Jack’s Wesley College Diary, 1936
Barry Golding, 10 August 2018
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 email@example.com 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
||1st Term Marks
||2nd Term Marks
||3rd term Marks
||39 + 45
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)
||No books ready to begin prep.
||For being in bed in nude.
||Because a boy flicks nail file in spare
||Because out of dorm after “flicker”
||Because boys make noise in prep.
||For coming to tea without tie tied
||Because boys make noise in prep.
||For shifting a table in common room
||Being doubling for not doing on 24th
||3 whacks from Mr Kennedy for running in passages, but I did not let him know I did not …
||For coming into spare late.
||For coming down to breakfast late
||For fighting in JR (common room)
||For coming back after 2 minutes to (after pictures)
||For passing note in prep.
||For arriving assembly late
||Caught on the stairs at 8 o’clock
||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)
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