East Adelaide SchoolEast Adelaide School

History of East Adelaide School | 1952 - 1966

Head Teachers

  • Roy Devonshire (1952-1961)
  • Colin Moss (1962-1966)

Infant Mistresses

  • Mabel Somerville (1952-1954)
  • Esther Kelly (1954-1958)
  • Elsie Daenke (1959-1965)
  • Grace Ruch (1966)

And the Multitudes came

By the early 1950's the first of the post-war babies were ready to enter the schools and were joined by children of many nationalities whose parents had come from Europe to start a new life after the war. Australian parents began to hear strange foreign names tripping easily from the tongues of their offspring as they became acquainted with the newcomers. The staff, already harassed by large classes, struggled to find time to teach basic English to children who came to school with barely a word of the language at their command. Mrs. Lorna Harvey writes that when she arrived in 1956 to begin her eighteen years of teaching at the school, she discovered that she had been given a class of seventy Grade 3 boys. She says:

"That night I vowed never to return, but did, to find that 'Devie' had off-loaded sixteen of them onto Miss Girdham, who always seemed capable of managing any situation. Discipline was a reality in those days and, despite the fact that it was enforced, it was not harsh or repressive but encouraging and positive. The children would nearly burst their boilers to give a correct answer and have Dr. Devonshire put a tick on the blackboard. Conversely, it was a deep disgrace for a pupil to have his or her name written on the board for a minor misdemeanour. Mr. Devonshire took great pride in conducting the schoolpipe band himself and seeing that they were turned out in splendid uniforms".


As the children poured into the school the wooden "pre-fabs" began to be lined up in neat ranks in the area east of the woodwork room. While solving the dilemma of where to teach the children, the new buildings high-lighted another problem. In 1953, the inspector had some blunt words to say about the situation:

"The grounds are too small to provide decent exercise space for the numbers. The surroundings of the new portables are in urgent need of grading and paving. These classes are almost marooned in wet weather".

Still the numbers grew and, since the dreams of parents of 1948 to acquire properties on Winchester Street had not yet been fulfilled, the Education Department solved the problem by buying a block of land directly opposite the school in Second Avenue and establishing four more portable classrooms there with their own toilet block.

The pavilion room, now the domain of Mr. Vic Schulz and his Grade 7 class, still played its part in coping with the huge numbers at the school. So tight was the accommodation that Mr. Schulz had to take his class to the library or to the woodwork room so that the Welfare Club could hold its meetings there. His co-operation was acknowledged in the club's annual report year after year. His recollections of those years give some insight into the loads some teachers carried. When, after years of agitation by the parents, a school crossing was at last established on Stephen Terrace, it fell to his lot to draw up and supervise the roster of traffic monitors. On Friday afternoons he took teams of footballers or cricketers to an oval at St. Peter's College where, armed only with his whistle, he supervised as many as four teams of energetic little boys. When the school held two big fetes in 1959 and 1961, which raised a combined total of 2,000, he collected and counted money brought in by the children for the King and Queen Competitions, and determined the winner of the chocolate awarded each day to the child who brought the most money. On one day about 80, doubtless mostly in small coins, was handed in. Then there was yard duty and the odd bit of maintenance around the school before he even began to teach his class, at a time when non-contact periods for primary teachers were unheard of. Vic Schulz would be the last to claim that his experience was unique - teachers all over the city were handling this sort of work-load in those years. Pupils in his classes in the pavilion remember that all of these responsibilities took Mr. Schulz from the room from time to time. Like all school children in such circumstances, they had no objection to this, nor to being in the pavilion which provided an excellent vantage point for monitoring his movements and desisting from "playing merry hell" in good time. The pavilion also featured in the gruesome story of Peter Laidlaw's finger. In a game of chasey, Peter had hidden behind the porch door of the pavilion which slammed on a finger and removed almost all of the top joint. While he was being treated for his injuries and recuperating, his playmates, it is said, found the missing piece of finger and studied it with ghoulish fascination.

Drum and Fife band in 1961, with "pre-fabs" in the background