contact over many decades also with Peter’s first three Golding children (with first wife Martina: Sarah, Simon and Hannah, particularly when they were based in the US) as and well as with Aaron, Joan and Walter (with Diane).

It was much later in Muriel’s life that I go to know Muriel more comprehensively as an adult. Mue and Beryl purchased adjacent apartments at Seaford before moving to their shared house in Karingal after her parents died. Muriel nominally lived downstairs and Beryl lived upstairs.

My understanding is that Muriel was increasingly pressured, including by my mother, not to be in a position where she was responsible for Beryl beyond her 80s. What eventuated was that after around 50 years together they agreed to part ways and sell up their jointly owned home in Karingal.

Beryl moved back to Bundaberg in Queensland to ‘return to roots’ and be nearer to her family, particularly her niece Heather Smith and her extended family. Muriel moved into a rental property off Wendouree Parade in Ballarat. Despite this late, painful (and I consider an unnecessary and tragic) separation, Muriel and Beryl either fondly corresponded by post or rang each other almost every day. The letters from Beryl were always lovingly addressed to Muriel as ‘Dearest Madame’.

Mue’s choice of Ballarat was a compromise. It was around half way (in travel time) between Melbourne and Donald. At that stage Mue was still mobile and driving her own car, though many scratches and scrapes began to miraculously and spontaneously appear. Ballarat had a very good range of services including comprehensive health care. Mue accurately surmised that moving straight to Donald would be imposing on my mother’s ‘home patch’, and Joan was adamant she did not want to take on the full responsibility of looking after Muriel.

During her late 80s Muriel would poor scorn on what was then called ‘Wendouree Village’ (now Stockland) Shopping Centre where she spent lots of time wandering and window shopping with the support of her walking frame, saying there were ‘too many old people’ there. Mue gave up smoking in her 80s soon after she moved to Ballarat, but she was increasingly limited by a painful hip and shortness of breath. Mue enjoyed telling the story about her Ballarat doctor who asked, “How much exercise do you do?” replying, “I walk to the car, park outside the shop, go in, go out and walk back to car.”

Jan and I live at Kingston only 25 minutes drive out or Ballarat, and when Muriel moved to ‘8/464 Wendouree Parade, Lake Wendouree’ I was still working at the local university the other side of Ballarat at Mount Helen. It was relatively simple to swing by on the way home as need be, usually once a week, or for Muriel to drive out and pay us a visit. Jan also dropped in regularly when shopping in Ballarat and did important essential tasks for Mue. We developed something of a routine where I would have a beer and chat and do anything that needed doing around her house on the way home from work.  Sometimes Joan would drive down to stay with Muriel and we’d often have dinner at the Golden City Hotel.

Mue missed Beryl desperately. While she was still mobile I was able to organise several visits by Muriel to Bundaberg. It involved two flights to Bundaberg via Brisbane. I would pick her up and make sure she got safely to the airport gate. At the other end her niece, Heather, met her. The aged care home in Bundaberg cooperated by providing a fold up bed for Muriel.

Increasingly Mue had become limited in her mobility and by her late 80s her walking and driving range shrank. The crunch came when Muriel was approaching 90. Muriel had a fall in early 2010 that fractured her hip, forcing her to cancel her last visit to see Beryl. The doctor who operated on her hip advised that she would ‘not be able to live independently after her rehabilitation’.

The family checked out several aged care options before Mue decided, with some trepidation, to join her sister Joan already at the Goodwin Village in Donald. While the sisters were close in some ways they were both used to getting their own way and not always good at being social together in community settings. Muriel usually tended to bite her tongue, but Joan could be very and inappropriate and insensitive.

The move wasn’t easy or simple psychologically for either of them. Joan was showing several early signs of dementia and was becoming very ‘prickly’. Mum sometimes became jealous when her lifelong friends also became Muriel’s friends, but overall it worked out better than Mue going into an unknown home with strangers elsewhere. The disbursement of Mue’s furniture, car and other belongings in Ballarat was by contrast relatively simple. She sat on the seat of her walking frame and dispassionately pointed out with her stick where things should go: ‘bin, keep, recycle, donate to the Salvos’.

Muriel’s 90thBirthday was a celebratory purple patch in her later years. By that time on 16 July 2010 she was well settled into her own room in the Goodwin Homes, in a room well away from Joan, and it was time to party with friends. Muriel got dozens of cards wishing her well from extended family as well as lifelong and recent friends.

Joan’s card said, ‘Yes, 90’ and wished her a Happy Birthday and happy celebrations’. Beryl’s card from her niece, Heather and ‘Beebe’ was to ‘Our dearest and fondest Madame, on the very special occasion on this year’s special Birthday. One card for Muriel was signed by 18 of Joan’s Donald friends, many who were also in the Goodwin Homes.

Mue’s sister, my mother Joan, died the following year in April 2011. Joan had not been coping with the forced relocation to Minyip and was struggling with worsening symptoms of dementia. Mum became seriously ill around the time of the move back to Donald. She accurately vowed she was not returning again from the Donald Hospital to Minyip. Joan’s husband, my father Jack (John William Golding) had died unexpectedly in Ballarat nine years before (26 April 2002) from the poorly managed side effects of surgery after an operation for bowel cancer.

The evidence from Mue’s papers

Muriel had many lifelong friends whom she and her sister Joan socialised with on the beach at Frankston during and immediately after the Second World War (1939-45). There is a photo of Muriel and Joan Lane (later Golding) sitting on the boat ramp outside the family Bathing Box in Frankston with Joy Proctor (later Joy Osmond who later lived in Warracknabeal) and Marjorie Whykes. The unpowered former bathing box with its canvas changing room and cold shower was the first one on the left where the extension of Wells Street hit the coast, in 2019 close to the site of the ‘Waves on the Beach’ Restaurant.

There is another photo of my maternal grandfather, ‘Pa’ (Ralph) Lane beside the family ‘Dodge’ car with Thurza Barclay (who later lived at Mitiamo), whom Muriel still visited in Bendigo in her late 80s. ‘Thurza Jane Barclay’ was on the electoral roll in Frankston between 1949 and 1952.

One photo Muriel kept amongst the small number of personal mementos a photo of a ‘Major James, Kaitaichi, Japan’, in shorts, hat, rugby jumper and the then ubiquitous cigarette dated ‘October 1946’. The 34thAustralian Infantry Brigade was briefly stationed at Kaitaichi in Japan and was responsible for the Hiroshima Prefecture from early 1946. On 13 February 1946, Australian troops, the vanguard of a 37,000-strong British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), disembarked at the war-devastated Japanese port city of Kure. Finding who Major James was remains a mystery.

In a small notes diary amongst Muriel’s papers was a tiny newspaper cutting that read:

LANE, on July 27th, 1978, at Carrum Private Hospital, Lt Comd Ralph Lane MBE, Royal Australian Navy (retired), devoted husband of the late Mary Lane, devoted father of Muriel, Joan and Ralph, loved father in law of June and Jack, dear pa of Judi and Wayne, Barry Peter and Tina, Christopher and Libby.

Muriel and Beryl’s first ‘round the world trip’ flying BOAC in 1970 lasted 14 weeks. Their trips overseas, mainly to the UK and Europe were generally made in the cooler winter months between March and September. Sometimes they booked organised tours but most of it was done the ‘old way’ before the internet by letter and phone. They travelled incredibly lightly with tiny backpacks. In Europe they often travelled on a Eurail Pass, frequently saving on accommodation by overnight journeys.

In 1973 they went via Dubai flying QANTAS and included a visit to then West Berlin. 1983 they flew Singapore Airlines and included visits to Greece (which they loved and returned to several memorable times), Turkey and Sri Lanka. Their 1987 trip flying ‘Thai International’ included Canada. In 1995 their overseas trip included Ireland and Switzerland.

Undaunted at the age of 80 (and in Beryl’s case. 82), their six week overseas trip in 2000 included an ‘Exotic’ European Tour which took in East Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and London, travelling via the ‘Chunnel ‘to France and coming back via the US including Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and El Paso.

In between they travelled to many destinations within Australia mainly during winter up the Australian east coast, where they sometimes visited Beryl’s parents and other relatives in Bundaberg. Sometimes they holidayed with Mue’s parents who typically spent a few months each winter escaping the winter on the Queensland south coast at Tewantin.

With the passing of her one surviving parent in 1978 ,Muriel and Beryl were freed up to travel further and more often. In 1979 they spent seven months in Europe (including Greece again) and the UK. With her nephew Peter and family based permanently in the US  their travels increasingly included extended visits to them at in the US, at Columbus, Ohio and later at El Paso in Texas.

Amongst Mue’s papers were the many postcards Jan and I had sent to her when travelling, many with the overseas stamps removed for sending on to Lachlan Hastings. Several survived that we sent during 2011 to ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ in Minyip from Dubai, Helsinki, Tallinn, Ireland, Glasgow, Nottingham, Samoa, Nottingham, Thessalonica and Athens as well as from Kakadu. Mue would look out and give Jan and I postcards decades old that they had kept as a memento of their extensive travels. Mue loved travel.

Mue kept regular and close contact with Tony and Margaret Mattin, Lane relatives from Wooten, Beds in England whom they visited the UK and who also visited Mue whenever they were in Australia.

Other strands in the story

 Beryl Braddock

 Beryl, often called ‘Beebe’ was Muriel’s lifelong close friend. ‘Beryl Alice May Braddock’ was around two years older than Muriel, born 6 February 1918. Her father was Joseph Braddock, in 1914 working with the Queensland Railways Department. Her mother’s maiden name was ‘Kate Helen Matilda Whittaker’. Beryl’s parents were married on 11 March 1914 at the Bundaberg Methodist Church. Beryl was a regular churchgoer and a supporter of church ‘fetes’ for much of her life.

Beryl’s maternal grandparents were ‘Mr and Mrs F. E. Whittaker’ of Dundowran near Hervey Bay. Joseph Braddock’s parents were also from Bundaberg. A photo of the Braddock’s double storey weatherboard family home, usually described as Queenslander’, was amongst Muriel’s files, located at 32 Maryborough Street, Bundaberg.

Jim Sherwood

Us kids never met Jim Sherwood, and no one talked about him. This account is all from records publicly available on line, in an attempt to belatedly paint a picture of his life including post ‘Muriel’s wedding’.

Muriel and Mum when pressed, referred to her former husband as ‘Jim’. James Vern Alf Sherwood was roughly the same age as Muriel, born 6 October 1920. His father was Ted Sherwood and his mother was Margaret Peterson. Margaret was listed as his next of kin during his time in the army, then living at 2 Julian Flats, Bronte. Muriel and Jim were married the same year I was born, 1950.

Jim’s Australian War Service Records confirm he enlisted age 21 on 17 December 1941 and attained the rank of Sergeant in the AIF before he was discharged on 13 March 1947. Half of his military service (580 days) was to postings overseas including to Bougainville between 1945-7.

I was surprised to find how relatively recently Jim actually died, on 21 June 1992 then age 72. The Electoral Roll gives some idea of where he lived and what he did for a living. In 1958 he was a ‘railwayman’ in North Sydney. In 1962 his address was ‘C/ Mrs V. Newman, ‘Surfside’, 2 Dundas St, Coogee’. By 1963 he was a ‘farm worker’ in Biloela in Queensland. By 1977 Jim was a ‘storeman’ in Eastlakes New South Wales.

