June 2007 Newsletter - John Goold YHS 1954

John Goold YHS 1954 wrote: “As usual, reading the latest YOGA Newsletter brought back my school days at Yallourn, in the 40s and 50s of the last century. I note that so far none of the contributors has reminisced on how we were taught to express nationalistic patriotism. Well let me bring back some memories. Every morning rain or shine, at the commencement of the school day, we students would parade in three ranks for administrative briefings by the Principal (Headmaster in those days) or “deputy duty parade commander” and then to a scratchy amplified rendition of “Colonel Bogey” or “Soldiers of the Queen” or even sometimes “The British Grenadier” we would be marched off to our studies. Monday mornings were different. The entire school academic staff attended the morning parade along with the prefects and other notables. Male teachers were in ties and formal suits, the women in matching twin sets. The Headmaster then led the assembled through the oath of allegiance. I remember it well to this day:

“I love God and my Country I serve The King/Queen I honour the flag And cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the laws.” The flag was then broken from the masthead and we all dutifully saluted whichever coloured bunting had been apparently randomly selected for that day’s parade; be it Union Jack, National Emblem (Red or Blue) or Flag of the State. The parade concluded with the assembled lustily singing to beseech (some unspecified) God to save the (foreign) monarch. All were then marched off to their duties, again to the scratchy strains of imperial tunes of glory. Similar assemblies were held before Anzac Day, the Monarch’s birthday, Empire and Armistice Days. Education was different in those days. Male teachers were common in both primary and secondary schools. Many were veterans of WW2 and had the regimental sergeant major approach to discipline and learning. Use of the cane and strap were as common as the sharp bark of command. Married women were relatively rare, for most preferred to remain at home supporting the family.
As well as WW2, many teachers had memories of the great depression and its aftermath and most honestly tried to provide us with a sound educational background to help us face whatever the future might bring. We learned to read by phonics; grammar was mandatory, mathematics and number were learned by rote; civics, health, geography and history (ancient world, imperial British and Australian) were drummed into us. Sport and PT were compulsory; generally there was no subject choice until year eleven and apart from some segregated play areas, woodwork, cooking and needlework classes; little differentiation was made for the needs of the sexes. Syllabi were standardised and formal examinations both internal and external were commonplace. Teachers’ performances were assessed by the annual visit of Gestapo-like inspectors. Of course we students were told that the Inspectors were coming to assess us, not the teachers. For weeks before the visit we were rehearsed in the performance required for the visitors.

Most of us walked to school, used pushbikes or if living in the outstations, travelled on the free school bus. Apart from the first day at primary school, parents didn’t take or drive children to and from school. The only fat children one saw were those with health problems and the only junk food available was the occasional meat pie or fish and chips as a treat on some Fridays. Well times have certainly changed since I last attended a jingoistic Monday morning parade designed to foster unthinking loyalty and obedience. But all in all, the parades probably didn’t do us any harm. I sometimes wonder if Generation “Y” wouldn’t have benefited from much of the same.