By 1930 enrolments at Kingsville had topped 706 pupils. The number of students in each grade varied between 41 and 55, which is double what we have now! The school still couldn’t accommodate all those students and were continuing to use the hall at St Paul’s church and had also started using the Gospel Hall further down Somerville Road, on the corner of Edgar street.
By September four new classrooms were being built and these were completed in early 1931. The total cost for these new classrooms and some renovations to the main school was 2780 pounds which is equal to $175,000 today. Importantly, the balcony on the main building was finally closed in to form two long corridors. This meant the school no longer endured strong winds blowing directly into the classrooms, knocking pictures of the walls, slamming doors and chipping plaster. The new classrooms also meant the school could finally accommodate all its students and no longer had to rent the local hall at St Pauls and the Gospel Hall. In 1931 the Minister for Education formally opened these new improvements to the school as seen in the newspaper article below.
Even though the school finally had enough classrooms, they still did not have enough of the other essentials. There were only six taps for the entire school, which meant getting a drink when you were thirsty could mean waiting a while. Some lessons were also segregated according to sex during this time, with boys being taught woodwork and girls being taught needlework. Going on to secondary school education was also not a given in the 1930s. In fact most children did not go to high school and finished their schooling at Kingsville. They were then expected to get a job, usually in a factory, to help support their family. This became even more prevalent during the Great Depression which reached its peak in 1932. Life was hard for most people, with many people unemployed and most families not able to afford food and clothing. Some of the mothers at Kingsville opened up a soup kitchen for the students who were lucky enough or young enough to remain at school. They would serve free soup to anyone whose dad was out of work. For those students whose dad was fortunate enough to have a job, a cup of soup cost a penny.
Enrolments for 1932 were still around the 700 mark. In November 1933 the school competed in the Footscray Musical Elocutionary Competition and was awarded first prize in the senior and junior school choir sections.
School hours and lunchtimes were run a bit differently back in the 1930s. The children were required to eat their lunch outside and if the lunch time break was disrupted due to bad weather then the school could be dismissed thirty minutes earlier at the end of the day. Also students were allowed to go home for lunch and on one particular day in 1934, 397 pupils from the school did just that.
On the 1st of February 1935 a new Headmaster was appointed, Mr. W.H. McKimm. He did not last long however, and a short eighteen months later in September 1936 he was replaced by Mr A.J. Dunkin, who was well liked throughout the school.
School yard games in the 1930s were generally football and cricket for the boys and rounders for the girls (rounders is a bat and ball game similar to baseball). Marbles were also played regularly, as was chasey, which we now know as Tiggy, Tag or Gang Up Tiggy.
Did you know that in November 1937 almost all the students at school were off sick due to the paralysis epidemic, otherwise known as polio. This occurred right throughout Australia but was particularly bad in Victoria. In very bad cases patients ended up in iron lungs to help their recovery.
The school oath in the mid to late 1930s was ‘I love God and my country. I will honor the flag, obey the King and cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the laws’. This oath was still being used at Kingsville right up to the end of the 1960s.
Corporal punishment was normal in schools in the 1930s. It could range from striking the student across the bottom or on the hands with a cane, wooden paddle, ruler or leather strap. The teacher could even smack the students if they felt like it. Teachers kept a register of corporal punishment to note down which students received it. This is shown in the image below.
A former pupil Bruce Rayner can distinctly remember one teacher who would even soak their leather strap in vinegar before using it. One day after being punished with the strap Bruce decided he had had enough. After school had been dismissed he crept back in to the building and tip toed from room to room searching certain teachers desks. In a few minutes he had collected five straps and then quietly slipped out of the school with them concealed under his jumper. He swiftly dumped them into the quarry that existed behind the school which is now Cruikshank Park. This would not be the last time that a student stole all the straps.
The school did not have a bell to signal the end of playtime back in the 1930s. Instead one of the students, or perhaps teachers, would open an upstairs window, lean out and play the bugle to signal the end of break. The students would then line up to go back into class.
In September 1939 a new Headmaster was appointed, Mr Ernest J Satchell. The District Inspector noted ‘He has been in charge only a short time but has maintained the highly efficient organization established by the previous headmaster’. Enrolments stood at 657, however 42 children were being held back and were required to repeat a grade. One particular grade six had an age range of six years between its youngest and oldest students! Which is the equivalent today of both an 11 year old being in grade six and a 17 year old still being in grade six!
Former student, Bob Richards, can recall a funny incident in the late 1930s. One of the teachers introduced a new topic by saying ‘if you don’t wish to listen to this, you can go home’. After a short period of silence, approximately two thirds of the class stood up, walked out and went home!
In 1938 students were given free apples from the Australian Apple and Pear Export Council. This is shown in the newspaper article below.
In 1939 the Footscray Council was considering running a tram line down Somerville Road to reach the school. Unfortunately the cost to build it was too great and the idea was abandoned.