Memories from Hurstville Public School and Kogarah Boys High School in the 1950s

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Kevin Curby, 2017

Interviewee: Kevin Curby
Date: 19 June 2017
Subject: Education in St George/ School memories
Interviewer: Birgit Heilmann
Transcript: Hurstville Museum & Gallery staff

For further details regarding this recording, you can find the recording in the Georges River Libraries Catalogue under Memories from Hurstville Public School and Kogarah Boys High School in the 1950s


Kevin Curby [KC]
Birgit Heilmann [BH]


Memories from Hurstville Public School and Kogarah Boys High School in the 1950s – Kevin Curby


This is an oral history interview with Kevin Curby, interviewed by Birgit Heilmann, at Hurstville Museum and Gallery, on the 19th of June 2017. And that’s for the oral history project, Education and School Memories of St George.

So, thanks for coming. I’m just asking you a few personal questions to start with. Some biographical information.

Biographical questions

[00:34] Can you please state your full name and address?

[00:37] I’m Kevin Giles Kirby from Cronulla.

[00:41] What’s your date of birth?

[00:42] 1945.

[00:48] And where were you born?

I was born in Hurstville, in the Hurstville Maternity Hospital, I think it’s probably called Woodford Hospital now, I’m not sure. um, but in the Hurstville Hospital, yes. 

[01:05] Did you grow up in that region as well?

I spent all my – yes, I grew up in Croydon Road, Hurstville, the house – we never moved from the one house, it’s opposite Kimberley Rd, just opposite the corner there. And I stayed there until I actually went teaching. So I lived in that house right through school, university, and then, as I said, I went teaching in 1972. No, not 1972, 1968, I’m sorry. 

[01:44] Can you just give me a little bit of overview of your family?

I was one of two children, my brother was seven years older than me. My dad was a boilermaker, and he worked at Chullora when I was young, at the railway workshop in Chullora, and later on, in other places including a boilermaker factory, boiler-making factory at Mascot. Mum didn’t work, she was a full-time housewife, if you like, domestic duties, and she-but she had done training as a seamstress or tailoress. But when Mum and Dad got married, she stopped work, and that was the way it was in those days, ’cause women didn’t work very much, not very many women, I should say, not very many women worked, after marriage. 

[02:46] My mum didn’t work as well, so—

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

[02:51] Thanks. So, can you just tell me where do you live now, and what do you do?

Yes, and now I live at Cronulla, [Section of Transcript deleted] which is sort of Woolooware, the boundary of Woolooware and Cronulla. We’ve been there for, uh, thirty-six years or something like that, – wow, – and I’m starting to feel a bit of the part of a place. And I’m a retired school teacher. I was a maths teacher for my career, and then retired about 12 years ago. 

Maybe we can talk about that later also a little bit, because then you also have the other side of schools, when you’re a teacher. (laughs)

I do. 

So maybe I’ll come back to that later.

Hurstville Public

[03:46] Let’s start with your school life memories. Can you just start telling me a little bit about where did you first go to school and what years were you there?

Right. My schooling was essentially, I’ll sort of cover a little bit more, a little bit wider to keep you in the picture. 


My schooling was essentially in two sites, one of them was at Hurstville, at Hurstville Primary, or Hurstville Public School, as it is called, and then I moved -, I went from there to secondary school to Kogarah. Now at Hurstville Public, I was in the boys’ school for Primary. I started in the infants’ school, and that site at that time, was in four sections: there was an infants’ school, from Kindergarten to Year Two, and then a Primary School for boys, years three to six, then a Primary School for girls, separate, Years three to six, and there’s also another school, a boys’ technical school, over the back, but all on the one block of ground, fronted by Forest Road, as it is today. So – you know, it was quite a, quite something for me ’cause I was in co-ed classes in infants, its Kindergarten, first and second year. And then when we went to primary school, which was just over the fence, so to speak, we were in an all boys atmosphere. And the girls were in the adjacent school, but there was a strip of sort of natural type vegetation, you might almost call it bushland, but only ten, twenty metres wide between the two schools. 

[05:49] So, for example, you would be together with girls and boys at the infants’, and then all of a sudden you’d split? 

That’s right.

And you wouldn’t, would you be together, for maybe recess, it was completely separate. 

Completely separate schools. Totally separate. And it stayed that way, for me, until I left school, and went to university. ‘Cause university is different. (laughter). 

[06:16] And so, what year did you start your —

Oh, I started primary school, oh sorry, infants. I started infants in 1950. When I was four and nine months – and in uhm, went to, you know, followed through, finishing primary school in 1956. Went to high school in 1957, and then finished high school in 1962. Yeah.

That’s a long time ago. 

Yeah, yeah. That’s right. And, um, so that was Kogarah Intermediate High School, that I went to.

[07:01] Just back to your memories, do you have any memories from your primary school, I know it’s a long time ago, but can you remember anything in particular, how for example, do you experience a school day. Would you do something in particular, you remember, was there anything that stood out to you?

