We were living at Mallacoota House when I had my 5th Birthday and later heard my parents discuss my commencing school. I immediately hid under the bed! Thankfully I was granted reprieve when it was decided to wait until we moved down to the ‘Old House’ on the Raheen property. From there I would join up with the school teacher and the township children and walk up the hill and down by. Robertson’s dam to school.
There was no road around the foreshore in those days so they would have firstly traversed a track over Shady Gully Creek, balancing on rotting logs and swamp. If floods or unusual high tides had made it impassable, the Education Department granted a school holiday. The school was built on land given by Karl Rasmus who had owned all the Mirrabooka area. It was the typical building of that era, one large room with one entrance, through a porch and adjoining library-store-room. There was an open’ fire place for winter heat and in that season it was customary to see on the lower brackets, the hateful galoshes (rubber over-shoes which were considered necessary) among the coats and school bags in the porch. Either side of the fireplace hung large depressing black and white photos. Come to think of it, there wasn’t any colour anywhere, colourful pictures to display on our walls would come year’s later! The teacher sat on a tall stool at an enormous desk directly behind us, literally breathing down our necks! Our desks had lift up lids forming blackboards and we wrote on these as well as slates. The latter had a piece of rag attached by string and over all those years I can still smell the dreadful odour coming from them, as portion was made wet to clean our slates. They must have concocted hundreds of germs, but no one thought of such things! The open crockery inkwells recessed into the front of the desks were the. bane, of girl’s lives as the boys derived wondrous delight in dipping our ‘pigtails’ in them. The wooden floor was covered in large blots of! red and black ink.
Two things remain vividly in my memory of my first day of school. Firstly the chanting of what could only have been an initiation song:
“Leone, Leone, stick, stock Steone, I bob chicken bob, I bob Leone” (or Pat or Bill whatever your name). I think it must have died a natural death on that site as I can’t I recall it following the school here.
The other incident happened at lunch time when I was joining other girls to eat under the huge pine tree. Laurie (Bulla) Allan suddenly called out to me, that I had. dropped some little chocolate cakes from my schoolbag, my little legs ran fast but it was quite evident that a young calf had wandered up the path before hand. There were howls of laughter from the boys! School days had begun!
The school garden was a mass of old fashioned flowers, pincushions, granny-bonnets, gallardias and foxgloves, no one apparently knew how poisonous the latter happened to be. Each child had a small plot for growing flowers or vegetables.
Playtime for we smaller girls meant playing ‘Drop the handkerchief to the singing of ‘ring-arosy,’ or sitting beneath the pine tree plaiting the needles into little baskets. We would thread the bugle-like flowers of the red cestrum on to the stems of long grass to make necklaces. Sometimes we would play ‘Soldiers’ with the thick stems of grass, knocking off the heads of stems of our opponents. Knobby club-rushes grew thickly along the lake below the school and we would gather the thick columns and patiently prise out the thick, white, spongy pith. These we would plait into hair-bands which we thought were beautiful with the addition of flowers. The bigger girls would climb to the top of the wattle trees where they would sway in the breeze, ‘singing their hearts out’ There was no sophistication among the children of bush schools in those days; we were content with simple pleasures!