Jim’s death notice in June 1992 revealed that his final address was ‘Bundanoon’ in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. The notice reveals he was, at the time of his death, the ‘brother of Veri, Margaret and Ted, loved uncle of Robert, Jim, Robyn James (deceased) and Anne’.

Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston

Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston

 The Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston: The story in brief

Creswick was first incorporated as a Roads District in 11 January 1859, and became a Shire on 31 Dec 1863. The Creswick District Roads Board built the original double brick hall in Kingston, then set back off street frontage, some time between 1860 and 1863, after which it became part of the Creswick Shire and the more convenient and larger centre for its administrative base. New rooms and the current (2018) street façade were added to the 1860s Hall in 1911 to create the current Creswick Shire Hall 1911. After the Borough of Creswick (incorporated on 19 Nov 1858) was united with the Creswick Shire (on 29 May 1934), the local government administrative centre reverted back to Creswick. Some Council business and meetings were held at the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston until the after the end of the Second World War, when the Municipal Offices were finally moved to the Creswick Town Hall.

The largely vacant Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston was then briefly offered for use to post-war industry, and then for local community purposes. From the late 1950s into the 1970s it became the venue for the Kingston District Youth Club, during which time many of the internal brick walls were removed. In the late 1970s the Creswick Shire sold the hall in a public tender process to Barry Golding in 1979, to be renovated internally and modified as a private home. On 20 January 1995 the Shire of Creswick was abolished.

 Creswick District Roads Board Hall (constructed between 1859 and 1863)

The actual date of construction of the original Hall during the 1860s has not been firmly established. What is known is that the decision to build the hall was discussed at a Creswick District Roads Board meeting in 1859. This meeting was held at the then recently constructed Kingston Hotel, next door and south of the current Hall. At that time around 25,000 miners were estimated to be in the area.

On 8 June 1863 the Creswick District Roads Board met to select ‘the requisite furniture for the Board room’

The 1863 Minute Book (Sept 1863 to Dec 1865, VPRS 003795/P /0000) records at the 23 Sept 1863 Creswick Road District meeting, that a public meeting had previously been held in Kingston on 17 Sept 1863 to elicit public opinion on dividing the District into Wards or Ridings. On 24 Dec1863 the Shire minutes record that ‘proclamation of the Shire was on the eve of issuing.’ The Proclamation of the Creswick Shire was read on 7 Jan 1864.

The Shire Hall in Kingston is mentioned a few years later as the venue for the refreshments following the first service (held in 1864) in the bluestone Holy Trinity Church of England in Kingston following its completion. Previous to that date, the Anglican Church services were held in the wooden Kingston Mechanics Institute, itself destroyed by fire in August 1982.

The first election of the Creswick Shire Council was held in the former Creswick District Roads Board Hall in 1864, Kingston then being central to the then mainly rural Shire.

Addition of a new Hall on the front of the former hall in 1911

The Shire continued to use the original Hall as its base from 1864 until 1910, when it was agreed to add two new rooms to the front of the 1860s Hall, for a cost not exceeding 500 pounds, to be paid in instalments over five years.

On 4 August 1910  a Notice of Motion was put at the Shire Council Meeting  that two new rooms be built in front of the Hall and the present building renovated.

On 5 Sept 1910  (Minutes Book p. 472) it was agreed after debate, to investigate purchasing a strip of land from the estate of the late Mm (William) Kenna and allow larger rooms to be built, and also to consult with an architect about the design.

On 6 Oct 1910 (Minute Book, p.476) decision was taken to to get out plans and specifications for Shire Hall improvements, with alternatives either stone or brick foundations.

On 1 Dec 1910 Tenders for the Shire Hall renovations were received and the 689 Pound tender from H. Armour tender was accepted for the whole works, with Council repayments budgeted  over seven years. There was some debate in Council as to whether this would be practicable or whether it would be better to sell the original building and procure a bigger site.

The decision to add the new hall onto street frontage was made possible by procuring the narrow strip of land from Mr William Kenna on a separate, new title to the south of the existing easement. Given that the sides of allotment that the Hall is on are not at 90 degrees to the street frontage, building right to street frontage means that many of the angles on the stonework and decoration on the front to the 1911 building (evident in the irregular shape of the front alcove) are several degrees away from square.

The two new rooms were constructed with external cavity brick walls and each had a chimney and fireplace with pressed metal ceilings. The walls were rendered with hard plaster. Given that the new hall had higher subfloor clearance and better side ventilation it was in relatively good condition when sold by the Shire in 1980 compared to the older 1860s’ hall.

A Certificate of Title separate from the one the Hall itself is on dated 13 April 1911 confirms a narrow easement was created in 1911 on a separate title the full length of the block on the south (driveway side) of the Shire Hall 25 units wide and 499 units long, noting ‘a special railway condition contained in grant to John Haylock’.

John Haylock is recorded in 1854 as one of the approximately dozen early land owners around Kingston and presumably held the original title before Kingston township was subdivided. John and Anne Haylock were a farming family from Thurlow (near Haverhill) Suffolk, England landed in Australia on 24th August 1852. Their family of seven made their way onto the goldfields of Victoria and made their home on a 96 acre allotment which they purchased adjoining the village of Kingston .

On 6 April 1911 Venetian Blinds were  ordered for the ‘New Rooms’.

On 1 June 1911, (Minute Book, p.569) there were discussions about  Coronation Celebrations. The President suggested the planting of two trees in front of the Shire Hall on Coronation Day, one to commemorate the Coronation of His Majesty King George V and the other the reign of King Edward VII along with a suitable guard to protect them.

A new council table and chairs were procured in 1912 for the main Council ‘Board Room’ and insured along with the ‘stables’ then behind the building.

A photograph taken in approximately 1914 shows the completed 1911 Hall with a hitching post for horses on street frontage. A flag pole is also evident (the base for the flag pole is still in place to the left of the 2018 side entrance. There was a walkway along the northern side of the hall with a ‘Rate Collection’ sign above it. A large Shed is visible behind the Hall on the northern boundary. One of the two oak trees planted in 1912 in front of the hall, then approximately 3 metres in height (details below) was protected by a surrounding picket fence.

The elm trees lining the main street of Kingston north of Victoria Road and the extensive Avenue of Honour (as well as the two oak trees planted outside the Creswick Shire Hall in 1912, see below) predate the Avenue. The Victorian Heritage Council Avenue of Honour Heritage listing (VHR H2343) notes that:

The Avenue of Honour, Kingston is of local significance for its relationship with the local street planting of elms along the main street of Kingston and with the Shire Hall building. This council planting, which appears to predate the Avenue of Honour, extends to the north from Victoria Road and provides a visual continuation of the memorial planting. The small town of Kingston was the administrative centre of the Shire in 1918 when the Shire of Creswick established a committee to provide an avenue of honour to district servicemen. This resulted in the location of the Avenue of Honour at Kingston rather than in the larger town of Creswick.

The two oak trees either side of the bus shelter outside the Shire Hall in 2018 were planted to commemorate the reign of Edward VII (who was King from 1901 until his death in May 2010) and the Coronation of George V in June 1911 (The coronation of George V and Mary as King and Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Empire took place at Westminster Abbey, London, on 22 June 1911).

The largely vacant Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston, 1934 to 1959

After the Borough of Creswick (incorporated on 19 Nov 1858) was amalgamated with the Creswick Shire (on 29 May 1934), the local government administrative centre reverted back to the much larger and more central Town Hall in Creswick. Some Council business and meetings were held at the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston from 1943 until the late 1940s. The largely vacant Hall was then briefly offered for use by post-war industry. Mr L. Gross of Gross Knitting Mills addressed the Council in 1948 with a proposal that the hall be leased or sold as required for industry or housing purposes. The Council was agreeable in principle, but stipulated that consistent with the prevailing policy of employing post-war males if it was to be used for industry, it should be for male workers only.

Internal modification by Kingston and District Youth Club 1959-1979

The information about the former Shire Creswick Shire Offices, Kingston that follows (from 1959 to 1980) is from documents in the original file now held at the Public Records Office in Ballarat (File VPRS 15564/P/0001).

  • On 13 May 1959 Kingston District Youth Club sought Shire of Creswick permission to pull out internal walls and put in new ceiling hangers in the newer, front part of the hall, with a detailed plan (see Photo of the Plan).
  • On 21 May 1959 Shire Council gave permission to undertake these alterations, but requiring at least 18 inches of existing brickwork to be left in place, forming a buttress to the other brick walls, and using truss-type girders rather than oregon hangers in the original plan. This work was carried out, effectively creating one large open space on street frontage in the 1911 addition and another large room behind it including the original 1860’s Shire Chamber.
  • On 12 July 1960 a letter was sent from Shire of Creswick to C. J. Lay, as Secretary of the Kingston District Youth Club, noting that the Youth Club was responsible for keeping the Hall in good repair while remaining in occupancy, and that the Club is responsible for all charges, such as lighting, sanitary services and repairs. They also noted that a check had been made ‘… of the double doors which were taken from the inside of your hall, but each door is only 2 foot wide. Both have had a glass panel in the top. We also have two single doors each 2 foot six wide’.
  • On 16 March 1961 the Youth Club applied for permission to also remove back walls of older, original building, to create one room, with an attached plan. This work was formally approved on 22 March 1961 but was (fortunately) never actually carried out.
  • In 1964 the previous, shorter-term Kingston and District Youth Club lease was confirmed for a further period of 10 years in a letter to the Club from the Council via Mr A. W. Hives.
  • On 22 Feb 1965 an application was made via Council from the Youth Club to connect water to the Youth Club rooms.
  • On 25 Jan 1968 permission was given to the Youth Club to ‘clean up the old scrap seats’ at the rear of the Kingston Youth Club and to sell the scrap cast iron.
  • In 1970 a letter was sent via Mrs M. E. (Mollie) Charleston of Kingston and District Youth Club seeking permission to paint the front of the building and renew some of the spouting, which was granted.
  • An extension of the previous lease of the Shire Hall for the Kingston Youth Club was granted in a letter via Mrs J. B. Lindsay dated 16 May 1974.
  • On 4 December 1978 youth organisations and community welfare groups in the Creswick Shire were formally invited to submit, in writing, proposals and submissions for the use of Kingston Shire Hall, Main Road Kingston. The council made it clear that it was prepared to consider making the hall available by sale or lease on attractive, negotiated terms.
  • On 8 Feb 1978 Graham Carrery wrote to the Council wanting to purchase the building for a restaurant or a private dwelling.
  • On 4 Dec 1978 local youth organisations and community welfare groups were invited to submit, in writing, proposals and submissions for the use of Kingston Shire Hall, Main Rd Kingston. The council stressed it was ‘… prepared to consider making the hall available by sale or lease on attractive, negotiated terms’.
  • Gary J. Bunn wrote to the Creswick Council on 14 December 1978 with a long letter explaining that he wanted to purchase the hall as a venue for those people of the district interested in cinema and the creative arts, as well as to secure it from further neglect as a concerned neighbour.
  • Again on 3 April 1979 Gary Bunn wrote to the Council reiterating his intent in his previous letter requesting to buy the Hall.
  • On 4 May 1979 Creswick Council sought Local Government formal approval to offer the Shire Offices for sale, noting that ‘the Kingston Shire offices are very old and in very poor condition and would require a considerable expenditure to be incurred to reinstate it’. This consent for sale was formally granted on 26 June 1979 by the Secretary for Local Government.
  • Tenders were called for sale of the Hall on 27 Aug 1979, closing on 3 Oct 1979, requiring details of proposed usage to be provided with the tender. Five per cent of the tender price was required for inclusion as part of the tendering process.
  • Barry Golding tendered for renovation as a private residence.
  • Gary Bunn placed a tender for the hall to be used as a venue for those people of the district interested in cinema and the creative arts.
  • The higher tended was accepted and the formal transfer of title to the former Hall was expedited to Barry Golding by March 1980. 