Right, well in infants’, I’d walk to school. It was about a mile. What’s that, 1.6K, something like that. It was about a mile, and mum would walk with me to school. She’d drop me off at the gate, then she’d go back home. We didn’t have a car, my people didn’t have cars. So there’s none of that. And then, my memories there, are a bit scant, but I do remember as I say, being with girls, and also, in the infants class, we used to have an afternoon sleep. On the floor we’d have a mat, and we’d have a little bit of a sleep on the floor. I think that practice has changed, today (laughter). I think it’d be seen as a bit of a waste of time. Anyway, that’s the way it was, because there wasn’t much more out of preschool. So I never went to preschool. Not many kids did. So, yeah, so that was quite a pleasant experience, had nice teachers there, and that was good. Don’t remember a lot of other things about it—

[08:36] Did you have a school uniform, can you describe what you wore—

Not for infants, no. 

But for primary—

For primary, um no, not much of a uniform there, that I recall. But we did for high school. 


Yeah. So, moving on to the primary school, yeah I had some really nice teachers there, some of them  – I had a different opinion (laughs). But, some of the things I remember, yeah, in the primary – that’s right. I do remember we had a woodwork portable. A portable classroom for woodwork, that’s a timber classroom. That was for years Five and Six, where we did some crafts and some odd bits and pieces that was interesting. Unfortunately, the teacher died in the place one day, one morning.

[09:42] Oh, while you were there?

Yeah, yeah.

Oh my god.

So that was really upsetting, for the staff, and also for the kids. We had a teacher in year Six who was a deputy principal, who was relieving principal quite often, so we were left to our own resources a bit. But we weren’t a bad group. Got a bit rowdy sometimes, but generally okay. Um, the Hurstville Primary School also had opportunity classes for the bright kids from all around the area, in years 5 and 6. And those kids were targeted essentially from the going on to the full high school because there weren’t many full high schools in the area. There was Canterbury Boys High School, St George Girls High, what else was there. And that was about it, I think from memory, in the area. Because Sydney Tech was not there, originally, it only came out at about 1956, just as I was leaving the primary school. And of course that became another school for kids going on. With regard to that, with me going on from Primary to Secondary school, our cohort was the first cohort to actually go through into Kogarah Intermediate High School, with intention to the Leaving Certificate, the end of the schooling, it’s the equivalent to HSC now. I didn’t find that out till years later, that we actually planned for that. And so not many of that group went to Sydney Tech High, there was only a few from our class. I was not in the opportunity class, I was in the ordinary class. So not many of them went, if any, yeah.

Kogarah High School

[12:04] And how did you choose to go to Kogarah Intermediate Boys? That’s because it was convenient—

There wasn’t much choice. It was the local school. So, you either, was like um, Hurstville Primary, it was the local school, Kogarah High School was the local, Kogarah Intermediate High was the local school for us boys. 

[12:32] And so when you started going there, it was already planned that your class would progress through?

Progress right through, and the school would then, as we went through Kogarah Intermediate High School became Kogarah High, and then, progressed into year 4 and year 5, fourth year and fifth year, for the Leaving Certificate. So yeah, we were the first group to go through to the full, to completion at Kogarah High School. So again, it’s all boys at that time. Mind you, the year after I left, they made it co-ed. I don’t know if there’s a message in that, but—(laughs).

[13:19] yeah, I think maybe I’m interested to know see how, you’ve just completed school, just when these changes happened? Could you already feel that this was coming or how was the situation before they did a co-education? Was it somehow different or did you know that it’s coming up?

No, we didn’t know well, well in advance. I think we got, yeah, towards the changeover time, we got to hear that it was going to become co-ed. But, becoming co-ed wasn’t um a huge thing in a way because the girl’s school was right next door – separated by a steel mesh fence. (laughter) – and that has got some stories to it, but — 

[14:11] (laughs) you would talk to each other over the fence?

We would try to, uh, but that was the real challenge for the teachers you see because – between the two playgrounds, or the two buildings actually, the playground for the boys school was adjacent to that was the buildings for the girls school, and the girls playground was down a little bit further. But, um, the girls used to walk around a little passageway between the fence and their building and as I said there’s only a like a weldmesh fence between us. But a yellow line was painted on our playground, a little bit more than arm’s reach away from the fence so that we couldn’t, um, reach out and touch the girls or do anything (laughs) like that, and that was you know something that we would edge over now and again in our years, in our final years, as we were getting older. We’d sort of edge accross that line a little bit until we had to be told to move back (laughs)

[15:16] Would there be some punishments if you would cross the line?

Usually not, just depended who was there or if you pushed your luck too hard, you did it too much, yeah, you might get into – might be told to go and stand somewhere for a while and made make a fool of you. (laughter) That was punishment enough.

