This weeks blog is conjuring up some interesting memories about my primary school days from Grade 1 in 1961 to Grade 6 in 1966, at Ogilvie Primary School, north east of Northampton in Western Australia.
Graham Cowell was my first teacher in Grade 1 and 2, then Tas Doornbusch until I left in Grade 6. The teachers would stay a year at one of the homes of a students parents. We had our turn and the year Mr Doornbush spent with us, Terry Carson, Bobbo and I ran away from school. Yes! I did! I used to follow Bobbo everywhere, whatever he did, I did too. We were the best buddies. As a dare, we pushed a tank up against the school door and ran off across the paddock toward Carson’s farm. How we didn’t get lost or bitten by snakes we will never know. Terry shared some of his red cordial with me, I distinctly remember it being red!! When everyone was out looking for us we would hide behind a tree so we couldn’t be seen. Eventually we made it to Carson’s. Mrs Carson rang Dad to tell them they had found us and he came over to pick us up, boy oh boy, did Bobbo get a hiding. I missed out on the hiding of my life and from what Peter told me years later, he too got into trouble as he’d come home without us. I hopped quickly into the jeep to avoid the spanking. When we had tea that night, Tas had to tell Mum and Dad all about it and we hid so they wouldn’t growl at us. Goodness, we were all of about 7 and 8 years of age!
Tas used to breed pigeons and chooks. Sometimes he would bring a chook into the house if he was trying to get a grass seed out of its eye or something. One night there was a commotion going on outside and Tas was pounding on the back door. Dad got up to see what was the matter and Tas had all his blankets wrapped up in his hands. He said there was a snake in his bed. They tipped the blankets out carefully onto the lawn but couldn’t find it. Dad went down to the shearer’s quarters which was Tas’ accommodation, and still couldn’t find anything. It’s a no wonder, his room was full of boxes of books. The snake was never to be seen again, if there was one!
We would walk across the paddock and over the creek to the top gate where Len Dawson, the school bus driver, would come along in his orange and white bus to pick us up. We were on the west run along with the Drage family from Trevenson, McKenzie’s and Carson’s.
Len owned a shop at Binnu and in the mornings we would give him some money for lollies. He would bring them to us in the afternoon in little white bags. I loved the musk flavoured penny sticks the best, you could suck on the end of them and twist them in your mouth to form a pencil. The choo choo bar was also yummy, but boy, did they make for a black tongue and mouth. In about year 3, Neil Drage became our driver when Len sold the school bus run.
On wet days, when our creek was flowing and it was pouring, the bus driver would take us right up to the house. We thought this was pretty neat and looked forward to the swollen creek and rainy days. And while we were waiting for the bus to pick us up on cold mornings, we would do star jumps just to keep warm. On hot days if it got to 1ooF (now 37c), we could stop school work and have a water fight, then at 105 F (40c) we were allowed to go home. We had lots of water fights and maybe went home once or twice.
My favourite subjects were reading and spelling. I could get 90% for my spelling. If ever there were any hard words, we would write it out and put the words in a tobacco tin. They would stay in the tin until we could spell them without making a mistake. Times have changed and I use Google a lot these days. Americanism has changed how we spell and talk. I was ok at arithmetic and a good reader. Of course we all grew up on Dick and Dora, Nip and Fluff.
I got into trouble a few times, especially when I’d follow what the bigger kids were doing. Probably Bobbo! There were two bus runs, one to take home the kids who lived east of the school, then west run. One time, when the bus was returning from taking the east Ogilvie kids home, we west kids hid behind a fresh load of yellow sand and threw sand-clogs at it. Well, did we cop it? Tas caned us all. He wrote in a letter for the Ogilvie school reunion that he had never caned a girl before, so he found it very hard to give me six of the best. I remember it as if it was yesterday. Right across the palm of my hand! I also remember getting the ruler across the back of my legs many a time, but not what it was for. Guess I either had messy writing or got a sum wrong!
At recess we were always given a tin of Carnation milk to drink. Sometimes the milk came in triangle shaped cartons. Everyone had to drink their milk, although I think the schools pet kitten loved milk days.
