The local schools pitch in too

Local school students also made a significant contribution to the war effort, including through fund-raising and material drives, patriotic concerts and other events. In this regard, the Pakenham State School (No 1359) under the direction of the Head Teacher, Miss Maria Frederika “Freddie” Hagens was regarded as an exemplar. At the height of the Gallipoli campaign, the school donated 40 pairs of mittens, three pairs of gloves, 37 handkerchiefs, 47 washers, 42 pairs of socks, old linen and over £20 to the State Schools‘ Patriotic Fund which helped to provide comforts for the soldiers (SBMJ 2/9/1915, p. 3). Items such as socks and scarves were knitted by the female students under the direction of the sewing mistress, Miss Louise Hagens. In 1917, Freddie Hagens personally defrayed the costs of a special concert (to the tune £12 - around a month’s wages for the average worker) so that the entire profit could be donated to the Patriotic Fund (PG 27/7/1917, p.2). By War’s end, Pakenham State School had donated a total of £159.6s.6d to the Department of Education’s War Relief Fund (Department of Education 1921, p. 300). The students had also been encouraged to invest their pocket money in war savings certificates. Fresh produce such as eggs, potatoes, honey and home made jams were sent to the Caulfield Military Hospital too (PG 25/10/1918, p. 2).  The contribution being made by Pakenham State School to the War effort was recognised during 1918 by the Education Department when Freddie Hagens received a letter conveying the “Director’s congratulations and commendation on the fine spirit you are showing and the success you are achieving in promoting the welfare of the War Savings movement and war relief in your community ... Your significant work in these departments of national service is greatly appreciated (PG 6/9/1918, p. 2). The smaller state schools in the District also  contributed as much money as they could raise to the patriotic funds. In the case of Pakenham Upper State School, which donated a total of £40, the majority of its contribution came in the form of small weekly donations, although a concert put on by the students in 1917 managed to raise over £9 in one go (PG, 9/11/1917, p.2).

 

Perhaps more important than fundraising and material drives was the spirit of patriotism which state schools instilled in their students. Loyalty to the King and Empire had always been strongly emphasised in the curriculum. However, during the War there was especial emphasis on the “justice” of the War effort and the need to make personal sacrifices to support it. Empire Day (May 24) in particular, was used to “concentrate the attention of the scholars” on the War effort. Of the 1915 Empire Day celebrations at Pakenham State School, it was said that “the salute of the flag never meant so much to either scholar, teacher or committee, as it did on this occasion” (SBMJ 27/5/1915 p. 3). The flagpole and flag actually used had been donated to the school in late 1914 by the Toomuc Valley Orchard (TVO) in a demonstration of “patriotic spirit” (SBMJ 10/12/1914, p. 2). Two local teachers, Thomas Gregory Mortimer and Jack Clements, gave a personal example to their students by enlisting in the AIF themselves.

 

The first Anzac Day observance 

The first anniversary of the declaration of war was marked in August 1915 with enthusiastic meetings, which passed patriotic resolutions  (DA 5/8/1915, p. 2). Similarly, the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in April 1916 was marked enthusiastically, particularly in the state schools. The Victorian Education Department issued a special program for celebrations in schools, which locally included patriotic addresses and special concerts (DA 20/4/1916, p. 2). An Anzac commemorative medal was also distributed to the students, with the proceeds going to the patriotic funds. In the wider community, a  “highly sensational and tragic” play called “Anzac” was staged at the Mechanics’ Institute in the lead up to Anzac Day. Performed by the Mutual Improvement Society under the direction of the local Presbyterian missioner Mr Armour,  “Anzac” was an entirely local production in five acts. These included scenes on a troop transport; two scenes in the trenches; one in a cafe in Egypt; and the finale depicting the last respects paid by a Turk to his “brave adversaries who have spent their life’s blood for their kith and kin” (DA 13/4/1916 p. 2). Amongst the performers were Misses Thewlis, Wells and Bell, dressed exotically as Egyptian waitresses. Of their performance, it was said “the picturesque scene made more than one wonder whether the reality would not prove disappointing so far as the waitresses were concerned” (DA 20/4/1916, p.2). The proceeds went to the Red Cross Funds. In the spirit of a long and venerable Pakenham tradition, a special Anzac Day race meeting was also held in aid of the Red Cross Funds (DA 13/4/1916, p.2). The race meeting must have been a success since it was repeated the following year. 

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