Conversion to a private home from 1980

At the time of purchase in 1980 the two interconnected halls, though the brickwork was structurally sound, were in very poor condition internally, due to a combination of old age, poor maintenance, Youth Club modifications, leaking roofs and spouting and vandalism.

  • The original 1911 pressed metal ceilings in the front rooms, already damaged by the brick wall removals, were beginning to rust out and collapse because the valley gutter along the front roof was leaking.
  • The only water to the property was by a badly rusted galvanized pipe to an enameled cast iron sink then fitted into a kauri pine draining board in the now (2018) laundry.
  • The original 1860’s flooring, with 1 1/8 inch thick pine floorboards were very badly rotted towards the back on the main 1860s hall and particularly the back two rooms. This was caused by lack of external cutoff drains, leaky spouting, minimal sub floor clearance, inadequate sub-floor ventilation, a partly breached roof, smashed windows and accumulation of washed in debris. There was a tree growing out of the floor (and out the window) of the main former council chamber room.
  • The hard plaster lining the inside of all 1860 brick walls (including several layers of rotting wallpaper) above the 1.5 metre dado was badly peeling and cracked for many of the same reasons as above as well as rising damp.
  • Several of the original features including the huge 1860s fireplace in the main hall and the tiled 1911 entrance had been covered over by the 1960’s renovations. Stud walls covered by masonite had been put over the badly peeling original walls in the main 1860s hall.
  • Youth Club modifications still in place in 1980 in the 1860s hall included a platform supporting a boxing punching bag, fittings in the floor and ceiling for Roman Rings and other gymnastic equipment as well as a badminton net.
  • Break in and vandalism by local young people and ‘bikies’ was extensive. Most internal doors and external windows were smashed, rotting or missing. Billiard balls had been thrown around the walls in the 1911 front hall badly denting the still intact hard plaster.
  • Fire surrounds and hearths, where they still existed, were very badly damaged.
  • The lath and plaster ceiling in the south 1860’s back room and the back floors in both back rooms were not repairable. The only original unpainted, 1860s Baltic pine ceilings that could be retained are still in place in the back study and hallway of the current (2018) residence.
  • The back yard was full of rubbish and overgrown with blackberries, elm suckers and weeds.

On a positive side, the building was still structurally sound; minimal work was required externally; power and water services were still connected; the roof was essentially intact; the five brick chimneys (including one double chimney) were intact; the missing roofing iron was easily replaced; the original telephone connection was easily reinstated; wire screens put in by the Youth Club sill protected most of the window openings (even where the glass had been smashed) and external doors made it possible to ‘lock up’ the building.

Council requirements for the 1980s renovation

Plans for renovation were drawn up by Madin Lyons Associates (architects) in Ballarat and submitted to the then Shire of Creswick in 1980. The schedule of work was to:

  1. Repair downpipes, install spoon drains.
  2. Check subfloor clearances and ventilation
  3. Repair / replace windows and doors
  4. Remove internal linings, repair solid plaster
  5. Rewire as necessary
  6. Install septic tank, plumbing fixtures, supply and waste pipes
  7. Construct stud wall partitions (as shown on architects plan: essentially to replace brick walls that had been removed in the 1960’s)
  8. Make good ceiling to Bedroom 1, Workroom
  9. Rebuild fireplaces to CSIRO recommended specifications
  10. Insulate ceiling, space, 75mm fibreglass recommended.

The Council, having owned the building for over 100 years, gave approval in 15 Feb 1980 with a set of caveats that:

  • A complete and effective system of stormwater collection and disposal is provided to the building
  • The walls and floors of the bathroom are lined with impervious material
  • Flywire screens are fitted to the bathroom and kitchen windows.
  • Doorways of minimum width (bathroom 700mm, Laundry 740mm, all other doorways 800mm.

1986-7 Addition of an upstairs bedroom

On return from Darwin in early 1985 and a third child born in May 1986, Barry Golding and Janet Bracks decided to create a fourth, upstairs bedroom.

The Shire of Creswick rate notice for 30 Sept 1986 indicated a Site Value (SV) of only $2,900 and a Capital Improved Value (CIV) of $7,000 (in 1981 the then Council rates were only $85 per year, and the Water Rates were only $55 per year).

In June 1986 Maddin Lyons, Ballarat architects, drew up plans to create a new upstairs bedroom above the laundry and part of the southern front bedroom. This involved changing the roofline, adding a staircase, building in cupboards and providing a small door to provide simpler access to the roof space. These plans were approved by the Creswick Council on 11 August 1986.

Most of the structural and carpentry work including the solid, single run staircase was undertaken by Paddy Caulfield, with the finishing including plastering done by Barry Golding.

The only contested modification post these renovation (identified by the Shire Building inspector in 1987 during an on site inspection as part of the process of gaining a Certificate of Occupancy in 1987) was a Regulation requiring the floorboards in the bathroom to be covered by an impervious material. An application to waive this requirement was formally granted by the Building Referees Board. A formal ‘Certificate of Occupancy’ was granted on 17 August 1987.

Jack’s 1936 Wesley College Diary

Jack’s Wesley College Diary, 1936

Barry Golding, 10 August 2018

Context

After both my parents died: my mother, Joan Ethel Golding, in April 2011, my father’s (‘Jack: John William Golding’s) small, purple Wesley College 1936 school diary surfaced. Dad was born on 17 April 1920 and died 24 April 2002 aged 82 years.

Like many historic diaries, whilst this 1936 diary was not originally intended for later reading and analysis, it provides a fascinating window into what my father, ‘Jack’ (John William) Golding was experiencing as a rural adolescent, turning 16 years of age whilst away from home in Melbourne at Wesley College in 1936. He was then in the Boarding House, in Form 6A studying for the then ‘Leaving Certificate’ (Year 11) in the interwar period.

It is of particular interest to me as it provides new insights for me about a father who seldom talked on a personal level about his early life. It also allows me to reflect on my own experiences of a similarly difficult adolescent boarding house experiences (including bullying) in the same School thirty years later, albeit in very different social and political times during the mid 1960s.

The only living people mentioned in the diary (to my knowledge) in 2018 were Jack’s younger sister (and only sibling), Doris Jones, born in Donald in 1925, and now in her 90s and still living in Donald. Doris was able, in the process of writing this historical narrative, to clarify whom some of the people were who are mentioned in this 1936 diary. However Doris, being five years younger than Jack, was only 11 when he was away at boarding school in 1936.

I have added some of back stories in [square brackets], mainly from family histories as well as from online searches. An asterisk indicates this was a person whom I remember personally. The ‘Back to Donald’ Souvenir ‘Past and Present’, published by the Donald Times newspaper in October 1936 was particularly useful.

It is possible I have got some of this wrong and look forward to being corrected: via b.golding@federation.edu.au in future updated versions. All of the bullying my father and I experienced was in the context of the Boarding House and did not involve teaching or Boarding House staff. I understand that Wesley College in 2018 is thankfully very different from what my father and I experienced. The then Boarding House on the St Kilda Road site closed in 1980 and the school began to become coeducational in 1978, with the first Year 12 coeducational class graduating in 1990.

I contacted the school in 2018 via the Wesley Old Collegians Association to ask whether anything had been done to acknowledge the impact of past bullying on Wesley College students and families, and received no response.

What was in the diary?

As soon as I opened the diary the ‘blotting paper’, necessary in those days to mop up the excess blue or black fountain pen ink, and used during 1936 to write the entries, dropped out. Indeed on 28 July 1936 Jack received, in the mail from home (with a silk handkerchief), a ‘Conway Stewart’ (a then major British writing instrument brand) fountain pen. On that day, in lighter blue ink, Jack’s never good writing improved somewhat, observing as he wrote that ‘… he was trying to hold it correctly’.

Also loose in his diary was a small, undated newspaper cutting, with the header ‘YOUTH FOUND SHOT IN BED’. The one paragraph article tells the sad tale of a 16-year-old Swan Hill boy found dead in his bedroom. One can only guess the back story and why it was collected by Jack as an item of interest.

He went to Swan Hill for an entertainment and returned home and went to bed. … A pea rifle had been used and the shot penetrated his heart. The youth died in an hour. He had been depressed since his mother died five months ago.

The diary covers the period from when Jack left Donald by train to go to boarding school in Prahran on 10 Feb 1936, to end of Term 3 on 11 Dec. On his February train trip from Donald to Melbourne Jack was:

… met at Spencer Street Station by Uncle Bill [presumably W. G. Pearse] at 6.30, had tea and arrived at college at quarter to 8. Unpack and go downstairs. Am nicknamed “Snoops”. Eric Bartless shows me round. Weight around 8 stone five pounds.

The last full day entry in the boarding house, before he took his school suit down to the dry cleaners on 10 December, reads:

Tonight we have high tea. I dress up as the “mad hatter”. I act the fool with three ?xxx? on. We run around the block afterwards. I swim after school and do 46 yards underwater. I get a celluloid Father Christmas of the high tea cake on Mr Brown’s table as a souvenir.

There are eager and interesting entries of up to six lines for each day for the nine months between. Jack deemed the events of 31 July so interesting he inserted an extra page and breathlessly filled both sides as follows.

Today one of the greatest events in boarding school history is disclosed. George Davey, Charles Dunning [a member of the Wesley College First 8 rowing tea] and Buxton were concerned. Last Friday afternoon a gentleman asked for 9 Wesley boarders to accompany 9 girls to a dance. They were to go with Scotch [College] boys but the boys could not go. The three boys broke bounds after lights out and went to the dance at twelve thirty. The three boys return with the person who came to ask for the boys before at 6.30.in the meantime the boys went to the dance and went to supper at the home of the chap who brought them home in his car. The masters so how found out, other schools knowing of the happening as well. The boys have been seeing Mr Brown, Mr Stewart [Headmaster 1933-39] and Mr Kennedy all the week. The boys would have been expelled, but the boys pleaded, with the help of masters successfully. Tonight Mr Stewart talked for a quarter of an hour about the happening, about the bad traditions of the school, about bringing in new ones, about the bad habit of messy dorm beds. He spoke as well as Mr Kennedy of their knowledge of similar happenings and the consequence of breaking bounds. Mr Stewart spoke of his association with Wesley for many years, how he had seen Wesley grow through his long association and of his wish that bad traditions be discontinued. He spoke of mistreatment of new boys and how he wished it to be discontinued. I consider Dunning and Buxton. Mr Kennedy (Plug) said he know boys had misfiled leave slips purposefully, that he had found this out in connection with breaking bounds and that the boys concerned would be gated [meaning confining (a student) to the grounds of a college as punishment] for the rest of the term. There are several boys concerned. Mr Kennedy tells us that Mr Stewart has granted us another monthly weekend (we should not have one till next weekend …. I tore my pyjamas in a scrimmage after pulling Mellor’s bed off. He pulled my bed off first (put to it by old boys). The vice at present is dice. They toss Roddy and Johns to see whose newy out of myself and Mellor eats two laxative pills and who eats aspros. I make out I eat the aspros.

