1926 – 1955

The population of Johannesburg was nearing half a million. In 1928 it had been granted the status of a city and was far and away the largest city in South Africa. Just as the Brothers had risen to the challenge of meeting the educational needs of the mining camp in Brother Frederick’s day, so they were to rise to the new challenge of an ever – growing need for their services in the ever – growing city.

In September 1924 the Administrator of the Transvaal, J H Hofmeyr, had laid the foundation stone of the second Marist College, in Observatory. The school itself had not opened until January 1926 but it proved to have been well worth waiting for. The entire senior section of the old Koch Street School, numbering some 250 boys, was transferred there and we are told that “The boys were full of admiration for the well – ventilated classrooms, the hall, the tennis courts and the wide open spaces”. The first school magazine named “The Maristonian” was published that year which was produced almost entirely by pupils of the school.

The wide open spaces were in fact the grounds and the sports fields and despite the imposing buildings, there was a great deal of work to be done. Over the years the grounds were laid out largely by the Brothers themselves. One of them, Brother Henry, even obtained a blasting certificate so that he could remove the rocky outcrops from the property himself. The stone was used to build a boundary wall.

Marist Obervatory continued building upon the high reputation that had been established by Koch Street. Almost every year a record number of pupils was reported. Within five years there were 332 boys and the Brothers had to turn down a number of applications because of lack of space. By 1934 the numbers were close to 400 with an almost equal number in the primary section at Koch Street. Though it had not been intended, the demand for places soon forced Marist Observatory School to take in primary school pupils of its own. As a consequence of this and other factors the numbers had topped 600 by 1941.

1941 was also the year that Brother Emilian retired as principal. In his valedictory message he set out what he saw to be the basic nature of a Marist education. The aim, as he saw it, was,” Not simply to cram young heads with knowledge, not to train athletes; but to train boys to think and do, and instil into them Christian principles that will be a force in their lives and make them citizens of South Africa.”

As this meant that the story of Marist Observatory in the first few decades of existence was a story of continual development and expansion. The swimming bath was opened in 1930. As early as 1931 a new boarding wing was under construction which included the chaplain’s quarters, a sickroom and a library as well as accommodation for 60 boarders. In 1935 a new classroom block was ready for use. The school hall was improved in 1951.

But catering for the growing demand for a Marist education was not just a matter of expanding the Observatory College. By the later 1930’s Koch Street was once again full to the point of overflow and expansion there was totally impossible. Both schools found it particularly difficult to take in more boarders. The obvious solution seemed to be a third school.

St David’s Marist College Inanda was opened in 1942 with a Kindergarden, the grades and standards 1 and 2.