Constructions & Collections

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Constructions & Collections

By Dr Nicholas Brodie

In late 1949 the boys of St Virgil’s displayed their ‘Hobbies and Handiwork’. It was part of an annual event to round out the school year. There were large displays, a big crowd, an ‘open air concert’, and a big morning tea. The reporting of the event, however, mostly focused on the prizes, which were grouped into three categories: Constructions, Collections, and Home Gardens. Perhaps there was a subliminal message at work suggesting that boys should occupy themselves with building, gathering, or growing.

Horticultural prizes offered the largest category of winners, as boys won prizes for single or triple blooms, across a variety of flowers ranging from Roses to Poppies to Pansies and the occasional mixed vase. Agricultural awards were given to the growers of potatoes, beans, peas, cabbages, lettuce, and rhubarb. The list captures a slice of the changing tastes of the ages – obviously any such competition today would likely have multiple varietals of potatoes, and perhaps some exotics like carrots.

Winning collectors won on the strength of stamps, coins, cards, antiques, toys, and ‘Bird’s Eggs’. The builders presented constructions made from Meccano, wood, match boxes, plasticine, clay, sand, and matches. Someone had also made a mat, and another a wireless. But it was the Meccano model of the Eiffel Tower built by Aden Armstrong which attracted the most attention, and got photographed for posterity. Surrounded by a model train at its base, the lines of the tower drew the boys’ eyes upwards to a room of flying biplanes and sailing boats, perhaps approximating a vision of a young boy’s vision of heaven as seen from the year of Our Lord 1949.