[15:37] Punishment in general, would you still have got some of the old-school punishments in class? Getting the cane, or anything like that?

Oh yeah. In the, the cane was given in primary school, um, I don’t recall in infants school, or in the lower primary. But in, yes it was given in primary school and it was certainly given in the boys’ high school. So, um, yeah there was swinging bamboo but also one of the science teachers didn’t like the cane so he thought it would be better to have a piece of wood and get us to bend over and touch our toes and whack us on the bum with it, you see. Of course, as soon as you do that some of the boys would put something inside their pants, to soften the blow, and if they put paper in there or a book or something and you hit them and he heard it. He made them stand there and take it out and give them the dose again. So, um, that was a source of mirth for us. (Laughs). A bit of a challenge to see what you could do because if you had a bit of paper or book in the back of your pants you knew you could play up a little bit more, you see —

[17:15] Yeah, of course.

Challenge him – you know. Ok, have a go at me! (laughs) So—

[17:22] So did you have some paper in your pants? (laughs)

Oh yeah (laughs). I think I got caught too. (laughs) I wasn’t very good at, uh, being devious. So, um, and of course as we got into more senior school I think they, it sort of petered out a bit, but, the —

[17:50] So let’s go back to your early days at Kogarah Intermediate Boys, can you remember the first day of school?

Oh, that’s a good thought. (laughs) Yes, I remember turning up there and of course we were all new and we were all in uniform, uniform for high school, which was a shirt and tie, and trousers – or shorts, I think we could wear shorts, and long socks. Uh, but we were all wearing our ties. Well, we’d heard about initiation and it was there. It was real. The older kids thought that it was a great time to get the new first year kids, and take the tags off their ties. So they’d grab you, rip the tags off your tie, pull your tie so to make it that damned tight you could hardly – you really had to struggle to get the tie off. (Laughs) – and then if you resisted, a couple of them’d take you to the basketball post and get your hands behind your back (laughs) sort of give you the stretch each way, you know. So, yeah, it was, those initiation things were there and – but they weren’t too bad, they didn’t leave you mutilated. (laughs)

[19:22] And was there a specific ceremony, like an official ceremony for the new people coming in? The first day, did the school do something?

Oh, there’s assemblies. We had assemblies. So it would have been one of those, yeah, nothing too formal. 

So you would have assembly every day?

Yeah, we’d usually have uh, in high school, yeah, usually have an assembly, morning assembly. Mm, we’d all be lined up in classes, in our class order, and that’d be the start.

[19:58] And what was the content of assembly? Can you explain to me what —

Oh, just announcements, uh, uniform checks. Not every day, but, you know, often enough and – uh, just you know go to class – I think there’s probably a roll call there as well. And so if it was raining, you’d just go to classrooms and it’d all be done there. But, uh, as I got older and I’m, as you know, a tall fella, and I grew up pretty quickly in high school, physically grew up, not mentally. (chuckles) But um, so I would stand out at the assemblies when I was in 4th or 5th year – and I, uh, got caught a couple of times for laughing when I shouldn’t’ve, because my mates were around me and they’d say something and you’d laugh and make a comment and the teacher leading the assembly would look down, he’d see me laughing, I’d cop it. And they’d all laugh a bit more. You’d turn around to curse ’em and you’d get into more trouble. (Laughs) But anyway – it wasn’t too serious.

[21:21] Yep

So, but another form of discipline there was detention, and that was lunchtime detention, and there was a little section in, um, of playground between some buildings, again demountable buildings near Regent St, and there was a spot, spots on the playground in, uh, – square alignment so that if you’re on detention for half of lunchtime you’d put one foot on the spot and you had to stand up there and everyone on detention had to have their spot.

[22:09] And, what would you get this for?

That was for, oh – coming in, sometimes coming in late or you know being very late or late a couple of times, if you – some other problems, yeah, but it was, regardless not very nice ’cause you had to stand really still.

[22:32] Yes, and talking about lunchtime, I’ve heard from my last interview about how they organise lunches, um, like the food, they had a cafeteria and I think in primary school they had the mums who come and cook for the children, so how was it organised at Kogarah?

Yeah, at Kogarah, we had um – you could order your lunch from the shop over the road, there was no actual canteen in the school as such – uh, so yes, you could order your lunch and then you’d go over there at lunch time and pick it up. – There was, uh, occasionally there might be a cake day or something, some mums that come along, it was similar at the primary school, Hurstville Primary. So, um Hurstville Public I should say, not Hurstville – that’s what it was really called. So, uh, yeah there was no canteens when I was there.

[23:48] And would you —

I’d take a [cut?] lunch, so I’d have a sandwich, maybe a piece of cake and a piece of fruit for lunch and biscuits or something or a piece of cake for um play lunch.

And would you stay at the school ground or go out with friends at some other places?

