1960s sports carnivals

Dianne Robertson and Robyn Minard attended North Ryde Public School in the 1950s and 1960s. In this oral history they recount their memories of sports carnivals.

Practising our skills

During our sports lessons and lunchtime training sessions we were able to fine tune our skills in running, marching, captain ball, tunnel ball, high jump and broad jump. How fortunate to have all the necessary equipment available to us daily.

We were all trained up and ready for the challenge! Our sports carnival day had finally arrived..


The night before our big day we would clean and paint our canvas sandshoes a nice bright white. Sandshoes are now known as sneakers or joggers. Onto our brown sports uniform we would sew a little square colour patch that denoted our house colour. We also wore a house-coloured belt or girdle around our waist. With our bags all packed we were gripped with enthusiasm. Early to bed and early to rise for the eagerly awaited big day.

Bus trip

Excitement mounted as we boarded the bus that drove us to Ryde Park for a whole day of fun and a welcome break from the everyday routine of the classroom. We enthusiastically looked forward to this day. Ryde Park is still a popular place for many outdoor activities.

House colours

Our sports houses were named after the colonial families of North Ryde. The names being Weaver which had the house colour blue, Wood, had the house colour yellow, Kent had the house colour red, and Brown had the house colour green. We do remember the chants sung by everyone which were just jovial teasing. Friendly rivalry perhaps? 

Wood, Wood is no good

Brown, Brown wears a frown

Kent, Kent pays the rent

Weaver, Weaver has the fever

Some activities performed at sports carnivals have not changed over the years. For our sports days we took part in running races, age races, relay races, high jump, broad jump which you may know today as long jump. Relay bean bag was always good fun. Tug of war also required skill and strength. This event was always very entertaining.

Captain ball

Captain ball was a team game and played with a large sports ball. With our team lined up in a straight line behind each other, the captain, who was standing at a distance facing the team, threw the ball to the first player who threw the ball back. That team member quickly crouched down. The last person in the line to catch the ball ran to the front and took over the captain’s position.

Every team member took it in turns to run out to the front of the line and proceed to throw and catch the ball. When we all had our turn, we quickly crouched down once again, waiting with much exuberance for the winning team to be announced. Tumultuous cheers rang out through the park.

An advantage was for all the team members to be highly skilled in throwing, catching, and running so we would practise at lunchtimes.

Tunnel ball

Junior high school girls playing tunnel ball in house teams at a sports carnival, 1974. (Personal collection of G Braiding)

Tunnel ball was another team game and played with a small leather medicine ball. The eight team members closely formed a straight line. We were then able to form a triangular tunnel by spreading out our legs and feet thus enabling the ball to be rolled through. We had to scrunch up tightly so that the ball wouldn’t escape through our legs, wasting valuable game time retrieving the ball in the event of that occurring. And that sometimes did happen.

The person at the front, upon hearing the starting whistle, threw the ball into the tunnel to the person standing at the back. Upon catching the ball they ran quickly to the front to throw the ball through the tunnel once again.

As with captain ball you had to wait to take your turn to enable the person at the back to be fleet of foot running to the front of the line to throw the ball through the tunnel once again. When the whole team had taken their turn, we quickly bobbed down, letting our opponents know that our team was finished. When the winning team was announced we all just fell apart laughing and cheering and just so happy. We were tired but still full of exuberance.

March past

Marching was an event in which we were well rehearsed. The whole school lined up in our appropriate sports houses in four straight lines looking very disciplined with four people abreast. The house captains stood at the front of their marching house teams proudly holding the house banner whilst guiding us around the perimeter of the oval to the beat of a drum. We eagerly displayed our marching prowess – quite a long way when you’re only young. 

Instructions were yelled loudly by the house captains, “Mark time, forward march left, right, left, right backs straight and swing those arms”. Marching at school was indeed a compulsory part of our daily routine. Jubilation rang out through the park when the winning house was announced. What a spectacular exhibition of marching!

Beaumont Road Public School march past at their district sports carnival, 1963. (Personal collection of G Braiding)

The afternoon

Oh, what an exhilarating day, full of laughter, children happy and always being encouraged by our house captains. Sometimes we came home extremely tired, with a rather hoarse voice from joining in the chanting and cheering, encouraging our friends in their quest to win the event and do their best.

What an amazing and magical day for one and all.

Questions and activities for students

  • What aspects of a 1960s sports carnival are different to your sports carnival today?
  • What aspects of a 1960s sports carnival are similar to your sports carnival today?


  • Create a Venn diagram to show the similarities and differences between sports carnivals then and now.
  • Draw a picture of yourself doing a favourite activity at your sports carnival.