101 years on, St Joseph’s College again faces one of its largest tests, with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe and upending daily lives everywhere. In 1919, Australia and St Joseph’s College were in the grip of momentous events with the ending of World War I, severe drought, and the Spanish flu pandemic.
For all the turmoil of 1919, there was much hope, high spirits and positivity at the College. Due to the quick thinking of the Marist Brothers in charge, not a single case of influenza was contracted, and the boys’ learning and co-curricular activities continued, although slightly changed.
The 1919 issue of Cerise and Blue magazine summed up the sentiments of the year:
“The year double 19 has almost run its course, and is almost as remarkable as its predecessor. One marvellous triumph over nature – the triumph of the aeroplane will help to keep its memory verdant. The flight across the Atlantic, and the latest phenomenal flight, that from Europe to Australia, are never-to-be-forgotten events.
In November, 1918, came the thrill and joyous shock of the Armistice, and the world went mad thereat; it was considered the death blow to fear, misery and suffering, and the harbinger of peace, and plenty of joy.
Today, twelve months after the mad exaltation of that day, permanent peace seems no nearer. All other peoples are suffering from the fear of future troubles, and even we sunny Australians are getting our optimism sorely tried. It is hard to see any additional tribulation in store for us, if not another huge war. We have bad war, plague on an unprecedented scale, now drought, the severest within the memory of the Australian man; so we are assured. What else can we suffer from?
We trust that at the end of 1920 we shall be able to contemplate the future with far more confident hopes than we can at present. The year has been a severely trying one for the College; though we have much to be thankful for. We entirely escaped the influenza, and our numbers have been surprisingly large despite all setbacks. In sport and study our records are not up to those of former years, though they may be truthfully classed as good. But for the drought we should probably be able next year to resume the rapid path of progress we were travelling in prior to this. We wish our readers all the happiness and blessing of the Christmas and New Year season.”
For Joeys families like the Galloway Family of Killara (Frederic Galloway pictured above), the Spanish flu outbreak across Australia meant that to ensure the safety of all of the boys at school, parents were cut off from seeing their sons for a number of months. Correspondence between parents/carers and the brothers (below) was often short and to the point.
Greengate Road, Killara
28th April 1919
The Brother Director,
I am sending my boy Frederic. You may remember I had arranged for both boys at Christmas time but the influenza restrictions upset all my plans. I am not sure what part of the quarter this is or how the lessons are divided for this year, will you please send the account to Mr Galloway, Chairman Land Board at this address. Am enclosing 30/- for small expenses, as is usual I believe. I am sorry not to be able to go with Fred and see you personally but at present am rather a person with a slight ailment.
With Kind regards,
I am dear Brother