School days

In December I am attending a school closure—not something I would usually do, but this school is special, it was the one I attend as child for 8 years.  The school is a little country school and like so many, declining numbers has made it not viable to remain open.  The school was officially opened in 1879, only to be destroyed in the 1983 bushfires (known as the Ash Wednesday bushfires) that ripped through the Hills destroying many homes and properties.  After 8 years attending this little country school I thought about its impact on my life—what do I remember, good or bad about those 8 years. Quite a bit.  Some of it completely trivial others had a greater impact on my life, not that the teachers at the time realized!
  •  Cucumber sandwiches and warm milk: Anyone who went to school in Australia in the 1970’s should remember the warm milk—as part of government policy of making sure we all drank enough milk, milk in glass bottles were delivered every morning and left in the sun (yes, in the middle of summer) and given to us at recess time (10:30am) — the milk was warm with a layer of fat on the top — it was HORRIBLE.  As for the cucumber sandwiches— our school bags with their lunch boxes inside were left outside in the sun, it is amazing we didn’t all die from food poisoning!  When cucumber gets hot and the butter melts in the bread it makes for one very nasty sandwich that smelt of warm cucumber — yuck!
  • Poetry and stories: The school principle (and one of my teacher) loved stories and poetry and each week would read to the class such books as "Storm Boy" and "Sun on the Stubble" and thanks to Mr C I still love these books and the poetry he shared with us. It was a wonderful gift to pass on to his students.
  • Marching and dancing: Mr C loved marching music and to keep us fit we would learn marching steps that we performed on the tennis court and show all the parents our choreographed performance.  The prize position was the head of the marching row, I so much wanted that position, I finally did when I reached year 7.  Mr C also taught us to dance (waltz's, square dancing..) it was sort of fun but I always got the boy who had warts on his hand I didn’t like that.  I never got the 2 gorgeous boys in the class!!
  • Dictation and reading: I can’t express how much I hated reading and dictation at school.  Firstly reading was done in groups, reading aloud.  Now this was fine for anyone who liked reading aloud, as a very poor reader it was 45 minutes of embarrassment and confidences destruction.  Dictation was a once a week test—10 words and a paragraph, all to be memorized the night before.  I rarely passed this test and certainly didn’t improve my spelling.  To make it worse Mr C would read out aloud the marks so everyone knew who had failed.  Did nothing to my confidences — what was Mr C thinking!
  • Sport: I loved running the 100m (couldn’t do it any more) and in year 7 I won the inter-schools sports day 100 m race.  I was over the moon.  It was one thing I excelled in and could represent the school.
  • Shoes and dresses: There are 2 incidences at school that I have never forgotten—the day I wore my slippers to school and was teased by all my classmates and the day I wore a beautiful pretty pale blue dress to school that I just loved and some horrible boys told me it was made of toilet paper as the fabric was crinkly.  I never wore that dress again and I was so upset.  I can remember these as clear as day.
I had many hours of fun at primary school and still remain life time friends with 2 of the girls I knew from the days we were in cradles, but I was not a clever student and struggled with many of my classes and sadly these are some of the memories I have of school.  It was tough not being bright!!
School days by Jessie Wilcox-Smith


  1. We, too, lost our little public school in our town, also due to declining enrollment as the population in our town has gone down.

  2. When I was reading your post, it occured to me how the hurtful things and the joyous things are the things we most remember from school and the teachers who impacted us in many ways:)
    That's awesome that you are still friends with the two girls:)
    I have only just reconnected with one of my closest friends from school via fb, still looking for a couple of others!

  3. Thank goodness our milk went in the shade & was still drinkable by morning tea! Cold even...☺ I was a dunce in math & nothing anyone ever did made one iota of difference. At 50 odd I still don't know my times tables [& could care less] & am rarely able to calculate anything in my head. I love my calculator. lol

  4. Jo, I couldn't help but laugh when you spoke of the boy with the warts on his hands. It seems there was always one in every class, everywhere!

    I remember the little bottles of milk. I am thankful that we did have port-racks in the shade so at least our lunch was reasonably cool.

    Yes, I believe the teaching methods of long ago left a lot to be desired! I used to hate when they read out everyone's results... for my worst subjects. If my marks were good, I didn't mind though! lol

  5. I remember being 'milk monitor' a very important job, we had to spike the foil tops with a wooden skewer that lived on the chalk rack. Then we had to put a straw in each one, amazing how we survived such unhygienic times.

  6. This was very interesting - and shows just how much times have both improved and gotten worse in different ways! I don't think a lot of teachers realise just how much of an impact they can have in a child's life... Teaching children is a huge responsibility whether you're a teacher in a public school or whether you're homeschooling your children - and it does us well to be reminded of that. Thanks Jo! :)

  7. Clara - It is amazing the impact of your school does have on your life, it can be something quite major, or something small like reading aloud! School should be enjoyable and full of wonderful memories and it sounds like all you home schoolers are doing this.

    Jo - you certainly brought back memories with the straws, I had forgotten that part!!

  8. Isn't it amazing how vividly we remember those hurtful times at school? I was good in school at the academic part, but always suffered terribly in gym class. I am NOT athletic by nature, and often found myself trying not to cry when faced with the difficulty of a somersault, a pull up, or a trip across the high balance beam. NOT FOR ME.

  9. i can sympathize with what you mentioned about struggling with school work as that was me as well.
    But praise the Lord we survived it!

    Enjoyed reading your experience of schooling in Australia.

  10. Jo, this is a late comment. Very sad to hear the Millbrook is closing. My C. was a true teacher. I really thrived under him -- I especially recall him reading us poetry that was interesting and captivating to a young boy.


  11. Sorry for the typos! Try ... "that Millbrook" and "Mr. C.".


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