As told in "Forty-four Years a Teacher" by P S Nowlan
December 1936 saw the end of my Secondary School career in Bundaberg. I had to face the hard old world - a world where opportunities were few and jobs were very scarce. I had just passed Junior and my parents could no longer afford to allow me to proceed to Senior. I wasn't sorry as I wasn't really a keen student. I loved writing and thought I would easily conquer some field where that was the primary requisite for success.
How wrong I was - I think I wrote to every newspaper in Queensland but received the same reply - no dice. Things were grim.
It was almost the end of January, 1937. My father had told me to register for Unemployment Relief. I did so and, on my return home, was sitting watching the rain pour down, as it can only in Bundaberg, when the postman came up to our back gate, blew vigorously on his whistle
and deposited a letter in our mail box. I fairly flew up to get it. It was an offer of a Scholarship to the Teachers' Training College in Turbot Street, Brisbane.
I can recall my disappointment. Of all the things I put in for, teaching was my last choice. I decided, then, to pass it up. When my parents returned home I told them of the offer and my decision. My father exploded on the spot and told me I had two choices - either to take the Scholarship or get out.
I humbly accepted the Scholarship and entered the Training College in late February 1937.
TURBOT STREET TRAINING COLLEGE
I can still recall arriving at the Treasury Building (in Brisbane) and waiting with twenty-nine others for our interviews. What a motley lot we looked! Some were accompanied by parents, while some were still in secondary school uniforms - shorts in those days. A superbly built specimen next to me didn't get past first base. It was discovered that he could write only left handed. He was given a rail warrant to return home. It didn't seem to worry him. I wonder what became of him in life and if he had any regrets. I can't recall when the Department began accepting left handers.
However, I can recall racking my brains to tell a rather seedly looking geriatric gent why I wanted to be a teacher. I can't remember my answer but it must have been spot on because my next move was to the Medical Section, where coughing was the order of the day and specimens were demanded forthwith.
From the Holy of Holies at the Treasury Buildings we proceeded to the Training College in Turbot Street where we were welcomed, or I should say inducted, by the Principal named Robinson who assumed the manner of an English Colonel and always addressed us with his thumbs stuck into his waistcoat. He was a likeable old chap who seemed strangely out of place in his position as head of a staff of brilliant academics. However, he took everything in his stride, and the place ran with clockwork precision, mainly through the direction of the Secretary, Miss Harvey, who later married one of the brilliant academics on the staff.
Naturally the Principal was called "Old Robo" and was a favourite target for impersonations. In my group Merv Barnes and Ted Cullen excelled in this field. I can vividly recall Robo walking in on one of these impersonations, but nothing came of it apart from a reprimand for undue noise. Perhaps Robo's army days had made him more tolerant. On the whole we liked Robo. To our way of thinking he was harmless, but we humoured his every whim.
1937 - MY FIRST YEAR AT COLLEGE
Work at the college settled into a steady routine. It was an eerie building which shook every time a train went past. We went to Prac School on Mondays. The remaining four days were taken up with lectures and Phys Ed. The latter was done at some drill hall in South Brisbane which was quite a hike from the college. After Phys Ed in summer, another hike took us to the Ithaca Baths. Life seemed one big walk. It had to be. On the princely wage of $8.68 A MONTH we couldn't afford the luxury of a Brisbane tram. To add salt to the wound, our Phys Ed session was in the morning and we had to report back to the college for a round of lectures in the afternoon. College, for the most part, left me cold but I did like Prac School, mainly because it gave me an opportunity to feel I was doing something worthwhile. I must confess I liked to study the school staff and pupils.
My Prac School was Windsor State, whose Principal was Jimmy Wilson. He was a rarity in that he was bearded. Strange as it may seem in 1980, beards in 1937 were a sign of old age. How Jimmy got away with it without some Inspector telling him to have a shave, I'll never know.
Jimmy Wilson was a very active man who ran a very tight ship. He was popular with his staff and popular with the trainees. Every Monday we had to report to him for a thirty minute lecture. No matter what aspect of education he discussed, he never failed to recount some deed his grandson performed on the previous Sunday. I must confess that very often this was more interesting then his lecture.
It was at Windsor that I had the privilege of being allotted to Miss Biss, one of the most remarkable lady teachers I have ever seen before a class. She was a Grade 6 teacher. That would correspond to Grade 7 in 1980. The children towered over her - she was all of 1. 5m. but, if ever a lady could control a class, it was Miss Biss. Small as she was, she ruled the room with a rod of iron. Very seldom did she raise her voice, but I have seen the biggest boys quaking before her. She had perfect discipline. The children loved her, or maybe I should way worshipped her, and I think that was a fitting reward for a lady who had dedicated her life to teaching. She was a perfect choice of teacher for a Practising School as she was an inspiration to young teachers and, at the same time, a perfect lady. What a combination!
One of my most vivid recollections of Windsor is the dancing classes. Bert Ambrose, a very successful Scholarship Teacher, used to teach ballroom dancing to the children from the senior grades, in preparation of the Annual School Ball. He was an expert. With the help of a pianist and a cane he conducted the most successful dancing classes I have ever seen. He had a special vocabulary to accompany these lessons, and I fancy I can still hear him roaring "Don It hold that girl off like a wet dog."
I had a happy year at Windsor but nothing startling happened. As I said, the Principal ran a tight ship. Everything was carried out by the book and, at the end of 1937, Robo came out and, after a very short inspection, pronounced us fit to proceed in Year II (of College).
Meanwhile, back at the college,
life went on.
PHIL RADCLIFFE-AN UNFORGETTABLE LECTURER
About 170cm tall, always dressed in
a suit, resplendent in batwing collar adorned by a sombre bowtie, this
gent, who would pass unnoticed in a Queen Street crowd, had more
impact on the future teachers of Queensland than any Ph.D. from the ivory
tower of a modern College of Education expounding some vague thesis which,
in many cases, only he can understand.
His off beat
remarks on incidents in prose and poetry often convulsed us at lectures
causing Robo, the Principal, to make an appearance, but he always retired
hastily with an apology to Raddi. To me Phil Radcliffe had one aim
and that was to instill in us a love of poetry and literature so that we
could pass it on to classes. Without a doubt, he was successful.
I, for one, tried, but even if I didn't have the resounding success of my
mentor, I felt that I was following in the footsteps of a great man.
MY MOST MEMORABLE PRAC TEACHER
In 1938, my
second year at the Turbot Street Training College, I was detailed to do
two days in each week at the Buranda Boys State School. I enjoyed
every minute of it. The Principal and staff treated trainee teachers
as human beings and did all in their power to make our sojourn among them
as enjoyable as possible and, at the same time, a profitable experience
both for the children and us.
During my third
year at college, World War 11 broke out. I can't recall that it had
any effect on life at college. I enlisted in the A.I.F. almost
immediately but my motives were far from being patriotic. As a
matter of fact, they were entirely pecuniary. A private's wage in
the A.I.F. of fifty cents a day was much better than a trainee teacher on
$8.68 a month. I was sick of working my way through college by night
and holiday jobs. Fortunately for me my parents withheld
consent as I think I would have finished up in Changi. Some of
my jobs were quite amusing. At one stage when I was a theatre
cleaner I got mixed up in the Show-Bis World. I tried my hand at gag
writing for comedians, and I still like to think I was successful at this
very difficult art. The pay was almost as bad but not as regular as
teaching. However, the people one met were far more interesting and,
of course, more amusing.
