The History of Eltham High School

The Forties - War Years


Snapshots of Hard Times

1942
School Population 100

1943
School leaving age raised from 14 to 15

1945
Domestic Arts Block and Sloyd Centre opened by Mr. Everard M.L.A. on 20th March.
Student School Council put into operation
First Mercury produced.
School Assembly 1944

Staff Hockey 1948
Back row: H. Powell, C. Hodges, E. Beavis, W. Powell, G. Thomson, N. Drummond, G. Bryant. Front row: R. Mowat (sec.), R. Donnelly, A. Colstock
1946
School takes students from Kinglake and Strathewan

1948
Sports Competitions against Williamstown High and Lilydale High

1949
House Athletics Carnival cancelled due to polio epidemic
School proclaimed a High School on 17th August 1949

Principals
    1940 - 1942   William E. Williams
    1943 - 1947   John A. E. Findlay
    1948 - 1949   William E. Williams

The War

War time brought its share of hardships to the students. Many families lived in rather cramped conditions as they were unable to build their own houses and shared a house with another family or with their grandparents. During the war years, the school lacked any kind of heating and so remained a very cold place. Another effect of the war on the life at the school was the acute shortage of paper. Textbooks were a scarce commodity.

School in Fear Attack

As fear mounted, the school was prompted to rehearse air raid drills. On the signal of three rings of the school bell, students had to disperse in groups of three to five and find places to hide. Most took refuge amongst the quince trees along Dalton Street (now Withers Way) and Ely Street. Once there, the students were expected to dig or have already prepared a shallow trench in which to lie down.

Also at school during this time, students were measured up each year to discover those over the average height or weight that could then be given extra coupons for clothing rations.

Major Extension Completed

The first major extension to the school came in 1945. On 20th March of that year, a Domestic Arts Block and Sloyd Centre was officially opened by Mr. Everard, M.L.A. These two rooms each 38' x 26' were erected at a cost of £3,252.15s18d

Lack of Facilities a Problem

A growing school population placed increasing strain on the school's ability to accommodate students in proper classrooms. By 1949, the situation became so bad that the shelter sheds were used as school rooms with the desks jammed together so that students had to walk over the top of the desks to get to their seats. Two Army huts were expected to be available in 1949 to relieve the pressure, but these were in fact not ready for occupancy until 1950.

The following description by Mrs. Jessie Macleod gives a good account of some of the worst hardships endured during the period.

"One of my vivid memories of this period was one very cold afternoon in the winter term. I was coming down the corridor and Pat Wallev (Senior Mistress), was there teaching her Intermediate French class. There were 15-20 children in the group, all sitting around a long trestle table set up in the corridor, everyone wrapped in rugs. In the middle of the table was a hurricane lamp to shed a little light in the darkness!"

Rutter vs Stewart

In 1945, the Annual Athletic Sports included, as well as the normal running and jumping events, slow bicycle races, obstacle races, sack races, cross ball, tunnel ball, shuttle relay, wheel races and even non-competitors races.
The sports were won by Rutter that year, with 196-1/2 points to Stewart's 157-1/2.

The End of an Era

The sharp increase in the demand for secondary schooling made it necessary for the Education Department to create new high schools. It became Departmental policy at this time to upgrade Higher Elementary Schools where there was a trend to increased student populations. A public meeting was held at Eltham to promote the decision to upgrade the school to High School status. The school was proclaimed a High School on 17th August, 1949 and began operation as a high school from 1st January 1950.