The School Part 5

Miss Janet Black who was the last teacher at the ‘old’ school, was still with us when we moved back into the school at it’s present site. It would be difficult for anyone to visualise the density of the trees and scrub that surrounded it. There was only a small cleared space around the actual building. So thick was the scrub that my sister, Mione was one of several children who became ‘lost’ in the grounds. For a small child it must have been very daunting, but it afforded a wonderful source of what is now known as ‘bush tucker’ for us. There was an abundance of wild cherries, apple berries (we called them plum puddings), Cape gooseberries, yams and the most delicious of all wattle gum, on which we could feast.

With only a limited area for games we were fairly restricted although we did play rounders with our round home-made bats. Unfortunately the game was mostly abandoned because of the monotonous call of ‘lost ball’ and searching for it amongst the thick undergrowth was futile. The same scrub though, was a great cover when we played ‘Hide and Seek’. Huge goannas inhabited the massive trees on the grounds and the boys derived much fun trying to ‘get them’ with their shanghais, (the Australian boy’s term for slingshots or catapults) which they had painstakingly manufactured. They may have been crudely made but were usually most effective but not against the wily goannas who outwitted the boys with their fast moves to the other side of the trunk. With little resources, we found great amusement in making stilts, using a straight limb of a tree and cutting off any protruding branches, except the lower one which made a foot hold. I can still feel the agony of trying to walk on them, with your feet tightly wedged. Bill Bruce was the envy of us all as with head down, he could go like the wind on a pair he had manufactured from wattle limbs. Later when the fence was constructed and an area cleared we were able to play other games, like ‘Charlie over the water’. Our teacher, by then, was Angus MacDonald who could outrun us all as we tried to catch each person before they reached the other side of the large square. I had nightmares for weeks after nearly choking him as I grabbed his tie! It certainly stopped him in
his tracks!

Under Mr MacDonald’s supervision we established a large lawn, surrounded by logs in front of the school building. We were down on our hands and knees during ‘playtime’ for many weeks trying to eradicate anything that would stop the growth of grass. Not even the smallest stick or root or piece of bark would escape his watchful eye. Not only did we get fed-up with all the preparation, but our parents weren’t exactly happy with our appearance as we arrived home each day.

I guess, for hygienic reasons, the two toilets were still ‘up the back’ for any 5-year olds first day at school, it seemed five miles! Each of the toilets had wooden seats, which firstly had to be checked out for (a) Spiders and (b) snakes. Squares of newspaper were threaded on to pieces of wire for our use. Bowater-Scot hadn’t at that stage made their fortune from rolls of tissue paper, well if they had, the product hadn’t reached the Bush! The kind donation of phone books from our then postmistress, Mrs Dorron, did at least give some measure of refinement! The ‘burial’ took place every Friday afternoon, and if you happened to be the eldest child, boy or girl, you were just plain unlucky! Equal rights was born in Bush Schools! I have had my superstitions ever since about those H.T’s. Were they sub-contracting us on a non monetary basis?

There were not enough pupils to have team sports and travelling to other towns for School Sports didn’t eventuate til year’s later. With a cleared playground area we could now partake in PT instructions once a week, nothing strenuous, mind you, mainly touching your toes, running on the spot and so on. Our out of school activities kept us fit anyway and we played until dark, there certainly weren’t any distractions like television in those days.

Leone Pheeney

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