Sepia Saturday 199: All Hallows’ and King Lear

sepia sat 199This week’s Sepia Saturday theme is largely theatrical, or as Alan puts it “the desire to dress up, lark around in public, utter words that you would not normally recognise”. My photo this week seems to perfectly capture this though I admit it was those rather strange beards and hair the prompted my thoughts first.

When I was in high school it was traditional for my all-girls school to stage a production of the Shakespeare play which was out set text for our Year 12 exams and in our year the play was King Lear. Naturally if you’re in a girls-only school the male roles have to be played by girls, and of course you would first target those with a suitably male altitude. This is how I first found myself cast in the role as King Lear….a very short experience as it was deemed (entirely correctly!) that my aptitude for such a pivotal was deficient. I must say I remember being rather relieved and was happily replaced as Lear by a friend, of similar altitude but much greater aptitude.

The King of France, All Hallows' production of King Lear.

The King of France, All Hallows’ production of King Lear.

Soon after I found myself demoted to play the character of King of France, who marries Lear’s just-disinherited daughter Cordelia. Such is the long-term impact of the play that I no longer recall any of “my” words but I found this speech by France which I rather like:

Is it but this,–a tardiness in nature
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love’s not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.

Perhaps we should only read Shakespeare when we’re older and can better understand the messages that are being declared. And, for the record, this play was my first and last venture into the theatre as a performer, rather than an attendee.

I have a photograph of the whole cast, but as I pondered the copyright issues, and the privacy issues of those who could be easily recognised, I discovered a way out of my dilemma. On the school’s website is the same photo of the cast (click and look at King Lear 1965 in black and white)…check it out…it has some pretty impressive beard and hairstyles happening, not to mention the clothes. It would be accurate to say this was an amateur production, but trust me, there were no lapsed standards permitted.

As I recall all the theatre activities were performed by “girls” from our year from art work to lighting and back of stage, though I think the costumes mostly came from the school’s stash, no doubt acquired over the decades. I can tell you, though, that my glorious jewels were entirely my own, and my silver chain of office was part of a belt my mother had worn, and indeed that back in those skinny days I could wear…I still own a few links of it, just for the memories.

Also among my personal memorabilia is a copy of the booklet for the play and on the back are the signatures of my friends and other characters. I’d love to include a copy of that booklet….if I only knew where it had migrated to. I need a better system for scanning then re-storing things to their rightful place.

Have a look at the links on this week’s theme to see how other Sepians have approached the topic. And now I have to consider whether I have a previous Sepian post which would merit being put forward to next week’s historic Sepian 200th post.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 13 – The Youth March

4 x 7UP collageAs my theme for this collage festival was my first 28 years, I had to include a very important influence: my all girls secondary school. I’ve talked about it previously here, here and here in quite a bit of detail so what more is there to say? Heading laterally today’s topic is about an event of some importance to all Brisbane schools in my era.

A view of one of the school's oldest buildings c1988.

A view of one of the school’s oldest buildings c1988.

When I was at school in Brisbane, there was a big Youth March each year. As far as I recall all schools could choose to be part of this event and would turn out and march through the streets and pass a dais of VIPs on the steps of the GPO (General Post Office).  I have no idea what the point of all this was, unless it was to display the wonders of the upcoming generation, which seems a bit odd.

British Flag on Buckingham Place, Image from Wikipedia.

British Flag on Buckingham Place, Image from Wikipedia.

Mr Cassmob says that was pretty much it, plus a hangover of Imperial hoo haa…remembering that in those days God Save the Queen was still played at the movies. Actually a quick search of Trove suggests himself might be right (unusual….not!). Marches in much earlier years seem to have been associated with Empire Day celebrations. No wonder the whole event has died out.

At our school this event was bigger than Ben Hur! The school “imported” a consultant to make sure our standards were high enough. Each year we’d be sorted into progressive heights from tallest to smallest. This took little enough time for me ….I went straight to the top 10 and we juggled ourselves around marginally from year to year. One of my friends did the same at the shallow end of the marching group. It was those pesky girls in the average height range that took hours to sort out, and trust me, every millimetre or quarter inch counted!

Then the fun began as we were drilled to a standard worthy of (if not in excess of) the military! Heads up, chins in, chests out, stomachs in, bums in….try doing all that at once! The only excitement came in the form of a few dragooned teenage boys from St Laurence’s College across the river, who provided us with the necessary march music. I tell you those poor boys must have been due for a bravery medal having to arrive before the eyes of hundreds of young teenage girls.

On the day we would assemble (at the Gardens?) and then set forth. The march must have been in the winter because we always wore our winter uniform with blazers and beret-type hats. Every hem had to be at the precise height, no girl’s hair could be below her collar, gloves and stockings in perfect order, every step in time. Did I mention the similarity to the military?

All Hallows' School, Brisbane Youth March

All Hallows’ School, Brisbane Youth March

Inevitably there’d be photos in the newspaper and recalcitrant hair or hem lines would be circled and the offenders spoken to. And then there was the year when those of us in the front line got into severe strife because we had done our “eyes right” before the official order…even though we were by then past the dais. Who to offend? The Visiting Dignitaries or the school’s uniformity? Oops, wrong guess!

It’s moments like these I wish Trove went forward just another decade to reveal more about some of these memories.

AHS Youth March

All Hallows’ School in the Youth March, mid 1960s.

 Do you think schools used to have a bigger profile in the city’s life than they do today?

The of the city from the All Hallows' terraces c1964

The of the city from the All Hallows’ terraces c1964

The view of the Story Bridge from All Hallows' terraces.

The view of the Story Bridge from All Hallows’ terraces.

