Australian School Experiences: Patrick, 1967-79

Figure 1.-- .

I am now 40 years old and am going to tell you about my school experiences. I recall quite a bit about my school days at Primary and High school from 1966 to 1979. Yes it was a long time to be at school and no I did not do year 11 or 12. I actually turned 18 years of age before I left high school in year 11 and my High School Certificate (HSC) for leaving standard education in a Catholic co-educational college pass. I attended a catholic primary school from 1967-75. It was in the northern wheatbelt area. The actual school was in Port Pirie, South Australia. We had a light blue cotton shirt, grey vee neck jumper with the two colours of blue and yellow on the vee and lower sleeves, grey shorts in summer and usually long trousers in the winter climes. We had grey long socks with the same colours on the top tips. The next school I was perceived to go to was a catholic boys school called 'Salesian College'. I feared for the worst (no girls), a blazer (what the heck was a blazer), hightly polished shoes, short hair policy (oh no), blue tie, grey vee neck jumper, boring English schoolboy style dark grey poliester/cotton trousers. Shorts were worn only by grades 6 and 7 but occasionally 8 and 9ers did also. My school Saint Marks merged with the Salesians and became Saint Marks College which was co-ed). We wore the Salesian version of the 'new' uniform. This isan account of the uniforms I wore at my different schools.


The HBC is rather interesting. I grew up in part from an era of change in boys clothes during the 1960s-70s through 1980 when I was a 19-year old teenager. I was thus part of this historical process. We actually even here in South Australia shared many similar experiences with Americans. I was born in Port Pirie, South Australia in 1961 to a mechanic father and housewife mother of limited finances. Port Pirie is known as the port city/town for being the world's second largest lead smelters in the world. Our family resources were limited. You might say we were poor by American or British standards.

Starting School

I remember being 5 years old and not wanting to wear a prep boy short trousers unifiorm to my first day because it was a convent school. I remember before I began school being very affraid of the teachers. They seemed very alien to me at the beginning. The nuns looked to me like Frankensteins in their black habits, they seemed to have no feet and seemed to glide along like a very british Dalek. They caused me to tremble and I wondered what my parents had in store for me' sending me to this Frankensteinian school and feeling like Eddy Munster in fact. My grandmother (Nana) actually chose my first uniform. She said I looked like a "little Briton boy," my blond hair, blue eyes and dimpled and rosey cheeks. Eventually I got used to the nuns. They were Italians and used to pinch me on the cheeks and talk to me in italian (bambino e bello).

First Day

It was february 1967 I had my 5th birthday 2 months earlier and it was time for a boy and his first adventure in to the scary world of PRIMARY SCHOOL. Up early at 6:00 am on that first monday. I remember that it was very hot. My brother Michael was very excited about the whole school thing. Well he was going to show off his blond haired brother with the fatface dimples plus the greyblue eyes. My sister Cindy was the second oldest. She was like a little mother hen, telling me about the big redbrick two story building that would become the centre of my universe.

I spotted those freshly ironed and lemon ??? (OMO) washed prepboy type school uniform, I spotted the very English looking grey longleg woolen like shorts. I jumped back a step or ten. Yes the uniform was laid out on my bed in a neat pile with a lemony smell wafting from them. I spotted my Clarks school shoes, black ones all shiny like Tim Brook-Taylor's shoes were. "Well hurry up son wakey wakey rise and shine. Let's get dressed boy. Come on into your lovely neat uniform" dad smiled. "Your gonna look a million dollars because your a nice looking little boy and that uniform will make you look like a real little English boy".

Well into 'IT' I climbed remonstrating in the big tall mirror. That first day I was indignant. I never had worn the same clothes of the same colours before and this was a little scary, even scandalous to my mind. I felt like a little sissy, well "like a Little Lord Fauntleroy" as dad told me--I wasn't precisely sure what that meant at the time. The wool shorts and socks made my legs itch. Then dad put some oil in my hair and combed it up and put a part in my hair. Well I tell you that was the straw--it truly broke the camels back. Tears did flow. In fact, I cried a river. This uniform seemed like a millstone around my neck.

The adults reactions to me in my new uniform didn't help much. Mum gushed "What a cute little boy we have here," was enough to squash any little boy's spirits. Dad told me he went through what I went through and my boat refloated at bit. "You look really cute said Nanna," as she pinched me on the cheeks. Dad had dropped in to my grandparents to show me off. "Handsome little bloke," said Grandfather as he smiled at me. Then 5 minutes by car from Nannas house and off to school.

