School Visit – The Academy of Mary Immaculate – Fitzroy
I have always wanted to step inside the iron-lace gates of The Academy of Mary Immaculate in Fitzroy. I remember when I was at school at Preston Technical College, in Year 11 we had an influx of girls who came from other schools to learn commercial subjects – typing, shorthand and business management. Among those students there was a girl from The Academy and I remember loving her uniform. Because the girls were only to stay a year they were allowed to wear their ex-school uniforms, a unique situation I imagine.
Over the last 12 years or so I passed The Academy quite often while visiting Black Dog Books, for many years situated around the corner in Gertrude Street. Each time I passed I felt something drawing me in there – a story perhaps?
So when I was asked to visit the school to talk about researching history in Melbourne for my picture books, I jumped at the chance.
I talked to the girls about the places I research – The State Library, The Public Record Office of Victoria, The Zoo and how I wander up and down the streets of Melbourne imagining times past and putting myself in the shoes of my characters. Several years ago I walked the city streets many times, visiting the places where, in my imagination, Little Dog walked, for Little Dog and the Christmas Wish. I told the girls how I started writing the story sitting at a table in The Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the famous Block Arcade. I walked by the Regent Theatre, in my head seeing Little Dog running by in 1957 on his quest to go home.
I mentioned how I visited the Director’s house at the zoo where Tertius (My Friend Tertius) spent happy overnight stays and swung about the furniture, never once breaking a thing.
But most of all, the heart of my research comes from the people I meet who, in some way, are or have been connected to my stories – the people who rode Queenie (Queenie One Elephant’s Story) and remember feeding her apples and peanuts, the retired Vice Principal of Scotch College who knew Arthur Cooper and remembered his love and devotion to Tertius (My Friend Tertius). The list of these wonderful people is becoming longer and it’s impossible now for me to keep in touch with them all – but I try. This is my favourite type of research, without the people these stories might never have been told.
So here’s a sprinkling of photos from yesterday – both inside and outside those gates.