Unofficially our college days were over as there was no course for us. I alternated between three schools - Breakfast Creek, New Farm and Valley Boys. Let me explain why.
MY MOST UNUSUAL SCHOOL
By the end of 1938 I was a
two-year-trained teacher ready to be unleashed on to some poor
unfortunates in some part of Queensland. A terrible situation had
arisen and there was an over-supply of teachers. Shades of 1980.
If one had the necessary political influence, one received an appointment.
I refused to be associated with this receiving of political crumbs from
the Labor Government banquet and I was told I would rot in Brisbane - and
I did for eleven months.
Valley Boys in 1939 was regarded as
the toughest school in Brisbane. It was. There I assisted such
teachers as Andy Nimmo, Ivor Meddleton, a Mr. Johns, Bruce Innes and Jack
Martin. Andy, Ivor and Mr. Johns were an inspiration to assist.
They had a human touch in dealing with trainees and I think they deserved
the great successes they achieved in later life.
Rockhampton Mail reached its destination about 3 p.m. Here I was
informed that I had a three and a half hour wait for the Clermont train.
It was my first experience of the Tropics, and what a welcome it was.
Rocky turned on the hottest and stickiest day it was possible to imagine.
I must confess I developed an instant hatred for the place. However
I came to look upon it as the last link with civilization en route to the
central west. Fortunately, I developed quite a taste for Macs' beer
over the years and I found that, if one consumed quite a cargo of it, even
Rocky was bearable - for three and a half hours at any rate.
However, I could not afford to drink on this particular occasion and spent
my time exploring the town area, which occupation was far from exciting.
CLERMONT 1940 - 1941
Much anticipation (for me) attended the opening of the School Year in 1940 as the regular Principal would be returning to the helm. None of the other staff members seemed at all enthused and, at the time, this mystified me.
Opening day came and Iva Ricketts introduced me to my first Principal.
He dressed all in white and wore a white pith helmet. It seemed he had gone to New Guinea on leave at one stage and since then assumed the dress of the "Great White Plantation Owner" as his summer garb. I took an instant dislike to the man and I think the reverse of the situation also applied. The staff seemed to share the same feelings towards him but it didn't seem to worry our hero. Of all his wife's relations he liked himself the best and seemed quite happy on his self-created throne of isolation. He was a self-confessed atheist and used to rib me about my habit of going to confess my sins on a Saturday afternoon to the local Parish Priest. At times like this I longed to knee him between the two big toes but was frightened of losing my job before my first Inspection. Incidentally I returned to Clermont on leave especially to carry out this operation, but the subject had been transferred. I read later of his being found dead in a car at a seaside suburb of Brisbane. I felt sorry for his wife and family who were really nice people, but I must truthfully say that all I thought about him at the time was that "it couldn't happen to a nicer guy".
This particular Principal continued the abominable college practice of conducting criticism lessons after school. One class was kept in and one of the staff had to take a lesson with them. After that we repaired to the Teachers' Room and each had to give a criticism of the lesson. I regarded this as a traumatic experience but his nibs seemed to delight in the situation. Later on it gave me great pleasure to refuse this task. I can recall being threatened with all kinds of punishment by the "Last of the Great White Hunters", but I merely shrugged my shoulders and dismissed myself. I had no worries - my call-up was in my pocket.
An old bachelor named Charlie Jones who seemed to share everyone's dislike of the Principal, gave me my first Inspection, which I passed with the usual mark given to an assistant teacher on probation:- Fair - Very Fair.
The town itself was being slowly denuded of men who left to join the three services. Life seemed to be one big party, as a couple of farewells were held every week. I forgot about joining up. Life was too sweet. The year slipped away with amazing rapidity and, once again, I returned home to spend my last Christmas for five years as a civilian with my parents.
Army training settled into a very dull routine. We walked and walked and walked. Nothing ever happened to break the monotony. Leave in overcrowded Charters Towers with its pre-historic hotels, which were veritable blood houses, didn't turn me on. We shifted to Townsville, which was even worse as it was overrun with Yanks.
In desperation I tried to join the R.A.A.F. and so did many others, but our applications were always deferred. In the meantime we did a stint at Iron Range and returned from there to Kuranda, near Cairns. Up to then I had been everything from Batman to Orderly Room Sergeant. I am afraid I wasn’t a good solider and longed to try something different.
At last I was called up in the R.A.A.F. and passed with flying colours until the doctor put the stethescope on my heart. He said I couldn't fly the expensive aeroplanes of that era with a heart such as mine. He referred me to a civilian Specialist, but they were unanimous in their decision. I argued with them all, saying that if my heart was good enough to cart Bren Guns all over the mountains in North Queensland, surely I could fly a plane.
I immediately tried to get a discharge on the grounds of heart trouble but the army doctors said my heart was O.K. for army purposes. I began to wonder if there were two kinds of hearts - R.A.A.F. hearts and army hearts. If I ever meet Chris Barnard I must ask him. Strange to say, when I applied for a Military Pension later on in life, all my R.A.A.F. medical file was reported missing. Need I add - my application for an Army Pension was unsuccessful.
Disillusioned, I returned to soldiering-on and next found myself on the Island of Bougainville. Here we played Cowboys and Indians with the sons of Nippon, who seemed to have one half of the place and we the other. Some unlucky guy got killed or maimed every now and again. How the Japs didn't win the war is a mystery to me because they seemed to be able to tolerate the most appalling living conditions as evidenced in some of the places flushed out by our boys. It was a strange kind of war on Bougainville. Both sides seemed to have given the game away - as though they were waiting for something unknown to bring it all to an end, and that was how it happened. Something unheard of and incomprehensible to the ordinary foot slogger - the Atom Bomb - brought about Peace in August 1945.
I was in 2/1 A.G.H. at the time, about to undergo an operation to remove a cyst inside my mouth and a very troublesome wisdom tooth. All the hospital staff got drunk to celebrate Peace and next day all ops, including mine, were cancelled as the surgeons were too shaky. I eventually got mine done.
On return to my Unit I was despatched to Rabaul, the Japanese stronghold which the Yanks under Nimitz by-passed so successfully. Here the Japs had gone underground. Their prowess in this department could only be admired. Huge P.O.W. camps were set up. The troops accepted the surrender with typical oriental impassiveness, but the officers were sour about the whole show. At the handover in Rabau1 to a one-armed General named Savage, I can remember a request by the Nips to go into a garden to honour the dead of both armies. At this juncture I suggested to our party that we follow them but throw up instead of praying. I wasn't invited to any more parties.
Being single and not having the necessary points, I didn't get out of Rabau1 till early 1946. Here I lived the good life. The army was finished as far as I was concerned. I was in every lurk around the place and enjoyed life to the full. Finally my embarkation order came through and I left for Australia on a Norwegian freighter. After a hell of a journey in shockingly over-crowded conditions we reached Sydney, which seemed to treat our arrival with painfu1 frigidity. You couldn't blame them really. It was 1946. We were one of the last ships to arrive. It had been a long, hard war. The people were sick of it and, I guess, of us. I left, along with other Queenslanders, for Redbank and discharge.
Discharge formalities completed, it was necessary for me to approach the Education Department to tell them one of their favourite sons had arrived back. I understand the first to arrive back in 1945 received a right royal welcome from the Director-General himself but, by April 1946, I'm afraid the novelty had worn off. An overweight office girl attended to me. I tried to get through to her that I wanted to change from teaching to the administration side by transferring to the Public Service. I thought after my extensive experience in the P.O.W. camps on Rabaul I would be home and hosed. How wrong I was !
