The History of Eltham High School

The Sixties - Friendship Years

Snapshots of the Friendship Years

1960
680 students with 35 staff

1961
School counselling service began

1962
School newspaper "Friendship" started

1963
3 tennis courts built on site of old caretakers house

1964
New wing housing Art and Commerce built

1965
Rutter won Athletics and Swimming Sports

1966
Hurstbridge High housed in school; prefect system abandoned

1967
Girls Athletics team won Lewin Cup at Combined Athletic Sports

Lee Adamson - went on to play for Collingwood
Eltham High School, Form 6, 1967
1968
"Mercury" printed in Hong Kong

1969
1030 students with 56 staff


An 'Overcrowded New School'

The struggle the school went through in the 50s to have the accommodation matched to the enrolment, and the apparent victory by 1958 when the 'new school' was completed, did not take into account the continued growth of student enrolment in the 60s. Although the growth of Eltham High School did not quite match the State wide increase of 94.2% for the 60s, the jump in student enrolment from 680 in 1960 to 1030 in 1969 put a tremendous strain on the facilities of the school.

This growth came despite the opening of new schools in the area:

Merrilands High School 1957
Banyule High School 1961
Watsonia High School 1961
Macleod Technology 1961
Lalor High School 1963
Preston East High School 1964
Hurstbridge High School 1966
Montmorency High School 1969

The 60s is a period in which there was, despite the accommodation problems, a great deal of achievement on all fronts - academic, cultural and sporting; probably the greatest difference from the 50s was an increased complexity and sophistication in the school community.

In 1966 a critical situation developed as the already overcrowded facilities of Eltham High had to cope with the extra burden of accommodating Hurstbridge High School in its first year. This situation eventuated with the staff setting out a letter to the Minister of Education, Mr. Thompson on 20th October 1967 with their grievance. In the letter read in part:

"Accommodation at Eltham is at present overcrowded and appears that it will be worse in the future. We regard the use of portable classrooms as a very poor substitute for progressive planning and urge you to proceed immediately with the establishment of a new school in the area. Further we deplore the need for new schools to be established as parasites within a host school and request you to withdraw this practice as Department policy."

A New Newspaper & Other Achievements

For the first time, a school newspaper, the "Friendship", was produced and commercially published in March and May of 1962. The pioneering editorial committee were Carolyn Davison, Beth Lade and Alan Pitman. The paper was to offer students a place to air their views (which some did strongly!); that information concerning coming events could be published, thus keeping students informed; and that events of mainly immediate interest could be chronicled.

In terms of traditional academic standards, the 60s were highly successful. At Form 5 level, a number of students won Teaching Busaries, while at Form 6 level, a good pass rate was maintained and many Commonwealth Tertiary Scholarships, Secondary and Primary Teaching Studentships were won.

Dr. Jeff Brownrigg Reminisces

Dr. Jeff Brownrigg provided his "Reminiscences" of Eltham High School in the 60s:

I came to Eltham High in what was then called Form Four. My strongest recollections and the most affectionately recalled, concern the wonderful blossoming of drama and music over the three years I was at Eltham. In Fourth Form we studied Julius Caesar and "put on" some scenes from the play in a mini drama festival. I played Brutus to Greg Hocking's Marc Anthony with Jim Phillips as J.C. Betty Whickam was the driving force. In the same year, we "did" Iolanthe with Don Grant. It wasn't the first G & S at Eltham, but it attracted a lot of support and even television coverage. These activities, which were additions to the regular curriculum, provided experiences of speaking, singing and cavorting in public which gave us confidence which has affected what we have become.

It would have been difficult to have escaped from Eltham High without something of the ethos, broadly summarised and perhaps parodied in the words "claret and corduroy", rubbing off on you. In the 60s, there was no doubt about the distinctive difference of the place, no question that it was special. Although Noel Schleiger taught maths (in the main), he supported matriculation geology and an area of study not usually available in schools at the time. Joyce Webb and Pat Moore (who taught me how to pronounce "Goethe") seemed to thrive on the informal activities where teachers and kids worked as a team and where adults were "primus inter pares" (Betty Whickam taught me that!). There was a flexible approach to kids and getting things out of them, a permeating creativity in the treatment of individuals as individuals.

From Eltham High, we all went out into the world with odd sets of skills. Many of us became teachers and produced G & S's in Victorian country towns. But the stamp of that style of education which produces an insatiable, inquisitive spirit has been upon that Fourth Form ever since.