No, you – up ’til, to the intermediate, in the junior school if you like, you had to stay in the school grounds.  When we got up to 4th or 5th year then we could go out down the street a little bit, down to the next corner but there was prefects on duty, we had the school prefect system in high school, and the prefects were on duty at certain points around the perimeter, so that you couldn’t, you weren’t allowed to go through, and they’d stop you. 

Oh –

So, yeah, it was quite restricted there to pretty much the one street, there’s a, the shops on Regent Street, just down to the corner of, was it Montgomery, I think.


Yeah, yeah. Down near the station.

[25:11] Um, can I just —

Oh, by the way, Kogarah Super Centre wasn’t there then.

Oh yes –

At that time it was the still, the excavated section, the  leftover from the old tram terminus, which was down in that section. 

[25:32] Let’s talk about a bit of the area, and what would you do on your way to school and on your way home, would there be some particular shops you would go, or some other entertainment things you would do?

Yeah, I used to, going to and from school, I used to catch the bus from home because there was a bus service that went past our door and went round the corner where I lived. So I’d catch that bus from home to Hurstville Station, get the train from there to Kogarah and just over the road, up the street to go to school. And it was pretty straightforward – There was a time when I got into a bit of company with a few boys that wanted to smoke and so, a little bit of time there but not much, uh, was about a term. You know, they wanted to hang around on the station and have cigarettes and smoke in the train and get there right on the bell, I just got sick of it, yeah, pretty quickly. So, um, that was the other side of life, if you like, and on the way home it’d be the reverse. You’d go down to the station, you know catch the ……., but on the way home the, Hurstville Station, I used to get off at Hurstville, and Hurstville Station was not covered over like it is, it was open and had little white gravel on the platform, not tiles. (Laughs) Just gravel, with a concrete edging. And the trains didn’t have automatic doors on them, they were just manually opened and closed.

[27:20] So, us guys, you know, we’d stand in the doorway, doors open, coming in to the station and honestly the people must have thought we were mad, because the train’d be slowing down and we’d bail out this door, level with the stairs and run through the people onto the stairs and up and out – and lucky we didn’t knock anyone over. (Laughs) The people used to, some people got upset with us but we just kept running. (Laughs) – Yeah, so and then you’d, down the stairs, see we’d bail from the train to beat the crowd. Yeah, didn’t know what a crowd was in those days, but there you go. (Laughs) And then we’d, I’d come over to this side of Hurstville and then Forest Road, there was a bus stop up just past, to your right as you come down to Forest Road, turn right, up past the monument, there’s a little, there was a bus stop in front of the shops there. One of those shops was a cake shop – so some of us had gone in of an afternoon and get a bag of off cuts of the cake, ends of the cakes and that sort of things. They used to just put ’em in bags and go in and get 5 cents worth or whatever it was in those days. And, um, we’d all stand around out the front and eat ’em. (Laughs) But yeah, then it was go home, do whatever. Because, our friends were sort of a little bit dispersed in high school, they come from Blakehurst way, from Hurstville, you know, Carlton, all over, and from the Rockdale end, they come in from that end as well. But I carried a couple of mates through with me from primary school, so that was good.

That was good, yeah.


[29:28] Can you just explain a little bit more to me roughly the layout of schools, the memories of the classroom, how many kids would be in one classroom and anything you remember?

Yeah, could have up to 50 in a classroom.




Mm, and the classes were in, with originally fixed furniture, screwed to the floor. The ends of the desks were cast iron with, uh, and that desk, it had a timber top with a little cavity underneath it for putting your books in. And also had the seat for the desk in front. So the desk that you were at, you’d see them in old places. The seats would lift up, just swivel up and the seat that you sat on would be the front of the desk behind you— 

So you were kind of squeezed in,-

Yeah, you couldn’t move that furniture it was pre-designed and that was the way it was. And there would have been probably 4 or 5, and they were doubles, so 2 to a desk, and there would have been 4 or 5 rows of that and then later some other furniture came, they took, that was replaced with individual tables or double tables and single chairs. 2 to a desk and the odd single desk came in, yeah so that was something. There were different sizes for primary school and high school – so that was, and even in high school the classes were pretty big, ’cause I, interesting story there, was I didn’t know the classes were that big and one of my high school teachers, uh he was the principal at Kogarah High School when I went back there as head teacher, many, many years later – that was Don Napper and he came to me one day and he said ‘Oh, you might be interested, here’s the mark book I used when you were in school. And I said ‘Oh gee, yeah, look at that, there’s a few kids’. He said ‘Oh, no that’s only the first page’. (Laughs) He turned over and there was between 40 and 50 in that, and the classrooms that we used were fairly big.