Finally I set sail to school--Saint Marks Primary School'Port Pirie 'South Australia. . The first day at school was daunting, I mean I was leaving the confines of our modest little abode to a larger two story red brick castle (big building in my child thoughts logic)* I walked into the schoolyard, my proud big brother holding my shaking hand. I kind of felt safe having big brother there with me, sort of my rock of Gibralter. The time came for me to see my little friends in the schoolroom. They were dressed like prepboys too. Well some of them had basic cotton grey shorts, the rather nice short sleeved light blue shirt a tie or [?ten] and black shoes. Hosiery rather varied. There were grey longsocks, woolsocks, and slightly shorter than usual socks. I wanted a pair of wonderful trendy Midfords with the tons of pockets, nice stitchings, well cut style grey shorts with a fab zip front, and a hideaway fobpocket on the waiste for small change. But I got the Fauntleroy English look so the other less traditional dressed boys did stir the pot a little, but the teachers reckoned I looked a million dollars. I looked quite English to them. Looking English in the mid 1960s wasn't too bad especially in monarchist Australia. (Queen Elizabeth is still the head of state here.) Looking back now, the preppy look wasn't too bad considering my auntys liked the look on me anyway and on occasions like mass on sundays they spoilt me which I did not mind at all.

My Primary School

I was at Saint Marks Primary School from 1967-75. Primary was grades 1-7. It was a Catholic primary school in the northern wheat-belt area. The school was in Port Pirie, South Australia. My little old school was actually four little Catholic schools combined in to a supermerger to become Saint Mark's College. It has changed quite a bit from when I was there. It is and is quite preparatory now in both uniform code. It continued to stress the same family morals and value systems. I think it is also now more rigorous academically. You now have to buckle down and study hard. I now wonder some 30 years down the track of years that If I were say a 5 year boy in 2002 now' I think that I would be too poor to attend such a wonderful loving school and community. The school fees would be the killer.

I loved my little school. I was a blond haired blue eyed dimpled cheeks boy, the big girls at my school would pinch my cheeks and piggyback me around the schoolyard perimators. It was a Catholic co-ed school and the nuns there were tough task masters like the English prep system. Eventually I got used to the uniform and it did not conquer me as I thought it swould at first. Actually I enjoyed primary school plus the mysterious lady [?daleks] sticks and all the high masses, sports games including a soccer game or three plus. I loved the choirs at high mass and the joint effort [?they] put into it. I was a congruent Catholic schoolboy till I left primary school. I also became an altar boy. I remember that we alter boys hated those the frock-like gowns we had to wear for the masses.

Our Uniform

Original Uniform

I started school in december 1966 in prep grade or preparation for primary school but we wore the then full regulation uniform and it was very British preparatory style for this little RC schoolboy. My parents insisted I wear the full uniform set by the school. This consisted oflight blue shirt, blue tie in winter, grey vee neck jumper with standard two colours of blue and yellow on the vee and lower sleeves. I wore a short sleeved cotton collared light blue school shirt'a blue tie in winter'a grey vee neck school jumper with the blue and yellow trim on the vee and lower cuffs of my school sweater/jumper, long leg grey shorts with white cotton lining, grey kneesocks with school colours bands on the turner over cuffs, black Bata Scouts or Clarks school shoes and shining nicely to so that you could see your face in them and a homemade blue school blazer and peak cap and yes I was the last boy in my family and school to wear my blue peaked cap. (The school cut it from our official uniforn when I entered grade three the first time and would have been 1970.) This was finished off with regulation short back and sides hair styles. A big cheesy smile finished the look. It was the look of a English prep boy. Yes we country boys had to wear the 'UNIFORM' and wear wore sandals like the ones discribed in HBC. The black ones were worn by the rich boys, we wore brown buckled up type. We wore grey shorts in summer and usually long trousers in the winter climes. Most parents insisted their children follow the school rules. The school sets the standards and most parents followed the guidelines. In some cases the richer kids would buy the better designs available at that point in time and era. Longs were worn more by the better off kids, either affluent or two income families. Some rich lads just followed everyone else. The blue blazers were more commonly worn by thericher lads than the worse off lads. Black shoes were required uniform complement. We were not allowed to wear long black woolen dufflecoats even though they were made from the same material as those fab blazers. The styles I mentioned were carried over to boys wear as well.

I wore shorts because we were not a rich family but as our early winters are not too bad'we usually wore longs from July-September 25 then back to shorts again. We all wore types ranging from those English prepboys grey long/short leg shorts, 1970S shorter but baggish like the English lads, Midford style and college type with brass fasteners, belted style, cheap cotton basics, king gee/stubbies and very English upper classic styles. I really had no particular preference at the time.

