THE WAY WE WERE 4 July 2013
Two of the earliest pupils who attended Bloomsbury School and lived nearly all their lives in the district were Bruno Olivetta and Percy Peters, whose families both lived along the old Bruce Highway, (now the loop road from the truck stop at Peters Road to the exit at Kinnear Rd onto the Bruce Highway.) Another pupil who still lives in the area at Midge Point is Bill Shannon.
These three were at school during the Tom Fleming era. When interviewed in 1988 for the publication Enlightened Horizons, they shared the following memories. The day-to-day routine was learning spelling, reading, and doing sums, with lots of singing, and learning poems by heart. Much learning was accomplished this way in those days. One of these gentlemen particularly remembered the ‘Golden Rule Chart’ – everyone learnt good manners, a matter on which much emphasis was placed. Health and hygiene were considered most important with fingernails being checked each day for cleanliness.
Another of the men spoke of a very regimented and disciplined schooling with the cane featuring regularly for misdemeanours ranging from telling lies, and not doing homework to incorrect spelling. The teacher would send the student who was to be caned over to the bamboo stand to choose a suitable cane. When returning them to the stand, the older students would try to ruin them for the next student. If students mumbled about the cane while returning to their seats, they received another dose on the buttocks!
Last month it was recorded that Henry Schoenheimer, who was the assistant teacher, always wore a brown suit and tie. Tom Fleming also wore a cream suit and a tie and wore a hat on his way to and from the school house to the school.
The students had no uniform and most were bare foot. Percy Peters said they wore football jerseys made out of sugar bags which were trimmed with bias binding by their mothers. The jerseys ended up all furry with spear grass as they played in an area that was two to three feet high with the grass.
The school started a Project Club in 1936. These projects included the growing of sugar cane (a home project). Growing vegetables and flowers along with Needlework were School Projects.
Later projects included a Fodder Club, a Calf club and a Pot Plant Club in 1939 and a Forestry Club was initiated in 1940.
An old Project Book from student Dorothy Priggins from 1937 jogged memories for Bill Shannon of digging trenches to study the effects of clay. Bill said it felt like a three foot deep trench at the time, but in hindsight it probably wasn’t. The book shows they grew tomatoes as a project and at various times had plots of cane growing. They also studied - “The Effects of Lime on Clay”, “The Factors which Influence Germination”, and various pests such as corn ear worm and the leaf eating ladybird.
Bill Shannon remembers the teacher was always requesting ‘live’ things for nature study, so he took a live death adder to school in a bag. Mr Fleming was not impressed and sent two boys down the back to kill it. He also took a live eagle hawk in an apple case. Once again the teacher was not impressed.
During the years 1936-7-8, the school athletic team was the winner of the North Coast Fixtures. On one occasion when Bloomsbury visited Calen (a rare event), three Bloomsbury lads were the only ones left in the pole vault after the 7’6” mark. Tom Shannon held the record of 8’ (2.43m) for the pole vault.
Education has travelled a long way since the following report from the District Inspector in 1943:
· The national flag is honoured
· School papers are in use
· Three of four scholarship candidates were successful
· Bible and temperance lessons are reported as taken.