“Who are the 481 Boys?” you may ask. Well, to answer your question, the 481 Boys were studentship holders who were given a hostel placement at 481 St Kilda Road. The hostel at 481 St Kilda Road operated as a male hostel from 1955 to 1958. All residents from that time have been referred to as the 481 Boys.
The 113 boys who lived at the St Kilda Road residence from 1955 to 1958, were enrolled in either Arts, Science or Commerce along with two Agricultural Science students. The Education Department insisted that the choice of subjects were relevant to secondary teaching.
Failure meant that studentship was suspended and had no place in a hostel. Some made good their failure and some went on to primary teaching.
Almost all the boys came from government high schools, many came from farms and most were the first in their family to complete Year 12 and go to university.
Some worked in the Victorian Education Department until retirement as teachers or principals. Some went on to non-government schools and some went on to tertiary education. Many completed higher degrees and five played VFL (Victorian Football League) football. Four became ministers of religion. Some changed career pathways and at least five have been awarded OAMs.
The 481 Boys has their first reunion in 2008 to mark 50 years since the closure of the hostel as a male Education Department hostel. In November 2016, the Boys met at Graduate House where the idea of two luncheons per year gained widespread support. David Jensz, one of the Boys, says that, it is only possible to have an indepth talk to a different small group of boys each time. “We have plenty to talk about and a lot of catching up to do,” Mr Jensz said.
“We talk about all the usual things: families, travel, football, careers and so on.”
“We also talk about the remarkable building additions at The University of Melbourne, how fortunate we were to enrol, how similar we all were – very few had parents who had completed year 12, World War II was still very recent in the 1950s, TV started in 1956 when we were university students, and we had very few possessions – in fact, most Boys came to the hostel with one suitcase and a pair of football boots tied to the handle.”
Mr Jensz said that many of the Boys had never caught a tram or suburban train before enrolling at university, but he says that deep down they are still the same. “I am reminded of the saying, ‘you can take the boy out of the bush but you can’t take the bush out of the boy.'”
But at the end of it all, it is not the hostel or hostel life that is remarkable, but rather the experiences had within the hostel and the relationships formed with the other boys.
“Our lives were changed by the opportunities that were presented to us. The hostel just happened to be the place where we lived and got to meet each other. We would have been very lonely country boys in a big city if we had to find private board. University College life was too expensive for almost all of us.”