by Laurie Grimwade nee Smith
I was born in the Palmwoods Private Hospital on 23 November 1940, the third daughter of Peter and Phyl Smith. Both my grandmothers greeted my birth with tears – I was supposed to be a boy. I came close to being called Alberta Henrietta after my grandfathers but instead was called Laurie after my father whose name was Lawrence but who was called Peter. At the time there was a novel about an Irish girl whose father wanted a son but got a daughter. So, she was named Paddy; Paddy-the-next-best-thing. So, when I arrived a girl, I was named by my Mother, as Laurie-the-next-best-thing. I was actually baptised Jennifer Laurie but the Jennifer was not used.
I spent my childhood on Montville where my father was born and where the history of the Smith family as early settlers in the area was well known. It was a good childhood as we were free to explore and roam. Depending on age, children were expected to help with chores but there was plenty of time for fun. The slope from Eastnor (now Belbury) down to the dam was perfect for sliding down on old sheets of roofing iron and there were scars from crash landings to prove it. A lantana hedge along the fence often had dead hollowed-out spots which made great hiding places.
When I turned five, I was enrolled in the Montville State School, the school both of my parents had attended. It didn’t seem to have changed greatly with very much the same furniture and facilities.
The school had recently become a two-teacher school so my first teacher was Rita McIvor, with Gerald Mylne the head teacher. For a long time, there had been difficulty having enough pupils to justify a second teacher and Mr Mylne coped with as many as 50 pupils on his own.
In those days children either walked to school, rode bikes or a few rode horses which were kept in the horse paddock. Bare feet were preferred, not because of poverty but that was what we liked. Going to school was a leisurely affair, particularly when the “yeller” berries were fruiting along the roadside. Of course, we helped ourselves, but we were never late. The day began with the bell ringing and all of us lining up downstairs to honour the King (later the Queen), the flag and marching into school. We marched well as from time to time Mr Mylne would form us into squads and drill us.
I started school with two years of Prep, Prep 1,2,3 and 4 before going on to Grade 1. We used slates with slate pencils sharpened on the concrete down stairs. We learned our alphabet with the old, “A like an apple on a twig etc”. Later we progressed to pencils and when we became one of the “big kids” to pen and ink. The big kids were in the grades which were taught by Mr Mylne, about grades four to eight though this was one of the times grades were being reorganised and not every grade was catered for. Most of us “littlies” had a big sister at school so there was someone to go to for help in times of trouble – like when an elastic in our bloomers broke. Our bloomers were generous garments with elastic at the waist and legs and apart from the obvious they were great places for stashing our goodies; the things that boys had pockets for.
Subjects taught really were the basics of the 3 Rs; reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic. I credit Mr Mylne for my knowledge of grammar and remember learning some Greek and Latin roots. In our later years we had lessons in fruit packing, and went to various farmers’ orchards (including my father’s) to practice. There were competitions in the Nambour Show for fruit packing and some of pupils did well there, though not me. We also had a project club for Milk and Cream Testing. Many families had a house cow so this became very competitive. Miss McIvor started Junior Red Cross where we wore little red capes and white veils and corresponded with other groups. A visit we did not look forward to was from the school dentist with his pedal operated drill.
There was no organised sport so we arranged our own play activities. There were the regulars like marbles, skipping, hopscotch and I Eccy (a form of hide and seek). As we got older games were more boisterous; Red Rover, Bedlam and Defence which was a free for all type of basketball, as it was then. We would also occasionally sneak down the cutting at lunch time to raid the ripe guavas that grew down there until fruit fly ruined the crop.
Once a year we were loaded into one of the carrier’s trucks for sports day at the Nambour School where we competed against all the other small schools in the district in athletics and ball games like tunnel ball.
When we reached grade 8, we went by bus on Fridays to Nambour to the Rural School where the girls learnt dressmaking and cooking and the boys leather work and woodwork. In the afternoon we all had a science lesson. At the end of Grade 8 we went to Nambour and sat for the Scholarship Examination. There were three sessions over two days with tests of English, Arithmetic and Social Studies. Those who passed received an allowance to go on to high school.
Many of the parents were part of the School Committee. They raised money for a projector and we regularly received a box of reels of film from the Department of Education. Because the parents raised the money a night was set aside as a picture night for them. Remember, this was before TV so even educational documentaries could draw a crowd! The Committee also ran the annual Fancy-dress Ball and the Breakup Picnic Day at the end of the year. The Ball was a big affair with practices in the hall after school for the Grand Parade and dances like the Gypsy Tap, Pride of Erin, German Clap and Progressive Barn Dance. Mum made us lovely costumes. I remember being a Fairy, Columbine, a Shepherdess, a Clock and an Usherette. A highlight of Break-up day was the arrival of a large green canvas container with ice creams kept cold in dry ice. The fathers had so much fun with the dried ice – we of course were not allowed near it. We competed in egg and spoon, sack races and more.
