I remember the shelter sheds at the Ulverstone State School with great affection. The history of them turned out to be far more interesting than I imagined. The first mention in the TROVE newspaper archive was in 1904. It was a letter from a member of the School Board, Alfred Lakin, in response to an earlier one signed EDUCO, complaining that boys were banned from entry.


Sir – Kindly allow me the space to make an explanation in regard to a letter under the above heading in your issue of Monday last.

It is quite true there is but one ‘shelter shed’, and this has served the purpose for many years for both boys and girls. There is now however this difference. Until about a month ago the boys and girls played together in the one yard, but now there is a division fence, as the board were of the opinion it was better to have the children apart, but in wet weather the boys are allowed in the shed (which is in the girls’ part of the grounds) just as before the yard was divided. (Examiner, 21 Sept. 1904)

Mr Lakin added that the boys who had complained had not been rained upon, but had deliberately thrown water on themselves so they could have half a day off school. The headmaster confirmed that there was no such ban, and that the boys were more often in trouble for not going in. 😎

A few weeks later EDUCO revealed himself as Mr M. Wilson, and admitted that his information had been wrong. I suspect that some youngster got into a bit of trouble.

A few years later (1909) the shelter shed was in such terrible condition and the school so overcrowded that the pupils were temporarily moved to the Town Hall while a new one was being built. At a meeting chaired by Mr Lakin the Government was heavily criticized for allowing conditions to become so bad. It was mid winter, and the overflow of 40 pupils were being taught in what Lakin described as ‘a crazy, open shed exposed to the inclemency of the weather’. A back room at the Hall was put at the disposal of the head teacher. (Advocate, Aug. 9 1909)

All went well for many years until there was a violent storm in June 1947. Both the shelter shed and the wash room were destroyed. It was reported that the only cover from cold southerly winds in the playground was a row of pine trees. (I remember those trees so well myself.) Unfortunately the Minister for Education advised that tenders for a new building were too high. An offer was made by the department to supply the materials if the Parents’ Association agreed to carry out the work themselves. Well, what a nerve!

It is understood the suggestion has not been received kindly by members of the association, the opinion being expressed that appearances point to the predicament of the children not being fully realized by the department. (Advocate, July 11 1947)

Shamefully it was not until the winter of 1949 that new sheds were constructed, with seating for twenty children. Delegates from the School Board reported that it had been built from old timber at a cost of £9, presumably raised by parents and friends. The Education Department contributed a rather measly £2.

I’m assuming that these were the shelter sheds I remember from the mid 1950s. I especially loved the communal games we used to play in there. Mind you, there were really only two; those universal favourites Creepings Up, and Simon Says. Oh the excitement and innocent pleasure!

The following photo is from 1958, when I was in grade two. The line of pine tree that sheltered pupils after the destructive 1947 storm can be seen in the background. The shelter sheds are out of view to the right and lower down.

Below is a picture of the shelter sheds at Dandenong Primary School in the 1950s. In my memory, this is how our building looked;

Shelter Sheds at Dandenong.

The only slightly bad memory I have is the day Cheryl Richards and I were messing about in the sheds and missed the bus home. Fortunately Cheryl lived on the farm next to us in South Road, and eventually her father came to collect us.

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