This extra entry gives a vivid glimpse of the hierarchy of old boys and new boys, and of the way life, including bullying and intimidation, played out in the boarding house out in the 1936 dormitories after ‘lights out’. Other entries in the diary, discussed as one of the diaries ‘emergent themes’ later, confirm that Jack was subject to persistent boarding house bullying. I found it somwhat similar three decades on, with bed rolling Jack mentions (having you and your mattress upended onto the floor, often in the middle of the night) still common three decades on. The same horsehair mattresses were still in the dormitories during the 1960s.

Jack’s family was not wealthy enough to afford more than one year (that turned out to be his final one) at Wesley College. My own family was just able to afford the final two years for me in the same school boarding house in the 1960s. My sister Judith had also been booked in to board at MLC, but ended up staying in Donald to undertake her Matriculation class in order to ensure the Year 12 class achieved minimum numbers to run. Somewhat like my father, I came to Wesley to board only for the final school two years to a boarding house hierarchy and friendship groups that were firmly established. It sometimes felt, after ‘lights out’, like the culture of violence in the Clockwork Orange movie of 1975. I wish my father had been able to talk about what he had experienced at the time. I only found out many years after my school days that my parents, despite putting on a brave face for me, had both sobbed when they dropped me off when they saw how rugged the Boarding House dormitories looked in the mid 1960s.

Each date in Jack’s diary Calendar had been individually crossed off with the school holidays blocked out. Most of the teaching staff listed in the front of the diary had had their nicknames added. Mr Stewart, mentioned above, was the School Headmaster as well as ‘Stewy’, and Mr Brown, one of the 16 listed Assistant Masters was known by his initials as ‘VK’. Greenham was ‘Bar’, Gwillim was ‘Pips’, Hargreaves was ‘Jock’, Hattam was ‘Teary’ and Hulme was ‘Stiffy’. Mr Kennedy (‘Plug’) was the [Boarding] Housemaster. A. A. Phillips* (‘Tosh’), the English master later became a well known Australian writer, critic and teacher, best known for coining the term ‘Cultural Cringe’ in his pioneering essay, The Cultural Cringe (1950), which set the early terms for postcolonial theory in Australia. ‘Tosh’ was still teaching at Wesley College, and taught me what was then called ‘clear thinking’ in my English class 30 years later. ‘Nertz’ Lesser*, nicknamed on account of his large nose and ‘Franksy’ A. A. Frank* (the Gymnasium Master) were also still on the staff. One can only wonder about ‘Poufta’ McBride in a era or homophobia. I recall that when I was an adolescent during the 1960s being sternly reprimanded by my grandfather for using the ‘p’ word, without then fully understanding its meaning.

I have chosen to illustrate the diversity and depth evident in the necessarily brief daily diary entries (with only six lines available on week days and three on weekends) by writing under the emergent themes under a series of sub headings.

What was happening in the world in 1936?

The Great Depression of the 1930s broke when my father, Jack Golding, was ten years old. It had a devastating effect on the world nations and peoples, rich and poor, for much of that decade. Unemployment reached a peak in of 32 per cent in Australia by 1932. The National Museum of Australia summarised the situation by 1932, as below.

The immediate effect was on individuals and families: children with not enough to eat; men, the traditional breadwinners, humiliated and powerless; women scrabbling to hold families together. Suicide rates increased dramatically. In the absence of unemployment insurance, charity groups became the only source of relief but were unable to feed the overwhelming numbers of hungry. National income declined by a third. More than 40,000 men moved around the country looking for work: setting up shantytowns on the edges of communities and camping in parks. The few jobs that did become available were cruelly fought over. By 1932, more than 60,000 men, women and children were dependent on the ‘susso’, a state-based sustenance payment that enabled families to buy only the bare minimum of food.

 The decade of the 1930s been particularly hard for Australian rural communities. Australia experienced high inflation from 1919 to 1920 and then a severe recession until 1923. With the economy then based on agricultural production, Australians identified prosperity with the land. Returned soldiers were resettled on rural blocks and more than 200,000 government-sponsored British immigrants arrived, many moving to country towns.

However, in the mid-1920s, just as Australia’s rural economy began to recover, so too did European countries affected by the war. The United States, Canada and Argentina began producing agricultural surpluses for market. This created a global oversupply of Australia’s major exports: wheat and sheep.

The collapse of the banks in the 1930s and its effects on people’s economic and business confidence personally affected my grandparents and parents and often became intergenerational: my parents never borrowed money from the bank and nor did I.

My family home community, Donald, in the flat and often dry wheat and sheep country of the Victorian Wimmera was also adversely affected, as was the family hardware business, W. J. Golding & Co. The business was effectively a Donald offshoot of Rowe and Sons, first established in my grandfather’s (Walter James Golding’s*) hometown of St Arnaud where his father and grandfather had been gold miners. A Donald branch of Rowe and Sons was opened in 1908. My grandfather, Walter, became manager of Rowe and Sons and Golding in 1912. I have a thick slab of glass at home with the huge (now renovated) gold leaf letters ‘and Golding’ applied, that was unearthed during shop renovations in the 1980s. The same business operated as W. J. Golding & Co in Donald for much of the same century. My late parents, Jack and Joan Golding, in partnership with my aunt and uncle, Doris and Graham Jones* managed the business after my grandfather retired, My elder sister Judith, and her husband Wayne Hastings in turn carried on the same family business for several decades.

The period between the First and Second World Wars, whilst my parents were growing up, including whilst Jack was away for most of 1936 at Wesley College Boarding House, was a time of increased world tension. In 1935 Hitler had unilaterally canceled the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919 to conclude the First World War. In March 1936, two months into Jack’s 1936 diary, Hitler denounced the Locarno Pact and began remilitarizing of the Rhineland. By July 1936 the Australian Federal Government had announced an increase in military training strength, in response to the rise of facism in Europe.

And this was only part of the story of 1936. In the same year William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta elder founded the Australian Aborigines League just prior to the 150 year national ‘celebration’ in Australia: of convict ships arriving with British criminals, and later with economic refugees including my forebears. In the same year the last Tasmanian thylacine died in captivity in a zoo. Contrary to popular and convenient belief in 1936, Donald’s First Nations people, the Dja Dja Wurrung as well as the Palawin people in Tasmania have survived.

Jack and his family connections

 My father was a family man devoted to his relations and friends of the family in and beyond Donald. Donald is where he was born and where he was to live for most of his 82-year life, aside from several years training and serving overseas in the Air Force during World War 2. Many of the Pearse and Golding relatives lived in and around Donald and St Arnaud respectively, as well as in Ballarat and Melbourne, as mentioned in Jack’s diary.

The ‘Address Page’ in his diary lists (in order of entry, with added annotation):

  • George Lance*, Geelong College, Geelong [George was the same age as Jack and then a student at Geelong College and a lifetime friend of Jack. George’s father, Mr S. (‘Steve’) A. Lance, was a motor mechanic and the earliest motor garage proprietor in Donald. His business, the ‘Premier Motor Garage’ was next door to my grandfather’s (W. J. Golding & Co’s) shop, and his wife was a Pearse. My grandfather, Walter Golding and Stephen Lance formed a partnerships called ‘Lyric Picture Company’ to show pictures, on a Pathe-Biograph projector they bought for 100 pounds. Initially the pictures were shown in the Motor Garage as there we then no safe, purpose-built picture theatres in 1915. George Lance was born in Donald in August 1920 and died in Ballarat in July 2015. Visiting George and his wife Joan on the way through Ballarat in the 1950s-60s was part of my own childhood).
  • Mrs Trawin, 44 Paxton St, East Malvern [the Californian bungalow is still on the same block. This is likely ‘Aunty Kate’ Trawin. Trawin’s were a St Arnaud family connected by marriage to William Golding as far back as 1859. Olivia Golding (nee Trawin, perhaps officially spelt Trewin), my Golding grandfather’s mother died in St Arnaud in 1941].
  • Methodist Ladies College [An all-girl Methodist School and Boarding House in Elsternwick, with close links to the then all-boy Wesley College].
  • Mrs W. G. Pearse, 41 Mathoura Road, Toorak, to become Jack’s favorite weekend escape in 1936. The slate roofed mansion is still there behind a high ivy hedge. Mr W. G. (William Geake) Pearse, who was known in the family, by virtue of his non-agricultural profession, as ‘Banker’ Pearse, died in Melbourne in 1937, the following year. W. G.’s wife (Mrs Isabella Elizabeth Pearse, nee Palmer), referred to by Jack as Auntie ‘Lizzie’, died three years later in 1939. Their daughter, known in the diary as ‘Mollie’ Pearse, was one of W. G. and Isabella’s seven children. Mollie’s husband E. G. Spencer was killed in World War 1. Confusingly for family historians, ‘Mollie’ had the same birth and Christian names (born in 1890 as ‘Amelia Geake Pearse’) as my own grandmother (born 11 December 1897). Mollie died in Melbourne in 1957. Mollie’s daughter Margaret was also living at home during 1935. Folklore has it (pers. comm. via Michael Greenham, Dartmoor District Museum in 2019: Mollie’s late husband, E. G Spencer was Michael’s great uncle) that Margaret was diabetic and died from an ‘episode’ at their Toorak home.
  • Mrs D. Crone, 44 Canterbury Avenue [no suburb given. This likely Auntie Leonore (Crone’s) home. The Crone’s were butchers in Donald for many decades. W. G. Pearse’s daughter, born in 1897 as Leonore Victoria Pearse, married David Crone from Donald, and died in Bruthen in 1959. Crone’s phone number ‘W2482’ had been added to the Memoranda section of the diary.]
  • Douglas Bligh, 47 Ebden St, Kyneton. [The address is the same as the former Methodist Church in Kyneton. A ‘Reverend Bligh’ was a former Donald Methodist Minister, and Douglas was likely his son.]
  • ‘Peggy’ [no surname], ‘Stonycroft,’, 140 High St, Northcote. [Peggy Browne, likely with Donald connections, is the only ‘Peggy’ mentioned in the diary, in association with Alison Lelean [the daughter of then Donald (medical) Dr Lelean.]

On arrival in Melbourne Jack was greeted by ‘Uncle Bill’, almost certainly W. G. [‘Banker’] Pearse. On his first day at school he also met Owen and David Parnaby* as well as Lawrie Maddock. [Reverend P. Parnaby was a Donald Methodist Minister: Owen and David were their sons. Owen (1921-2007), aged 15 in 1936, later became long-serving Master of Queens College at University of Melbourne (between 1966 and 1986). David Parnaby later became a well known forester in many places across rural Victoria: Indeed ‘Dave’ was the Chief Forester for the Forests Commission in Daylesford when I first moved there in the mid 1980s. Dave and Shirl’s son, Harry introduced me to bats and wildlife research, and I helped him enroll on his first day at Monash University, later to take out a PhD in bats. Dave gave me a part time job as a (then unemployed) rural 26 year old on the RED (Rural Employment Development) Scheme [an early, Whitlam-era, ‘Work for the Dole’ scheme during the mid-1970s recession]. My job looking at hollow dependent mammals and birds in the Wombat Forest later became my Masters thesis in Environmental Science. How the world turns, but often reconnects intergenerationally.

Lawrie Maddock was perhaps the son of William Francis Maddock and Eliza Maddock, of Toorak, Victoria. Their Laurie Maddock later became a member of the Royal Australian Artillery, one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore. A Warrant Officer Class 2 Lawrie Maddock, aged 25, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 24 July 1945. ‘Maddock’s phone number, ‘Windsor 7132’, had been added to the back of Jack’s diary.

