At Croydon I had to Teach Music – There was No One Else!

1940 – 1947


David Dallwitz


I lived at Freeling and attended Freeling Primary School, then Gawler High School until my family moved to Adelaide in 1930. After I completed my secondary schooling at Adelaide High School, in 1933 I enrolled at the South Australian School of Art which included the Girls Central Art School. The GCAS girls had just given up wearing uniform.

While I was an art student I never thought about being a teacher. I never had a thought about anything except art, music and girls. One day Mrs Walloscheck said, ‘Dave, you look a little bit lost, as if you don’t quite know what’s ahead of you. Why don’t you become an art teacher?’ So next day I went to see Mr McDonald, the Art Inspector, with some of my art work and was immediately accepted.

In 1934 I studied at two Art Schools – the South Australian School of Art and the School of Fine Art at Tynte Street, North Adelaide under F. Millward Grey who became principal of the Art School after the war. Freddy was saying, ‘They’re nice people at the other Art School but don’t take any notice of what they teach you, just follow my instructions.’ These instructions were different because he had trained at the London Central School of Art. He used to say, ‘Leonardo had it, Michelangelo had it and now I’m passing it on to you.’

What he passed on to me was a particular style of draftsmanship which reduced the human figure to cylinders, spheres and cones – a style which he had been taught at the London Central School of Art. A few years later when I studied under Ivor Hele at the SA School of Art (night classes) Freddy Grey’s methods were renounced in favour of flat planes.

In those days you taught in schools as a junior teacher for one year. In 1935 I was at Goodwood Central School under Alan Glover. Mr Nadebaum was head of the primary – super primary school. Life was very pleasant there. The teachers were good friends. The students were friendly. The drawing course was congenial to me because it included free drawing which could include painting and design.

In 1936–37 I studied at the Adelaide Teachers College – the principal being Dr Schulz. I taught at Thebarton Technical School from 1938 to 1939. Fellow art teachers were Geoff Mainwaring and Fred Carlier. One of my students was Bobby Limb who later became quite a celebrated music and theatre personality and married Dawn Lake. The art course at Thebarton included some creative teachers from the Art School from 1938 to 1939. Harry Cant was the head. The art course at Thebarton included some creative work in the form of imaginative painting and clay modelling.

In 1940 I was transferred from Thebarton to Croydon. Bill Richards was the head. I think it was Ken Lammacraft and Geoff Wilson who came before and after me. The students did quite a mixture of free art, imaginative subjects and from nature plus geometrical drawing, dimensioned sketching and lettering – quite a good mixture. Students responded eagerly to the possibility of being able to create something from their own imagination – they’re still young enough, particularly as first-years, to express themselves as children. With adulthood this desire is lost – unless you’re an artist.

I also had to take music – there was no one else! (I had begun to learn the violin when I lived at Freeling and had developed an interest in jazz when the family came to Adelaide.) I always included musical appreciation. Several students have come up to me in the last ten years and said they remember the symphony concerts in the Adelaide Town Hall. Some especially appreciated being introduced to jazz, particularly Duke Ellington.

I also taught English. Art teachers were sometimes available to teach other subjects. I was quite happy to do that, particularly teaching poetry. I enjoyed poetry and had won the Magazine Prize for poetry in 1932 at Adelaide High School. Students always accept poetry in secondary schools. At that period of their lives everyone accepts poetry and appreciates it. I wonder what poetry is like in schools today.

The poetry book we worked on was modern poetry. I can remember it included The Pike by Edmund Blunden and The Express by Stephen Spender. I can remember the book also included poems by T.S. Eliot. One of his poems dealt with London fog which he treated as if it had a personality – it curled up at the end of the street. It was twentieth-century descriptive poetry that suited them. Coleridge, Keats and Shelley probably wouldn’t have appealed to them as strongly – although they suited me when I studied at Adelaide High School with Dan David who inculcated in me a love of poetry which has never left me.

Fortunately I had the same classes for art, English and musical appreciation and this helped to relate them to each other. In recent years ex-students from Croydon have told me that what I gave them had quite an impact.

In 1947 I resigned from the Education Department to take up a position at Adelaide Technical High School then linked to the School of Mines. I replaced Ivor Francis who had retired from his senior art teaching position to go to the ABC in 1947.

I taught at Adelaide Tech until 1963. Sid Moyle was my first head and Cedric Cannell became head when Sid Moyle retired. Also on the staff was Oscar Knauerhase who, like me, had studied at the SA School of Art.

When I first started at Adelaide Tech the drawing course (boys only) included no creative art. When Cedric Cannell became head, creative art was introduced as an optional subject for girls only. Boys continued to do geometrical drawing, dimensioned sketching, perspective and lettering. Girls did painting, drawing, design and history of art and so it became more interesting for me in the last years of Adelaide Tech. Some of those girls went on to the Art School, some became art teachers, one of whom was Denise Madigan.

The music teacher at Adelaide Tech was Sable Grivell. An accomplished vocalist, he took the whole school for singing each Wednesday afternoon. His wife, Elsie Woolley, came sometimes. They were quite a celebrated pair. At the end of year speech night he always gave a funny recitation and they usually sang an operatic duet. He was a character, full of fun and jokes and everyone liked him.

I taught at Adelaide Tech until 1963 when I resigned because I obtained a position at the School of Art which had been my original Art School in 1933. I stayed there until my retirement in 1974. At this time the Art School was to move to Underdale as part of the Adelaide College of Advanced Education.

That’s why the Art School at Underdale has gone steadily down hill. It’s now a little cog in a big wheel. Let’s hope that some day it may have the good fortune to become autonomous again. By Charter it retained its title as SA School of Art even though it was swallowed up by the University of South Australia.

© Erica Jolly and individual authors