Ex-students re­call fond mem­o­ries

For­mer hos­tel was home for a cul­tur­ally di­verse group as Ge­off Vivian re­ports

Midwest Times - - NEWS -

Ger­ald­ton ap­pears to have a new park, although its owner is yet to an­nounce per­ma­nent plans for the site at the cor­ner of Cathe­dral Av­enue and Shen­ton Street.

A high re­tain­ing wall sup­ports a cou­ple of hectares of land with sev­eral well-es­tab­lished trees and bark mulch con­ceal­ing any trace of the for­mer John Frewer Hos­tel.

Late last year Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment con­trac­tors de­mol­ished what had been a tem­po­rary home to a gen­er­a­tion of school­boys from as far away as Ku­nunurra and Co­cos Is­lands.

The hos­tel catered to a cul­tur­ally-di­verse group of students, and three shared their mem­o­ries with us.

Alan Me­dous, who re­turned to Co­cos to work in ad­min­is­tra­tion, was a Year 11 stu­dent liv­ing at the hos­tel in 1985.

He was one of sev­eral Co­cos Malays who came to study that year and af­ter a dif­fi­cult first week he said he adapted well, partly be­cause he had so many rel­a­tives al­ready liv­ing in Ger­ald­ton.

“Ev­ery week­end we were just stay­ing with rel­a­tives and we re­ally en­joyed it,” he said.

Mr Me­dous said Ger­ald­ton’s Co­cos com­mu­nity also made it eas­ier for him to main­tain a ha­lal diet.

“We had break­fast, lunch and din­ner, and with din­ner we had a dif­fer­ent menu for us,” he said.

“There were many spe­cial mee­tups for din­ner, we en­joyed to meet with other rel­a­tives.”

For his first two months Mr Me­dous said he stayed in a dor­mi­tory with other boys that was par­ti­tioned to pro­vide pri­vacy for study and prayer.

How­ever, by the next term they moved into new in­di­vid­ual bed­rooms.

“Ev­ery­one had their room which we re­ally en­joyed,” he said.

“There was no dis­tur­bance from other kids and it was a very good ex­pe­ri­ence to have our own room to sleep and study.”

Mr Me­dous said he had fond mem­o­ries of his year there as he had made new friends and ex­plored new cul­tures.

How­ever, he did not stay for Year 12, but moved to Perth for an in­ten­sive English lan­guage course and vo­ca­tional train­ing at TAFE.

Ken­neth “KJ” Martin is a plumb­ing con­trac­tor in Ku­nunurra.

He was one of sev­eral East Kim­ber­ley boys who found him­self board­ing with boys from ev­ery re­gion in WA in 1999.

“That hos­tel was prob­a­bly one of the best ones go­ing, you had a good ra­tio of dif­fer­ent peo­ple,” he said.

Mr Martin said there were no single rooms for Year 11s who had four-bed dor­mi­to­ries with wardrobes and desks act­ing as par­ti­tions, and used com­mu­nal show­ers and toi­lets. The Year 12s were in two-bed dor­mi­to­ries.

“We had two com­mon rooms where we could play pool and watch TV,” he said.

Mr Martin said mov­ing so far from his na­tive East Kim­ber­ley was not too much of a cul­ture shock for him.

“I re­mem­ber that old cook, Shirley Ann Drage, I think she came from Derby so her cook­ing was spot on for us Kim­ber­ley mob,” he said.

“One time we Kim­ber­ley boys went out with them for a long week­end and we stayed with a friend out on his farm and we got kan­ga­roo and she cooked a big kan­ga­roo tail stew.”

Mr Martin said af­ter-hours the boys were strictly se­gre­gated from the girls at Della Hale Hos­tel apart from reg­u­lar dis­cos.

“Ev­ery­one was all in­doors and locked at a cer­tain time in the evening,” he said.

“One boy let him­self out of the hos­tel to go and chat up some girls, and the next day he went to the of­fice and told on him­self. “He said he felt guilty.” Mr Martin said they spent the week­ends tak­ing long naps, or stay­ing with their new friends out of town.

“The friends we made were farm­ers’ kids so we had the bush life any week­end we wanted to,” he said.

“We used to get kan­ga­roo and all the su­per­vi­sors were re­ally good, they used to make us feel at home.”

Mr Martin said he en­joyed the “whole Ger­ald­ton ex­pe­ri­ence”.

“If I ever had the chance I would send my kids back there,” he said.

“That place was the right size to do things in and small enough not to be in­tim­i­dated.”

Orig­i­nally from Sand­stone, Carl Wal­ton is now field co-or­di­na­tor at Sara­cen Min­eral Hold­ings’ five mines in the East Murchi­son-Gold­fields and a fly-in, fly-out worker based in Perth.

He was at John Frewer from 1990 to 1994.

“That board­ing school prob­a­bly wasn’t my cup of tea ini­tially,” he said. “There was more peo­ple than there was at my town I grew up in.

“I am pretty sure about seven of us out of more than 20 that started made it all the way through the whole five years.

“It made you tougher liv­ing with 120 guys, you learned to fend for your­self and un­der­stand other peo­ple.”

Mr Wal­ton said he learned to like it.

“There was al­ways some­one to kick the footy with, play bas­ket­ball with, go surf­ing with,” he said.

“Even the guys who were not sporty-based had some­one to play Dun­geons and Dragons with.”

The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, which owns the for­mer boys’ hos­tel site, is yet to an­nounce plans for the block.

“KJ” Martin on the tools dur­ing his plumb­ing work.

Pic­tures: KJ Martin

Ku­nunurra plum­ber Ken­neth "KJ" Martin was a Year 11 boarder at John Frewer Hos­tel in 1999.

Pic­ture: Carl Wal­ton

Carl Wal­ton was at John Frewer from 1990 to 1994. Orig­i­nally from Sand­stone, he is now field co-or­di­na­tor at Sara­cen Min­eral Hold­ings’ five mines in the East Murchi­son-Gold­fields and a FIFO worker.

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