Our blue blazers were like the English style even at private/prep schools. We wore sandals like those worn by our brothers in New Zealand, but thongs were not allowed. Our stocking style was like the ones worn by British boys in the 1920s-1950s were worn as were the latter styles from the 1960-1980s. I wore prep style uniforms from grades 1 to 5 then the style changed slightly to casual Midford style (British grey/dark grey boxer style with coin and deep side of leg pockets and a back pocket on back left, snap on brass/tin fasteners, and smart fly zip. The blond boy pictured by HBC in a blue blazer/grey prep shorts is the closest to my old school's design code but with a light blue shirt/blue tie. I liked my school it was not posh but they were strict like English prep schools were.

For sport we wore white cotton or black cotton shorts, more likely boxer style I think. Cricket was actually the same as those worn by our English brothers. If you put an Aussie and a British cricketer together side by side you would not know the differance believe me. We never played rugby or wore those fashions but some interstaters did like in New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, and Canberra (Australian Capital Territory--ACT).

Later uniform

By about grade four the prep image changed a fair bit. My itchy longleg grey shorts were replaced by cottons a fraction shorter and cooler. There were several different types: King Gee Stubbies, Midford, some modern english labels, and baggy longleg terylene/viacose/rayon blends like those worn by the prep style private schools in the 1990s and 2000s. They had brasslike fastenings, button ups and belted types.

Finishing Primary School

I was one of the older boys at the school by the time I finished primary. I has been kept back in grade 3. At primary school I had turned 14 years old in the late November and had the indignity of wearing greyshorts as a early teenager before going to high school. I had failed grade 3 in 1971 as a result of a broken leg caused by a boy on a speeding bike, plus starting school in 67 instead of 66 because of my birthdate and the fact I was a sickly 4 1/2 year old boy. I stayed in shorts right through my whole primary school years even newly aged 14 years much to my complete displeasure I must say in all reality and I hated wearing grey shorts in years 6 and 7 respectively and I'm being honest about this. In way I was lucky because I looked young for my age. I was stuck in shorties after 12 years of age and it was very disconcerning to in my case history and by year 6 I developed a silly boyish shorts phobia and avoid all school sports entailing the wearing of shorts and so I of course chose wisely and took up cricket but dad would not buy me a pair of long white strides/trousers and I ended up playing in short white cotton shorts. I was downright annoyed by this. I got my left leg broken by a 16 year old schoolboy on a pushbike and he ran in me aged 9 at full speed and so cricket was retired and so was Cubs and Aussie rules footy. I had to repeat grade 3 and had to leave my schoolgrade classmates and move to Our Lady of Fatima a RC primary school for a whole year and them back to my old school in Saint Mark's Primary school which merged with us during that year in 1972 and I had to wear shorter grey shorts and stop learning the old english weights and measurements and learn the metric system instead and no more latin either but I knew some already as I started choir the year earlier. That was a most traumatic year for me in that I had to sort of begin again and be in a class of children who were almost 2 years younger than I and I felt out of wack with these kids to say year 5 once I had adjusted finally.


At newly 14 I got a severe punishment in being forced to sign a YMCA camp form in November 1975 before I finished year 7 and primary school and out of grey shorts for good and it was because I was throwing big stones on to peoples rooftops and a police officer caught me doing it and yes he was a fellow Scotsman like me myself. He had me placed with those nice Anglicans and oh my god before I could count to three I was back in familiar territory and that being = 'GREY SHORT TROUSERS' ''Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo not grey short trousers to wear again'hey I'm 14 now and a future year 8 high schooler''I haggled with the Anglican married priest. (Priests being married'how strange) I got a college cut or undercut short back and sides or a lovely 1940's puddin' basin cut and a red school blazer, red peak cap, fully lined long leg style Ferguson grey short trousers belted with flyzip, beltloops and deep patch pockets and fully elasticated and a short leg pair of grey Midfords with prepcamp school badge on the lower front left shorts leg 'grey 3 quarters or kneesocks with prepcamp colours, white or grey shirt, red tie'grey'blue or red prepcamp sweater with black Oxfords school shoes. After my complete culture shock makeover I was sent to bed for being a little sook/crybaby and yes I was really livid at firstly losing my long locks and secondly facing life for 7 weeks back in grey short trousers and life as an Anglican posh preppyboy with five 'babies' receiving the same exact makeover and my gosh they were all 12.