I didn't get to first base. I was ushered into a character named Gormely who almost had a coronary when I said I would like a posting in Toowoomba as my parents were on transfer to that town. When, in reply to further questioning, I told him I was single, he seemed to be about to have a second coronary. On recovering sufficiently, he told me it was out of the question for a single man to ask for a posting to Toowoomba. I didn't improve my chances of getting a posting by suggesting his transferring some base walloper out. He got rid of me at the double.
Some obscure clerk told me I would be informed of my posting before the expiration of my Discharge Leave.
I felt it hadn't been my day at the Department. I had expected the Director General to kiss me on both cheeks and thank me for my services to King and Country and all that jazz. Confirmation of this feeling came in the form of a telegram telling me to report to Clermont, with the minimum of time to get there.
Very disillusioned with the Department, I arrived in Clermont in the depth of the bitterest winter the district had ever experienced. It was the season when the black frosts destroyed the sorghum being grown for the Food for Britain Scheme.
My Principal was a gent named Reg Haupt. We tolerated one another. I say tolerated because my re-posting presented some great difficulties to him in staffing. I spent most of the time in hospital as I was plagued with malaria. He didn't seem to think it was at all fair and complained bitterly to me. I told him it was useless complaining to me as I couldn't help getting malaria and it would be better to complain to the Department. I said I would love a transfer and to tell them, when he complained, that I would like to go to Toowoomba. I understood the hospitals there were first class.
I eventually conquered the malaria syndrome and returned to active duty. On my first day back I asked Mr. Haupt if he had heard anything of my transfer, but he ignored the question. My return to active teaching had commenced. Mr. Haupt was a good boss, ran a good school, had a lovely family and I was sorry when he left as I felt I had lost a friend.
1948 saw me at a Rehabilitation Course arranged by the Department. Most of my fellow teachers were base wallopers in army days and their keenness to achieve the highest possible results made what could have been a relaxing experience, rather a traumatic adventure. Our lecturers, Max Brightman, Syd Garret, Mr Borchardt and Mrs Marshall, were academics of the first order who treated us as fellow teachers.
All duly qualified, we returned to our various schools for the commencement of the School Year in 1949. This year was a memorable one for me as on the 9th August I married a nurse from the local hospital, Doris Baker. Doris relinquished her position and married life began with its accompanying joys and sorrows.
Until I left Clermont in 1960 I had served under another four Principals, Alf Collins, Lionel Stevens, Jim Johnson and Steve O'Loughlin. All left Clermont to go on to bigger and better schools and positions. Lionel Stevens and Steve O'Loughlin joined the Inspectorate.
As Principals each did a wonderful job in his own way and made a marked contribution to education. They deserved the success they achieved. They were competent men who were human. They had humanized staff relations long before their city counterparts ever thought of the exercise. I regarded each as a friend and still have fond memories of them.
While Principals are the central figure in the school situation, I think I have been influenced just as much by some of the characters I have worked with.
While in Clermont it was my privilege to work with two ladies, Alice Clements and Ivy Eite, both of whom I came to regard in a very special way. They had one thing in common - they were both living on borrowed time - they were dying of cancer. Alice died not such a great time after she received the sentence, but Ivy's death was a long drawn out affair.
Their calm acceptance of their fate in life fascinated me as I have had a fear of death always. Both often spoke to me of life and living and seemed to have some inner strength which carried them through to the inevitable end. Towards her end, Ivy's husband, Tom, used to bring her to school and I would take her home. Never once did I hear her complain and she always managed a farewell smile. I had seen mates die violent deaths in army days but I think the deaths of these two women affected me more. As I look back now, I feel that I am a better man for knowing those ladies who accepted life so realistically and death so stoically when it came.
When I returned from the Rehabilitation Course, I found another male, a little older than me, on staff. His name was Jack Walsh. He was an exR.A.A.F. pilot, the scion of a local family who had the reputation of being a crash hot teacher. He lived up to all his publicity build-up and soon became the most popular teacher on staff and in the town. A stalwart of the R.S.L., Jack soon achieved a management status in this field and worked tirelessly for it. We became life long friends and still communicate. Jack was an expert on all subjects and shared his expertise without complaining. Give him a pencil and a piece of paper and he would work out anything. He taught me to drive on an old Whippet truck, which only he could start if it stopped. Jack lived six miles from town on a rough bush road but the old Whippet seemed to know its way home, even when Jack was at the stage where he could ring the bell on a breathalizer machine.
They say that teachers are a callous lot and forget their friends easily. Perhaps this is caused by the way of life we lead. However, I think I shall never forget my ex-staff-mate, Jack. He was a true friend and that friendship has endured through the years. Sad to relate, at the time of writing, Jack, devotedly nursed by his loving wife Betty, is dying of cancer in the Clermont Hospital.
In the early fifties a young teacher joined our staff as his first school. The years rolled on and I next met him as Regional Staff Inspector in Toowoomba in the late seventies - Bob McNaught.
Life went on in Clermont - quite monotonously really. I think we worked hard at school. We played hard but that was the tempo of life in the west. I became involved in R.S.L. entertainment activities and life was fairly hectic. However, life at work was not always dull, as you will see from the following incidents.
MY MOST SPECTACULAR PUPIL
Perhaps I should have named this chapter "Gordon Dexter". With Christian names like that you would have to be spectacular, and Gordon Dexter certainly was. In normal times and circumstances he would have breezed through primary, secondary and university, entered a profession and made a worthwhile contribution to society.
Unfortunately Gordon Dexter was black. He lived in the Blacks' Camp on the outskirts of town under barbaric conditions. If he survived to fourteen he would become a ringer on a station. He would return to town when he had a "roll", do all his money and return to another station. And so his aimless life would go on.
However, Gordon Dexter was a primary pupil and, if ever a pupil brightened up a dreary state school, it was he. His appearance was eye catching. He stood out wherever he went. I am not going to describe him, except to tell you he would be a good double for Isaac Washington, the barman in the television series "Love Boat". Like the said Isaac, his white teeth flashed in a perpetual smile.
He was the happiest pupil I ever taught. He loved life and he loved people, white or black. He fascinated me because I couldn't work out why he was like that when life had really been so cruel to him. He excelled in sport, was academically above average, and had an insatiable curiosity.
Memories flash back to me of the day Gordon Dexter caused the District Inspector to become ill.
Our District Inspector was a pleasant enough fellow, but unfortunately he was a sick man. He certainly looked it. He was a very tall, thin man and had the pallor of a person who has spent a long period in hospital.
The District Inspector was having a big discussion with me at my table about Nature Study. He was examining my programme in this subject and was impressing upon me the necessity of having specimens to illustrate my lessons. I was listening intently, and so it seems was Gordon Dexter, who was sitting nearby supposedly writing a composition. The District Inspector, noting I had given a lesson on the echidna (or spiny anteater) asked me if I had obtained a specimen.
Before I could reply, Gordon Dexter had taken over. He told the Inspector that I definitely had a spiny anteater for the lesson. The Inspector asked him what had made him remember it so well. Gordon Dexter told him that I had given him the spiny anteater after the lesson. The Inspector asked him if he had kept it as a pet. Gordon Dexter looked horribly shocked and, with a smile stretching from ear to ear said, "No, we had a big party that night over the creek and ate it."
It was too much for the Inspector. He fled, but noises that filtered back to the classroom suggested he had done the honours. Gordon Dexter had achieved fame as the lad who made the District Inspector sick, but it didn't seem to worry our hero.
