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Schools On Stage

Updated: May 29


In 1910, each of the three Kinglake district schools held a concert.
At Kinglake West, on Friday 22 April, after many weeks of practice, the scholars presented at lengthy program which was 'up to the standard of the most critical' and 'worthy of greatest commendation' according to the report in the 'Evelyn Observer' on 29 April 1910. Mr Thomas Dickson was the Head Teacher at that time and he was assisted in preparing the children's items by Mrs Christie and Mrs Scott, two of the parents who trained the children in singing and 'fancy dancing'. Other mothers 'entered enthusiastically into all dressing arrangements', producing everything from Japanese kimonos to sailor suits, and also a 'sumptuous repast' after the concert.
The program lasted three hours. Special highlights were 'Swing me Up A Little Higher', a song by Isabel Salisbury and Karl Muller, for which a 'temporary swing was erected on the stage with the ropes adorned with ivy', and the whole school joined in the chorus. Two 'little tots' with 'innocent faces' from the Beginners Grade recited 'Our Baby' and were 'too young to be self-conscious'. Jim Salisbury, 'with stockings down, trousers creased and laces undone', sang 'The Tardy Scholar'. The whole school presented a 'drill', each child with cylindrical blocks of wood with ribbons of red, white and blue and bells fixed', which was 'accurately done and gave a lively effect'. The older girls sang 'Japanese Fan', with appropriate costumes and actions, and 'Won't You Buy My Pretty Flowers?', 'each pair of singers in a large semi-circular arch of ivy entwined with flowers', and the boys sang 'Friends', a piece written with references to local events including the nearby saw mill's traction engine, 'The Terror of the Road'. The last item was an operetta which involved all the children and ended with 'Oh, Things Were Very Different In Our Young Days' which was much enjoyed by the audience.

Kinglake Central school concert group c1910

The newspaper report said that it spoke volumes for the children that the audience did not think three hours too long. Mr Rawsthorne, the local member of the Whittlesea Board of Advice, thanked and praised the children and Mr Dickson responded to thank all present, particularly Mrs Christie and Mrs Scott, for their fine work. He explained that the aim of the concert was to provide dual desks for the school which would give the children extra comfort. The sum taken at the concert would nearly amount to £9, a great credit to all involved.
On 24 June 1910, the Kinglake and Kinglake Central schools combined to present a concert in the Kinglake Hall and the report in the Evelyn Observer on 1 July stated that it was 'highly successful from both an entertaining and financial point of view'. The children rendered their items 'very creditably, evoking rounds of applause from the large audience'.
Items included a piano duet by sisters, Violet and Bertha Kerr; an action song, 'Princess Charming' by the Kinglake Central children; a recitation by Jacky Crockford; physical exercises by the scholars of Kinglake State School; a duet by Bessie Lawrey and Ida Beale; club swinging by James and Arnold Exton; a song by Alex Chalmers; a recitation by Arthur North; and a 'Mirror Drill' by the Kinglake children.
Their teachers, Miss Alice Shields and Miss Alice Worboise, 'deserved the highest commendation for the conduct and efficiency of their pupils'. Mr and Mrs Traill were thanked for 'the tasteful and attractive way they had renovated and arranged the stage', and appreciation was expressed to Mr H. Kerr who assisted with the stage management. The ladies who provided refreshments, Mr Traill as accompanist for the concert, and members of the Hall Committee, especially the secretary, Cr A. Beale, 'all did their share towards making the entertainment a success'.
Considering that these were the days of horse-drawn vehicles, jinker and buggy, and that the roads of the district were at that time little more than dirt tracks, the energy and activity of those early families is remarkable and to be admired. It is interesting to note that the usual thing was for such concerts to be followed by a dance which often continued until daybreak when it was light enough to see the way home.
Deidre Hawkins
Kinglake Historical Society
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