Recollections from St Mary’s 1971-1978

OUR series of tales from the Vincent Local History Centre returns this week with Julie Anglesey’s ‘Recollections from My School Years at St Mary’s 1971-1978’, one of the entries from this year’s local history awards.

I ARRIVED at St Mary’s, as  the Aranmore College girls’ school was then known, as a nine-year-old in 1971. 

What a culture shock it was for me to move from a small, blonde-brick school with a sun-burnt Aussie flavour near my beachside home in Trigg, to an “ancient” double-storey school where everyone seemed to be related, and Italian was spoken more than English.

It took two buses to travel to Leederville – the first bus from Trigg to the newly-created Karrinyup interchange, the second one dropping us on busy Loftus Street.

The smoke-filled buses would become crowded with office workers on their way to the city and we would politely stand for the adults, (“reluctantly” might be a more accurate word!), when there were no seats left.

My daily pilgrimage up tree-lined Franklin Street led me past rendered brick houses with brown-tiled verandahs, and unfriendly-looking weatherboard cottages. 

My adult self now loves these renovated cottages with their high ceilings and jarrah floorboards, but my perception was different back then.

One white-rendered house (or was it blue? I can’t remember now) had a low path-side wall that was decorated with shells. 

This struck my young brain as being odd; Leederville, to me, felt about as far away from the ocean as you could get. 

Nevertheless, I could appreciate the patience and love that had gone into cementing each individual seashell into place. 

The homeowner would stand guard over her maritime creation every morning as groups of blue sailor-girls marched our way to school. 

One morning, with no guard in sight, my friend dared to walk on top of the wall, crushing beautifully formed shells with each disrespectful step. 

Out of nowhere, a wild Italian lady appeared, yelling animatedly at us. 

We may not have understood the words, but we certainly received their meaning… 

These days, the shell house is gone, replaced by a modern home more in fitting with this now-trendy neighbourhood.

The sliced white-bread Vegemite sandwiches I retrieved from my lunchbox each day were a world apart from the large crusty rolls of my friends, full of unfamiliar meats and cheeses. 

Words like mortadella, coppa, gorgonzola were a brand-new language to me; a language I learned to love.

By the time I reached Year 12, I’d drive down to the Re Store at lunchtime, my senses delighting in the rich sights and smells that welcomed me, and order these same delicious lunches for myself.

The church was a central point of our lives. 

When people asked me where I went to school, I’d point out the steeple, its red-brick tower and white peak tapering gracefully above the roofs for miles around. 

I’d never been in such a grand church before, but singing in the choir allowed me to skip class to sing at funerals. 

The priest would perform the service in Latin, his smoky gold-chained thurible filling the air beneath the stained-glass windows with frankincense. 

Our heavenly voices, trained by Sister Mary Magdalene, would rise angelically above the booming pipe organ in reverent tribute to lives well lived…

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