Sports days were on Fridays. We would practice and practice our running, spry ball, leader ball, flag races, relays, long and short jump, on the yellow sand road out the front of the school. When we weren’t practising for the inter-school sports day, we would do other activities. My cousins, Ian and Maree Johnson brought their Shetland ponies, Flicka and Rosette for us to ride. I was on Rosette’s back when she suddenly put her head down to eat something and I went sailing over the top on to the ground and winded myself. Other games we played were, What’s the Time, Mr Wolf? Drop the hanky and folk dancing. I loved folk dancing, but the boys wouldn’t do it properly!! Hah!
I used to be an ok runner back in the day and won several trophies for being first over the line. One year, I was the only one running in this race and I didn’t want to go, so Dellys Carson said she’d run with me. Little did I know that once we got started and I was off like a rocket, she pulled away and stopped running.
We played in the bushes a lot near the school. I’d join in with the boys, playing cowboys and Indians or war games. All the west Ogilvie kids were in the bush this day and there was a fight between the boys and girls, when one of the Drage girls picked up an old rusty can and threw it, hitting Bobbo in the mouth and the rusty lid cut his lip. Uncle Ernie Cripps’ farm was close by, so the teacher rang and Aunty Barbara came up to the school to take Bobbo to Northampton to have stitches and a tetanus needle.
Another time, I was on the swing and Victor Whitehurst was running back and forth behind me. We thought it was fun, until he misjudged the backward swing and it hit him in the mouth, knocking out a tooth and sending one up into his gums. Once again, Aunty Barbara had to run him into town to be sorted. I believe he’s had trouble with those teeth right through to adult years.
We never had to wear a school uniform except on sports day and on excursions. The boys wore a white shirt and royal blue shorts with a white stripe. The girls had a royal blue dress with a white belt and white binding around the square neckline and sleeves. Our sports carnival was always held immediately after the August school holidays. It was coming into summer and we would get so sun-burnt. See the photo above, we’ve all got beetroot red faces.
I would carry a grey school case with red corners. The boys had satchels that they carried over their shoulders. I remember one time Mum let me take sago for lunch, in a Tupperware bowl but on the way the lid popped off and I had sago all over my school books. That was a sticky mess.
The end of year concert was held in the new open shed at the side of the main school room. One year when I was really mad keen on The Seekers, I sang “The Carnival is Over“. I can’t sing for peanuts so it must have sounded dreadful. Tas Doornbusch gave us all a present and I picked out an autograph book. It had a pink cover which I still have to this today. One special autograph is that of Slim Dusty!
Once a week we did craft in the open shed. We made lots of things out of cane, baskets, serving trays and lamp shades. Soaking the cane first in water to make it bend easy without breaking. As we got older we could weave with plastic and made lamp stands out of bottles, coat hangers and lolly baskets. I still have a coat hanger and a serving tray that one of my brother’s made. The girls would also do sewing. I liked sewing with hessian bags using different coloured strands of wool. I remember making a nice potholder. We learnt how to do Lazy Daisy and Herring Bone stitches.
Everyone used to tease me a lot. I think I must have been very gullible. One time Terry Carson put a plastic spider inside my new esky. I screamed and screamed!! I hated spiders so much and somehow he must have known. I’ve always hated spiders, still do, until I realised that I am bigger than them and will kill them if I see any around. I freak though, if I walk through a cobweb, frantically trying to find if there’s a spider attached to my clothes or hair.
On Monday’s we would have religious instruction. Monsignor O’Connor would come out from Northampton to teach us about God. I remember going into Northampton to make my First Holy Communion and I still have my white veil that I wore.
Kathy Johnson and I used to play with our teenage dolls a lot. We were good friends at school and in the afternoon when the bus would take the east kids home I would sometimes go too and get off at Kathy’s stop and either play at the top gate with her for a while or go down to the house and play with her dolls while the bus went up to take the Drage’s and Gangell’s home. I would then catch it again on the way back to go home. Imagine doing something like that now!
We used to have singing lessons and Over the Rainbow sung by Judy Garland was one of my favourites.
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
Way above the chimney tops,
That’s where you’ll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can’t I?
Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can’t I?
My favourite poem was The Eagle by Alfred Lloyd Tennyson and would really emphasise that last line.
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
I will continue with my school days in my next blog, when I went on to the catholic school in Northampton, before going away to boarding school in Geraldton.