Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fremantle Boys High School

Today we drove to Mosman Park to join a group of friends celebrating John’s birthday. He seemed to enjoy the company, probably without really knowing what we were all there for. The weather was nice and sunny and warm for this time of the year and everyone enjoyed a good get together. As with all these get-togethers, the guest of honour is usually secondary to the interaction of his/her guests.

Driving back along Stirling Highway we passed what was the Fremantle Boys North Fremantle Annexe. I was sent there in Year Eight along with a couple of hundred other drongos of the tested non academic herd.

The annexe was a tough school. Most of the staff considered the student body the enemy and dished out harsh punishment like a reform school. That was pretty well the norm then. Quite a few of the teachers were returned servicemen and I wonder whether they did much in the way of formal teacher training.

My form teacher, George Elliot, was nicer than most of them and, as was the case then, taught sitting down at a desk. He had a very flowery signature which was usually accompanied by a mark out of ten for whatever we were doing. He liked me and I usually scored above 5/10. On Friday during the last period of the day he would attempt to read to the class from Beau Geste. Unfortunately as soon as he started to read he would fall asleep and then the lads would act up. I can’t remember when exactly he started to read to us, but I do remember that he never finished the novel.
The Italian boys usually brought Rosella sauce bottles of homemade wine for the Friday reading and had a tipple, passing the bottle around. Others were not so restrained and publicly fondled themselves. We were not to be the doctors and lawyers of W.A.

The Art teacher was Mr Freutus who spent almost all the year teaching us Der Flet Vash.
The Phys Ed teacher was a bastard who kneed kids savagely when he thought they deserved it. The English master was very gentle and these days I’m sure unkind students would muse over his sexual preferences. All the boys would go to Manual Arts at a technical centre in East Fremantle for one day a week where we would learn to use a three pound jack plane and a try square and marking knife. No machinery for kids then. In the blacksmith shop, boys would wait until Mr Smith left the workshop and plunge their red hot metal work into the oil bath to see if a firestorm would result: usually just filling the workshop with thick white smoke.
Fremantle Boys' High School est. 16 October 1854..now Fti cinema.

In year 9, we all moved into Fremantle Boys High School to make room for another lot of losers. In Freo we had to come to grips with a new lot of teachers...sort out how you should act in their class and what they would punish you for. The Science master, Dickie Borman, was similar to his cousin, Reichsminister Martin Borman and dished out punishment at random. In his science lab, students were seated on timber lab stools. These wooden stools were designed by Dickie (I’m sure) so that the adipose tissue on ones backside formed a small but obvious roll of flesh that presented itself to Dickie’s cane as walked around the lab. A sudden yelp signalled a Dickie strike. For more serious misdemeanors Dickie took you into his inner sanctum and gave you a good caning on the hands. Over the door of his store room was a notice saying 'lose faith all ye who enter here'.

Friday afternoon was sport time where students went to various nearby ovals where teachers waited for them. I recall biking it to North Fremantle oval for my dose of footy and being only one of three kids to turn up. The teacher gave us a card stamped with the school logo telling us to make sure we brought the card with us to school on Monday. Monday saw all the card holders dismissed from the assembly and the rest of the mob numbering probably 150 kids getting 6 of the best from an overworked staff.

It was not politic to brag about not being caned. That could be very detrimental to the shape of your nose. Just lie doggo and keep mum about it all.

After Year 9 I left that esteemed establishment and did a Pre Apprenticeship course at Fremantle Technical School before getting a placement at the State Engineering Works as an apprentice turner-machinist.


Boys schools said...

This is an interesting story. There are so many top boys high schools that give good education to the students and teach them integrity, discipline, ethics and so many other things. These schools try to produce socially responsible citizen.


Anonymous said...

Hey kev,
I am doing a research project at FTI (which was formally Freo Boys) for my documentary course on Freo Boys School. I was wondering if you would be able to give me any info and if I would be able to interview you about your experiences there. My email is sarz_robinson@hotmail.com if you could please email me in regards to this that would be awesome! Your help would be so much appreciated!! thanks Sarah Robinson

Julie Fedele said...

Thanks for posting. I am currently helping my uncle write his memoirs - Guiseppe (Joe) Rotondella. He attended Freo Boys School for a year or so around the age of 12 which would have been 1949/1950ish. What year/s did you attend? I am just for what era the details above would be relevant? He has talked to me about the technical classes in East Freo (where John Curtin now is) and how the school was academically far far behind the private schools. I will print out your blog and give it to him to read, hopefully it will trigger some more memories!!
Julie Fedele

Julie Fedele said...

I am just *wondering for what era... (sorry for typo)