College history: Becoming part of Armidale

Part and parcel of life: The 1937 swimming carnival at the old baths. College students and their activities became an integral part of Armidale.

Part and parcel of life: The 1937 swimming carnival at the old baths. College students and their activities became an integral part of Armidale.

Today it is hard to realise just how important the Armidale Teachers’ College was to the pattern of Armidale life in the middle decades of the 20th century.

The college was 10 years old when the university college was founded. It would be a number of years after that before university students outnumbered college students.

Never big enough to dominate city life in a way the university would come to, it complemented and reinforced existing activities, laying the base for new ones.

The college on the hill dominated a city of generally single storey buildings. The students who walked in convoy up the hill in the morning from Smith House and later the new men’s residences, and then again down the hill at five were a part of the streetscape.

Sporting competitions were strengthened by the TC teams, church youth groups received new members, while storekeepers found a new source of business. College students performed at local venues, while college facilities from the auditorium to the sporting fields were a valuable addition.

For the students, the reminiscence of college life that I have been able to find have a number of common features.

The first was the collegiate, if sometimes paternalistic nature, of college life. To many students away from home for the first time with limited previous opportunities, the college was a new and active social and cultural world.

Sport was obviously important, as was the opportunity to mix with the opposite sex. Then there was the exposure for the first time to drama, writing, music and art.

Time and time again, former students referred to the Hinton Collection. To Howard Hinton, art was an integral part of life. He insisted the paintings he donated be preserved as a single collection and shown in hallways and lecture theatres to form an integral part of life. It is clear he was successful.

The paintings became part of internal visual memory for many students.

Another feature of college life was involvement in religious activities. We tend to underestimate today just how important religious beliefs were in daily life.

Howard Hinton.

Howard Hinton.

We also forget the strength of sectarian divides between Roman Catholics and Protestants, between Micks and Prods. One devout Catholic records that this was the first time he had been forced to mix with, let alone share a room with, a Prod!

From the college, students went on to a variety of life paths, some achieving great prominence. I will look at this when I continue the story in a later series of columns.

Jim Belshaw’s email is ndarala@optusnet.com.au. He blogs at newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com.au and  newenglandhistory.blogspot.com.au

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