When I was transferred I lost touch with Gordon Dexter - just another ship that passed in the night. However, the memory of his smiling face and his love of people and life when the cards were really stacked against him, will always be an inspiration to me.
Change is the operative word in the seventies. Everything has changed. So called experts have advanced many and varied theories for the underlying causes of these moves towards change. Whether they are right or wrong is immaterial. The fact is that everything is changing and we have to live with it.
This whole revolution has caused a division in society. In the blue corner we have those who say we have never had it better; in the red corner there are those who long for the good old days.
Education didn't experience this change - it experienced an explosion. Once again, like normal society, the education world was divided into two camps - those who approve and those who disapprove of the results of this explosion.
Perhaps the area where this explosion had one of its greatest effects was in the Inspectorate. Here we saw the transformation of the monster-type departmental watch-dog into the suave, sometimes debonair, friendly, helpful, call-me-by-my-christian-name advisor of the seventies. Let me turn back the hands of time.
In drought stricken Clermont, the sun beat mercilessly down on the dusty school playground. The playground was deserted although the normal dinner hour was in full swing. It was even too hot for children to play. They were sprawled under the school and under anything else that afforded shelter. The heat wave had been in progress for four days and had taken its toll. Four pensioners had died in the White Hill shanty town, where their makeshift huts were rudely constructed. Clermont boasted two shanty towns at that time. The second one was the Blacks' Camp across Sandy Creek. There were no deaths there. Life was just one living death.
Heat wave or no heat wave, the Clermont State School was under Inspection, and the said Inspector had intimated that he would inspect the books of my classes during the lunch break.
"Bully for me," I thought. "When are we going to get an Inspector who has regular meals and knows that teachers like to eat also?", I ruminated.
All our Inspectors seemed to be sick, old men who were just getting over gastrectomies. As assistants, we were not worried by them but our Principal was. Their reports were a matter of life and death to him. He was determined to stay only the mandatory three years before moving on to greener pastures. He was equally determined those four days of Inspection would pass without a hitch. If they didn't he would be well and truly rebuked by an authority higher than the Director General of Primary Education - higher even than the Minister for Education - his wife.
This Inspector lived up to the usual pattern. He was ageing; he was recovering from an ulcer operation; he didn't eat in the middle of the day; he seemed sour on life in general. I had the feeling that he didn't particularly like me, and I must confess I didn't like him.
However, I was stuck with him for this dinner hour and forced myself to be affable and co-operative. I convinced myself I was doing it for my Principal. I rather liked him, and I knew that he would get hell at home if he didn't get a transfer with a promotion very, very shortly.
Book after book was waded through. Nothing seemed to please our Inspector. Anything spectacular was ignored. The face remained completely expressionless but, as soon as a mistake was discovered, and by this I mean a mistake I had failed to mark, a green pen was produced and the mistake duly marked. During this operation I detected a glint in his eye. The book was then closed and the inspection proceeded. I began to hope that he would find a mistake in the first paragraph or even the first line of anything he would pick up. My stomach was crying out for food. The whole business became nauseating. I felt like walking out but, in the distance, I saw this vision of the Principal's wife, fists clenched, standing over the outstretched body of her husband, and I determined to persevere.
Suddenly a roar of laughter came from under the school. Gaiety at a time like this seemed so foreign I gave an involuntary laugh. I realise now it sounded weird and inane. The Inspector stopped and His Majesty gazed for a long time out of the window. Then he swung round and said to me, "There is no place for humour in teaching".
I forgot the Principa1's wife and the Principal and replied, "Sir, I disagree. Without a sense of humour you wouldn't last a day teaching, especially in a place like this."
I turned on my heels and walked straight out of the room and down the stairs to the "Men's". There I threw up.
Thank God that generation of Inspectors has passed and we have the helpful advisors of the seventies.
This story has a happy and an unhappy ending. The unhappy one was that I received the second lowest marks of my teaching career. Big deal ! However, the Principal was transferred on promotion a short time later. At his send-off function, I must confess that I felt a little guilty when his wife gave me an ever so tender farewell kiss.
FAR REACHING EFFECTS OF INSPECTOR'S REPORT
In the pre-change days, besides being a nightmare to the Principal, inspections were without a doubt painstakingly thorough. Within the boundaries of the school all objects, animate and inanimate, were meticulously reviewed and reported upon.
While the post-dinner parade was in progress, we noticed our Inspector make a hurried dash towards the toilets. Within minutes he reappeared, took out the dreaded black book and seemed to be writing copious notes. Little did I know at the time that those few minutes of writing were going to subject me to a terrible experience later in life.
The Inspector's Report came back. The Principal read it on arrival. He then took it to his wife for perusal and then it was read to us at a staff meeting. During this reading it was interesting to study the faces of those listening. By the far away look in their eyes, I imagine the fantasies of my fellow teachers would have been far more interesting than the recital of this boring document. I faded away and was having an intimate discussion with a sun-tanned, bikini-clad doll in the beer
garden of the Miami Hotel when I heard a voice saying, "You are in charge of the toilets - did you inspect them the day the District Inspector was here?"
I came back to reality with a bang. It seemed the District Inspector had reported finding two toilet lids that had not been put down. It also seemed our Principal looked like having a coronary over the affair. Of course I maintained that I had done my duty and ventured the opinion that someone must have visited the place after I made my inspection.
Nothing could placate our Principal. He looked like missing out on a promotion transfer over two toilet seats. He ordered me to appoint a Monitor to visit the toilets as soon as everyone went into school and make sure all the seats were down.
Now that wasn't a very pleasant job for anyone to get, but finally I detailed one hefty fellow. He looked as though no small matter would upset him. Actually he did a good job.
The years rolled along. One Friday night I attended the monthly R.S.L. Meeting. Now I find R.S.L. Meetings always finish at 9.30 and then everyone adjourns to the nearest bar. The custom was adhered to that night. I had just finished my first drink when I noticed a huge person enter the bar and fling himself on a stool. He was very drunk and he became very belligerent. The other drinkers moved away from him. His face was familiar and then it suddenly dawned on me. It was my old toilet monitor. Instinct told me to beat it, but greed got the better of me - I had shouted first.
Our friend was glowering in his little island when suddenly his bleary eyes focussed on me. Recognition was as instantaneous as his movement towards me. He had no trouble reaching me. A path was readily cleared unfortunately for me. He grabbed me, lifted me up and shook me. Then he boomed for all and sundry to hear. "You are my old teacher. I remember how you picked me out to close the toilet lids. I've always wanted to meet you. Now I have a big surprise for you. I am going to do something I always wanted to do. I am going to put you headfirst into a toilet."
With that he picked me up and made towards the toilets. The bar followed but no one came to my aid. I was speechless with fright. I tried to scream but I couldn't.
We reached the dreaded building. He had trouble manoeuvring the door and me at the same time. He paused and suddenly dropped me. Then he roared out, "Aren't you lucky ! All the bloody lids are closed."
The entourage cheered loudly and stormed back to the bar. My old monitor insisted I have a drink with him. I obliged, but I didn't really enjoy it. I made my escape at ten o'clock. Actually I was in a state of shock for days.
After my harrowing experience I can only exhort the Inspectorate to be very careful in writing their reports. A few simple words can sometimes cause a very embarrassing situation - even a decade later.
I have found from long years as a Public Servant that life can become very dull at times. You seem to get absolutely browned off when suddenly something happens that is a means of capturing your interest, and you live again - for a time at any rate. The Education Department in its "Big Brother" role seems to sense when you are going through one of these periods of doldrums, because it never fails to come along with some scheme to disturb the equilibrium of life.
On one such occasion I can recall being sent on a relieving job to Alpha. It seems the Principal had a nervous breakdown and had been given six weeks leave. I could never fathom out just what caused him to have this breakdown because everyone I met gave a different reason. I lost interest when the gent himself volunteered no information.
As I had my own car, I decided to use it. I was warned about the road and the gates, but I still persisted. One authority on the road warned me I could have trouble with the French Roads on the way. I had never heard of these French Roads, and refrained from asking what they were in case ignorance might cause derision. It was only after I negotiated the fifteenth DETOUR that I woke up to what he was talking about.
The road for the most part was just a track through pure bull dust. En route nineteen gates had to be opened and closed. I had been warned several times that failure to close a gate was a dire crime in this country. Offenders were sniffed out with relentless accuracy and punishments exacted. I religiously closed all the gates. After what could only be termed a harrowing experience, I arrived in Alpha just before tea on a Sunday night and booked into Logan's Hotel. I skipped tea and tried for an indefinite period to dissolve the bull dust in my throat with copious draughts of Mac's beer. My genial hosts, Mr and Mrs Logan, evidently appreciated my dilemma because they allowed us to drink on, during which time I met some of the local celebrities.
A story about an incident at the school intrigued me. From what I could make out, the father of one of the pupils had a bout of flu and had asked his son to bring him home a bottle of rum when he came home for dinner. The lad decided to get the bottle on the way to school and put it in his bag. On arrival at school, he was unpacking his bag when one of his mates spied the rum. Very soon a very daring proposal was put to the meeting and, in a remarkably short space of time, an empty rum bottle was part of the scenario. One boy flaked peacefully in the toilet.
The parade bell went and No.2 boy was supported upright between two friends. Then, came the march into school. Our hero's gait was so unsteady that the Principal's attention was captured. He grabbed the offender and gave him a good shaking. Not to be outdone, our hero grabbed the Principal and gave him a good shaking. By this time, the morning assembly room had been reached and our emboldened hero rushed to the front and, in true Tarzan style, thumped himself vigorously on the chest and said he'd fight anyone in town. Having delivered his ultimatum, he perked on the floor and collapsed. I didn't enquire how he got home. The matter had been settled before my arrival.
There seemed to be no point in taking sides as to the adequacy of any punitive action taken. To me it was a childish prank, and the resultant illness would have been a sufficient deterrent for the future. Naturally i supported the Principal.
Alpha was a railway town. By that, I mean about ninety per cent of the population were railway men. They breathed, talked and thought railway. Alpha was the shopping centre for the cattle and sheep stations which surrounded the area. Life was never dull when the station crowd came to town. The men fought at the drop of a hat and so did the women. I must confess I had not seen the latter happening before. Fights finished, they would just go on drinking. Their hospitality was legendary, and I often think of the steaks I had as their guest.
There was a touch of Venice in the old pub where I stayed. The bathroom was a detached job - out in the yard - and there was quite a walk to it. When one finished bathing, the water was just released and went under the building. After a time the whole building became waterlogged and gave one a floating feeling when you walked on the floor. It was strange to hear the reaction of people who weren't in the know about the bathroom. A typical remark was, "I didn't have many last night, but when I had a bath the whole building started to rock."
Shortly after arrival I took my car to school and parked it under the tree in front of the school. Not long after, I was transfixed when I looked out the window and six goats were standing on their hind legs on the roof of my Austin A.40, reaching up to get leaves off the tree. Never has a teacher left a class in such a hurry. I had learnt my lesson - never park a car under a tree in Alpha. The point was driven home when I spent hours "Repoing" my car that afternoon.
The six weeks passed quickly. I had a wonderful staff, I liked the kids, the hospitality of the C1aude Everinghams and the people in general could only be marvelled at. The Logans treated me as one of the family and, all in all, it was a very pleasant interruption to what was becoming a hum drum existence.
FAREWELL TO THE WEST
In 1958 my father died, and not long after my mother contracted an illness which eventually led to her death. In 1960 I was asked to come to Toowoomba to take care of her. Immediately I applied for a transfer, but the letter was ignored. Finally, in a desperate move and much against my grain, I tri ed other methods. These succeeded and I was told to report to the Toowoomba North State School on the 4th July 1960.
I was sorry to leave Clermont. It was my home. I had grown to like the people and the kids. At sunset on the day before I left, I made my last pilgrimage, alone, to the twin graves of my son and daughter. There I stood, unashamedly weeping. I could not help wondering if they would have lived if they had been born where medical facilities were more modern. Were they innocent victims of the Department's ultimatum to serve anywhere in Queensland?
I shrugged my thoughts away with a bemused, " I guess it's just the luck of the draw."
As I looked at the lonely graves, I felt there would always be a part of my life in Clermont. I stepped into my Hillman Minx sedan and returned home.
The next day I left for Toowoomba.
I didn't know it then, but I was about to join the Big League.
- ARRIVAL -
July 4 1960 was one of the coldest days recorded in Toowoomba. It was on that day that I was to report to Mr. Horne, the Principal of the North State School in that city. To take up my appointment I had come overland from Clermont by car, and consequently was forced to travel light. The remainder of my gear was en route by rail and took some time to reach Toowoomba.
By the time I reached the Principal's office I was blue with cold and actually shivering. I introduced myself and was presented with a piece of paper and told to write a letter informing the Department I had arrived. This proved rather difficult when one was shivering uncontrollably. However I managed to complete the task by holding my writing hand as firmly as I could with my left hand.
While this performance was in progress the Principal was looking at me rather strangely. Suddenly it dawned on me that he thought he had an alcoholic on his hands. Now I don't blame him for harboring those thoughts, and I can remember murmuring some inanity about feeling the extreme cold after the west, but no comment of reassurance was forthcoming.
To further complicate matters I was told I didn't have a class as my predecessor had not left to replace me in Clermont. If you think that isn't a sticky position to be in, you have never been in a similar position. To add salt to the wound I was allotted to my predecessor's class to understudy him. Evidently the powers that be didn't want him transferred and a battle royal was waging about which teacher from the North would replace me in Clermont. Naturally nobody wanted to go and the transferrable teachers seemed to regard me as some kind of a leper.
Eventually the position was sorted out with yet another clear cut victory to the Department. The teacher transferred in the first instance was the one to go. I must confess I was pleased to see him go as I found the position most embarrassing, and I am sure he must have too. However, I had no qualms about the matter as I had twenty-three years of western service behind me and, as a single teacher, had never experienced home service. Although it was to be a gradual process, I was finally accepted as a staff member.
Realization struck me that I had entered a different world. To be more explicit, teaching in a big school was an entirely different ball game. From a life spent in teaching composite grades I was transferred to a school where I would have a single class and there would be two other similar grades in the same school. At last I had reached the big time.
NORTH - 1960
In 1960 North was one of the "Big Three" in schools in Toowoomba. Its enrolment hovered around the 1,000 mark and there were three drafts of each grade. Academically it had a wonderful reputation, on the sporting fields it was respected and the general tone of the school was outstanding. The Principal Mr. A.E.B. Horne, with Senior Assistant Jack Noden, ran the tightest of tight ships, but this was born out of necessity more than anything else. They had a prestigious name to uphold and did all in their power to achieve what was best in life for the school and its pupils. This was the background to the setting in which I found myself.