On the first weekend Jack took leave from the boarding house and went out to ‘Auntie Lizzie’s’ (Isabella Elizabeth Pearse’s) at Mathoura Road for Saturday afternoon and evening, and then to ‘Auntie Kate’s’ on Sunday afternoon.

For his second weekend, ‘Uncle Bill’ phoned him to arrange to take him to the pictures. This theatre outing with Uncle Bill may have been with W. G.,’s eldest son, William Nicholas Pearse* (whom I called ‘Uncle Nick’), who would have then been 26 years old. On Sunday he went to Uncle Will’s, but only ‘Margaret’ and  her sister, ‘Auntie Mollie’ were home. ‘Auntie Mollie’ was the war-widowed daughter of W. G. Pearse (born in Creswick in 1861) and Auntie Lizzie.

Mollie had married Edward George Spencer (son of the Frederick and Mary Spencer [nee Morrison], farmers from Dartmoor in 1917. E. G Spencer likely met Mollie when he went to Laen and Lawler Presbyterian Church as the missionary preacher immediately prior to World War 1). Mollie’s younger sister, Leonore, was my Grandmother Golding’s (born Amelia Geake Pearse’s) bridesmaid.

That evening on his second weekend in Melbourne, Uncle Bill took him ‘… to St Kilda and to his wife’s home for tea. An evening at [Mrs W. G. Pearse’s] Mathoura Road spent very enjoyably.’

Aside from writing regularly to his then girlfriend, Enid Hancock, Jack also wrote regularly to home as well as to ‘Grandma’ Golding in St Arnaud. Enid Hancock was the daughter of Mr Harry Hancock of Donald and sister of Cliff Hancock*. Enid is mentioned over 20 times in the Donald Times newspaper between 1931 (when she ‘gashed her foot on a bottle’) and 1949, with her ‘approaching marriage’ to Vernon Brand. We know from these newspaper entries that Enid was a horse rider, a swimmer, a Girl Guide and a cyclist with links to the rural community of Laen. The year 1936, whilst Enid was Boarding at MLC in Melbourne, is the only year without a newspaper entry.

One early letter from Jack went to his cousins, Barney Pearse* (in Donald) and another to Chandler Percy. Some food parcels, including grapes (likely from Eric Golding’s* Mildura fruit block), arrived at the nearby Prahran station during his first month away from home. Clearly the grapes were not allowed in the dormitories, as on 12 March he wrote: ‘Have a dorm feed. Go down [drain] pipe and get grapes from locker 74.’

On the night of 21 March Jack went to Luna Park, but noted that the fudged, official leave excuse was ‘Go into the Times Theatrette’ then at 283 Bourke Street in Melbourne CBD. He noted other Wesley boys were there. The next day he walked to the (very recently opened) ‘Shrine [of Remembrance] and Botanical Gardens. Met the Weinberg family [Weinberg’s later had a small business in Donald and a farm between Donald and Cope Cope’, adding without explanation, ‘Lylia knows too much’.

In early April, ‘Uncle Jack’ [John Frederick Pearse*, Mollie’s younger brother, born 1891, died in Donald in 1976, and my idiosyncratic and favorite Uncle] and his wife ‘Aunty Vera’* (born Vera Adele Button, died 1960] visited Jack at school: ‘I show them over the school buildings. They are impressed . [In the 1930s the George & Alfred Nicholas brothers, of ‘Aspro’ fame, donated money for the construction of new buildings. The building work commenced in late 1933. The new swimming pool and gymnasium were completed in 1934 The new school was dedicated the following year in May 1937] have paid 175,000 pound to make Wesley what it is. They are still paying’.

The weekend before Easter Jack sees: ‘Mr Bligh, Mrs [Bligh], Doris [Golding, his sister], Douglas and Enid Hancock [from Donald, the latter boarding at MLC] at front fence. In afternoon I go to the Museum and walk around the city’.

On his first weekend back after the Easter holidays Jack goes out again to Mathoura Road. Uncle Ged* [W. G. Pearse’s, brother, Geddie Thomas Pearse born 1893, died 1966] is there’. He later goes ‘… to the Village Theatrette with [Mollie’s daughter] Margaret Spencer. We play cards. (I end up with three pound 16 shillings in debt [This is a huge debt for its times, unless, as was the tradition with some card playing devout Methodists who were discouraged to gamble, a theoretical debt]. I had late leave, got back to school at 11 o’clock’. On Wednesday 22 April Jack writes: ‘Walk into the city and see an exhibition of photography at the Athenaeum Theatre (upstairs, called ‘Salon Photography’). The next day he visits perhaps the same ‘photographic exhibition (Collins St)’.

During his second week back at school after Easter, Jack noted that: ‘It is only one week to the exams’, but otherwise seemed unconcerned about this fact. By Friday of that same week he sounded as if he was at a loose end, writing: ‘No item of sufficient interest to grace the page of this, my 1st regular diary took place today’. He rang Mathoura Road to again spend the weekend there. On the Saturday: ‘I go to the ANZAC march at the Shrine. We (except for Margaret and mother) go out to Uncle Darby’s for tea. Barbara and I do not fight. Uncle Ged’s foot is to be given ray treatment on Tuesday’. On Sunday: ‘Go to church in Toorak Road in morning (Centenary service). Go for drive in car in afternoon. Meet Mrs Cook, widow of Donald Minister. Do not go to church in evening, Write home.’

On most June weekends after the May holidays, Jack went out to Mathoura Road for the day. On 5 June he arrived for dinner unexpectedly as: ‘Laurie forgot to tell them I was coming. [On Saturday] I go with Auntie Mollie to city. Aunty goes to Carlton and Collingwood football. I go to School Scotch versus Wesley [football]. I have tea in Prahran. I go down to Luna Park. Meet Roddy’s girlfriend “Shirley”’.

On Sunday 21 June Jack was again back at Mathoura Road, including tea for Barbara Crone’s 14th Birthday, having written ‘… had fish and chips from Prahran (interesting)… ’ on the Saturday evening.

The following weekend he thankfully gives the people at Mathoura Road a rest, writing beforehand ‘… to Auntie Kate asking if it will be convenient to have him for the [monthly leave] weekend and possibly some of the Monday’. The same week he writes to his girlfriend Enid, ‘including a paragraph praising Charles Wilson’.

Jack spent the whole rainy weekend with Aunty Kate, going to the pictures in Gardiner with her on Saturday and having two very late nights without further elaboration: ‘In bed at 2am Sunday and 1.30am Monday. Cath’s [Trawin’s] boyfriend Harry was also staying at Trawin’s for the long weekend and they all went out with Auntie to see the picture ‘Top Hat’.’ [a 1935 American screwball musical comedy film featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers].

On 1 July Jack writes: ‘Receive a letter from Mother. Father has not had time to write. He is stocktaking’ This was a time consuming, annual end of financial year audit of stock, still a huge job during my childhood. He spends the following Saturday in the city unsuccessfully trying to find out ‘where Bernard Hogan is employed’. He meets ‘Barbara Crone and Margaret Spencer at Manchester Unity corner. We go out to Pearse’s for dinner with them. I stay for tea. In the afternoon I go with Barbara and see “Mutiny on the Bounty” [A 1935 American drama film directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable]. Margaret has a lot of people out for tea’.

On July 6 Jack receives ‘… a letter from Margaret Brownell and Alison Lelean (on an invitation card) inviting me to an evening on 25th’. A later diary entry records the evening was ‘given by Alison and Margaret (Peg) at Mr/Dr Brownell’s. I have a good time’.

Two weeks after he posted home his First Term report book he met up with his Mother, Amelia, Uncle Os [John Oswald Pearse] and Auntie Het [Henrietta Fleming Pearse] at the Victoria Palace [where they often stayed, then in little Collins Street], ‘… having tea with them at the Criterion [Hotel in Collins Street]’. Os was down to have his tonsils out at St Ives Hospital [then on Wellington Parade. East Melbourne], so they all stayed down for the week, meeting up with Jack again on the weekend, including a visit to the Shrine [officially opened only 18 months before, on 11 Nov 1934]. On the Sunday he went ‘… out to Mrs Trawin’s with mother [Amelia]. Before[hand] I show her over the school, kitchen and other buildings.’ Amelia went back to Donald by car with Mr Arthur Moore [then Donald Auctioneer and Station Agent] on 21 July, and Jack again visited Het and Os at the Victoria Palace on 23 July.

Jack was back at Mathoura Road on the weekend of 26 July, ‘to Mr & Mrs Chellew’s for Mrs 70th Birthday, to Aunties for tea, Church at Toorak Road.’

During the week of 10 August his father Walter came down to Melbourne ‘… to have his books audited’. On the Tuesday he had ‘… tea in the cafeteria of the Victoria Palace. [Walter] is going to see John Calhoun [Donald Doctor] in hospital injured in football Friday and then out to Auntie Kate’s to see all out there’.

The first three weekends after the September holidays Jack was back at Pearse’s at Mathoura Road. However his request to go to Mrs Bert Bassett’s Silver Wedding Anniversary [Bert, B. M. Bassett managed a Donald family hardware business then in opposition to Golding’s hardware business. In 1936 Bert was also President of the Donald Shire] on the evening of 26 Sept was denied by Mr Kennedy. He was, however allowed leave to go to the Melbourne Show with his father on 24 Sept, also meeting ‘Mr Rowe’ there, noting that his cousin, Ivan Pearse was there with the YAL [Young Australia League: an Australian organization promoting nationalism and patriotic values]. He also saw ‘Mr Dunstan and brother Premier’ [Sir Albert Dunstan from nearby Cope Cope, was then Victorian Premier, from April 1935 to September 1943, and also from September 1943 to October 1945] at the Melbourne Show.

Jack and the bullying in the boarding house

There was evidence of a lot of early bullying towards Jack, that continued on and off in the Wesley College Boarding House for the whole school year. Some of it was evidently due to the fact that he was a ‘newie’ and therefore (un)fair game for bullying by the ‘old boys’. Even when I was in the same Boarding House in the 1960s, violence and intimidation through bullying, mainly directed at lower status and vulnerable ‘new boys’ by ‘old boys’, beginning with ‘initiation’ were rife.

On Jack’s second day he writes: ‘Initiation begins. I tell joke and because I do not sing get dozed’. Likely this is a reference to being bull-dozed or bullied, but I invite feedback from anyone who knows better. On the third day he writes: ‘At night have an aeroplane ride but back unsteady, Asked to get cascara [laxative] pills. Get painfully dozed.’ On the next day he writes: ‘Do many duties for past students’. At the end of the first week he writes that he was: ‘ … Reprimanded about my form of address’. On the weekend he reflects that: “Boys are given 24 hours to confess guilt”.

In his second week Jack was feeling somewhat more positive, starting the week with the entry: ‘No trouble today. The questions (33) we had to answer [presumably by the older boys] were stopped by the headmaster’. Again in the fourth week: ‘Day spent without incident’ as well as: ‘Old boys do not bully much now’. However the bullying had resumed by March 16. ‘Old boys give me two doz. They are becoming very frequent’. Again on April 6: ‘School down here is now becoming regular routine. Except for “old boys” bullying’.