[32:24]  We’d gone from, I might add here, that when Kogarah High School went from intermediate to full high, we had to get extra room, have extra accommodation. We didn’t have enough rooms. And so, the primary school was actually moving out of the Kogarah High School, had 3 schools on it at that time, the Kogarah Primary at the back end, sort of the city end, which included infants I think. And then there was the Kogarah Girls Domestic School and the Kogarah Intermediate High which is the boys’ school. When we started to expand and primary was expanding they didn’t have enough room they had to move to their new site and then we started to take over the primary school classrooms, which is in the very old two story building which burnt down some years after I left.  It was old and it was a beautiful old building but it was not looked after inside and in the first year we would be on the bottom floor and the primary kids hadn’t moved out so they’d be going up to the top floor, up a wooden staircase right alongside our classroom but the unfortunate part was the ceiling had cracks in it and the movement of the stairs as the primary kids went up meant that some of the sand and mortar out of the plaster up there would fall down and so we would writing…their lunchtime etc. was different to ours they’d come in once we’d started and so we’d be taking notes and brushing off the mortar and all that off our notepads on our books as we were going.

That’s funny.

It was yeah, those primary kids wish they’d go up there (laughs) wish they wouldn’t stamp their feet (laughs) no but it was all just— and then the following year [34:39] we just took over the whole lot of course – and so of course at that stage then we had that loose individual furniture. Hm.

Which is a bit better because you can arrange where you want to sit a little bit better. 

They were still arranged in the same alignment.

[35:00] but you could move your chair. 

yeah we could, yes, yes.

[35:07] Tell me a little about your teachers.  Can you remember any teachers? How were the teachers when you went to high school?

Generally they were good you know. I mentioned Don Napper [?] that I had, who was quite a young teacher when he arrived at the school- when I arrived. He was really nice. We had some really nice teachers with a variety of interests. One of the PE teachers did a bit of boxing on a Friday night down at the- what do you call it was they hold the concerts and that…

[35:57] the Rivoli?

No no, in the city, in the Cross [Kings Cross]. I’ll think of it in a minute. So anyway the others were as I was saying the others were quite varied and yeah, so – 

[36:15] Did you play any tricks on them? (laughs)

Yeeeah, yeah we did and we played a trick on the cleaners too, because when we moved into primary school there was all these desks with the wooden chairs and we – a few of us in the afternoon would hang back a bit and stand the chairs up in the pencil groove – there was a pencil groove along the top end of the desk. And we just sit the back of the chair in there – um there was  just enough friction to hold in the upside down position, but if you knocked one, -there is a real domino effect and we got into trouble for that. (laughter)

Because the cleaner came in and got one down and they ended up all on the floor. (laughs) so, yeah, it was — but we thought it was pretty cool. Uhm, it wasn’t so great after all. [37:19] There was a teacher we had in – or I had in – fifth year who was trying to teach French. I say trying because he was, he – we think he was trying, not sure. He came out to Australia, he was from Yugoslavia and came out to Australia to work down in the Snowy Mountains. He’d been down there in whatever position, you know down there. And then came up to teach French in Sydney. And French with a Yugoslav accent and trying to teach French and then telling you that the expressions used in the book were not the right ones, that were being used because they were used for conversational English and we were more into the academic, you know traditional type of French. So – I failed French (laughs), and we didn’t really like him but because of that – we, yeah – but generally it was pretty good. Hm. 

[38:31] So what subjects did you like – the most?

Well, my best subject was maths – so, that was fine and physics and chemistry. I was hopeless at woodwork, couldn’t plane anything straight but [I] liked it, because we didn’t have power tools, it was everything by hand. I could plane a rectangular piece of wood into a triangle pretty quickly. (Laughter). I just tapered it one end.  I don’t know how I did it, but it was natural. Yeah, and – so I didn’t pursue that.

I did two – three courses over in high school at that stage. There was a language course, a technical course or a commercial course. We didn’t have the choice of subjects as you got today. – So, the language course included Latin, French and Latin, the technical course was French – at Kogarah it was French and technical subjects, woodwork, tech drawing and the commercial course was French and business principles and bookkeeping. Plus your other course subjects of science, maths, English – and  yeah, and the commercial course we did geography and technical course did history, … yeah language, did history.

[40:17] And what course did you do? 

I did the commerce course Commerce Commerce course yeah. So I did some geography, business principles, book keeping and yeah.. and French. Yep yeah.

[40:31] And were there also any kind of extra courses and special clubs that you could do beside your core courses? Such as theater, music, where you joined in?

No, no we weren’t in that. I wasn’t musical in any way. In primary school, I was in a choir for a while and and I tried the flute and the choir was quite, you know. Mum didn’t think I could sing. I remember she said to the teacher she reported to me, she said, ‘I said to the teacher, I didn’t think you’ll be that good at singing.’ and the teacher said, ‘Oh, he’s alright but he’s better when there’s someone each side of him’, (Laughter). So there you go, I was there to make up the numbers. Yeah, that’s not my strength either (Laughs) (Laughs) singing. So there wasn’t a lot of other things. At lunchtime, in the high school, lunchtime we had in the senior years a few of us got to play cards, 500, and um- different at that time and a bit of fun. But there was no money there, it was just- playing cards and keeping score.