On July 11 I began teaching a Grade 5 class. My fellow Grade 5 teachers were Tom Beasley and Pam Rogers. Tom was an elderly gent who had started teaching in the "bad old days" as a pupil teacher, had served many years as a Principal, and finally came back on staff so that his children could get their secondary education in Toowoomba. Tom was the first elderly, male assistant teacher I had encountered since college days. Apart from the Principals and Inspectors, I had never seen an elderly male teacher. As I was beginning to think male teachers died in their early forties, it was a relief not only to see Tom but also others of the same vintage on the staff at North.
Tom may have been elderly, but he was one of the most active teachers I had ever encountered. He was known as "Mr. Athletics" as he was in charge of the girls' athletics at the North and organized the Annual Primary Schools' Athletics Carnival in Toowoomba. He was an untiring worker. He amazed me when I assisted him with the girls' athletics at our school. He would start a race and then run half the race with the girls, encouraging them. No wonder we won the Girls' Shield so often with such infectious enthusiasm from the coach.
Pam Rogers wasn't long out of college and must have felt over-awed at working with two gents so much older. Pam was a quiet person, but was a really hard worker and a good teacher. Very quickly we became an effective teaching team and I have no hesitation in saying we were the happiest in the school. I couldn't have had two better people to ease me into the world of the big school situation. Later on I found them to be true friends who did everything possible to ease the anguish and heartbreak caused by the rather drawn out death of my mother on September 16 1960.
By the end of the year I had become accustomed to the big school atmosphere. The continual ringing of bells no longer affected me. I learned to take all the interruptions in my stride. My period of initiation was over and I felt fully qualified to face 1961 and what it had in store for me.
NORTH - 1961
1961 opened rather ominously for me. My teaching team was broken up and I took my 1960 class up to Grade 6. I didn't mind taking the kids up as they were a great lot, but I hated leaving my fellow teachers, Tom and Pam. They had been good friends to me and, although they were still on the same staff, I didn't like the idea of joining another team. Strange as it may seem, I reported to Tom every afternoon until he retired. I still kept in touch with him until his death in 1978.
He was a memorable character with a fund of stories of school life from pupil teacher days to the sixties. Very often he had us in fits of laughter in the staff room. One story he told necessitated displaying his yellow cards. It seems Tom had a disagreement with his District Inspector. For the previous year Tom had received a "Satisfactory" in the Progress in the Art of Teaching Department. Came the disagreement and the same Inspector just wrote the word "Stationary" in the Progress in the Art of Teaching Department. I could have cried when Tom walked out of the front gate of the North State School as a retired teacher, but I'm afraid I needn't have worried. Tom became the happiest Pensioner in the world and devoted the rest of his life to his family and grandchildren. Pam resigned later to be married.
To me the North was full of colourful characters, but perhaps one of the most outstanding was the late Hubie Allom. A brilliant teacher, he had spent most of his teaching life at the North. He knew its history as well as the history of a good percentage of its pupils. He had an ardent love for sport, was an ex inter-city rep. in rugby, and excelled in tennis. Blessed with a phenomina1 memory for detail, he could recount movements which brought victories in Test Matches years previously. He fascinated young and old in the staff room with his inexhaustible supply of anecdotes. In addition he was a good listener, an adviser with the wisdom of Solomon and a true friend.
Although plagued with health problems' towards the end of his teaching career, he made light of it and hated to think anyone was fussing over him. A humble man at heart, he rocked everyone when he visited every teacher on the staff one afternoon and simply said, "Good bye," as he was retiring that day. By some subtle means he had deceived everyone, including the Administration, about the actual day he was to finish. He left the North the way he wanted to - unheralded and unsung - a truly humble teacher whose example and dedication had influenced countless teachers and pupils over the years.
Other colourful teachers I recall of that era were Mrs Murray, Miss Flanagan, Mrs English, Bob Ta1bot, Mansel and Gwen Jones, Bill Wieck, Miss Lewis, Blake Leonard, Mrs Killoran and Bill Stoodley. Each was an identity in his own right and helped to make the scenario at the North a fascinating study.
Outside of school activities, a very important event occurred in my life in 1961. My wife presented me with a son, Peter John; mainly due to the expertise, care and dedication of Dr. John Ogden, as my wife had been an invalid for the period of her pregnancy. Naturally this entailed a complete re-organization of our lives, but we set about this quite willingly and happily.
I was presented with a Scholarship Class in June 1961 and went on to teach the last of the Scholarship Classes at the North in 1962.
A.E.B. HORNE AND HIS ERA
Without a doubt the dominating figure at the North in the period 1960-1971 was the Principal, A.E.B. Horne, known outside the school as "Trader" or "Bunney". Very few people realized that one of his christian names was actually Bunney.
Mr. Horne had been at the North for a number of years when I arrived. To take over the North he had refused one of the plum jobs in the Department, that of Director of Primary Correspondence. Having worked with him, one can easily see why he should have rejected such a plum. He was a man who saw the main aim of the educator as the moulder of the character of his pupils by personal involvement with them. As a Director of Primary Correspondence, this would have been an impossibility. What was Primary Correspondence's loss turned out very favourably for the North.
As I have said previously Mr. Horne, with Senior Assistant Jack Noden, ran the tightest of tight ships. Every departmental edict was followed to the letter. Discipline, while not harsh, was rigidly enforced and rules for both staff and pupils were expected to be carried out to the letter. Formality in relations between Administration and staff was the order of the day. The Principal took every parade and visited every class daily.
My five years of army life followed by years of serving under Principals who were on their way up had accustomed me to this type of administration, but it caused many heart burnings among younger staff members and among those who were former Principals.
One edict which caused quite a stir involved the wearing of a coat on the first parade of the day. While much was said about it, very few were courageous enough to buck the system. The old hands left coats at the school permanently, especially for this purpose. I found it rather odd to see a teacher, a veritable ball of style from the neck down, to be wearing a vintage coat. These permanent coats were left at the school over the Christmas break, and when they were dusted on the first day of the new school year one had difficulty in seeing very far in the staff room. It resembled a western road when two cars passed in the bull dust country.
While every subject in the syllabus was treated with equal importance, Mr. Horne had a definite leaning towards Social Studies. While the syllabus Social Studies was always implemented, he had his own idea of Social Studies. He seemed to think that the main aim of this subject was the co-operative interaction of man with his fellows for the eventual well being of the community. He never neglected an opportunity to visit a class to show them how they could become better citizens of the future by carrying out some action in a way acceptable to the community.
Vandalism was his pet hate and, throughout his era, he waged an eternal war on it. While very few examples of this occurred at the North, he propounded his views by reference to examples from the local press. How any pupil from his era could become a vandal is imcomprehensib1e to me.
An ardent reader of Agatha Christie, Mr Horne loved investigating school crimes. Using with relish the methods of the famous Hercule Poirot, he solved most of them. However I can recall one noted failure. Mr Horne was an ardent anti-smoking advocate and went from class to class delivering lessons on his pet hate. On his arrival at work one morning he opened the Time Book to sign on when, low and behold, he saw a dumper on the page before his eyes. To extinguish same someone had put it in the book, pressed on it and left it there. The enquiry of the decade began. By the process of elimination Mr Horne accused Billy Wieck of being the culprit. Billy very smartly denied it and said Bob Talbot must have done it. Rallying to his own defence, Bob proved that it wasn't his as it was a "makings" and Bob was an avid smoker of tailor mades. Although suspicion turned to another corner, the culprit was never discovered - one of the very few unsolved crimes of the Horne era.
