The topic for Week 45 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: High School. Describe your middle and/or high school. Was it a large or small student body? Is the school still in existence today? How has it changed since you went there?
Earlier this year I wrote about my high school, All Hallows’ School, because in 2011 the school has been celebrating its 150th anniversary. At the time I spoke about its critical role in my life and the importance of the teachers who taught me there. Equally important to attending this school, was my mother’s determination in ensuring I was accepted to the school even though my primary school was run by a different order of nuns. At a time when many working class parents either did not believe in educating their daughters to university level, or could not afford it, my father and mother committed themselves to making this possible….without this opportunity I truly believe my life would have been very different.
All Hallows’ is a reasonably large school with a student population of around 1000, which may have changed somewhat in recent years with a significant building program to utilise what is a restricted inner-city location. Inventive building strategies have been required to maximise the opportunities.
What’s changed since I went there? In my day the teaching staff were almost exclusively nuns and when we passed them we would have to curtsy and say, ever so politely “good morning sister”. These days the teaching staff are mainly lay teachers but I imagine that the students still have to be as courteous.
Our dress code was much more rigid than it is today. In some ways the school has had a more “modern” dress style than many other private schools of the day (aka public schools in the British system). However in my day, wearing stockings, gloves and hat was non-negotiable and failure to do so would generate a severe reprimand. It certainly kept the prefects busy ensuring everyone was dressed to code. And in case any wayward girl shed her gloves or hat on the way home, there’d be bound to be an “old girl” who would happily report the misdemeanour to the Principal! There are even occasions when I’ve felt like doing the same (before overcoming the urge) when their bags etc are scattered around the Brisbane mall on a Friday evening. They even have scarves to wear these days…how trendy . Eating in public was a major no-no as people would apparently think our parents hadn’t fed us….not so today.
We were equally restricted in our social interaction on the way to or from school. It didn’t matter whether the boy on the bus was your brother or the gorgeous creature (usually from Churchie) that you’d had your eye on for ages….there was to be no communication…not even meaningful glances. By the time my daughters went to the same school they had a repertoire of male friends whom they met on public transport to/from school. When they were at All Hallows’ there was a visiting group of Italian students on exchange at the school…the “interpersonal interaction” on the Terrace was enough to make the deceased nuns spin in their graves!
Another significant difference, too, is that in my time we had both boarders and a primary school stream. There was always a division of sorts between the boarders and day students as we had an independence that their restricted lives precluded. I believe that the primary school has recently been reopened. The primary school strand was closed first and some time after I left it ceased to be a boarding school.
Another major difference is the view from the school up and down the river as you can see in the photos here. Taken from slightly different places near the school you can see how Brisbane has mushroomed.
The school retains its emphasis on academic, sporting and cultural achievement as well as its focus on Mercy ideals and faith-based activities such as retreats or charity and support for the less-advantaged. On Bow Tie Day this year, one class of students collected $15,800 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society from Brisbane’s CBD workers and visitors…that’s a pretty impressive contribution! I admit that when did something similar I was really pathetic at doing the collecting…left to my teenaged self they’d probably only have raised $15.80!
The style of the activities may have changed but I imagine in many ways, it would be perfectly possible for any “old girl” to slot right in. What remains for many are the bonds formed between these teenage girls as they progress through high school and into the wider world, and the knowledge that women can be independent and successful…however each young woman chooses to define it. I doubt, too, that there’d be many of us who have forgotten the spiritual presence of generations of women that you feel in the school chapel. No wonder it’s been such a success since they opened it as a wedding venue.
If you missed my earlier post , I’d love you to read it in conjunction with this story.