[42:04] -And were there any other schools around where you would have rivalries with? Any other boys from other schools?

Oh yeah, yeah. Tell me. (laughs) (laughs). Marist Brothers was the Catholic school. It was- it and us were- opponents and on the streets (laughs) (laughs). In the park, where ever. Yeah so it was just one of those things that, that sometimes conflict between the two schools. And that lasted for many years, longer than I ever expected because when I went back there as head teacher- in the 80s- I think. When I went back there as head teacher there was still conflict between the two schools. I remember one afternoon, one of the younger teachers, said ‘I’ve got to go, there’s gonna be a ‘blue’ down at the park and I’ve gotta get down there’. Because it was- it wasn’t pretty. They’d had a blue before and it was not- it was ugly. What’s ‘blue’? I don’t know the expression. A-a-a fight. Oh, ok. Yup. 

[43:27] And it was just because you were in different schools, there wasn’t a real reason behind it?

That’s right. Yup. Yeah you’re dead right. Yeah. Catholic versus public. Which is a really old hangover from way back.- I’m surprised it was still there. I wonder if it’s still going nowadays? I hope not (laughs) (laughs).

[43:57] Just some other thing I came to my mind that you were talking earlier about your classmates and- did you- in the 1950s and 60s think about migration to the area. Did you have any classmates with a different cultural background in school?

There wasn’t not much migration into our area so it was mainly the Anglo background. We did get a couple in. There was someone on the – on a scheme from – some government scheme, or some other scheme that came in [Columbo Plan, KC]. Yeah and we were friendly- we didn’t- cause one of my mates was um, he was really, really nice and he made a point of becoming friends with one of those guys. -He actually went on to be a science teacher and then a minister. Yeah (Laughs). So that was- I lost contact with him. But- yeah, so- oh and there was also in my year, that I almost forgot. In my final year, in my 5th year, a fellow came from Russia. – He came in and was very good at maths and he was -because I did Honours maths which was equivalent to Level 1 to Advanced, whatever it is. Yup. And there was only 4 of us doing that Level 1 Maths at that time he was one of them but yeah, he just came from Russia and so he was a really good friend as well. 

[46:06] Can you talk a little bit more about the Leaving Certificate because you were the first class- The last class, no, sorry You were the first class doing it. First class not doing the Leaving Certificate, first class at Kogarah doing the Leaving Certificate. Yeah. And what was involved? It was kind of an HSC equivalent.  It is. So what was kind of involved in the Leaving Certificate? 

It’s a similar structure to the HSC, really. Where you had to do English as a compulsory subject and then you chose your other subjects, just as the Senior students do today. So, I chose Maths 1 and 2 which is the equivalent to the old 2 full course which is the 3 unit, whatever it is Maths Advance 1, I think or whatever it is. -And then I went on to do the Honours which is the next level up. Mhmm. -I also did Physics, Chemistry, -and French. I think that was 6 subjects,similar to today.So, yeah, it’s a very similar sort of, even the standards are similar and the curriculum for Maths, I would say followed through. There were changes and there has been changes again but it’s been same sort of thing. -Alright. Is that enough for now? I think that’s about all.Yeah, after that there was the results, again similar to today your results. That determines you get a scholarship to go to University or not. 

[48:10] Can you remember your last day of school? Did you have a- specific event?

A lil’, little bit of a muck up, nothing much, no. We thought, it was pretty tame. We hadn’t thought it at the time. What did you do? We might have chalked a few things and that’s about it, you know.

After school

[48:38] Um, maybe if you’ve still got time or happy to talk about being on the other side as a school teacher. So you studied- Yeah, I went to University and did – I repeated the Leaving Certificate which was done with reasonable frequency around the state. And I believe that was part of the reason for extending the school time to 6 years. So you- From 5, it was only a 5 year course and as I repeated the Leaving [Certificate] to get a better result. So you could do that? Yes. See, I failed French and I- Because of the Yugoslavian teacher (laughs). I blame him but I wasn’t (laughs) I shouldn’t have done it, I just shouldn’t have done it, you know. I had a good teacher beforehand and that was – persuade my, my thinking on the subject. Anyway, and I also missed out on English because I had weakness in writing, but anyway. So yeah, I didn’t actually qualify for a Learning Certificate you had to pass I think 5 subjects to get the Leaving and I had 4 so. You know, it was not good enough, so I repeated and then I managed to get into Sydney University and did a Science degree- majored in Maths, in Pure Maths and then went and did the DipEd [Diploma in Education]  to become a teacher. 

[50:32] So, what year would you finish your DipEd?

 I finished DipEd in 1967, started teaching in 1968. 

[50:44] And what was the first school you started teaching? Which school did you start?