It was during an investigation that I saw Mr Horne disconcerted for the only time. As one of the school shops had complained of a theft, Mr. Horne set out to discover the culprit. Using his most encouraging tones, and promising no reprisals, he begged any child to own up if he had been shoplifting at the shops. A flood of people stood up. Our Principal stood there dumbfounded. He stalked out of the room, but returned later for a mass apology plus restitution to the shopkeepers. I guess every man has his breaking point.
In 1959 a swimming pool was installed at the North and Mr Horne developed a passion for the sport. He became a marathon swimmer himself and, by his coaching and dedication, brought North into the winners' circle in the world of primary school swimming, a position they held for many years.
Every year Mr Horne religiously began a Learn to Swim Campaign. He devised his own way of doing this. That it was successful is without doubt, as he taught countless children to swim.
Over the years Mr. Horne developed a sense of perfect timing. At that period it was considered very bad form to sit down while teaching. We were permitted to mark the roll twice a day while sitting. However I discovered that, whenever one decided to have a rest and was just beginning to get comfortable, the Principal seemed to appear out of nowhere and be standing beside me. The same applied when anything unusual happened in the room. I can remember doing an experiment which involved the heating of Condy's crystals. Through an error in making the necessary apparatus, the mixture exploded and the Condy's crystals solution was deposited on the ceiling above. No casualties. Dumbfounded, we were gazing up at the ceiling, when in walked Mr Horne. He took in the situation at a glance and said, "Why don't you leave the painting of the ceiling to the Works Department?" Then he turned on his heels and left. I was convinced he had some in-built radar system
which warned him of any trouble spots in the school.
A man of perfect physical condition, he traversed the steps and corridors of the North with seeming ease. However, on one occasion he showed speed worthy of an Olympic sprinter. It was a rule at the North that all children's Reports had to be sent to the office for perusal before being sent home. One of the teachers had written on one report:- "X is trying - very." To further complicate matters, X's father was a member of the P&C. When this was read by the Principal, that gent certainly showed his sprinting was of Olympic standard in his dash to the offending teacher's room. Never has a School Report been so hastily rewritten.
During the Horne era I found some of the traditions rather amusing. On Scholarship Examination days there would be a gang of boys caught smoking at the "Farm" (popular nickname for the boys' playground at the North). Of course it was the last day of school for many pupils, as many left in those days after completing Scholarship. However, it still caused a stir and there were always a few expelled on such occasions. I like to think the actual expulsion was a mere "sent home" job to preserve discipline and not as a harsh repression of youthful exuberance.
In Room 14 at the North there was a picture of Mr Mole. This unsmiling gent looked down on me for many years until Arthur Johnson decided his reign had ended. Mr Mole was, I believe, Queensland's first Public Curator, but I have never been able to ascertain whether he was a pupil of North State School. No matter where one went in the room, he seemed to be looking down on you. Now it seemed to be a tradition at the North that a moustache had to be put on Mr Mole during the last week of school. It had to be accomplished while the teacher was out of the room, and not done before or after school. Mind you, I think these moustaches improved the old boy.
This year a particularly rakish job was deposited on the old boy's lip by (I later found out) my top girl, Cheryl McGregor. I didn't even notice the drawing had been executed. Mr. Horne entered the room, gave me some instruction, looked up at the picture and said, "I notice some lout has done the honours on Mr. Mole's lip". I was dumbfounded because I really hadn't noticed it. However, once again, he turned on his heels and walked out. Tradition had been fulfilled.
It would be virtually impossible to record the turnover of staff in the Horne era. Jack Noden relinquished the Senior Assistant position to be succeeded by Bill Stoodley. Class teachers came and went, but each in his own way made some contribution towards the cultural well being of both pupils and staff.
Of the 1980 staff only the following belonged to the Horne era:- Bob Talbot, Bill Wieck, Keith Peers, Clive Thomson, Merv Belz, John Handley (detached at Toowoomba Teachers' Centre as Director) and myself. Allan Unger, who had taught for a short time under Mr Horne's predecessor, Mr Grant, was transferred and did not return until the Brown era.
Even in the Horne era, the administration of a Class 1 school was a complex job. In addition, the teaching and examination role was far more demanding than that of the modern day Principal. Fortunately for Mr Horne and the Department, Mrs Jess Horne, his wife, was unpaid Secretary right up to the last year of his stay at the North. The amount of typing and other work she did for the school was staggering.
In addition she reared a family of three boys and for many years cared for ailing parents in the twilight of their lives. A woman of infinite patience, she was never known to speak an unkind word to a teacher. We certainly deserved it. I was one of the many teachers who could never recall the combination of the lock to the swimming pool. I lost count of the number of times Jess Horne rescued me, and never once did she complain. She loved the North and would do anything for it and anybody connected with it.
She hasn't changed in retirement. Although happily ensconced in a beautiful home in Wilfred Street in Toowoomba and absorbed by the activities of her boys and their children, I think she left her heart in the old North State School residence in Taylor Street.
The years rolled along and the North in the Horne era survived the change to decimal currency and the various changes to the primary syllabi. The era came to an end with Mr Horne's retirement in 1971.
We were determined, as a staff, that he would go out with a bang, but we had to take our turn. The Principals' Association, the P. & C., the children and the public all had the same idea. All the functions were brilliant successes. The Staff Farewell was held in the Panorama Room at Picnic Point. We planned to make it a night to remember, and it was. Although we faced the future with uncertainty, we realized how fortunate we had been. We had served under a man who had become a legend in his own time, a man whose one object in life was to make every pupil in his care a worthwhile member of our society - a truly noble goal. Could we do likewise?
The various speakers at the retirement functions wished the Hornes a long, happy retirement blessed with good health. To date these wishes have been fulfilled. Both very active people in business life, they are fortunate in being able to continue at almost the same pace in retirement. They travel extensively in following the pursuits of their very successful family and their grandchildren. Always an avid gardener, Mr Horne turned his expertise to the growing of orchids, and has been most successful.
May their retirement continue in this harmonious manner, and may they continue to be blessed with good health to enjoy it.
THE BROWN ERA
After Mr. Horne's retirement, Bill Stoodley became Acting Principal. Bill managed this onerous task quite well. The appointment of an Acting Senior Assistant would have solved his problem of excessive work load, but none was made.
Finally, in late November, the big news broke; a Mr. Ashley Brown was to replace Mr Horne from January 1972. In order to meet us all, Mr Brown made the journey from Brisbane to attend the 1971 Staff Christmas Party. Our research specialists had told us he was an academic whose particular field was Social Studies, and that his stay in Toowoomba would be short because he was a member of the Syllabus Social Studies Committee. We were impressed.
January 1972 saw the formal takeover of the school. However it proved to be a year of misfortune for our new Principal. Not long after his arrival he spent quite a time in St. Vincent's Hospital. On his return to work it became apparent to all that he was still a sick man. That he was in continual pain was easy to see. However he was a silent sufferer and ran a good school. As I said previously, he was an academic whose first love was Social Studies. In the latter department he did his best to show us what the true spirit of the syllabus was and, in doing so, was most helpful.
During 1972 he lost his Senior Assistant by retirement. Nev Ritchie was appointed to this position, in a relieving capacity. Like Mr Horne, Bill Stoodley had become a legend in his own time. He was one of nature's gentlemen, in the true sense of the expression. A man of high Christian principles, Bill Stoodley was an example to each one of us. No matter how bad a teacher or child was, Bill would try to say something good about him. His politeness was a by-word. Bill Stoodley loved people and did everything in his power to help them, especially those in trouble. In his own hour of need this humble man showed a particular brand of courage and loyalty to his own that could only be admired. Bill Stoodley retired as a man loved by children and fellow teachers alike.
