The School Part 12

Miss Isobel Mason, who came from Poowong in South Gippsland was my last teacher. It was 1942 and Daylight Saving had been introduced which we loved as it meant time to play after school. Miss Mason was a petite, dark curly haired, blue eyed five foot nothing, but we would come to learn her stature was never to be underestimated for she could wield the strap better han any male teacher. Because we lived so far from shops, we girls took an immense interest in her clothes especially the beautifully knitted dresses her mother had made. I guess we were growing up and such things were becoming important to us. Sadly though with war time rationing and cotton materials no longer imported, we were deprived of the pretty clothes available to today’s teenagers.

Not only was Miss Mason a good teacher but she instilled in us a sense of loyalty and the desire for achievement; when she told us that the pages of our work books had to be headed each day with the motto “Better Yet” she expected that. Along with rationing came the phrase ‘wartime commodity’ which meant Mione and me weren’t able to purchase a bike but thanks to a kindly teacher who extended the 70 chains to 80 (a mile) the distance from the school to “Raheen”, Dad was permitted to purchase one. It was an “Ace” and came from Bombala and our excitement knew no bounds. Being a girl’s bike, it meant standing up to pedal and Mione had the lUxury of sitting on the seat, her legs sometimes dragging on the gravel road. Such inconveniences were of little consequence; we, at last, had a bike to ride to school.

Patriotism ran high and when word filtered back from the RAAF base that a bomber had over shot the runway, blowing up and killing the unfortunate crew, I dashed to school and flew the flag at half mast. It was a very astonished Miss Mason, on arriving at school, .surveying the scene and finding me the culprit, ordered me to take it down immediately. I received a very lengthy lecture, all going over my head, except for the words ” ….. If it had been the King ….”. Enough to convince me that all teachers had their priorities mixed!

While Miss Mason was here she developed a friendship with Lieutenant Ernest Wallace who was stationed with the AIF at the aerodrome before the RAAF Base was established and on mail days she would go over to the PO (which was situated where Jack and Judy Buckland now live). We were told not to talk in her absence. Jack Brookes and Murray Newby sat behind Roma Greer and me and the moment she left they would start a campaign to get Roma or me to talk. With prodding and pinching I finally cracked when my pig tail was dipped in the inkwell and I came very verbal. On returning she asked the inevitable question, and it was always me who was called to the front of the class for the strap. No protesting saved me!We were practising for the Christmas Concert when Ernest was transferred and every time we attempted to sing “Good Bye Little Darling” (a popular song of the time) we would convulse into giggles. How insensitive the young can be! Miss Mason went on to marry her Lieutenant and they moved to Bendigo where he conducted the family’s butchery business. In the late 1970’s the Bendigo Advertiser printed the headlines, “Another first for Bendigo, $35,000 Grant for Pilot Community Liaison Scheme, Isobel Wallace is Regional Project Officer.” I’m sure with her expertise in the teaching field and her experiences as a mother, it would have been a success. Our mother, Beatrice Brady was Secretary of Mallacoota School Committee all through my school years and this entitled her to be a supervisor for the Merit Certificate, except the year I sat for mine. I shall always remember the End of the Year Christmas tree, which was my last and also for Miss Mason. I can still see that diminutive lady just peeping over the largest bouquet of flowers I have ever seen, with both hands trying to hold them she graciously thanked everyone. They did a wonderful ‘job’ whose one-teacher school teachers of the 1930-40s, who besides the every day curriculum, managed to ‘throw in’ a bit of speech training and instructions on good manners as well. Remember not many children of that era went on to secondary or Tertiary education, when they left school at fourteen, the knowledge they had gained, equipped them for life. Perhaps the greatest lesson those teachers imparted to us was the dignity of work, the value of doing a good job honestly and as well as one could, no matter if it was the most mundane.

For someone who dreaded commenCing school, they were the happiest days of my life and when I left I didn’t just cry, I literally howled for three days. What a wonderful relief it must have been for my parents when a visiting aunt whisked me away to live with her and further my schooling in Wollongong.

The centenary celebrations saw the return of many former head teachers and principals, among them was John Tribe who was at the school in the years 1963 -1965. He and his late wife Rosemary with their children Debbie and Stephen added another member to their family when Christopher was born in 1963.

Mrs Cav McLeod was the prep teacher at the time and it was during this period that a water bore and town electricity was connected to the school and the old school was removed. And 1965 saw the opening of central classes.

Two memorable events happened in John’s time here. Firstly a secondary teacher was appointed although teaching conditions were very primitive. Stephen Cook had to hold lessons in the corridor, an easel was his blackboard! Things improved in 1965 when a secondary class room was built making three rooms all told.

The second memorable event was the visit to the school by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Rohan Delacombe and the smiling children dressed in their best clothes and assembled on the forecourt greeted him and Lady Delacombe. I am sure most of the town residents had lined up under the fence line pine trees (now gone) to witness it all. It was the days when ladies wore hats and I remember going down to the ‘old’ Post Office after the mail car had arrived (8.30 pm then) to see our Post Master Carl Sholand juggling hat boxes from the veranda into the office and muttering “Dahlsens and Foards (BairnsdaleMail Order Firms) must be laughing all the way to the bank!” but after all little country towns did not get visits from the State Governor very often!!

Government funding for schools was very limited during the 1960s so the Mothers’ Club, of which Rosemary was a very active member, worked hard to raise money for much needed equipment.

John saw many changes whilst he was teaching here and witnessed the beginning of the development of the school.

After leaving Mallacoota another son was born making the family complete.

Later John retired and became a manager of a well known legal practice, Maurice and Blackburn, and from 1994 to 2005 was a Civil Marriage Celebrant. Rosemary was an editor with Penguin Books. We all have fond memories of a beautiful lady who sadly passed away two years ago. Their family are all achievers, Debbie Monash University Arts graduate, worked as a public relations officer with the Port of Melbourne Authority and is currently an office supervisor in Blackburn. Stephen is a computer engineer with IBM and Christopher is a software architect with an international software company. Nicholas is a fixed investment manager with Portfolio Partners. All are married and John has the joy of having grandchildren.

P-12 College has certainly changed since the 1960s era and John and his daughter Debbie enjoyed the centenary celebrations very much.

Leone Pheeney

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