Primary School – a solitary child meets the world

Dear Miss F

It was early 1957, and you and I were arriving at Primary School at the same time. You were a young teacher just out of college in Sydney, I was a young boy, being  exposed to other children for virtually the first time.

I am not sure who got the biggest culture shock! I do know that almost sixty years later, your kindness and gentleness are still etched in my mind

School was a tiny, two roomed, weatherboard structure sitting between the Lutheran Church at the top of the rise and the Ecumenical Church where the Presbyterians, Methodists and other minor religions attended for their monthly worship.

The school hierarchy  was very simple; little school and big school. I was young at the time to be starting school, but this was necessary in order to ensure there were at least 47 kids enrolled from Kindergarten through to Sixth Class.

As I recall; 47 was the cutoff point for two teacher schools, any less than that and we would have reverted to just one teacher. The kids closest to turning five were sent to school, ready or not, and; a sixth class student who was lagging behind, was warmly recommended to repeat a year before heading off to High School.

I vaguely remember a boy who was almost 15 lining up for school every day; a lumbering hulk of almost man who; although “not the full quid” in the parlance of the day; was a treasured institution for his capacity to make up the numbers.

I think there were seven kids who started school with me, but; with the exception of the  two or three who went to the monthly Presbyterian Sunday School, I knew none of them. Even with the ones I did know, there was certainly none that I could have called a friend.

Such were the social barriers between Lutheran and non-Lutheran families; farm workers and landowners, I have often wondered what you made of this  level of social stratification in such a small community.

I had never been involved in anything outside of the farm or the immediate family; there were no  Cub scouts, no Pony Club or other outside activities which may have challenged my insularity and, as result; I was totally unprepared for the rough and tumble of the school yard.

A strange, geeky boy who could not throw a ball, bowl a cricket ball or; as winter rolled around, proved to be totally useless on the football field, was never going to win Mr Popularity, but; other than being shunned at selection for most sports, there was no real overt bullying.

It did hurt that the girls were more sought after to make up the numbers for football or cricket than me, but generally, my first years at Primary School were fairly uneventful and you were never anything but kind to me.

The breakup of several, nearby large holdings into Soldier Settlement  blocks meant  the bus route had to be extended and it was no longer practical for us to catch the bus to and from school.  It was decided we would make our own way, so we could get our chores done before dark. Dad bought a small paddock opposite the school so Jerry  could ride his horse and I was given a bike for my sixth birthday.

I liked this arrangement; Jerry would ride off ahead of me and I would spend the half hour riding to school in endless conversations with my imaginary friend;Bill.

On wet cold mornings. I would look forward to the welcome warmth of both you and the old wood heater. We would talk as I shed layers of clothes and through chattering teeth,  told you of my adventures on the way to school; the frog on the road, the magpie that had swooped me or; the fog  I could barely see through.

You and Bill, neither of you ever seemed to lose patience with me.

Thanks

Bruce

 

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