Sepia Saturday: Of schools and tennis

Tennis Players (1920s) Unknown Subjects and Location

Sepia Saturday this week is all about imposing buildings and a very ladylike game of tennis. It seems apt therefore that it immediately brought to my mind, the Catholic High School I attended with its emphasis on ladylike behaviour – sadly I’ve let that fall by the wayside over the years.

All Hallows 1988

This photo was taken of the school in 1988, closer to when our daughters attended than when I did. At the time I was there the top floor on the right contained the concert hall which we approached by a slightly winding wooden staircase. Woe betide us if our heavy shoes made a single sound as we progressed up the floors….ladylike behaviour, remember. And in a divergence, equally heaven help us if any noise or disturbance distracted us from the speaker, play or concert that was being performed on the stage. I’ve thought since what an unfortunate training it was for the modern age where being alert to one’s surroundings can make the difference between life and death in dire circumstances. I don’t suppose the nuns could have imagined such things in the mid-1960s.

I did play on the courts in this image once or twice, goodness knows why. My tennis skills were very mediocre and I was not keen to exhibit my inadequacies to any nun or the other students who passed by.

Similarly another set of courts was directly below my classroom in Years 9 and 10. Strangely I have no memory of ever hearing the ping of tennis balls on a racquet. The prevailing sense from that classroom was the strong smell of hops from the brewery across the road, and my cousin’s teacher slamming the blackboard to the very top when she was in a cranky mood.

Hallowian 1stT 1964 p4
A sketch of the school grounds from the informal magazine, The Hallowian. There’s no indication of who the artist was. It’s certainly changed enormously since then. Nor did I know we were in the University wing.

I first learned to play tennis in late primary school. I have no real idea how that came to pass, but I imagine the local school was letter-dropped or similar, as a number of kids from my school learned on someone’s backyard court nearby for a while. Our teacher was Daphne Fancutt who had been a Wimbledon Finalist in the 1950s. As I grew a bit older I caught the bus and tram to the Fancutt courts at Lutwyche. My inadequacies certainly didn’t improve in a competitive environment and a fellow student from school was somehow teamed with me. He was a very good A-standard player, despite having to deal with the results of  polio, I on the other hand, was P for Pathetic.

While I occasionally attended (to watch!) major tennis competitions at Milton, and even have a signature in my teenage autograph book from Aussie Legend, Rod Laver, I was happy to leave tennis behind well before I left high school. In early adulthood I learned to play squash which I enjoyed much more. I’ve never been a very sporty person even though I walked everywhere until my 20s as we didn’t own a car.

I was delighted to find this 1934 painting of the All Hallows’ Convent on the State Library of Queensland website this morning. It was painted by William Bustard and published in The Queenslander newspaper.

I’ve also found that the library has two gaps in its collection of All Hallows’ annual magazine: 1941 and 1951. Since I have inherited the 1941 edition from my mother and have already scanned her class photo I’ve offered the magazine to them. Perhaps someone else has the 1951 edition.

Why not go across to see where the other Sepians have lobbed their tennis balls this week?

all Hallows' SLQ 1934
Illustrated page from The Queenslander annual, November 6, 1934, p. 23
William Bustard 1894-1973 ; Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

15 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday: Of schools and tennis

  1. I so enjoyed your post, thank you. It reminded me of my days in the school hockey team. Why on earth I was picked I have no idea because I was truly useless. It was a mixed school so all my failed attempts to play a decent game were watched by the boy I fancied from afar (he was way out of my league). I’m 71 now but have never forgot the humiliation. I have three or four of my school magazines but going through them again I see the only mention I received was for my ‘very good’ deportment. I’m not mentioned in any of the hockey reports thank goodness!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our feeble attempts at sport can truly cast a long emotional shadow. At least I was spared that at high school as we were a girls only school. The boy who played better than I did was younger as well…I felt so badly that I let him down when he was paired on the court with me. As for swimming lesson humiliations…well we go to go there.


  2. That school building is certainly impressive and your memories of it evocative. I played tennis once in my life, with my brother during a Cape Cod, Mass. family vacation. The ball popped me in the eye, we had to get ice for it from a couple on the next court and that was it for me — like you, I turned to walking for exercise and have not looked back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t blame you for feeling like that about tennis! Sadly I don’t walk now and back then it was by necessity…I never imagined that they could fatten me up enough to need it…sadly they were wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The grounds were once a pineapple farm owned by Daniel Skyring – an ancestor of my granddaughter. He sold it for a small sum so the school could be built on it. Must find the exact story – I know I found it and I have obviously filed it safely. 🙂


  4. I so enjoyed your humorous story. My dad loved tennis, so I learned from him. I took tennis for a PE credit in college. Back then nobody stressed the importance of drinking water. There was no water fountain nearby. No one carried water bottles back then. I’d be nearly dead getting back to my dorm. I enjoyed playing though – love the sound of a racquet popping that ball.


  5. To this day I have a scar where my thumbnail jabbed into the skin on the outer side of my left knee when I shifted hands going after a ball in a high school game of tennis. I was not very good at tennis. I was better at basketball, for-fun street and beach (American) football, and dancing with pom-poms! 🙂 Beautiful school by the way.


  6. Oh Pauleen, the school will be thrilled to get that 1941 edition. Well done you. Isn’t that map of All Hallows interesting. Was it a hospital? Why the cabbage patch? Ah tennis. I remember practising for hours it seemed at the time on my serve. And then the dreaded volley. I do remember being told if I talked less I might play better. How rude! I was hopeless at sport. Truly hopeless. But a very enthusiastic cheerleader 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You made me laugh Alex! I was hopeless too but not so enthusiastic. Was the school a hospital? No it dates back to 1865 on that site, and 1863 since its inception at St Stephen’s site..brag, brag. I probably knew why the cabbage patch but have forgotten – I think it was a vegetable patch – hope they didn’t find babies there 🙂


  7. A great post and quite an impressive building. You’re very fortunate. My high school never taught tennis. As a matter of fact, most sports activities were geared towards the boys (football, baseball, basketball and wrestling).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful story, It was a “thing” I think for young people to learn to play tennis. A good way to socialise and meet people, I remember my mother telling me. I learnt at the local church. We had tennis at my school but I don’t remember them teaching it, although you could apply to join the team. My younger brother still plays tennis and he’s almost 60 so it was a good investment by my mother. Thanks for sharing a great story.


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