With Easter at home in sight his spirits lifted. His diary entry on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Easter read: ‘What a day! School runs smoothly. Not even an argument with an old boy. No lines. All homework done … I go down to Prahran and buy chocolates etc. for mother and an Easter egg for Doris. I also have a haircut. Eric Bartlett gets my [train] ticket at Tourist Bureau.’

‘Fun’ (with violence) after lights out resumes two weeks after the Easter break. On May 2: ‘Old boys make “newies” crocodile into the Junior Regatta.’ On May 6: ‘… the boys make a lot of noise after lights out. Midgely crows, clucks, bow wows etc. Sykes imitates Big Bertha [a type of super-heavy World War 1 German howitzer], motor racing etc.. Dozes are becoming a punishments (for nothing) unreasonable.’

The Friday of that same week was a big day on the Public School Calendar: the Head of the River on the Barwon at Geelong. Jack had written to his friend, George Lance and arranged to meet him there. He had ‘… dinner, 1/9 at the ‘ABC’ café [then in Moorabool Street, Geelong]. I go to river, see George Lance, Mrs Lance, Mrs Parnaby, Wrigley family, grandfather, Uncle Eric [Golding] and Auntie Flo’. Jack travels back to Geelong by train the next day for the final of the boat races, seeing Cath Trawin at Nestles beforehand. Wesley had won the first heat on the Friday but on the next day was beaten by Geelong College in the final.

In mid June Jack notes that: ‘Roddy and Bowen are caught smoking by Mr Pescott in the afternoon. They pay a visit to Mr Kennedy. Mr Kennedy is going to meditate a couple of days before his decision’. (As a post script, Roddy and Bowen later got the option of ‘… 5 ‘whacks’ or 25 lines. They take the ‘lines’ option but do not deliver, the punishment then being blown out by 26 June to 250 lines) [Use of the cane in some schools persisted very late. There was an actively used caning register in some Ballarat public schools when I began secondary school teaching in Ballarat in the late 1970s].

On 18 June there were more adolescent pranks. Jack writes in breathless journalese: ‘The boys push a car owned by a boy from Newman College. It was left yesterday because it would not start. The car started and the car careered around front plot many times Sykes and NAME BLOCKED OUT ring leaders. Policeman on bicycle turns up. Boys scatter. Prefects on balcony take names. Mr Stewart comes out. I go to back turf and play football.’

On 30 July bullying by old boys in the boarding bouse was still happening, confirmed by: ‘The old boys are rather cruel still, especially Rodwell’ [James Rodwell rowed at Number 6 in the 1936 Wesley Eight at the Head of the River, His friend Dave (D. H.) Parnaby rowed as stroke]. Again on 9 July: ‘The old boys bully. I have a wrestle with Jimmy Rodwell. I come out loser but I am not touched at all for 10 minutes (because I would not swap knives)’.

Whilst swimming on 21 August Jack came back to his room ‘… to find blankets underneath mattress, drawers changed, pyjamas knotted etc., Money has been stolen daily for the last few days including 1/ from mine’.

On 26 Oct ‘Davey, Dunn and Elms ‘… take my slippers off at the bottom of the front turf. I have to come back to school and sit through prep with only one slipper. One slipper returns during prep’ [‘prep.’ was a supervised, ‘preparatory’, evening time for doing homework].

The Boarding House bullying was there right to the end of the year. On 26 Nov Jack writes: “I will not compete in a game in dormitory on Thursday night in which the blinds are pulled and they crawl on the floor with loaded socks swinging at each other. The result is that I am outlawed and bullied. They throw my bed out the window. Roddy goes down [drain] pipe and retrieves it.’ The next day again: ‘My clothes and everything in the wardrobe are thrown about twice today by Roddy and ?Crong? respectively.’

Jack struggling with his school studies (but developing some diversions)

Jack started his Leaving Certificate studies and boarded at Wesley College for just one year in 1936. Many boarders would have started several years earlier. ‘Old boys’ towards the top of the rigid Boarding School hierarchy were likely better adapted to the very different teaching and living arrangements than he experienced as a newbie 15 years old boy in Form 6A, and also less bullied.

 

Jack was impressed and amused in his first week of classes: ‘Teachers very amusing. History master knows history off by heart, he relates story of about 20 murders straight off’’. In the second week he had his first gym session and noted that he was ‘… Getting into the way of the school and beginning to get a grasp of the new subjects’. By his third week he bravely writes: ‘Have not yet got home sick. I think only those who are used to being a long time away from home get home sick. [School] Still a novelty.’ He rationalised that he was ‘… kept occupied at prep times, not even time to write letters’, and prophetically complained that: ‘Homework too much is the curse of all school life’.

By his third weekend away from home Jack began to sound despondent: ‘[Satur]day spent reading papers, reading “The Term of his Natural Life” etc. Time hangs heavily on hands. I have not met (accidentally) anybody I know from Donald yet.’ On Sunday: ‘ Go down to Port Melbourne (walk) to visit warships. A great crowd there. Father arrives city 3.15 and he comes with me to Adamson at night’. [The warships he saw almost certainly included the recently commissioned light cruiser, HMAS Sydney, that would later be lost in action in 1941].

A few weeks later, on 18 March Jack noted that: ‘The day is drizzly and makes one forever worn out. Am beginning to look forward to seeing Donald again’, but again bravely adding: ‘Not homesick.’

On 24 March he received a letter from home ‘… enclosing birth certificate and authority to learn dancing, also authority to come home (at) Easter’. His first school report arrived on April Fools Day, with Jack remarking that most boys seemed ‘… more sober about observing (the Day)’. The report, however, was no April Fools Day joke, and disappointed him, tersely adding, ‘It is not as good as I expected’.

Whilst his school studies may have been mediocre his Monday dancing classes went ahead in leaps and bounds. By 4 May 4 he is up tempo and writes: ‘I go dancing in evening and show great improvement. Quickstep and Waltz have been mastered by most after five lessons’.

By mid May Jack was ‘… looking forward to going home. Uncle Eric* [Golding: my grandfather’s brother from Mildura] is up there with his wife and family.’ After the late May school break the regular Monday dancing classes resumed. On 8 June: ‘I go dancing. We learn many new steps. I have two dances with dreadful partners. One has knees bent the other is not flexible. I have improved during the holidays.’ The following Monday evening he goes dancing again ‘…. at 7.30. It finishes at five minutes past 9. We are to meet, lane at side of Fawkner Mansions [still on the corner of Punt Road and Commercial Road in 2018] at quarter to 10. Charles Dunning does not turn up. We report back. His absence is not noticed.’

The pressure of school and particularly schoolwork was becoming evident by mid year. On 9 June: ‘I have a heap of prep. Lots of English, one of Economics, two of Bookkeeping, one of History. About four or five hours work. All to accomplish in two hours.’ A week later after school, Jack goes to Camera Club that includes a lecture by Mr Porter about developing. ‘I do not find anything to do after Camera Club. I have a large amount of homework tonight.’

By 22 June the dancing has moved on to ‘… a new form of rhythm dancing. It is the first time I have ever heard of it’. Dancing was still a regular Monday evening fixture in mid July, but Jack, in the lee of his recent, bad school report for Term 1 wrote that: ‘I do not think I will go dancing next term but my parents leave it in my own hands’. Camera Club on Tuesday had moved on to printing photographs and was still a weekly event. Jack continued to swim at least weekly in the College’s heated pool.

Jack claims in between to have studied hard, but perhaps a little belatedly in the week before his August exams. He found the English paper easy ‘… but time was too short, 2 hours for 5 questions’. The British History exam ‘… was no too bad but I know very little about it. The paper was so long I could not complete it’. Similarly for the Bookeeeping exam: ‘The exam paper was too long to finish in an hour and a half’. Whilst he ‘swatted hard’ for Commercial Principles and had no time to study Economics, he optimistically wrote both papers ‘are not too bad and I should pass.’

The 2nd term exam results came out on 24 August and were not good (see Result table, below), but Jack was trying to be upbeat, writing: ‘My exam results are greatly improved on last term, a couple are worse.’ Jack’s results for first term, included below as recorded in the back of the diary with his later results for 1936, were also disappointing. Jack was no scholar in relation to these subjects. A copy of his report book was posted home on 5 July.

Jack’s resolution, with his final exams only six weeks off, to ‘work hard’, was written on the first day back into Term 3 studies. But it was evident that his interests and skills perhaps lay elsewhere in the natural and technological sciences. He remarked on 29 September about ‘… a lecture from Professor Hartung in aid of University Women’s College (1/ admission). The subject was “How nature makes her colours”’.

The next week he visited Myers ‘Progress House’ in Elizabeth Street, which a Trove Search (The Argus, 3 October 1936) reveals opened that same week, showcasing “Where your happiest “home dreams” come true in a most practical manner- demonstrating the very latest in Building, in Interior Decorating, in Home Furnishing, and even Gardening’.

The same day he visited ‘The Model Dockyard’ that, an on line search shows:

… was a business founded by Captain E. H. James in 1932. Situated initially in Flinders Street, the shop became so popular that it relocated to larger premises at 469 Elizabeth Street soon afterwards. By 1936 it had moved to the basement at 216 Swanston Street, where it would remain for over 20 years, becoming something of a Melbourne institution and popular destination for both children and adults alike on trips into the city. The shop sold complete models, model maker’s lathes and other tools, kits, castings for models and blueprint plans, as well as a large catalogue of other model making supplies.

On 15 October Jack went to an ABC concert in City Hall under the baton of Dr Malcolm Sargent [an English conductor, organist and composer. Being popular in Australia with players as well as the public, Sargent made three lengthy tours of Australia and New Zealand in 1936]. ‘MLC is represented, Alison Lelean and a few other girls I have met from time to time were there.’

Jack again ‘swotted’ for the November Leaving Certificate exams, but perhaps too little and too late, writing on 29 October that: ‘History seems to be a favorite for me, for studying, not as a subject’. The next day: ‘I start the morning by not being able to see properly, everything flickers before my eyes. I have a splitting headache, probably occasioned by long hours of swotting. (?) I doubt it’. On the Sunday before exam week the terse diary entry reads quite honestly: ‘I endeavor to swat, almost unsuccessfully’.

The next day, before the Tuesday Melbourne Cup Day Holiday Jack laments with envy that: “Harry Brownell is going on a bike tour including Mt Dandenong. I wish I had a bike down here now.’ He later noted that Wotan, a 100/1 outsider, won the Cup that year.

Jack took ill the next day, experiencing ‘… a sore throat in the morning and get a headache. I am in school sick room’. By Thursday ‘the salts’ he was taking reduced his temperature, admitting: ‘I have my books with me but I do not study. Sister’s very nice and a charming conversationalist’. By Friday: ‘I feel like jumping out of bed (I do a couple of times). My mother and father and [sister] Doris come down for cricket. They come with grandfather in his Dodge car.’ On Saturday: ‘My mother and sister come to hospital. Doctor comes and lets me get up at dinner time. I go and see ‘Showboat’ [a musical in two acts, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, first performed in 1927] at Regent with Doris (father and mother at Victoria [Hotel], but get to see Uncle Will. I am back at school at 8 o’clock. Matron expected me for tea. I go to bed in hospital.’

