Deaf Children Australia was thrilled to welcome everyone yesterday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the bluestone building on 13 October 1866.
We shared some of our history, and many people shared treasured memories. Everyone loved the tours and studied the historic photos with past students looking for their own faces and the faces of their friends.
For the past students, we acknowledged that this was their home for many years and it holds very special memories.
We also created a special piece of history by gathering contributions for our time capsule. In 50 years, another generation will look back on this day through the videos and photos, and remember everyone who gathered there.
Over the coming weeks, we will share some of these photos, videos and presentations.
Bruce Missen, our 1000th student, shared his family history and some of his memories of his time boarding here. Please read Bruce’s presentation below and view The Age article: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/despite-tough-times-man-still-loves-deaf-school-where-he-boarded-age-seven-20161013-gs1mcx.html
Hello to everyone, my name is Bruce Missen.
Welcome, it is wonderful to see you. Meeting and catch up with so many people and students on this very special occasion today for celebrating 150 years of the bluestone.
I was born in Beeac, a small farm in Victorian country in 1931 and I started at this school when I was 7 and a half years old in 1939. Also I was the 1000th pupil of VSDC, my grandfather Robert Adam Mills was the 34th pupil in 1864. He learned to become the bootmaker at school, he worked his own business shop in Waaia, like me worked as a boot maker at my own business shop for 45 years in Adelaide.
My grandmother Elizabeth Mills nee Broderick, she was the 92nd pupil in 1870. Robert and Elizabeth were married on April 30, 1884. They lived at Waaia opposite the pub and Robert owned a bootmaker near the railway station which would have been a quick walk to work. They had a lovely nine children, none of their children were deaf but grandson Bruce and great grandson Des Morris are both deaf. Robert’s brother James was the 35th pupil in 1864. James and Robert were deaf, first of about 50 of the family with deafness attributed to Waardenberg Syndrome, a congenital syndrome that causes children to be born deaf or become deaf at a young age. James did not have any children but my grandfather Robert had 9. As I said, not one of them were deaf, although his wife, Elizabeth, was thought to have become deaf as a result of the discharge of a shotgun close to the ear.
So Robert and Elizabeth’s nine children lived in Waaia, close to Beeac, and they rode and took horse and buggy. Robert continued as a bootmaker, in Broomfield Street from 1910-1935. He lived there until the day he died. I have many, many fond memories of this school and my school life. I made many friends I have many fond memories of boot making, playing football, cricket, sports and the teachers here were very good. They cared about their students.
I would like to talk to you briefly now about war time and living through war time and rationing. This school was good in many ways. We had not only an education but we didn’t starve during the war. Food was very scarce at that time. And we had only very basic food during the war. At that time, the government had set up rationing. If you wanted tea, you had coupons and you only got what you wanted to receive. Talking about food, it was difficult to get food and food supplies during the war. At that time the school left here and went to Marysville and we were on a farm from 1939-1945.
I still have strong memories of my pride and my attachment to my school and my school teachers, in particular my favourite, Ms Thelma Spicer, from 1940 to 1942. I will always remember her. I have strong, fond memories of Thelma, who was a wonderful educator and a great teacher, who really took much care. I remember her leaving us and the school to join the WAAAF to join the war effort.
Later I was so pleased to find out that Thelma Spicer is still alive today. I myself will be 84, Thelma at the same time will turn 100 years old. So I wish her a happy 100th birthday, a few days ago. I thank Thelma for being such a wonderful part of my life and giving me so many happy memories and a much loved teacher to many deaf pupils at this school.
It was tragic to hear that the Marysville Deaf School had been destroyed by the bushfires three years ago. I do hope that you all have a great time today celebrating the Bluestone’s 150th. I am very proud to be a part of these celebrations today. Thank you. I thank you very much for inviting me to be part of these celebrations. Thank you very much, I am a very happy man today.