1 Early Days at Palmyra School 1942 – 1945
I loved school and my teacher Miss Lothian when I was in Infants, known as Bubs for Babies. When I went from Infants (Yr 1) to Standard 1 (Yr 2) I cried because Miss Lothian no longer would be my teacher. If I had known what was ahead, I would have cried even more. For the next three years, I had two teachers who made my life unpleasant. I was very competent at school, as my reports record, but I finished my work quickly before most of the others. Initially I talked so I had to write out 100 lines, “I must not talk”. Mum decided to be proactive to the problem and had the opportunity working at Stammers to collect the discarded brown wrapping paper. This paper she cut into sheets and stitched to make a pad for me, which I took to school to draw on when I had completed a lesson. Then I had to write 100 lines, “I must not draw”. In fairness to these two teachers, I think that they expected very high standards of work from me and in my haste I did not always meet those expectations.
2 The School Bully 1942
The school bully was 13 and in Standard 6 (Year7) and he picked on me when I was in Infants (Year 1). My sister Maureen said my neat appearance was partly to blame, but my quick tongue in retorting with cheek when taunted, was the main factor. On one occasion, the bully had me lined up with my back to the brick wall of the toilet and then holding my head with both of his hands he proceeded to use my head to squash the snails on the wall. The ever fiercely protective 10-year old Maureen was alerted to my predicament and she came charging down the schoolyard swinging her wooden school case. What a sight for me to see Maureen in full flight coming to my rescue, and then getting stuck into the bully with her heavy school case. He left me alone after that. Hollywood filmmakers desperately tried to emulate Maureen’s charge described above using John Wayne leading the cavalry, but they failed to capture her fierce spirit and my utter relief.
3 Compositions 1943-1945
At that time in written expression, the class would compile a story on the blackboard with the children offering suggested sentences. When the story was completed, the children would copy the story into their Composition Book. During a composition on “How to Clean Shoes” (exciting topic), I said to put the polish on with a brush and then use another brush to shine the shoes. The teacher absolutely ridiculed me for making such a stupid and wrong suggestion, as no one used a brush to remove the polish. Obviously her grandfather was not the Foreman of the WA Brushware Factory and who brought home for the family reject brushes bound for the rubbish bin.
4 Able to Read But Few Books 1942-1948
I was a most capable reader but with a major stumbling block. There were few books to read. At school there were about 20-30 books, which I had read and reread. Both my grandmothers gave me books for Christmas and birthdays. I had the whole collection of the “William” series of books. William was a likeable scallywag and the series was an innocent version of the much later Harry Potter series. I can remember being in utter awe when I first saw in a lounge room a set of “Encyclopaedia Britannica” and a collection of “National Geographic” magazines. The sight of so much reading material in one room amazed me. Mum had sent me down the road to Mr Edwards, the local Justice of the Peace, for him to witness her signature on a document. Now do not get pedantic about witnessing a previously signed document as Mr Edwards knew Mum’s signature. He invited me into the lounge room so that he could sign the document and I saw all that reading material. On reflection years later, I am confident he would have let me borrow a copy of National Geographic if I had asked. After all, I was the son of two highly respected and trusted people, who would have ensured that I treated a book with utter respect.
5 Our Games 1942-1945
Our games were very simple. I loved my football stuffed with newspaper, as rubber for a bladder was not available due to wartime shortages. An old reject tennis racquet with still enough remaining strings was used for all bat and ball games. At school we played war games. We ran around with our arms outstretched as aeroplanes making suitable engine and gun noises as we shot down German planes. Even at that stage, I showed leadership ambitions as I would volunteer to lead the German squadrons, knowing full well we had to be patriotically shot out of the sky. Two words at that time evoked the uttermost hate and contempt when spoken. I thought that Hitler and Tojo were the worst swear words that we were allowed to say, as even Grandma Gillham said them. In time, I found out that there were the surnames of Adolph Hitler, the German Fuhrer (Leader) and Hideki Tojo, the Japanese Prime Minister, the two most hated men in the world at that time.
6 Teachers Returning From War Service 1946
In 1946 we had male teachers who were returning from War Service. Mr Fred Carey made my life most pleasant in Std 4 (Year 5). Next year we had Mr Bernie Giles as our teacher for Std 5 (Year 6). Bernie Giles was an inspiring teacher who added fun to the class. More importantly, he took sports coaching after school and came out at lunchtime to play cricket or kick the football with us. Years later I became friends with Bernie when we were Principals of adjacent schools in the Fremantle area. I discussed with him one time how the two teachers gave me hell. He replied that it was not only the children who were picked on but also the young returning ex-servicemen teachers. To avoid the issues and have peace, he came out to play football or cricket with the boys.