Flashback Friday - Seaberg Diaries: Boarding
Thursday, 12 September 2013
From its beginning in 1890, Barker College has always been a boarding school. Sammy Seaberg (Staff 1923-1965) reflects on the life of the Barker College boarding student:
“There were two sections; the senior section living in the Dormitory Block (now Carter House) in four dormitories; and the house boys, about 20 in all, who lived in a series of rooms attached to the Senior Resident’s house. Dormitory Block was in the hands of the three Resident Masters, and the house boys were subject to the resident trained nurse, known universally as Nurse.
“The boarders’ day began at 7am when a bell rang for early morning detention. This was for punishment given to boarders the previous day and was intensely disliked on cold winter mornings. It was supervised by the MOD, who also did not appreciate the early rising it necessitated. At about 7:50am it was dismissed and a bell rang for roll call. All boys had to be present at this, dressed and ready for breakfast which followed at 8am. School followed in the usual pattern with the hot dinner being served at midday. Tea was at 6pm in winter and 6:15 in summer.
“There were two supervised divisions for Preparation. The senior boys were in rooms I and 2 under the MOD and the juniors in rooms 3 and 4 with the sub duty man in charge. The master sat at an open door between the rooms. Prep started at 7pm in summer and 7:15 in winter and ended at 8pm for house boys and 8:45 for the rest. Supervision was strict, letter writing or reading unauthorised books was severely punished, usually by a Saturday Detention. At 8:45 the main body went to be, but Intermediate and above were allowed to work alone, until 9:30 or 10pm.
“In the dormitories discipline was not unduly strict until lights out at 9:15, after which strict silence was enforced. A prayer silence of 3 minutes was proclaimed by the ringing of the bell and during this time no talking or moving was allowed. Most boys took full advantage of it and knelt by their beds. By 10 O’clock the last of the senior boys were in bed and the weary MOD could not leave the premises on his duty day and was held responsible for all happenings, peaceful or otherwise. The sub duty man, apart from the supervision of prep had little to do but it was a second day out of his week.
“Weekend duty generally was long, boring and monotonous particularly in bad weather. It started at 7am on Saturday and ended at 10pm on Sunday. Saturday, of course was broken up by supervision of Detention and Sport and Sunday meant a church service at St Paul’s Wahroonga. There was little for the boys to do especially on Saturday nights, but the MOD very often arranged competitions, concerts or even boxing to help break the tedium.
“Life in the school had its customs, usages and traditions. New boys entering the school had to conform to certain conditions. The first was the new boys’ concert. At this, each new boy had to contribute an item to a general programme, to be received, as a general rule, with universal disfavour. Initiation ceremonies were held in each dormitory, the customs varying from dormitory to dormitory but generally consisting of “running the gauntlet.” Here the old inhabitants tired up by their beds with towels in their hands and each initiate had to run the length of the room meanwhile being whipped by the towels. A dormitory went a stage further and blackened with boot polish the tummies of their new comers. This, on at least one occasion, led to a series of fights in which the newcomers reversed the process and blackened the eyes and tummies of the old hands.
“The food at the school was quite good. Breakfast was a substantial meal of the usual type, dinner at midday was good and varied and the evening meal, except on Sundays, reasonable. At dinner there was a menu, with a choice of beef or mutton on an entrée type of dish, with a choice of sweets, usually a steam pudding or a milk pudding. Naturally the choice for the boys became limited as the tables were served. The menu was written on small black boards quite prominently displayed, and all could fill up on bread and gravy, an “extra” that nearly all boys called for. The arrangement in the Dining Room consisted of a top table, reserved for the Head and the Senior Master and family, and five tables for the boys. Four tables accommodated the boarders and the fifth those day boys who came into dinner at an extra fee. The staff sat at the ends of the tables. My position at first was at one of the inner tables with junior boys, but when, at the end of second term, Ivan Fraser went out of residence I was promoted to the end of the senior table and remained there for my period in residence. Masters were permitted to leave the room when they had finished their meal, but the MOD had to wait until the boys were dismissed either by the Head, the Senior Master or in their absence himself. Dining Room discipline was in general quite good.”