pally is 100

Celebrating Palmyra Primary School's Centenary in 2013

Pally in the 50s – from Chris Cook


Thanks Chris for this lovely overview of his family’s time at the school:

My name is Chris Cook. I am 65, and lived in Palmyra in the 50’s and attended Palmyra school with my brother Michael and sisters Lesley and Janice.

My grandchildren, Cohen and Harper are today attending Pally, and even more extraordinarily, my father Ormond (Ned) also attended Pally school back in 1922.

Ned’s family moved to Adrian Street in Palmyra in 1922, about the time Ned started School. He had two older sisters, Gladys and Gwen, and a younger sister, Jean, and a younger brother, Maurie, who probably attended the school. So the Cook family has a long history with the School.

I remember the school being a very solid federation style building, with wide verandahs, high ceilings, nice gardens, not much lawn, but a bitumen square assembly/play area, and a large treed sandy area to play in on the Eastern side of the school abutting Tamar Street. The rooms were cold in winter, but had open fireplaces lit on cold days. In summer, if it got hot, you just put up with it, as you did at home – no aircon in those days.

The boys wore grey shorts and shirts and we didn’t have to wear shoes – hallelujah!! Lesley and Jan don’t remember if they had a uniform, but they always wore shoes or sandals. No-one got delivered to school except on their first day in bubs – you either walked or rode a bike if you had one.

Before school – the best time of the school day – we played footy or cricket, marbles, monkey bars, made gings to shoot at the birds and used the bark of the trees to make propellers. My sisters remember playing hopscotch, skipping, chasy, juggling balls against the brick walls and similar “girl” games. Later on, the area on the northern side of Tamar Street was developed into an oval, with the parents, ours included, and kids helping to plant it. I remember being there to help with Dad and my brother. Later, we used it for football, cricket, softball and school sports carnivals.
These were the days when little bottles of milk were delivered to the school for the kids. On hot days, the milk often went off before we got it, on cooler days, they were greatly improved after straws with chocolate, strawberry and other flavours were introduced. Classes had around 50 kind – how ever did the teachers cope??

In the very early years, we also wrote with nibbed pens and black ink, which was often put to better uses – girls hair dipped in by the boy sitting behind, black ‘ spit balls’ despatched across the room etc. Of the teachers, I best remember Miss Conway, Miss Petersen, Mr Cox and Mr De Lacey. Miss Conway because she was so sweet, Miss Petersen because she was so pretty, Mr Cox because he had bad airm with dusters and Mr De Lacey for his intolerance when the boys played up. Remember, these were still the days of the cane, and 6 of the best from the headmaster (Mr De Lacey) were handed out pretty regularly, along with some head banging.

My mum & dad, Ned and Olive, were very involved with the school. Mum was secretary and state rep of the school P&C committee, and along with the many volunteer parents, helped with organising fund raising – the annual fete – and the fancy dress ball (held at the Petra Street Hall) and was a kind of Xmas party for the school. Mum and Dad also helped form the “Square Dancing ” club to raise funds for the school, and this met each week and used the school verandahs for the dancing. As Secretary, Mum sent hundreds of letters to Fremantle businesses asking for donations towards prizes for all sorts of raffles and events at the first school fete. I think the funds were needed for sprinklers for the watering of the oval. The amount raised was pretty stupendous for the time, over 400 pounds ($800).

Across the road, on the corner of Aurelian and McKimmie street was a general store. They sold a wide range of groceries and necessities, and had to put up with the school kids shenanigans – I dare say it all worked out well enough for them, quite a large captive customer base. I remember when the first icy poles were sold by Peters ( they were lime flavour, and called “Bombs”) – I loved them and remember them to this day. A tuck shop was held at the school by the Mum’s, first on an occasional basis, that sold Hot Dogs, and Ham & Salad Rolls etc, to increase P&C funds – all to help the school kids in some way. We all had lots of mates, and we occasionally bump into or hear about someone that we remember with fondness.

All in all, Pally was a really good school, and I think provided a good first step in life for all who passed through her doors, as she no doubt continues to do today. If I had one word of advice for students today, it is “don’t think that only the smartest and most talented academically are the only ones who can be successful. There is every prospect for each and every one of you to find a special place just for you in life”.


4 thoughts on “Pally in the 50s – from Chris Cook

  1. G’day, Chris,
    A very good recollection. Good to see the brain is still sharp.
    Teachers as I recall
    Infants…Miss Conway
    Grade 1..Mrs Jackson
    Grade 2..Mrs Percill. (a real bitch))
    Grade 3 Mr Hatcher. ” Hooky Hatcher ” Still rember we ( I think you) at least some others & me, let his tires down on his Morris minor.
    Grade 4. Mr Mawson ( He thought he was King of the Kids )
    Grade 5 Miss Peterson
    Grade 6 Mr Lacey. (recon he had good reason for intolerance with that lot, don’t you.

    Can’t recall Mr cox though.

    Great to hear you recall
    , it was pretty accurate.

    I might get around to a post of my recollections later

    Ross Gibbs. 1953. 1960

  2. Hi Chris, I was in the same class as your sister Lesley. She might remember me – Leonie Turner. My Dad knew your Dad quite well (Bert Turner) Please say Hi to Lesley. I live in Sydney these days. My brother Ray and I visited Pally school last year when I was home on holiday and we were given a lovely tour. Wish I could make the reunion.

  3. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for your input….great memories! My name is Rhonda Begg (nee Williams) I was a friend of your sister Lesley and we were in the same class all through primary school. I often wonder where Lesley is now, as I organize a Princess May High School Reunion each year and would love to catch up with her. You may remember Ria van den Bosch too as we were all good friends, with many birthday parties together etc. I have contacted Ria and would really like to make contact with Lesley if at all possible. Any help you could give me would be much appreciated. You may remember my two brothers Roly and Rex, although you were not in the same classes. Rex is now 60 and Roly 69 with me being the eldest at 72.
    Hope to hear from you in the near future……
    My ph no is 95281768…..I live in Waikiki.
    Kind regards, Rhonda.

  4. To Chris Cook & Ross Gibbs,
    I am Merle Gillan Nee (Merlene Widdicombe) Reading your stories bought back great memories and like you Ross I don’t remember Mr Cox, but I do remember the others, I even had Mrs Conway’s boy in a Church Kindy class that I taught when I was 16 and I must have signed one of his drawings and she came to see me ( as I am sure there is no other name like mine). My best friend was Gwenda Calley and we still catch up a few times a year. I also lived in Adrian Street and came home for lunch most days except on the odd occasion we were aloud to buy out lunch at the shop across the road from the school. (What a treat that was).
    My dad Harry (Henry) Widdicombe went to Pally starting in the Tamar Street Hall and my 4 siblings also went to Pally. There will be 3 of us there on the 9th to walk down memory lane. ( My eldest sister and brother are both deceased along with my parents.)
    I hope to see you both there.

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