I’m also including some photos of Brisbane’s changed skyline. The school had a great view over the city and the river and those who know Brisbane now will see significant differences in the outlook, high-rises and apartment blocks among others.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challenge

This post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Sharing memories: New Friends

OliveTree Genealogy is celebrating the 3rd year of Sharing Memories - A Genealogy Journey with the goal of writing our memoirs and childhood memories for our descendants. The topic for week 19 was New Friends.

My life as a young child was very socially homogenous in a way that was more traditional, and old-fashioned if you like, than today when it’s usual for children’s horizons to potentially be international. I, on the other hand, saw the same children in the neighbourhood, at church or at school. The only difference was that there were two streams of school: those who went to the Catholic school and those who went to the state (public) school. Girl Guides added a little leavening to the mix, but even many of those lived not too far away.

Penpals were the new friends who opened a window into the wider world: a couple in the States and one in the Netherlands. I often wonder what happened to Ria from Hilversum or Patsy from Arkansas or Carole from….. In turn this reminds me of a book by Geraldine Brooks called Foreign Correspondence, a double entendre on her occupation as a foreign correspondent when she sets out to trace what had happened to her penpals in the intervening 20 years.

The transition to high school, aged 14, was a significant turning point in my life. For me it was like throwing open the doors, largely through books and learning, but also through exposure to different people and classes of society. It was quite daunting to go to a new school of about 1000 students after my little primary school of under 200. Only two of my primary school colleagues went to the same school and neither was in my class and we had never been close friends anyway.

The order of nuns who ran my high school were also a different “brand” and had their own particular ways so it was a bit fraught learning all the new protocols: a curtsy as each nun passed, calling each one Sr Mary XXX rather than just Sr XXX.

View over All Hallows’ from nearby rental accommodation.

The school was also in Fortitude Valley, an offshoot of the Brisbane CBD, so I travelled by bus each day along with boys going to Church of England Grammar (Churchie), St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace, Grammar or St James in the Valley. Not that they were among the friends we were allowed to cultivate, since it was forbidden to speak to boys at all, even if they were relatives, so we had to settle for covertly eyeing them off (the Churchie boys were our favourites).

It suddenly occurs to me that I’ve made an assumption but readers won’t know that my high school was an all girls one.

In the first week of school, one of my classmates came up to me and to my surprise, announced we were cousins. She had recognised my surname as being her grandmother’s maiden name and gone home to verify we were related. We didn’t really become mates though we were friendly and swapped notes and cards as teenage girls do, and she was a link to a family history that at the time I knew nothing whatsoever about.

It didn’t take long before I made a few friends with whom I stayed best mates over the course of high school and on into university, or for a couple, through their nursing training. We had sleep-overs, went to the movies or occasional concerts, supported each other through early romances and generally did lots of girl talk.

Over the decades the friendships diluted as we married, got jobs or moved around.  A couple of us still keep up loose links and when in the same city, which is rare, we catch up. The long links of our experience make it easy to pick up the threads of our friendship and two of our daughters have become friends, despite distance.  But I still treasure the memory of my new teenage friendships with Maria, Sue L, Sue B and Margaret.

Beyond the Internet: Week 7 and the days of the old school yard.

This is Week 7 in my Beyond the Internet series of topics in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your own posts on this week’s topic which is school histories, albums and newsletters. I’d particularly like to hear how people in other states and countries use these records so we can all learn from each other. If you do decide to take up this topic would you please leave a note in the comments or on Google+ as the Google alert is just not cooperating.

School histories

School histories can be a valuable source of background information including admissions and old class photos.

In Australia it’s fairly common for schools of all shapes and sizes to publish histories on a school anniversary eg centenaries. I don’t honestly know how prevalent this practice is overseas. These histories run the gamut from informal unstructured publications to books with high quality research. Some in the pre-computer era are rather basic productions while others are glossy bound books. Either way it’s likely you’ll find something that’s useful if your relative attended that school…there’s almost always some little anecdote that will let you flesh out your relative’s school story “back in the day”.  Many that I have seen include a list of early student admissions and some have very early photos of teachers, students and the school. For example in the first Murphys Creek school history there’s a picture of Maggie Kunkel among the students, even though the admission rolls no longer exist.

School albums or annuals

School albums can be a rich source of photos.

Have you been wondering what your great-aunt or uncle looked like? Or perhaps what a relative or ancestor’s hobbies or skills were? School albums might just provide these clues…after all it works for Sue Grafton’s detective extraordinaire Kinsey Milhone, who’s sleuthing in the 1980s. Remember all those class photos that you had taken? Well they’ve been a tradition for a very long time and if your relative’s school still exists, perhaps the school library retains copies of the annuals which you can trawl for clues and photos. You might find out they were superb singers, on the debating team, an excellent swimmer or football player – all those tiny details that add richness to the lives we’re trying to recover from the past.

School newsletters

School newsletters are more likely to give you the gossipy stories.

I think most large schools probably had school newsletters which again may be in the school library or perhaps a local heritage centre. This is where you’ll get the more informal take on your ancestor if they make an appearance. A word of warning though, journalistic integrity may not be high and there may be outright fibs told for the sake of a good story. What you will get is the flavour of school life in the time period of the newsletter – all grist for the writing mill.

Admittedly I went to a large school in Brisbane and it has been around for a long time in Australian terms, so in years to come my descendants will find traces of my school life throughout these sources….but sadly they won’t find a trace of singing or sporting excellence. I have a confession to make, though, as I have yet to visit the libraries to get my own parents’ school photos and background. It’s about time I took my own advice!

What about your family’s school stories? Have you found anything interesting, exciting or just fun in their school’s publications? What games and events were capturing people’s imaginations? Their generation’s version of Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest?