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In 1935 Mum
sent me off to
Billeroo school – I was 6 years old and rode a push bike 5½ miles (11
miles a day) hail, rain or shine with a leather school bag on my back.
In wet weather I had a weather proof raincoat. Nearly all students rode
push bikes to school. However the Chapmans went to school by horse and
sulky; at school the horse would graze in an adjoining paddock where
there was a school oval and cricket pitch. Most students came to school
I can still remember Tommy Bowran had trouble trying to read “Jack &
Jill went up the Hill”. Each student had to stand at the teacher’s table
to read. We had to recite 1x2+2 until we learnt it by heart, then we
would go onto 2x2=4 and so on.
Some of the teachers I can remember were Miss Fane, Miss Dungey,
, Mr Black and
. All teachers
resided at Tom
’s house just one mile east of
the school. They rode a push bike to school. I can remember the teacher
going to a big desk to lift the top and take out a double handful of
Coronation medals. That was in 1937 and we all got one.
Bung eyes were common at school – I think we all had them at some time.
On one occasion a student, Helen McCooke, took ill at school and the
teacher asked me if I would double dinky her home four miles west of the
school. I don’t know what time I got home that day as it was a total of
8 miles to and from her place and then 5½ miles to my home.
Billeroo School was not too bad at the annual school sports - Billeroo
won the shield donated by the Carnamah
District Road Board
in 1939, 1940 and 1941. The students had a
garden near the school. We took the vegetables home. For Arbor Days we
all had to plant a tree and they remained there until the school was
When the Japanese invasion was thought to be imminent students and
parents dug trenches fifty yards away from the school. We were drilled
to evacuate the school and run to the trenches when the teacher rang the
bell. Two trenches were dug 2 feet deep. I can still show you where they
were today. In 1944 Mum and Dad sent me off to Guildford Grammar School
to further my education.
From what I can recollect, local farmers
built the Billeroo
school and made the inside fittings like the mantelpiece. In later years
the school was dismantled and re-built at the Winchester Tennis Club.
From there it was moved and became Jimmy Ovens’ chemical shed in Coorow.
Two stools from the Billeroo School are now in the Carnamah Museum. In
Australia’s Bicentennial Year, 1988, a plaque was placed on a large
limestone rock to mark the site of the Billeroo School on the corner of
Rowland Road and Road 13.
I have very fond memories of Coorow State School. My parents moved into
the town so that I could start school as there was no school bus going
north. I used to walk to school on a track through the block that later
had the new Post Office, across the creek and up through the scrub to
the school. The rough path was used by other families of children –
Glovers, Doneys, O’Callaghans, Comelys and Johns. We looked for
wildflowers and birds as we went. If the creek was running we had to go
the long way round via the Co-op and along the main road, across the
footbridge near the Midland Railway dam, in front of the old wooden hall
and so into the school grounds. When the creek began to dry out we used
to catch tadpoles and put them in a jar, take them to school and hope
they survived and changed into frogs.
There were no school uniforms and some children came to school in bare
feet. The two-teacher State School consisted of two wooden buildings -
one for each teacher. The school grounds and tennis courts were gravel.
There were two bough sheds where students who came by bus could eat
their lunches. There was no refrigerator or esky to keep their lunches
cool though I seem to remember a large cylindrical canvas water bag
hanging on the porch of the upper school room. There were rain water
tanks near the rooms and 2 toilets quite a distance behind and like the
homes in the town the pans had to be emptied once a week and they always
smelt of phenyl.
At recess time we exchanged little collector cards from cereal packets,
played marbles, knuckle bones and hopscotch on the gravel. We explored
the dugouts in the scrub left there after the Second World War. Besides
single skipping ropes the school had a long rope which two strong
children turned and we girls ran in and out of that. The organised group
sport was rounders.
How we were taught so well remains a mystery to me and compliments are
due to all of our teachers who coped with multiple classes in one room
and whose only teaching aids were posters that they had made themselves.
It wasn’t until about 1950 that the P. & C. gave the school a wireless
and the teacher could tune into school programmes but the reception was
very poor most of the time. I admire the Head Teachers - Messrs Weir,
Ingram and Larkin - who coped with the small world of country school
children after serving during the Second World War.
One of my most vivid memories is of attempting to learn write with a
pen. You had to dip the nib of your pen into the open inkwell that sat
in a hole on your desk top, bring it to your Copy Book and copy the
perfect writing on the top of the page. I ended up with ink blots
everywhere in spite of being careful and having blotting paper! The
front of a desk had the folding seat for the next student attached to
it. Girls didn’t want to sit in front of some boys who used the pen as a
weapon and also pulled your hair.
I also remember the Sewing Classes. The female Assistant teacher had to
have all of the girls together in her room for sewing once a week. We
managed to produce colourful hessian pot holders and work cotton aprons.
The poor teacher had to ensure not only that we were doing the various
stitches correctly but that everything was kept clean. This was pretty
difficult in a crowded room without air conditioning in near 100°F heat.
Either someone came to inspect our work once a year or our teacher had
to post some of it off to Education Department in Perth. Some of the
girls with good voices would be allowed to sing for the rest of us
during sewing. At the same time the boys were occupied doing Manual Arts
with the Head Teacher.
1951 was an important year. To celebrate 50 years of Federation we met
at the ruins of Coorow House and were addressed by
Mr Ernest Long
, a descendant of the first settlers. Also in 1951 the
Commonwealth-State free milk scheme was implemented in W.A. Initially
milk was in 1/3 pint glass bottles. I was put off milk for years because
after it was delivered in the early morning to Coorow School it sat in
crates until recess time without refrigeration!
Highlights of each year were the School picnic at Curinga Well,
interschool sports and the break-up concert. However the School picnics
were never quite as good as the marvellous Sunday School picnics! Almost
all the non Catholic children attended the Sunday School run for years
by Mr and Mrs Vic Broun
spared no effort for the annual picnic transporting us, food, water,
marquee, sports equipment on the back of trucks to Curinga Well.
I went to the original two roomed school, with Mr & Mrs Kingston
teachers at the time. I also attended the new school and planted a gum
tree which was one of a row along the front of the building. One other
teacher I remember from the old school was Mr Jones. He was very
interested in stamp collecting and singing. After attending most of
first form High School at the old school on correspondence, my parents
sent me off to Geraldton where I spent two years at Proddy Home (Della
Hale) with Matron Stanley in Charge.
I remember seeing Maisie McSwain riding her bike on her way to the
Inering school. She lived near
but for some reason she went to school at Inering. I'm
not sure if I have her name correctly remembered. It must have been a
hard ride on the dirt road.
It might very possibly have been a generous act on the part of
family to keep the
numbers up at Inering and the school open. When
was the teacher
at Inering 1931-1933 she lived with her parents in the Carnamah townsite and drove
her Baby Austin car out each day. Although her younger brother could
have walked to school in Carnamah, for a period of time he went with her
out to Inering and was a student there.