The School Part 6

The first priority after building a school is the erection of a Flag pole and ours was on our newly ‘prepared’ lawn. Every Monday morning when we assembled we would watch our Australian flag (which was red in those years) flutter from the top of the mast as we sung “God Save The King.” (George V). Then we would sing our usual school songs which had followed us down from the ‘old’ school, “D’ye ken John Peel”, “A Frog he would a-wooing go”, and “Funiculi, Funicula.”

We would have our usual Morning Talk then it was Inspection Time! We would put our hands out straight in front so our nails could be checked, bare our teeth, to see if they had been cleaned, your shoes polished for those who wore them, and most important of all display a clean handkerchief, (which when you think about it were probably precursors of today’s tissues!)

Back in the playground games like “What’s the time, Mr Wolf!”, “Statues”, “Puss in the Corner”, “Hopscotch” and the old favourite, “Oranges and Lemons” were being played. Echoes of the chant of that song must haunt many a long-gone school yard throughout Australia. Marbles were a perennial favourite and later Jacks which my sister, Mione and I had introduced after a few months at school in Narooma, where we played it with small flat stones. Our Mother had told us that when she was at school at Nethercote, they used small sheep knuckle bones. Today they are colourful plastic. We mostly came from fishing families so there was always rope for our skipping games. On the outskirts of the small clearing around school several huge trees had been felled and we would climb up and out on the large limbs using them as rocking horses. This means of entertainment had one problem for the girls for in those days our knickers (commonly called bloomers) went down to our knees and could be easily seen under our dresses as we bounced up and down. Your fun abruptly ended when the boys started singing “we can see a poppy show” (The only other time I remember hearing of that phrase was in a book written by Patsy Adam Smith many years later). Anyway it assured a quick descent so the boys had an opportunity to take over the prized branches. It was much safer to build cubby houses amongst the thick leafed fallen branches on the ground. There our imaginations ran riot as we concocted ‘pretend’ meals from flowers, leaves and seeds. The piece de resistance must have surely been the ‘roast dinners’ using the discarded shell of a cicada and stuffing it with ‘seasoning’ of the creamy stackhousia (candles). In the two years I spent at the ‘old’ school I had four teachers Miss Cook, Miss Cussack, Mr Wade, and Miss Black, who also taught at the site of the new school. Whilst she was here we eagerly looked forward to races held not far from where the tennis courts are now. They were arranged by a visitor from Shepparton, Sir Andrew Fairley, who in 1925 had been appointed Chairman and Managing Director of SPC. The Fairley family also had a long established merchant store in that town. Each year when he holidayed here he would bring an amount of small gifts as prizes and I shall always remember my delight at receiving a pair of socks. Janet Black was a keen golfer and would often be seen on Mallacoota’s first Links which were on the sports ground. Many years later when I was working with an accounting firm in Albury, I met her again. She was still teaching and was, then, Lady Golf Champion of the Riverina. The sport she had nurtured whilst at Mallacoota had paid off!

Mr MacDonald, the next teacher was something different. He was a health fanatic and whether it be Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer, a cold southerly blowing or teeming rain, he arose early every morning to swim in the Channel. The fact that he never deemed it necessary to wear any form of swimming apparel may not have concerned him but it did shock the locals. Remember this was the 1930s!

Leone Pheeney

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