The August school holidays were special times for me because we spent three weeks at the family holiday cottage on the river right in the centre of Maroochydore, close to where the Maroochydore Hotel stands today. We enjoyed boating, fishing and swimming. I took part with some success in the Sand Garden Competitions held on the Maroochy Beach. But the highlight of the holidays was the Cottontree challenge. At the end of Cottontree there was a large circle of touching cotton trees. The challenge was to see who could go around the circle the furthest, from tree to tree, without touching the ground. I could beat most of the boys.
My Uncle Alf’s shop (Misty’s), Alfie’s, was just across the road from the school and that was where we could spend any money we occasionally had. For us kids, Alfie’s was the best shop ever. As well as lollies, he designed, made and sold ingenious wooden toys. In 1954 when he built a new house down the road (The Craft Shop), to celebrate he hosted a fancy-dress afternoon for all children who wished to come. A couple of ladies from the guesthouse acted as judges. The prizes, of course, were treats from the shop.
Like my sisters, Audrey and Judy, I did my secondary education in Toowoomba at the Glennie Memorial School. My mother had carefully saved the endowment money, provided for children by the Government, so that we could afford this privilege, After Junior, I accepted a scholarship from the Education Department which helped pay for my education. I then had a year at Teacher’s College at Kelvin Grove and pledged to teach for three years. I was the last of the teachers who were one- year-trained.
I was appointed as Assistant Teacher on Probation to my old school at Montville, still a two-teacher school with the same furniture and the same headteacher. In many ways little seemed to have changed in the years I was away. A folding partition had been built so that there could be two rooms. During the three years I taught there the school had improvements made and the whole school had to move into St Mary’s Hall while the work of restumping and enlarging was being done.
Children still walked or rode bikes to school but there were no longer any horses. The horse paddock became part of the playground. The day still started the same way with parade and the flag ceremony.
In my half of the school I had three classes to begin with. There was no longer any Prep grade and I taught Grades 1,2 and 3. We still had long desks and forms and yes, we still had slates. Now the idea was to learn the whole word way and we became familiar with Dick and Dora. I still taught alphabetically as well, as it gave children another way to recognize a word. The Montville children were a great lot and so easy to teach, but they had their moments. One morning I arrived at school to find a snake on the floor. It turned out to be quite dead. It didn’t take a lot of detective work to identify the prankster. “No more dead snakes,” I sternly told him. The next day, he produced a live snake from behind his back and cheekily said “It’s not dead miss.” Luckily, it wasn’t a dangerous snake either.
Some of the games we had played were still popular but children also organized themselves into teams to play sport like cricket. The younger ones still enjoyed the old singing games like “The Farmer in the Dell”.
We still had that projector and the scratchy old films but parents were no longer interested in coming to picture nights. Most of them had a TV or access to one and these were far more interesting. The school did not have a TV, but we could tune in to some radio programmes provided by the ABC. I can still see all my class sitting on the floor near the big speaker listening intently.
Changing circumstances meant that orange packing and milk and cream testing were no longer relevant. I did restart the Junior Red Cross and once a month we organized a Tuck Shop. I also organized a few outings to Bon Accord Falls, as Kondalilla Falls was known then, and down the Obi Obi. There were two ways of getting to the falls. One was through Manley’s farm to Skene Creek then down the creek to the falls. The other was from Red Hill, just north of the village, through the bush to Skene Creek from the other side. There were also some great swimming spots in Baroon Pocket which we got to from Hansen’s Lane now Negus Road. We did a lot of walking and had a lot of fun, though I am sure my mother worried more than any of the other mothers.
Some things were the same. We still had the Fancy Dress Ball and practiced every afternoon in the hall doing the same Grand Parade and the same dances. We probably used the same records though we had live music on the night. Parents, some of whom learnt to dance as children at earlier balls, were encouraged to join in. One year, instead of fancy-dress we had an Hawaiian Ball. Break up day was also much the same though ice-cream was no longer a novelty and watermelon was substituted.
We still went to sports day on the back of a truck, something which couldn’t happen now but it was a lot of fun.
One change was that I could take some of the children to the Nambour Pool and teach them swimming. It was beginning to be understood how important it was to learn. The Scholarship Examination had been abolished and it was usual for all pupils to go on to high school. A bus service provided transport to Nambour High School. Children could still spend their pennies at Alfie’s shop but other establishments were also opening. Bimmy Everett’s Pottery was one of the first commercial cottage industries and other ventures followed. It was the end of the Guesthouse Era with many of the old wooden buildings destroyed by fire, many families had cars, holidays were common and old industries like dairying were closing down. New holiday accommodation, like Motels were opening and restaurants becoming common. In other words, Montville was changing. In 1963, I was transferred to Townsville. Coming home for holidays I could see just how quickly change can happen.
Those years in the early sixties were very special ones in my teaching career.