By the following week Jack is belatedly swotting English and History, accurately writing that: ‘My History chances are 10 to one against me passing’. After the History Exam Jack accurately predicts: ‘I do not think I will pass.’ The next day he writes: ‘I swot Commercial Principles a little (very little) … I do know the work fairly well afterwards’. On the Monday after the exam he (accurately) predicts: ‘I really expect to pass. I will be really surprised if I don’t. I try to study Economics.’ After the Economics exam Jack writes that: ‘The Economics exam was pretty stiff. But I may pass or fail’. Again, an accurate prediction, with a mark of 50%.

The entry on 17 Nov, in the middle of the exams only a month from the end of the school year is perhaps something of a disappointing bolt from the blue. ‘I receive a letter from father in the morning telling me I will not be back at school next year’. The next day Jack seems to have lost his belief in passing, and writes: ‘I don’t study in prep but read a novel. I go for a swim after school. I swim 47 yards underwater’. The next day as the mediocre results start coming, in he contemplates as he writes: ‘ I shall probably sit for supps’ [supplementary exams] and writes to Enid, for ‘… the first for 6 weeks’.

With the exams finished Jack goes ‘… to see “Monte Carlo Russian Ballet “at her Majesties Theatre with all the boarders and the resident Masters at Mrs Stewart’s [Headmasters wife’s] expense and to her home for supper. … I come back to school in McFarland’s Buick Coupe’ [1936 was the first year that Buick offered the sport coupe body style on a Special chassis. Only 2,003 were built. 1936 was the year that ‘Buick’s turnaround’ began. ‘There was so much new for 1936 – dramatic new styling, hydraulic brakes, slanted v-type windshield, bullet-type headlamps, turret top bodies, independent front suspension, new alloy pistons and improved water temperature control’]. Jack goes out to Mathoura Road for the second last time on 21 Nov, spending ‘… morning shopping with Auntie Mollie, Uncle Ted [Barney Pearse’s father]’.

The penultimate weekend at school is spent at Auntie Kate’s. On the Sunday they go down to Mentone with ‘J. Bright, Uncle Alby etc’ [Uncle Alby was Leonore’s husband]. We have a swim in the sea.’ In the last week Jack, as he predicted sits a supplementary exam in History and (accurately) predicts he will not pass. (When he learnt he got 45% in the last week of school he wrote: ‘Tough luck’).

On the final Friday the whole school goes on an excursion by train to Yallourn [a complex of six brown coal–fuelled thermal power stations built progressively in the La Trobe Valley from the 1920s to the 1960s]. ‘We inspect open cut, power house, briquetting works.’ Jack goes out to Mathoura Road for the final weekend.

Jack’s 1936 School Leaving Certificate results by Term

Subjects 1st Term Marks 2nd Term Marks 3rd term Marks
History 37 37 39 + 45
Bookkeeping 47 55 59
English 35 56 56
Economics 30 54 50
Commercial Principles No exam 44 56
Averages 40.25 49.2 53.2

Getting home and away on holidays

Easter of 1936 was Jack’s first chance to get home to Donald from boarding school, and he squeezed a lot into five days, going straight to ‘… see Dorothy Beckham and Enid. Both looking well. Go down street in evening. Go to Chandler Percy’s’. On Good Friday he rode his bike and then went ‘… to see Norman Wrigley in hospital. In afternoon play tennis at “Bassett’s” with Barney [Alfred William Geake Pearse, born 1919, then 17, Bob [Robert Wyatt Pearse, born 1921, then also age 15] and Tom [Thomas Francis Pearce, born 1923, then age 12]’. On Saturday he goes down to ‘Grandma’s’ [Olivia Golding’s, in St Arnaud. Olivia was widowed when her husband, William Golding, died three years before on 14 April 1933 in St Arnaud] for the afternoon and stays for tea, noting that: ‘The shops are open here in St Arnaud. I see a portion of tennis tournament [A St Arnaud annual fixture for many decades to the present in 2018]’. On Sunday he went twice to [Donald Methodist] church. On Monday Jack visited Ivan [Pearse’s] for the day and went ‘… shooting, in morning with double-barreled 12-bore shotgun (Ivan’s) and in the afternoon with my four-ten. We did not shoot anything except grass parrots’.

When Jack returned to school on Easter Tuesday he noted that he was leaving ‘… all at home well’, and that returning to school was ‘like coming home’. On his 16th Birthday soon afterwards (17 April 1936) Jack received a letter from his mother, Amelia, whom he quotes as saying your ‘Father (is) feeling quite old having a 16 year old son. Also (enclosed is a) postal note for 2/6’.

The long, two-week break home in late May was again packed with action in and around Donald, though it started slowly. On the Saturday he writes:‘ The town is very quiet, very little to see or do.’ On Saturday after Church he had ‘… a talk with Alison Lelean and Peggy Browne’ who he joined for a game of tennis the next day. On Monday Jack ‘… kicked around the town and at the [Golding’s] shop’, then ‘in company of Chandler in afternoon’, writing that ‘Chandler is too shy’.

Social tennis was repeated in Donald several times that week, on Tuesday morning ‘with Alison and Peggy (i.e. Margaret)’ and in the afternoon ‘… with Enid, Curtis and other girls and boys. They come around for afternoon tea’. On Thursday the tennis was at Jean Bassett’s and included playing with Harry Willey [Willey’s were long time residents of Donald]. ‘I stay out at Bassett’s and go to ‘Prize Giving’ [a then tradition associated with attendance and contribution to the Methodist Sunday School]. Alison sings in Fijian (to fill in space). I sleep at Bassett’s.’ The next day Jack played at farming: ‘On the morning I go on horseback from Bassett’s to round up some sheep and bring them to the homestead. In afternoon go droving and shifting sheep. Also I drive Ford truck a little bit’.

On Wednesday of his first week of holidays, Jack also went ‘… out in the car (Dodge) with Mother, Alison, Peg and Dorothy Beckham to Jean Bassett’s and in the afternoon went shooting with Bert and Chandler’. Things hotted up on the weekend with ‘… a dance and “sav and roll supper”, where he caught up with Barney [Pearse] and Lawrie also Ron Curtis and ??Flip?? Hancock’.

The second week of the holidays it was more (or less) of the same: tennis, afternoon teas and shooting with Chandler’s .22 [rifle] and his own .410 [second smallest caliber of shotgun), mainly at tins and bottles’. Wed 17 May was Enid Hancock’s 16th birthday ‘… and we (about 16 of us) have afternoon tea at Cullen’s (to celebrate at Mrs H. Hancock’s expense)’. The next evening ‘I go to a social in aid of the Queen of Agriculture with Harry Willey. Have a jolly good time’. [Rose Black eventually took out the 1936 crown. In 1936 there was also a ‘Queen of Soldiers’, ‘Queen of Sport’ and ‘Queen of Railways’].

On the Friday morning: ‘Go out to the depot [Donald rubbish tip] with Harry. In the afternoon I go down to Grandma Golding’s [in St Arnaud]. I have a drive of the car. I go to a ball at Richavon in aid of the Queen of Agriculture’. The Saturday was wet but jam-packed with indoor social events at the Methodist Parsonage, playing ‘… table tennis with the girls at Brokenshire’s, At Adams’ for an evening. I have a good time, arriving home at nearly 2 o’clock [am Sunday]’.

The Sunday before heading back to school was the usual: Church and Sunday School, then a walk with Peggy, Alison and sister Doris. Tea was at home with lots of visitors: ‘Alison, Margaret Spencer, Laurie, Barney, Gwen, Mr Bassett’.

Jack received a letter from his mother on 21 August ‘… that I can go down to Warrnambool to ??Nell’s?? for the holidays’, later taking the train down from Melbourne, proudly wearing his new purple Wesley College blazer. The next day Jack and George Lance ‘… inspect the city, and study wireless and microscopy. I go to Childers Cove shooting. We did not shoot anything’. Blind Freddie could see that the business-oriented subjects Jack was studying (badly) at school were a long way from his interests in these new, practical technologies.

That evening he, George and Mrs Lance went to see the picture ‘Rhodes of Africa’ [a 1936 British biographical film charting the life of Cecil Rhodes]. Over the next few days there was more microscopy and messing about with George Lance with ‘… the [crystal] wireless set’ as well as going down to see the Golding relatives in Port Fairy. Aside from making a crystal set [from 1920, crystal sets were superseded by the first amplifying receivers and became obsolete for commercial use,, but continued to be built by hobbyists, youth groups, and the Boy Scouts, mainly as a way of learning about the technology of radio] and listening to the wireless, they both ‘… caught and photographed insects under the microscope. We take photographs at night, of needle points and aphis knees with home made attachment for taking prints of things’. The crystal set they made, presumably from a kit, ‘… has a guaranteed thousand mile reception’. [George would go and develop his passion for electronics, radio (and later TV) post-war to establish the well-known ‘Lance and Yorke’ business in Sturt Street, Ballarat.

One week into the holidays Jack met up with Mrs [Vida] Golding and Geoff who came [from their home in Port Fairy. Auntie Vida had married Rupert William Golding, my grandfather’s brother, in 1924] to Warrnambool for Geoff to have ‘his sight fixed’, before going up to Donald on Saturday with George Lance and his mother via Lake Bolac and Ararat. ‘Down the street’ in Donald that night they met up with Bert Reeves, Harry Brownell, Alison and Arthur Lelean. ‘I do a little rifle shooting after visiting ‘War Museum’. One morning they threw boomerangs, another morning playing social tennis, another Jack was riding his bike.

Next day: ‘George and I see a little of the town and visit Sproats to see lake. Little lake [Buloke] in the morning, Big Lake [Buloke] in afternoon’ [That year the Richardson River had ‘run a banker ‘and filled both lakes]. On Monday night Jack goes to: ‘University extension lecture, “Has the League of Nations Failed?’ with Bert Reeves [The League of Nations was founded in 1920, after some notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis Powers in the 1930s]. The rest of the week in Donald he spent a lot of time also with Harry Brownell and Harry Willey, again: ‘… going out to Sproats’ and also to ‘Devon Park’ [Pearse family property where Jack’s mother was born] and one of the Trollop’s with grandfather’.

On a third trip to Sproats it was time to ‘play up’, writing proudly that: ‘4 of us’ (Harry Willey, Jennie, Hannah and Marjorie Bronte) buy Garrick [Australian brand] cigarettes and smoke’. That Saturday evening at a Blind Concert they all ‘… smoke at interval’ and later ‘… take the 2 gals home’, arriving home just before midnight. Perhaps to appease his sins before returning to school on the Monday by car, on Sunday Jack went to church twice as well as to Sunday School. As a post-script, for most of his adult life Jack was a Rechabite, a devout non-drinker of alcohol.

The trip back to school in Melbourne was by car and train. The car trip from Donald to Ballarat (with ‘Mother and Grandfather’, where they visited relatives ‘Hopkins, Powell, Jenkins’) took around three hours (‘from 2 minutes to 9 to just before a quarter to 12’). From Ballarat Jack took the Melbourne train, leaving Ballarat at 6.06pm and arrived back at school in Prahran at 10.10pm. On his first day back, there is evidence that Jack had likely had a stern talking to whilst at home, writing: ‘I have formed a resolution to work hard and to lead a good Christian life’, with the word ‘good’ having been inserted later before the word ‘life’.

 Several times during 1936 there are diary entries that refer to the then Australian military build up. On 27 July he went to Myers to see an Imperial Airways [the early British commercial long-range airline, operating from 1924 to 1939] exhibit of model aircraft. On 21 September he went to a series of lectures on Post-War Germany lasting over two hours, writing presciently, ‘I find it very interesting. It shows Germany up in a bad light.’ 

