Celebrating National Boarding Week
This week marks National Boarding Week, a week we enjoy celebrating here at Wesley.
Boarding has always been an intrinsic part of life at Wesley College, starting with the opening of the school in 1923. Although, at that point, the College was so new that there were only 18 boarders and the boarding house was still being constructed as they carried their suitcases in!
One Old Boy recalls: “Carpenters were still nailing down the floor boards in the dormitory on the day boarders arrived, after which two loads of beds had to be assembled by the boys themselves.”
Boarding life in the 1920s
During the 1920s boarders comprised a third of Wesley’s enrolment and most of them were from farming families in rural Western Australia. Boarders came from Bruce Rock, Merredin, Cunderdin, Meckering, Moora, Kellerberrin, Wagin and Katanning. Nowadays our boarders come from all around the world.
For recreation, boarders were taken to the nearby zoo and to the river or Como Jetty to swim. They enjoyed exploring the bushland surrounding the school. “We had only to cross Angelo Street to step into endless bushland supporting a profusion of the most beautiful and variegated wildflowers in the world,” one of the Old Boys recalls.
On Saturday nights boarders attended screenings of silent movies in the Swan Street hall, while Sundays were a day of rest in alignment with Methodist beliefs.
Wesley boarders were forbidden from sport, games or entertainment on Sundays. Morning and evening church services were held as well as an afternoon Bible class taken by the headmaster.
A passion for activity
Today, sport is viewed rather differently. “Having active young men who value physical health and well-being is critical to success in boarding,” says boarding master David Bourne. “Our hardest days in the House are the wet winters days where outside activity becomes a challenge. The facilities that are provided on grounds to the boarders are fantastic – the Wesley Sports Club Gym and Pool all year round are options for the students, the gymnasiums and outside tennis and basketball courts all provide areas for recreation and positive interactions.”
By the 1940s war was impacting on boarding at Wesley. Food rationing meant boarding house meals became less interesting. There were no fresh eggs for breakfast, instead “egg slush” was the dish of the day – delicious powdered egg. If that didn’t grab you, there was always watery milk on weevily porridge.
Naturally, despite protests from the students – who really couldn’t get enough egg slush, catering at Wesley has moved on significantly. Now the College’s chefs create breakfasts, lunches and dinners that are genuinely anticipated by the students.
Growth through the decades
As the 1960s rolled around, the Boarding House had grown to 150 residents. A new boarding house was constructed in 1968 and named Cygnet, after the ship that carried settlers to the Swan River Colony. That eased overcrowding and allowed the original Boarding House, Tranby, to be refurbished.
This ongoing program of improvement and refurbishment has never stopped. Not just in terms of the physical buildings, but also in the opportunities offered to the 162 boarders of today.
As well as sport, there are opportunities for learning that go beyond the traditional school day. “We provide the best possible academic support programmes for each student through extra teacher support throughout each week,” says Mr Bourne. “But we also have a strong focus within Boarding in regards to Community Service and giving back to others. Showing compassion and respect to others are key values that we want to install in all the students and it is pleasing to see the efforts and desire that the students have to make a difference.”
So, while the 1920s showers that only had hot water twice a week are gone, the ethos of giving boys the support and opportunities they need to get the most from their home from home continue just as strongly as ever.