The School Part 8
We always celebrated Empire Day (later called Commonwealth Day) on 24th May with parents building a bonfire in the evening. This was the date of Queen Victoria’s Birthday and widely observed as a school holiday in the British Empire. We were acutely aware of the Empire, it was all the pink countries on the school atlas! Guy Fawkes wasn’t forgotten either and called for a bonfire every 5th November. ‘
On Arbour Day every Victorian school and probably in other states, planted a tree. Mr. McDonald supervised the planting of the pine trees along the front of the school entrance and up the fence line of the easement lane. Mine is long gone as it was in the latter area.
I loved Wattle Day which was celebrated in Victorian schools on the 1 st of September and is now the accepted date. It would mean a walk through the bush usually down towards the Betka. We would take our lunch with us so it was a day free of lessons. I believe that in Adelaide in 1889 the Australian Natives Association initiated a ‘Wattle League’. Ten years later, in Sydney, August 1st was fixed as the first ‘Wattle Day.’ Then In Melbourne, in 1913 the decision was made that 1st August or 1st September, according to the forwardness of the wattle flowering in each state would be the dates for Wattle Day. It could have been any month in Mallacoota as there is always a species in flower.
We thought it wonderful when we graduated from slate pencil to the lead ones but we gained more Importance when in Grade 4 we were allowed use a pen. We soon became aware that these created problems; keeping the nibs intact. Jst as you can be fairly certain that if you drop a piece of buttered toast on the floor, the odds are that it will land buttered side down, it was much the same with a dropped pen. It would invariably land point first resulting in a crossed nib. No matter how you pressed down on it, it was impossible to straighten. Nevertheless you would dip the pen in the inkwell and commence writing, the result would be a splatter of ink all over the page., You knew you would have to face the inevitable, as a blotted page earned you the cane or the strap, which ever was !favoured by the teacher of the time. Filling Inkwells and cleaning blackboard dusters were duties shared by the older pupils on a roster system.
We felt important when we graduated from the soft covered readers of Grade 1 and Grade 2 to the hard covered Readers which were from Grade 3 to Grade 8. Like the monthly School Papers, they were great value. Through them, we learned to appreciate the English poets and our early Australian poets, like Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson, Henry Kendall, Victor Daley and many more who through their writings painted us a picture of the late 1800s and early 1900s. the story of our pioneering era. Who could forget Dorothea Mackellar’s “My Country” which has become along with “Waltzing Matilda” identification of our culture. There were not many books for us to read but somehow I read all the Mary Grant Bruce books about a farming family in Gippsland, Ethel Turner’s wonderful Australian Books and of course the “Anne of Green Gables” series. Our Science lessons wf!re Nature Study I Health there are only two things I remember from those lessons which we had to illustrate, (1) Never leave banana skins lying on the pavement to create an accident by someone slipping on them. Well that may have been relevant to city schools but we had no pavements and bananas were a rarity. (2) Never smash bottles on the beach or near the water. Arithmetic both oral and written was dreaded, English, well dictation was questionable, Essay writing (we called it composition) was great as were Geography lessons. There wasn’t much Australian history taught but we did obtain a good knowledge of all the battles on land and sea in which Great Britain was involved. Greek, Roman and Norwegian Mythology was taught which I now find invaluable when doing Crosswords, which goes to prove a little bit of knowledge is better than none!