On June 21st, 1858, the people of Oakbank opened their very own school in the Main Street, funded and built by the community. The school was closed in 1938, but the building was in continual use by the Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and other ventures through the education department. It was saved from demolition in 1974 and 1 year later, the Oakbank Kindergarten was established and has been running successfully ever since. To celebrate the occasion, past and present pupils were invited to afternoon tea on Sunday, June 22nd, 2008, 150 years on!
Old friends caught up for a chat and many stories were re-told with enthusiasm and delight. I spoke to a few students who nostalgically remembered the old traditions and teachers. Mrs. Nora Klare (nee Robinson) was a student from 1932 and could still recite the words they sang, hand on heart, while raising the flag each morning: I love my country, the British Empire, I salute the flag, the Union Jack, I promise cheerfully to obey her laws, may God defend the right”.
Nora was left handed, but says the teachers didn’t mind in the 30’s, but her father was caned for writing with his left hand when he attended the school. Nora also remembers her brother, Bill Robinson, being caned, but after 77 years, he expertly recalls how to deal with caning, “You tuck your thumb out and cup your hand a little, then when they hit you, you drop your hand to soften the blow”. The headmaster in the 1930’s was an ex-army Captain, Mr. Thomas F. Rice, who Bill remembers kept strict discipline within the school.
“I was a good boy”, says 93 year old, Walter Lawrence and despite disbelief from his granddaughter, he continued, chuckling all the while, “I remember old Mr. Fitzgerald, he had a walking stick with a big hook on the end and he used to catch us with it if we were naughty and in summer he used to wear a nice white suit and we’d try to flick him with the ink from our pens when he wasn’t looking”.
Sharon Miller (pictured on page 1) is the current Kindergarten Co-ordinator who organised the event and congratulated the Oakbank community for the continued use of the site. She presented a commemorative plaque and Ruby Keen cut the cake. Sharon’s aunt, Gwen Miller (also pictured on page 1), was a student in the 1920’s and remembers doing needlework with Miss Stanton.
“Our work used to get grubby, so Miss Stanton would clean it with a slice of bread!” recalled Gwen, incredulously. She also remembers the boys putting the girls hair into the inkwells, I wonder if Walter had anything to do with that!
With such a strong community presence at this event, its no wonder that a commendable nurturing spirit seeps from the mortar of this adorable building. Congratulations to everyone involved and may the learning continue long into the future.
(image 1) Pictured from left to right are students from the 1920’s; Ruby Keen, Nancy Clasohm, Gwen Miller
and Walter Lawrence along with, current kindy co-ordinator, Sharon Miller, pictured centre.
(image 2) The class of 1935/36. Photo courtesy of Nora Klare (nee Robinson).