Flashback Friday No.1 - The Dining Hall before it was destroyed by fire, 1925.
In 1935, the school’s Dining Hall and Kitchen was destroyed by fire. Mr “Sammy” Seaberg, a teacher at Barker College from 1923-1965, remembered the fire well:
“The year 1935 saw one big change in the school. On a cold night in July a fire destroyed the kitchen and dining hall. The kitchen was an old brick building, with a fuel range, while the Dining Hall was a weatherboard structure with lots of doors and windows – a rather draughty place.
Leslie in one of his fits of enthusiasm, had decided that poultry as a part of the menu would be a means of attracting boarders. To provide it he took to raising ducklings, with considerable success too. On the night in question, he had a number of very young ducklings in boxes. These he placed in front of the banked up fuel range. What happened is not clear, but apparently, the fire fell out onto the wooden floor which caught alight and the whole affair was ablaze. Who gave the alarm I don’t know, but the whole school was turned out of the dormitories and despite the efforts of the local fire brigade, the whole lot went up. (Headmaster) Leslie entered the burning dining hall and probably the opening of the doors fanned the flames. The only thing he rescued was the Archer Shield which was in our possession at the time. So cold was the night that the boys sneaked back to bed before all the excitement was over…
…Dinner (the following day) was cooked on the hospital stove and in the Leslie’s House. It was not long before a vacant dormitory, “D Dorm,” was fitted out as a dining room and kitchen, an arrangement that worked quite satisfactorily until the end of the year, when the new building was completed.
The fire destroyed all the trophy cups, Honour boards, etc., which were in the building, including the War Memorial. Most of these trophies were not replaced but the Old Boys Union provided a new War Memorial in the form of the steps in front of the main classroom block.”
The College Barker (1935, pp. 368-369), also reports on the events of that night:
“The most important event during second term was the fire that destroyed the School dining hall, with all its records, honour-roll, photographs of football, cricket and athletic teams, prefects’ and examination boards. The only thing rescued was the Archer Shield, which had been won by the cricket team last year.
The fire broke out in the kitchen at about 1.30 on Thursday morning, June 27. Soon the flames had a good grip, and it was only good work by four brigades that saved the Headmaster’s residence. We are now having our meals comfortably in one of the lower dormitories, where satisfactory arrangements have been made. It is expected that the new dining hall will be in use early next year.”
This fire was the first of three fires to have occurred at Barker College during its 124 year history. In March 1980, the Chemistry Wing of the Science Building (where the Library now stands) was gutted by fire. This was followed in August 1982 by the burning of the top floor of West Wing-The Palace.