Other Local Schools

Most other local schools did wear a uniform, but not as smart as ours I like to think. In Port Pirie they had them and very simular but not smart blue blazers. Adelaide private/preparatory/Catholic or Anglican Priory/Christain schools/college (boarding) all had English influnces in uniform from the 1920 till now in 2002. A local school in Port Pirie featured all types of scattered clothing styles and only about 45 percent of this school wore the traditional school uniform with grey shorts/trousers for the boys or basic dresses for girls.

Secondary School

The next school I was perceived to go to was a Catholic boys school called 'Salesian College'. Secondary school began with grade 8 and went through grades 12/13. My school Saint Marks merged with the Salesians and became Saint Marks College which was co-ed). We wore the Salesian version of the 'new' uniform. When my parents broke up in 1974 I was going to be put in to the good hands of Rostrever College in Adelaide somewhere but mum ended with us six kids.

Year Six

Before my primary school merged with Salesian College for Boys, year 6 boys used to attend Salesian College with the bigger boys but retained the blue caps and wore preppy grey longleg shorts. My oldest brother wote this uniform 5 years before the merger in 1977.

Salesian College

The juniors at Salesian College wore grey shorts as they were juniors or primary school age and even year 8 boys originally wear gry shorts because they were junior high boys. Some Year 9 boys wore them in th high summer, but only about 25 perecnt did this.

Secondary School Uniform

I feared for the worst (no girls), a blazer (what the heck was a blazer), hightly polished shoes, short hair policy (oh no), blue tie, grey vee neck jumper, boring English schoolboy style dark grey polyester/cotton trousers. Shorts were normally worn by primary boys through grades 6 and 7, occasionally 8 and 9ers contimued to wear shorts in secondary school as well. Actually only long pants were were allowed but some of us decided in the real hot months like January/February to wear longleg shorts and got permission to do so. Years 8-11 Did Not wear grey shorts long or short leg designs, Boys wore both kneesocks and ankle socks. The older boys sometimes gave us younger boys wearing a stirring (teased us). This was especially the case for me because I was a bit older and stood out. however, that rule has long changed because parents didn't want there boys sweating up a storm in the cotton grey slacks/trousers from the 1990s onwards.

Once in secondary school (year 8), I finally was in my grey school trousers but I liked the longleg Midfords better because they were cut better and had a much better style that my new cotton longs. I hated flairs on both jeans and my latter school trousers. I mean I used to catch the bottom legcuffs in my bicycle chain and hence rip, back to shorts for a week till mum had the money for a new pair of trousers. This happened several times over the years and the daunting greyshorts would occasionally come back to haunt me in my darkest hours. Yes especially in the WINTER months. At Saint Marks College I wore grey slacks, light blue cotton shirt, grey vee jumper with blue, red and yellow on the vee area plus on my cuffs, black Bata/Corvin shoes and sometimes desert boots with a nice blue blazer to finish off the uniform.

St. Mark's College

After the merger in 1976-77 I went to Saint Mark's College which was now co-educational meaning both boys and girls. I was one of the change over class boys from that merger era. I cannot remember if this fact appeared in the local newspaper or if we were filmed or photographed in to new uniforms for both sections of the new Catholic school, but I do remember finally trying on that new dark blue blazer with the red lion and sailboat logo and thinking I was a little lord or prince dressed to kill. I was wide eyed and thought about my friend Trevor in Adelaide. He had a black blazer and a red one too and I thought it was Jim Dandy that I was in a Dr Who coat? I never got mine till grade 9 or 10 but I to liked my school uniform. Most boys by Year 9 were wearing long trousers. Some duringbthe summer wore shorts--it does get hot hee during the summer. I did too sometimes, but felt rather silly. Mum said I had brains and had realised that in our climate shorts wearing was a sensible option to the fancy grey slacks with those horrid flares.


Australia's early school systems of historical boys clothing are originally based on our English brothers own standards of dress and designations according to school ethos. Mostly Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran namely retained the traditional prep style from the 1920s. Some schools in Adelaide still carry over the preppy style maybe with a slight change or two.

Proud Parents

I think one aspect that HBC has not sufficently addressed is how proud many parents were of sending their bys to a good school. I think ths was important to mny English parents who could not affrd a private school, but were very proud that their sons earned entry into a grammar school. This was also the case wih Catholic parents here in Autralia. Many parnts ere working class, but were pleased with the high standards in these schools. Mums and dads loved you to dress to a rather grand standard and show off what you had achieved. I think this was good because at the end of the day you are you and the school uniform makes you a part of your school.


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Created: July 13, 2002
Last updated: December 8, 2003