In my life: Bennetswood Primary School

Even now at 68 years, I can recapture the excitement and awe as I took my seat in grade 1 (1960, age 6) at Bennettswood State School.  

Mr Wigney's class was arranged in rows from grade 1 to 6 so that he could train teachers for rural schools in vistoria where all grades were in the same class.

The full kit of uniforn, fresh stationery and equipment for school was like experiencing a second christmas. I still love fresh stationery !  Other equipment was exciting because of unknown uses such as the compass and the map stencils. I loved creating maps with the blue sea carefully shaded all around our island.


I had been introduced to writing in Box Hill South Kindergarten.  In grade 1, with the grade 2's in the desk beside me, I set to work with determination to better myself. 
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By April 1960, I was enjoying telling stories

I fell in love with cuisenaire and the language of maths used to describe it with a feeling similar to that I have since experienced in playing computer games or programming. A superbly logical and beautiful symbolic world where knowing and obeying the rules is always the winning strategy.

Not me, but similar to my memory. Source: A Teaching Aide that survived the 1950's

In the brutal honesty of the 1960's, acheivement had real world implications. I was soon rewarded by Mr. Wigney by swapping me with the child in front in recognition of our relative performance. 
In school uniform, eating a sandwhich in the bare backyard of 4 Ivy St, Burwood, in Dad's photoshoot for a Tip-Top bread advert.

One learning activity that still fills me with dread was the film on fire safety shown to the whole school in the darkened gym.  Instead of a dry set of priciples and procedures, I remember children falling out windows to thier deaths and then being covered with white sheets on the ground outside.  I still have a feeling of dread from this experience.  
These images seem far too frightening to show to a school group even in those days.  After looking at a number of images and movie extracts relating to the fire at Our Lady of the Angels in 1958 where 92 pupils and 3 nuns died, I think that I may have constructed my memory from some of the film and stills of this event that may have been shown on to the school on that day.

It is a reminder that all memory is constructed and that, not only have I forgotten so much from the nearly 25000 days of my life, but I have also managed to misremember some of it !
It is bizarre what memories have been retained.  At Bennetswood, there were rows of seats parallel to the building before the car park was created.  One had to jostle for space to eat lunch.  One day I jostled too enthuisiatically and dislodged a pie from the hands of a hungry pupil.  I knew there would be consequences, so without excuse or apology, I ran from the scene as fast as possible.  A few steps away, the remains of the pie that had been quickly picked up and expertly thrown, landed square in the middle ogf my back !   

Bennettswood State School main building 1960's

Out of class, before school, at recess, lunchtime and after school, there were many enticing activities that came in and out of fashion for no discernable reason.

The wads of swap cards that I took to school were nearly too big to hold and even harder to display to discerning swappers, and extract when the deal was done.  Cards depicted  everything from cats to cars, from planes to places etc.  They were fascinating in themselves, but also provided a brutal education in the pitfalls of fast negotiation.   

Not my card set but similar to my memories.

Marbles was played under the large playground pine trees where the roots acted as bench seats and the canopy dropped pine needles killing all vegetation that would have otherwise interfered with the marble roll.  "Tom bowlers", taw's, cat's eyes, aggies were played, lost and won over many hours in the dust to high emotion and much argument.
 
Not me, but similar to my memories.

I loved the 1km walk to school and home.  The house construction progress in this new suburb was constantly changing the landscape. In winter, the puddles, left by heavy wheels on nature strips, were frozen and after jumping on them, the panes of ice were fun to throw. 

One shocking day, I was approaching school, and heard the screech of brakes and a scream.  I and every one else broke into run towards the catastrophe driven by irrestistable curiosity.  Upon arriving, the crowd was so large it was hard to penentrate.  All I could see was a limp child in our school uniform and some dark blood stains on their jumper.   I cannot remember the outcome for the pupil but I am pretty sure that the intensity of the memory affected the care with which I crossed Station Street in future.

When the principal of the school died, there was no such shock or concern 

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