The first school was —country appointments were very popular for first year-out teachers. So I went to down the Riverina to a place called Finley, it was near the Victorian border, sort of south-west of Wagga. It’s a fair way from Sydney. And I was there for a year. That was co-ed, country co-ed high school, went from there to Liverpool Boys High School, for three years, then to—to Gymea, that’s right, to Gymea High School, which is a co-ed high school, for four years, I think. I got what you call a ‘list’, which is a listing, so you get on a ranking to become a head teacher, then I went to Marrickville Girls High School, as a head teacher of Maths, and it was a girls’ high school, and in my last year there it became co-ed. And then I went from there to Engadine – sorry, from Marrickville to Kogarah High School, can’t forget Kogarah (laughs), so that meant I’d been to Kogarah High School as a student, I’d been there as a practice student for teaching during my course, and now I was also back there as a teacher, as a head teacher for Maths. Oh wow. And I had as a Principal, my old Maths teacher. Yeah, so it was like walking back home. 

[52:50] Yeah, I was wondering how it felt to come back as a Head Teacher of this school where you were sitting there all your school years. So, what was the feeling like?

It was good. I did like it. Physically the school had changed, because there’d been a whole row of demountable buildings, that were the technical buildings, metalwork and all that, had been removed and replaced with other buildings. There was a new block that had been built on the corner, down near Montgomery Street, I think. There’s a new block there, a new Science block along there. The old primary school that we took over had been burnt down and replaced. So the buildings were quite different. So it looked quite different, and in that time, the ethnicity of the school had changed. There were still of course, Anglo-Saxon, but there was a lot of Yugoslav and some Greek and that was sort of mainly the make-up – other countries of course represented, but that was the strongest.

But it was good, I enjoyed my time there, it brought back memories too. I’d think, ‘oh yeah, there’s the old building, I’d seen the original building, just from the building with open verandas if you like on the bottom floor to three storey building which goes right up to Regent Street, to the footpath you probably know, and out on the other side there’s these verandas that had been open but were closed in with wire mesh, and when I was there, they’d been closed in with actual-properly closed in with windows and everything else. So that was part of the upgrade, I think, the start of the upgrade, and it changed outside as well.

Because in Regent Street, we used to have trolley buses when I was there, and the trolley buses used to rumble up the street and all you could hear was the rumbling of the wheels. But now, there was buses, diesel buses, and the buses would drive up Regent Street, and all the windows had to be double-glazed, to keep the noise in [out]. So if you opened the windows there, it’d get pretty noisy. You’d have to close them. But it was — I enjoyed teaching, I enjoyed it in all places, and Kogarah had its challenges, because of some of the kids there, they were a bit unsettled, but we did our best there to keep things going.

[56:27] So when did you retire from teaching?

About twelve years ago, in 196— at the end of 2004. I left teaching, and then retired actually the following year. I was on leave for a while at the end.

[56:57] Do you ever go back to School reunions?  Do you have that?

We had one school reunion there many years ago, probably 30 odd years ago.

[57:15] 35 years ago?

About that.  Yes and I went to that one. But I haven’t heard of any since and I haven’t been to any. At the time there was our school and the girls school and the primary school and of course don’t forget St George Girls High School, which was just one block away.  The St George girls used to walk past our school and we thought that was pretty good.

Interview wrap up

[57:51] I think I covered most of my questions. Do you think of anything you might have maybe missed and  you want to talk about it?

We have covered things, I think pretty well.  You mentioned the opposition with that type of schools.  One of the other things that we had was a little bit of settling of arguments within the playground in the boys school, this in Secondary in Kogarah Intermediate where there would occasionally be a fight and it would start…so someone for some reason would pick on somebody else and they’d start a fight, and then kids would gather around and they’d start the chant, and everyone would then run in and there would be just like a ring you know in there.  Everyone would say “Fight-Fight-Fight” whereupon the teachers and the prefects would come in and break it up and disperse us all.  But there was a few fights and there was after school fights down the lane and things like that too.  To settle scores, yeah.  So there was a little bit of that and so yeah, another thing too that we…, that you wouldn’t probably think of, is that in those days we did not have school clerks.  The office at the front of the school. Oh yeah. 

You would walk into the school and it would be the Deputy or the Principal or and at Kogarah, they used the oldest students to man the phone.  And the old phone exchange which was the box, it wasn’t automatic, it was one of those things that you pulled out the pin and put the plug in somewhere else and lift up the little gate and all that sort of thing… And so we had that, I was on duty, and we all had to have a turn.  I managed to cut a few calls off to the boss.  He understood.  He understood.  He was a very particular sort of fellow, Mr Fry, and his initials were R McD Fry.  I think it stood for Ron McDonald Fry. So he  was probably the first Ronald McDonald. (laughter) But he was very, very proper with his little, thin moustache and everything.  A small man and everything had to be just right with him.  He was pretty fiery.  So if you were sent to him, you would tremble, you would wonder what was next, you know.  And he had his line, if you had been mucking up and you were sent to the Principal, you would stand on a line, which was……

[1:00:47] in his office?

