Shirley's first Gymnasium and Cadet Battalion
Shirley’s first Gymnasium
When Shirley BHS was opened in 1957 there was no gymnasium and the School Assembly Hall was used for Physical Education. Unfortunately the beautiful mahogany and oak parquet floor suffered, despite teachers’ vigilance during wet weather PE sessions. Following the building of the swimming pool, the next major task for the PTA was to provide a well-equipped gym which would also benefit the Shirley community. The target was 8000 pounds, to be assisted by a government subsidy, and in November 1958 a school fair initiated serious fund-raising.
Built in two stages, the 1200 square-foot gymnasium rose to twenty feet at the centre pitch of the roof, enabling badminton and indoor basketball to be launched as indoor sports.
Stage Two saw changing rooms, showers, a kitchen instructor’s office and storeroom, bringing the total cost to 14,000 pounds. This had been a huge community effort and involved hundreds of hours of voluntary labour.
Officially opened in Term 3, 1961, by Mrs Cole, wife of the Works Committee chairman, with speeches by Board of Governors chairman, Mrs Lillian Hartley, and PTA President D.L.Drummond, the ‘Hartley Gym’ went into immediate use.
It soon came under considerable pressure, being booked from early morning to late evening. Two boys’ classes often used it simultaneously and, by 1964 with a school roll of over 750, a second gymnasium was an urgent requirement. Unfortunately the government was unwilling to offer a subsidy when it had to equip other schools with their first gymnasia and it would be a further two decades before the ‘Sports Hall’ could become a reality.
Shirley BHS had its own cadet battalion in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The New Zealand Army supported the School Cadet Scheme with uniforms, weapons and professional training from Regular Force or Territorial Force personnel. Teachers and selected school students were encouraged to join NCO and Officer training courses at Burnham Camp in the school holidays.
Led by History teacher and Commanding Officer Major Norman Morris, the Cadet Unit was fully established on 17 February 1957 when 154 boys received their ‘sandpaper suits’. These were battledress blouses [jackets] with the distinctive blue and gold Shirley BHS shoulder flash.
There were generally two sizes of uniform – too large or two small. Old Boys recall that by wearing PE shorts under the heavy serge, near knee-length trousers, they could avoid painful chafing on the inner thighs. Drilling under a hot sun with the top button of the jacket done up, and the forage cap placed at the correct angle on the head, could be irksome and yet some boys found the military life enjoyable. One highlight for the small Air Training Corps squad was a visit to the radar and radio sections at RNZAF Wigram.
‘Square-bashing’ drills and parades, plus weapons training with old SMLE .303 rifles for an hour on Tuesday afternoons produced some 38 boys who were to become the Guard of Honour at the School’s Official Opening Ceremony in November 1957.
Although Shirley had no direct connection with Gallipoli in 1915, several staff members had been in the Armed Services in World War II, including gunner Charles Gallagher, the School’s first Headmaster. Shirley’s first Anzac Day service was held on 24 April 1957 when Duncan Rogers played the ‘Last Post and Reveille’.