Jack’s tight school finances

Being away from home at boarding school for Jack meant being on a tight personal budget, then carefully recorded in pounds, shillings and pence on the Monthly ‘Cash’ pages in the back of the diary. His family was far from well off and Jack was always very careful with his money.

We know he went down in Feb 1936 with 12 shillings. Within a week he wrote in his diary: ‘ Spent 4/6 on second hand books. Funds getting low. Liabilities more than assets.’

His cash reserves were supplemented by ‘pocket money’ of 1/9d (around 20 cents in 2018 decimal currency), and augmented in March with a ‘gift from Aunty Lenore 2 shillings, Father 2/6’. A recurring early expense was one shilling for a locker key.

By mid year it was time for a top up, with ten shillings from father, 2/6 from grandfather and several 4 shilling ‘undisclosed’ entries during June, from their timing likely from W. G. Pearse or Auntie Mollie. Things were pretty tight, as Jack even recorded finding 4 pence in a wardrobe. By July there were 2 shilling contributions from Auntie Het, and 1/6 from his mother. By September, Jack had 22 shillings for safe keeping by the Housemaster, Mr Kennedy. One pound went in exam fees in October, later reimbursed from home.

 

The diary entries often mention finances. On 11 June ‘I receive a letter from home stating two singlets and three sets of underpants have been sent and asking me to ask for money to buy a pair of slippers. I go to Prahran. No parcel at station. I price scarves in shops.’ A week later: ‘I receive a letter with 7/6 enclosed to buy a scarf. I buy one [in Prahran] at Foy and Gibsons [one of Australia’s earliest department store chains] for 4/11’.

‘Lines’ as punishment

A full page of details about ‘ lines’: a then common, mindless but time consuming punishment for school misdemeanors, was written into the ‘Memoranda’ page, summarized in the table below, by date, the number of lines required to be written as punishment, sometimes including who gave the lines (House or Prefects), plus the offence that Jack committed to receive the lines. In one case he received corporal punishment: three ‘whacks’, presumably by cane.

The entries on 1 and 2 July tell the extended caning story.

Tonight [1 July], Mellor, Price and Bridgeborn were to have a run around the passages. We start off. Rodwell calls us back. I stop, the others keep going around the corridor. Mellor misses the step near the pastor’s study and goes in and hits the table. Mr Pescott comes round. I hide in the drying room. We go round and lock the study. I get my first whacking (X3).

The next day [2 July] ‘… is the first public school football match. Scotch won by about five goals. I yell myself hoarse. I get six whacks from each of Rodwell, ?Crang?, Bowen because I do not stay behind the goals the whole time’.

Jack writes on 12 May: ‘Have not had any lines since 28th [April]. Also I have not been whacked so far this term (touch wood)’.

Jack’s Lines in 1936 (exactly as recorded in his diary)

Date Number

of lines

Who from? Offence
Feb 25 50 House No books ready to begin prep.
March 15 50 House For being in bed in nude.
March 23 100 Prefects Because a boy flicks nail file in spare
April 7 50 House Because out of dorm after “flicker”
April 22 50 House Because boys make noise in prep.
April 27 100 House For coming to tea without tie tied
April 28 100 ?? Because boys make noise in prep.
June 24 50 Prefects For shifting a table in common room
June 30 50 Being doubling for not doing on 24th
July 1 3 whacks from Mr Kennedy for running in passages, but I did not let him know I did not …
July 9 100 Prefects For coming into spare late.
July 30 50 For coming down to breakfast late
Aug 7 50 For fighting in JR (common room)
Aug 8 50 For coming back after 2 minutes to (after pictures)
Oct 21 100 For passing note in prep.
Oct 29 100 For arriving assembly late
Nov 10 50 Caught on the stairs at 8 o’clock
Nov 26 100 For forgetting I was on letter duty

Jack’s physical activity

I knew my father in mid life as a good swimmer and extremely good at swimming very long distances under water, something I learned from and copied myself. In his second week at school as a 15 year-old adolescent boy Jack practiced swimming 25 yards underwater for a ‘wager’ (bet) with Douglas James that he won. By the end of the year he was doing close to 50 metres underwater!

Jack tried rowing for the first time in his third week away, writing: ‘It’s a fine sport. David Parnaby is in first crew. Bowen is in seconds.’ He liked it so much he went rowing four days that same week.

In the fourth week at Wesley Jack went in the school swimming trials and came third in the open 50 yards breaststroke. Swimming was certainly his forte and he also enjoyed cycling, but like me, he was certainly no land athlete. The same week he wrote that: ‘I am getting quite good at rowing’, some of it in a ‘practice team four’ that he later noted was ‘… the equivalent of about a fifth eight’. On the weekend of 14 March Jack went out with Auntie Mollie and had a ‘… three-mile swim along the Yarra from Grange Road Bridge to the Boat Houses near Princes Bridge, returning to Toorak by bus’.

Perhaps he got a bug from the lower Yarra River swim? By late March Jack was feeling ‘… off colour all day. See matron after school. Temperature 103.4 [F]. Influenza, headache, stiff in every limb. Go into hospital. Matron is rotten. Am not allowed tea. First meal I ever missed.’ Two days later and still in hospital, being administered ‘rotten salts’, Jack writes: ‘Am notified mother will be down [from Donald] and out [to see me] in afternoon. Mother calls, also grandfather, walks in, walks out and gives me 5 shillings.’ Jack’s mother, Amelia, returned the next afternoon with ‘… some oranges, 4 or 5 apples, carton of nuts and dancing pumps [shoes, tyoically with a low-cut front, the vamp, and without a fastening] (13/9). Also 2/ shout. Mother takes 7/ of mine home for Easter.’ The hospital stay lasted a total of six days, finally being allowed out on Monday afternoon ‘to Mentone with Uncle Jim and Uncle Alby’, where he ‘… saw sharks off Black Rock’.

Jack returned to the boarding house that evening … to dancing, involving a misunderstanding that Jack described as a ‘dickens of a row’. It seems the hospital matron wanted him in bed early and not dancing. The cold lingered almost until Easter.

Jack regularly barracked at the school football, but there is no mention of football otherwise when he was picked (on 16 July) ‘.. to play for Wesley’s “open” thirds against Grammar’ on the following Saturday. Jack played ‘… full forward in the left pocket’, a position he recalled with ironic glee to anyone who asked him about his non-interest in football decades later. Jack mentions football practice a few times in the weeks that followed, but has a sore leg at the time of the Saturday 1 August match and acts as goal umpire for the Wesley (seconds) match against Geelong Grammar. Football interest and participation disappeared without trace for much of the rest of his life.

Out of the blue on 4 August the boys get ‘… a talk a little about self abuse (masturbation) and about habits of boys, any generous character etc.’

By August 13 Jack wrote that: ‘I can now swim 34 yards underwater.’ A few days later, by swimming across rather than the length of the pool, he beat his record ‘by doing 52 yards (four widths of 13 metres each)’.

He was very aware of his weight. On his first day at school he weighed 8 stone five pound. August 27 he was 9 stone, 12 pounds, 14 ounces, height 5 foot eight inches.

In late September Jack tried out for the House athletic sports, trying the ‘weight putt (20 feet), long jump (14 feet) and hurdling (3 foot hurdles)’. Jack was disappointed that ‘… I can only [high] jump 3 foot nine inches’. He tried out a week later for the 880 yards but pulled out at 440. Trialing later for the 440 yards, he was not a runner and came last. He was less interested in competing and much more interested in using his camera to ‘… photograph chaps hurdling, jumps long and high’.

Not satisfied on the day of the last unsuccessful athletics trial, Jack challenged: ‘Bickart to a high jump. I cede him nine inches and beat him. I cede him 4 feet in long jump (am beaten), I cede him 200 yards in 880 yards (am beaten). I cede him 15 yards in 100 yards (am beaten). I was thoroughly worn out after 2 hours sport.’

Just before the end of the year it was time for what might now be called for ‘sex education’. On 25 Nov he wrote with wonderful but innocent juxtaposition: ‘Dr Featherson gives us a lecture on development of children in the vaginal cavity. He tried to tell us embryology that we all knew (at least I did). I get a letter from Enid’. The next day: ‘We get another sex lecture’.

Jack discovering girls

Unsurprisingly, as an adolescent boy of 15-16 years in 1936, Jack had a keen interest in girls generally and for much of the year, Enid Hancock in particular. In his third week away Jack went to the Plaza and saw [Shakespeare’s] ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’, remarking with some disappointment that ‘… only two groups of girls from other schools there’.

On 15 May Jack writes about coming home on the train to Donald for the May holiday ‘with MLC “dames”’, and seemed put out that the conductor removed the first class ticket holders (Mildura girls) from second class compartment that was [WORD ERASED] Margaret Taylor and [Jack’s then girlfriend] Enid’.

Throughout the 1936 diary Jack carefully records whenever he writes to and whenever he receives letters from Enid (as well as from home), but seldom mentions if or when he meets her. On 24 July the letter room Enid ‘… is of eight pages (small leaflets). I receive a different envelope and paper every time. Her grandfather died Sunday’.

Jack recorded on 5 August that: ‘I have not received and answer from Enid yet. I wrote July 29 in answer to an invitation to come to the pictures Saturday next’. On Thursday 6 August he records: ‘I receive a letter “note” from Enid. I answer it.’ And the picture invitation to the Capitol Theatre does happen on Saturday, with ‘… Enid, Winsome Warne and a Scotch boy’.

All mention of Enid, including letters between them, stopped for a month including during the September Holidays in 1936, but correspondence resumed, with a letter received from Enid on 23 Sept. He was clearly not only counting the number of pages but also the number of letters, noting that he had received ‘Enid’s 12th letter’ on October 1. One of the few times Jack mentions going out socially with Enid was on 9 October, albeit accompanied by other MLC girls, Joan Thompson and Geoff Risby, and again the next day when the same four again went to the pictures at ‘Hoyts Regent, Collins Street (seats 2/2 a piece), seeing “Follow the Fleet’ [a 1936 American musical comedy film with a nautical theme starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers], as well as ‘Don’t Gamble with Love’ [a 1936 American drama film], going afterwards with Enid and friend to the Victoria Cafeteria. ‘She [Enid] goes home to MLC about 7.30 and I walk in easy stages back to school (Not because I am low in funds).’

The table below suggests that the relationship with Enid had cooled by October. At the Combined Public School Sports on 31 Oct: ‘I meet Pegg Brownell and spend most of the day with her. I meet George Lance and on with him for five minutes. I also see Enid but do not speak to her. Alison is there but we do not see her’.

A page and a half of spare space in the back of the 1936 diary is devoted to a fascinating table chronicling the two way correspondence between Jack and his then girlfriend Enid Hancock from Donald, then also away at boarding school at Methodist Ladies College (MLC) in Hawthorn, reproduced below.

Jack’s record of two way correspondence between Enid Hancock and himself

(as written in his 1936 Wesley College Diary, pages 127 & 137)

Received Pages Sent Pages
March 2 1 March 4 4d
March 21 3 March 21 4
April 28 1 April 30 3
June 24 2 June 25 5
July 13 3 July 20 4
July 24 4 July 29 3
August 6 1 August 6 1
August 15 2.5 August 15 2
August 20 2.5 August 22 2
August 26 2 none sent
Sept 23 1.5 Sept 28 1
Oct 1 4 very small Oct 4 2
Oct 8 2 small Nov 13 2
Nov 25 2 small