School’s out forever

Dodgy Perth's favourite small bar

Dodgy Perth’s favourite small bar

You’d imagine turning a school into a pub would be controversial, but the PICA Bar is too cool for anyone to object. When the government became liable for education, they needed a central Boys’ and Girls’ School, so the Public Works Department built them one in 1897.

The school had 500 boys on the ground floor and 500 girls upstairs. When it closed in 1958, Perth Technical College moved in. Its heir—TAFE—left the building in 1988 and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), complete with trendy bar, took over.

But back to the building’s school days. There is one historical universal: somebody will always worry about what is happening to our young girls. In 1910, people fretted that girls were growing up with only a basic knowledge of cooking and cleaning.

For those marrying farmers, training in practical household duties was considered essential. For those who would marry men who worked in the city, they needed to be proficient enough they could do without servants.

Perth Central School was useless if all it did was provide a ‘bookish’ education. Miss M. Jordan was appointed to the Central Girls’ School to acquaint her pupils with the duties associated with being a wife. A ‘housewifery cottage’ was built in the schoolyard, where the youth could learn to wash, iron, fold and put away.

Here, they also cooked, laid the table in the appropriate fashion—complete with flowers in the middle—as well as scrubbing the floor, blackening the grates, and brightening the silver.

There was concern that the cottage was so well equipped, the poor darlings would struggle in a real household, but these anxieties were dismissed, and the girls kept learning how to be drudges.