Saturday, January 23, 2021

The naughtiest girl again

 I wrote this article that was published in The St Vincent's College Annual at the end of 2003 after I had returned to my Alma Mater as a member of staff.  St Vincent's or Vinnies was established in 1958.

After recently reading a history of the College I was reminded of my little article which I located on my hard drive. I am sharing it to my blog in case my descendants may wish to read it in future years as my blog is preserved here on The Australian Web Archive on Trove

The naughtiest girl again

Returning to my Alma Mater nearly fifty years after my Mother deposited me in the care of the Sisters of Charity, as a five-year old in 1954, has been quite an experience. I am still the naughty girl who left Vinnies in 1965 with a reference from Sister Reparata that stated “With maturity Jill is capable of doing well”. I returned, a gray-haired matron, who has gained physical but not mental maturity.  I did leave St. Vincents, however, instilled with strong values that have guided me throughout my life.

Facade of the College on Victoria Street

Ghosts from the past leap out to grab me as I turn corners, memories of characters and events are sparked by random comments from colleagues. The School Library, my workplace this year, sits over the site of the grotto where we were photographed as infants and where we climbed and played during breaks. I remember the fuss when an infant mate, Helen, knocked over and smashed the statue of Our Lady and the distress of her father, the local delicatessen owner, who had to pay for an expensive replacement.

St Vincent's College Infants at The Grotto - 1956

 Looking out the window I spy a tennis court which is now a swimming pool.  As youngsters we watched in awe as the school champion, Karen Krantzke, blitzed her opponents there. I see the garden where we harvested a shrub which produced a red rash when rubbed on the skin. We were hoping to convince the nuns that we had German Measles and have the school closed down for a time. When I hear the girls in PD/H/PE dancing to disco music I am reminded of marching. In the sixties we marched (sometimes up and down Rockwall Crescent and Victoria Street) to the strains of band music played over a crackly gramophone. Being vertically challenged I spent five years marching down the back with the youngest members of the College.

The arrival of technology has caused a metamorphosis in my infants classrooms, they now house the IT department. The beautiful new primary school where, in 1958, we wore slippers to protect the polished floors is gone, so too is the 1960’s science block where one of the few lay teachers, Mrs. Kennedy, conducted her experiments.

 I have worked in libraries since leaving St. Vincents. No doubt my affinity with libraries was developed through the time I spent in the Study Hall (Library) when I was regularly ejected from class for talking or, as Sister Dymphna said, “tittering and foostering”. The “private execution” (elocution) lessons I had with Miss Quoyle each week also encouraged my love of talking. 

I would definitely be more suited to the style of education at St. Vincents today where students are encouraged to actively participate in class discussions. Although I rarely read a set text and we were not allowed to touch the treasured tomes on the library shelves, I left Vinnies with a love of reading which I have tried to imbue in our students this year. Thankfully our students have a broad range of young adult literature at their disposal whilst I had to make do with Blyton’s “The naughtiest girl” series.

Vinnies girls in 2003 had access to a wide range of books

 Boarders at Vinnies have always added a special dimension to College Life by giving city slicker students an insight into rural life.  However, life for sixties boarders was very strict with all outgoing mail being censored by the nuns. Under no circumstances were the boarders allowed to go up the street. Thus my role, as a carrier of contraband, was vital to the girls’ quality of life. Most days I left the College with a blazer stuffed with outgoing, uncensored mail and a shopping list to procure on the way home. Thanks to my efforts the boarders had lipsticks and lollies.

Boarders - 1965 - we all wore fawn pinafores over our uniforms 

As we arrived and left Vinnies each day we “had to pay a visit” to the College Chapel. Although there was no video surveillance in my time the spies in the adjoining convent always knew if some harried student had overlooked her visit. The College Chapel was the focus of our life with Friday Benediction and regular compulsory Confessions.

Our entrance to the school with the chapel on the left - woe betide those who didn't pay a visit

Posed outside the Chapel on First Communion Day

 St. Vincents is responsible for my best friend's two left  feet. Each Friday, in our ballroom dancing lessons in the hall, Leonie my partner, who was tall, had to take the part of the boy. School dances were with Waverley boys and nuns patrolling the grounds with torches, Speech Nights with students in white dresses, rare films of Missions in Fiji, school fetes and singing lessons all took place in the College hall. My choir years were spent in the “crows” a group of those who could not sing in tune. Facial expression earned me a place in the middle of the front row for the eisteddfod on the condition that no sound issued from my lips.

With Leonie, my dancing partner

 Twenty-first century girls at St. Vincents have a lot in common with their sixties sisters.  They are creative in their interpretations of College rules and are a bright and courteous bunch with a strong sense of social justice. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time the College equipped the Class of 1965 with a fine education, a caring attitude, a belief that women can do anything. 

As I sat on the stage at the 2003 Speech Day I reflected on my days on the College and realised that “Flow’rs and sunshine” did cheer my pathway at Vinnies or, as Sister Mark would have said, am I “looking at the past through rose-coloured spectacles?”

 The “naughtiest girl” came back to Vinnies again in 2003 and she had a ball.

 Jill Ball (nee Curry – Leaving Certificate 1965)

St Vincents College - Class of '65

Head of Information Services (shared)


Jennifer Jones said...

Lovely post Jill. Great memories for you

GeniAus said...

I was a happy little Vegemite!

Anonymous said...

So great you posted this from your hard drive. Something that needs to be recorded. As Jennifer said, a lovely post.


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