Students in classroom, Maleny State Primary School, 1920

As our kids and grandkids head back to school for another year, we take some time to reflect on old school days – which were certainly quite different.

On January 24, 1930 a Nambour Chronicle report stated, “Schools have been brought up to a standard where there are so many varied and interesting features for the bright observant pupil that it becomes a pleasure rather than an irksome duty. There is so much today that is brought in under school curriculums that in the great desire of educating and equipping the boy or girl for the future after school life, the view is that school days are the happiest in one’s life.”

In 1878 pioneering residents attended a public meeting and Isaac Burgess, Joseph Cramb and John Hankinson were elected members of the Mellum Creek School Building Committee. In 1879 Isaac Burgess advised the Board of Education that a school at Mellum Creek, Gympie Road had been erected using all sawn timber. The building was 20 feet x 12 feet with nine foot walls and a six foot veranda.

The school opened on September 29, 1879 with Miss Mary E Hennigan being the first teacher. In 1891, Mrs McIntyre, the head teacher at the time, advised the Department of Education that the name of the place had been changed from Mellum Creek to Landsborough and as a result the name of the school was changed.

Mr William Torrens remembered when the new school at Landsborough was built in 1920, it consisted of one large room and two verandas with earth closet toilets and rain water tanks. When these tanks ran dry, water was carried to the school from an old well situated on Old Gympie Road which was supposedly dug by an elderly woman back in the days of Cobb & Co.

The school grounds were cleaned up every week during school hours and the boys had to bring axes, mattocks etc. for cleaning up rubbish. The girls stayed in school and did sewing. One day the girls built a big cubby from the rubbish collected by the boys.

In 1917 the Minister for Education authorised the construction of an open-air school, to be erected on the soldiers’ settlement at Beerburrum for 500 pounds. It was to accommodate 48 children. By 1921 there were 110 children on the roll and deputations were made to the Minister for Education for increased school accommodation. In 1933, due to the expansion of the tobacco industry in the locality, the school was finally enlarged.

Moira Male, a former student from Beerburrum remembered starting school in 1926. For the first year she only attended 3 days as she was too young to walk the three miles to and from school every day. She remembered being severely reprimanded on one occasion for writing “shut the damn lid” on the dunny. She stated that apart from this literary achievement, she was usually close to the bottom of her class because her parents believed school was for school work and home was for chores, so no homework was done.

Later memories from the 1960s from Russell Hopkins included dried paper blobs stuck to the ceiling, hurled there in moist form by very flexible rulers, rocking back and forth in bare feet on the very hot parade ground, trying to remember that 8+5 did equal 13 for Miss Loveday and racing from school to be at the railway overhead bridge in time to wave to the driver of the steam powered shunt train each afternoon.

In 1913, the Maleny Township School commenced with 36 children on the first day and 52 by the week’s end. Thelma Walter, with her sister and brother, rode a horse to school at Maleny. They would race other children to school but never won because of having three atop. However one day they were leading when Thelma fell off the back of the horse and with much outrage she recalled they did not stop. She was picked up when they were on their way home from school.

Vic Waddell and his mates in the mid-1920s emulated their speedway motorcycle heroes by running around a 30ft diameter track holding a piece of wood as handle bars and old felt hats cut down as helmets.

In 1917, Coolum Provisional School, No. 1571 commenced in the School of Arts hall and in 1930 a State School was officially opened by the Minister for Education. Many memories are recorded in the early years of the school, of the Good Manners chart which hung on the wall and naughty children had to copy it out. One morning the boys placed wet clay on the fence the teacher, Miss Chapman had to climb through, getting clay all over her clothes. No one owned up so the whole class had to copy the Good Manners chart.

The Caloundra Provisional School commenced in 1899. It was located in a room within the lighthouse keeper’s house, with 9 students enrolled on the first day. The community built a new school in 1910 and the Provisional School became a State School from June 1, 1912.

During 1942, the army took over the school. At first the 9th Battalion requested storage space but the 61st Battalion replaced the 9th and within a few days the Adjutant of this Battalion had taken over the school as his headquarters. This included sentries being placed on guard duty at the school and blocking all roads to the school with barbed wire.

Visiting the school involved passing through American guard lines and if you forgot the password for the day, you were likely to be the guest of the Provost Corps. It was clear that the school could not operate under these conditions and so it was moved to the Scout Hall in Minchinton Street.

Our reminiscing takes us back to the skills required for the bush school teacher of the 1880s – they had to teach a class of children aged five to 15, cook lunch on an open fire, stay fresh all day from a weekly swim in the dam, keep the school property free of goats and cattle, fight off swaggies attempting to camp in the school grounds and much more.

Enjoy the school year ahead and remember to record your memories for the future.

Thanks to the Heritage Library staff for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

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