Just outside his office.  Yeah. This is when it was painted on the timber floors originally, but when the covering of the open verandas –  the floor became covered with lino tiles and he had his little strip of lino tile, red strip along there, and you’d have to stand on that and wait for him.  If you were there and he came out, you knew you were in trouble.  Yeah.  He was very serious about uniform, which I think changed the school probably a bit.  There’s also for some, one poor unfortunate kid, was also the time of luminous clothing.  You know like looks like high vis today.  This kid had luminous socks and you weren’t supposed to wear any of that.  You had grey socks. This kid ran up the steps of the school one morning, and all you could see was these orange flashing socks going up the step.  Whereupon Mr Fry, whose nickname was ‘The Beak’, because of the shape of his nose (laughs). We all just called him ‘The Beak’, went after this kid and sent him home and we didn’t see him until lunchtime. 

I dunno how far away he lived, but I am thinking the kid may have made hay while the sun shone. He was sent home and came back at lunchtime, at the end of lunch. So yeah, but it was an interesting sort of few years to my life.

[1:02:32] Coming back to uniforms, just remember, did you try to like because the school was quite strict. Did you try to stand out with doing like little things just to be a little bit of a rebel having something different at the uniform?

Ohhh, not much, no no. We were supposed to have certain shoes. Some of the kids used to wear desert boots, and that was sort of getting close to the line.  They were commonly known as ‘brothel creepers’ amongst the boys (laughter) so yeah you know.  Coming back to primary though in the playground there, it was nearly all asphalt, but there was a strip under some trees down the bottom that was dirt and marbles were sometimes quite often played down there.  So you were playing marbles, you could have a friendly game or a competitive game.  A competitive game meant that any ones that got knocked out of the ring, you lost, they went to the opposition.  Yeah.  We played ball games, which often consisted of throwing them across the playground and running like crazy.  Throwing them up into, seeing if you could throw them through the vents up high in the school.  Side wall, those little slot vents in the brickwork up the top see if you could get them through there.  A few got through.  In those days we used to have small bottles of milk at the beginning of recess as well, yes, about the third of a pint I think they were. Little bottles, glass with the aluminium foil tops on.

[1:04:38] They were delivered?

They were delivered by…yep, by straight from the milk place in with the truck and they would drop off the cartons of them, leave them in the playground.  Sometimes they would get the sun on them.  Wasn’t always the best thing to drink. (laughter). But here you go. There was a time, the hangover from I think when food was rationed and it was a case of getting kids some calcium.  Yeah, so I think it was a hangover from there. 

Yeah, and we also had in Primary, we had athletics carnivals, oh yes, one a year and that was at Hurstville Oval. It was a bike – I think it was used then as a bike track. 

[1:05:32] A bike track, yes.

[1:05:34] How often would you do the carnivals?

Those were once a year, once a year the carnivals. And mums at Mother’s Club would make toffees and all sorts of things and cakes and bring them down and have a stall down there. So it was a big day for us. And when we had Kogarah Intermediate, we had our athletics carnivals at Jubilee Oval which is now the grounds for the Saints.

[1:06:09] Yes ….and before we finish, do you want to show me your school bag?

[Kevin brought his brown globite school bag from Junior Secondary to the interview].

Yeah, my school bag, this is the one I had in Junior Secondary. When we went into the later years, this bag wasn’t quite big enough for the books and that we had to carry, so we had like an overnight bag, lots of us had an overnight bag with our books in it and we used to carry them.  But these were the old Globite, or something equivalent, and you will notice the (sound of spring clip on globite bag opening) these spring, the little clips, and so on the station while we were waiting for the train, you would sit on one end of the bag, and you would put a little one of those little red, little white pebbles on here and then you would -(sound of spring clip on globite bag opening) – and flick it at someone. Ahh (laughs). Have a little game, have a little game of seeing who can do what.

[1:07:06] Did you get in trouble for that?                                                             

Oh no, that was on the station. That was all right. No and there wasn’t any harm anyone. Hm.

[1:07:16] And you would carry your books in there and your lunch?

That’s right. That was it. That was what you took to school. So um and it was pretty handy cause you could sit on it, without damaging it. Yes, so as you can see I have still got it and I have got a couple of others too from a smaller one from primary school and another even smaller one from infants.  Yes, so they were standard equipment in those days.

[1:07:55] Yes, Alright if you don’t have anything else….. 

No I think that covers it quite reasonably.  Yeah, there were a few other things in the high school that just come to mind. We had ISCF – Inter School Christian Fellowship which you asked about clubs. That was just a little religious thing, that kids would come and go with.  It was not Scripture, it was just a lunchtime meeting; they had a few activities, to try and promote interest, pet parade and stuff like that. But there wasn’t a lot of clubs in the school.


Thank you very much. 

I am finishing recording. 


[Recording stops]