All schools were instructed to build air-raid shelters and being close to the RAAF base, ours was imperative. Mr. McDonald assisted us in it’s establishment in an area between the school house and the ‘up the back’ toilets. I had expected it would be like those in Britain with a roof, ours never seemed to develop to that stage which made it a venue for ‘war games’. Whilst the Battle of EI Alamein was raging in North Africa, an equally fierce one was being waged in and around that un-roofed shelter. The casualty list may not have been comparable but we limped home at night with bruised arms and legs, and a black eye or two! Thank God the real reason for the shelter’s formation was never needed.
The Victorian Education Department formed a Young Workers’ Patriotic Guild and proceeds from our school stalls and other money raising efforts was sent off to Melbourne. We held the stalls in the shelter shed where only a few years before we had happily played ‘Puss in the Corner’ and a counting game where every letter in the alphabet was used. When the leader called out a letter and you happened to have it in your name, you took a step until the one who reached the leader, first was the winner. The leader had to have her back turned so she/he could not see the progress and when you thought you had just about won the leader would callout ‘z’ a few times. The stalls were not very exciting but our needs were very mundane, remember we had just come through a depression. Nevertheless our mothers endeavoured to support them despite the scarcity of money. We girls made sugar bag aprons for sale and the boys made boot scrapers and curry-combs out of bottle tops. I don’t know who would buy the latter for we would be lucky to count three horses in the town. The Department presented a Certificate to every child who raised £1 ($2) and I was very proud to earn one. Mrs Maddison (who lived in the home now owned by Joey and Joanna Peel), would invite we young school girls to her home and in the kitchen, sitting around the white enamel table, she would teach us to make little woollen, crinoline-skirted ladies for egg cosies. She would produce wonderful, colourful damask and tapestry materials from which we would make lavender (from her garden) sachets or pin cushions, the latter filled with saw-dust. No polyester filling in those days! She and her husband were English and she sowed the seeds of patriotism in us all so she was very approving when I produced a black velvet pin cushion on which I had embroidered a red, white and blue chainstitched “V” for Victory sign. Later our masterpieces were sold at our school stalls for the War Relief.
Mrs Maddison took great pains to teach us to knit scarves for the servicemen; two plain, two purl! I can’t remember ever completing one and besides I couldn’t get the hang of sticking to the original amount of stitches resulting in a very crooked appearance which would not have boosted the morale of any hapless serviceman whose neck it adorned.
After four years teaching at our little bush school, Mr. Angus McDonald was transferred to Gellibrand. He subsequently joined the RAAF. I guess you could call him a colourful teacher with an unorthodox method of teaching but whenever I see cumulus, cirrus and nimbus clouds, I think of him and his Nature study lessons.