Within weeks of retirement, Bill's health began to fail. His untimely end was a long drawn out affair in which he was called upon to endure great suffering. To the end, he was courageously supported by his loving wife, Flo, the lady he revered so much in life and of whom he always spoke so kindly.
The Brown era also saw the transfer to Harristown of another North School legend, Ann Flanagan, who retired from that school. Ann was an infant teacher who ended up becoming Infant Mistress at the North. When the North's enrolment fell, we naturally lost our Infant Mistress and Ann had to go. That was quite a sad day for the North.
Although not originally an infant teacher, Ann entered this department at the North, and soon showed her mastery in this particular area. She had the uncanny gift of being able to inspire children to do their best, and her success stories were many.
Her rapport with staff was something to be wondered at. At her Retiring Function the laudatory remarks bestowed on her by speakers ranging from Regional Directors to humble assistants could have been earned only be a truly dedicated member of the teaching profession.
1973 was the second year of the Brown era. During this year Mr Brown enjoyed much better health and we returned to the normal school routine. However it soon became noticeable that Mr Brown's trips to Brisbane on matters concerning Social Studies were becoming more and more frequent. He was in great demand as a lecturer at seminars, as it was in this field that he showed his greatest ability. Towards the end of the year rumours began to fly that a transfer was in the wind. For once the rumour mongers were spot on.
Mr. Brown was transferred back to Brisbane and, from January 1974, Arthur Johnson and Ray Stevens were to be Principal and Deputy Principal of the North.
The Brown era had ended. During that time the seeds of change were commencing to germinate. A plush new Resources Centre had been erected. The huge flow of money into education had begun to trickle.
Snow Brown assumed command of a leading Brisbane school and continued to lecture at seminars on his greatest love - Social Studies. Now retired with his wife in Brisbane, Snow is, I imagine, happily fishing Moreton Bay.
We looked forward in anticipation to 1974.
THE JOHNSON ERA 1974 - 1979
The winds of change had been blowing in the world of education from the dawn of the seventies. It was really felt, but ever so slightly, in the last years of the Horne era, but had been more or less disregarded. T he Brown era saw a definite breeze developing, but very few at the North were prepared for the cyclone which struck in 1974.
I had been delegated by Snow Brown to hand over the school to the incoming Principal, Arthur Johnson. This was no big deal. It merely entailed handing over a small amount of money in cash and a couple of statements. I did this small duty one day over the Christmas holidays when I was told he had arrived.
I met him after he had inspected the school and he was still in a state of shock. He was amazed at the antiquity of our furniture and our general lack of amenities. This surprised me as I thought we were as good as the next school. Arthur had just finished refurnishing his last school, as well as equipping it with every possible amenity. Of course he thought a Class 1 school in Toowoomba would be the last word in modernity in every facet of education. How wrong he was!
Undaunted, he set about remedying things when school started. Luckily large sums of money became available for education at that time. Arthur knew what he was entitled to and raised hell till he got it. With boundless energy, he attacked every problem he met and found some way around it. The North was refurnished and almost every room carpeted. Covered walkways were constructed, and when completed enabled anyone to go from one end of the school to the other on a wet day without getting wet. Beautification schemes were commenced outside and lighting installed at the swimming pool.
An all out effort to improve standards inside the school was instituted and proved quite fruitful. Direct Reporting became the order of the day and Co-Operative Evaluation instead of normal inspection was trialled. The teaching of Religious Education was re-organized.
In the world of primary sport, John Yeates became more or less official Sports Master and made a gallant attempt to regain some of the past glories of the Horne era.
The problem of teachers' parking causing congestion outside the school was easily solved by Arthur. He simply drew up a plan and brought all teachers' cars inside. The fact that we had three separate staff rooms bugged Arthur. His idea was to have one big one. Frustrated in this plan by lack of necessary space, he modernised the three we had, thereby making them much more pleasant places.
During the Johnson era two important Departments were added to the North. A Pre-School was erected opposite the main school, and a Dental Clinic was placed next to the swimming pool.
With the help of Merv Belz an interior decoration scheme was initiated by means of hanging ferns. This proved quite effective.
In all these projects Arthur Johnson was ably assisted by his Deputies, first Ray Stevens and then Nev Ritchie and his staff. A wonderful team of men and women had been created.
Perhaps the greatest contribution made by Arthur Johnson to the North School was the manner in which he humanized staff relations. He demonstrated quite clearly that it was possible to run just as tight a ship as his predecessors without the formality and underlying fear of the Department which characterized previous administrations.
In addition to his school activities, Arthur was tied up with the Teachers' Union, and finally was elected to the executive of that body. This necessitated weekly trips to Brisbane. Then, as the Union Rep. on the Transfer Committee, he spent weeks in Brisbane annually assisting that body. As you realize, both of these positions are thankless jobs, but he did them without a word of complaint. He would do anything for the benefit of his fellow teachers.
In 1978 North's numbers began a steady decline. Finally in 1979 they fell below the 600 mark, and the school was gazetted as Class 2 for 1980. This meant that Arthur and his Deputy, Nev Ritchie, had to go. Arthur went to Rangeville and Nev to Wilsonton.
Everyone hates to see the decline of a big school, and so their farewell was a sad affair. Arthur came to the North as a youthful, dynamic administrator and during his tenure had revolutionized the place. We have all profited from serving under him, and I feel we have all contributed in some little way to the wonderful successes he achieved during his era at the North.
When he runs out of schools to revolutionize, what will Arthur Johnson do? I am afraid I cannot answer that. However I hope that, whatever it is, he will be most successful and that he and his lovely wife, Nita, will be blessed with lasting happiness.
1980 has dawned. The mighty North has become a Class 2 school. A new Principal, Dennis Hess, has assumed command. May his era be as equally successful as his predecessors.
As teachers totter towards retirement, it seems to be the in thing for them to reflect on the years spent in their profession and make wise remarks about standards in education, and to compare the children of yester-year with the current crop. I don't intend to add to the words of wisdom so vigorously propounded by members of my profession, but I would like to reassure my fellow teachers on one very important point.
Over the last ten years when education has endured a violent and rapid change, teachers have been bombarded with seminars and all types of inservice training. To me, this whole revolution has stunned the teaching profession.
Recovering from the shock, teachers are now asking themselves if they or their pupils will get anything out of this bombardment of knowledge to which they have been subjected. I have no hesitation in stating that you will. Mind you, it may take some time, and it may come when you least expect it. Some enchanted Friday afternoon, across a crowded class room, you will see a strange hand shoot up. It will be the hand of your lowest achiever. Motivated by you, he will make his one and onlycontribution to education for the year.............. a correct answer.
Your behavioural objectives will be achieved, but it will be too much for you. You will fall to the floor and fade into peaceful unconsciousness. You will awake the following morning to see faintly, through a haze, the Sister and Nurse from the Intensive Care Ward bending over you. You will grab the Nurse and say, "He answered correctly - all those courses were really worth while."
Once again you will lapse into oblivion. The Nurse will turn to the Sister and say, "I wonder what that was all about, Sister."
The Sister will sigh and say, ever so sadly, "Forget it, Nurse. Just another teacher en route to the Special Hospital."
Compiled by P S Nowlan - 1980