Brisbane, QLD, Australia
5 Dec, 1999
Innisfail State Rural School
I first went to school (Innisfail State Rural School) from the "blue house" in 35 Lily St., Innisfail. I remember that for my first day of school my mother dressed me in a T-shirt with a "Superman" motif printed on it. This caused me to be harassed by other kids, which upset me. An unwise mother. I doubt that I wore it again.
I also remember being plagued during my primary school years with the fact that my name was the same as that of a popular American "crooner" of the day -- Johnny Ray. I was called the "little white cloud that cries" and suchlike by teachers and students alike from time to time but I just ignored it.
A "Rural" school meant a school that offered both primary and secondary classes. It was only after my time there that a separate High School was built at Innisfail. I remember that my first alphabet book in Grade 1 had the wording: ""A" like an apple on a Twig". When no-one knew what a "twig" was the teacher changed it to "branch". Obviously written for pupils in England.
In Grade 1 the teachers would bring out a pile of blankets after lunch and expect all the kids to have an afternoon nap on the floor. I did not understand that at all and just sat there. I was too lively for siestas in those days.
I remember something of an incident in about Grade 2 where the teacher read out a story about a "poor little blue boy". It was a sad story and I cried so much that the teacher never used it again. No other child cried. I was the only one that understood the story.
Another incident I remember from Grade 2 or thereabouts is of the teacher telling the class to close the book they were supposed to be reading and say it off by heart instead. I was the only one who could not. I was the only one who actually could read and did not have to memorize it. The teachers were pretty pleased with me, of course.
Unless it was Maths, from the very first time I was taught something I knew it. I did not need the endless repetitions most schoolkids seem to need before they remember something. I was always getting let out 5 or ten minutes early for both lunch and the end of the day as a reward for knowing the answers to questions. The teachers used to use early-marks as an incentive for the pupils to learn -- "Anyone who gets this right.....". They were usually offered only for hard questions so I seldom had much company on my early departures.
Not that lack of company bothered me in any way. I was pretty solitary throughout my schooldays. I was just not like the others and I and everybody else knew it. I would be at home reading books when most other kids were outdoors. I played no sport of my own accord and when I was forced to play something I made a hash of it because of my natural clumsiness.
Being excessively bright and non-sporting must have been as good barrier to social life as you can get in a small country town. In country towns ”everyone" follows some sport. It meant that my social skills were slow in developing but they became generally pretty good eventually anyway. (Ask Jenny how I get on with my tradesmen). Intelligence can overcome all sorts of obstacles, including lack of social skills.
My mother was a bit of a social isolate and she inculcated her values into her children also. So that did not help. She thought she was Christmas and that everybody else was silly. I doubt that she ever had much fellow-feeling for anybody other than her own children. I probably get my own impassivity from here. Very little ever bothers me. At any event, the sentimentality I inherited from my father made me much better able to relate to people than my mother could.
I started borrowing boy's yarns from both the school library and the School of Arts library in town when I was about 8 and generally read 2 or 3 books a week -- Enid Blyton, Capt. W.E. Johns, Percy F. Westerman etc. I also read a lot of non-fiction -- Ion Idriess and the like. My parents had a lot of trouble getting me to go to bed at night. I used to sit up in my bed reading.
My nickname in my later years at my Innisfail school was "the walking encyclopaedia". I got a lot of praise from the teachers and some respect from fellow-pupils. I have always had a pretty easy life -- though I did get the cane for bad handwriting a couple of times. What ignorance on the part of the teachers! I have an idea my mother went and saw the headteacher about me getting the cane for such things and threatened him sufficiently (probably by threatening to tell my lumberjack father) to cause him to cease such stupidity.
Both parents and teachers in those days were enough aware of the dangers of the tropical sun to try to keep hats on us kids at all times when we were outdoors but it was a losing battle. I seemed always to be losing my hat. I had grey felt hats and also lacquer-coated straw hats. It rained so much in Innisfail that an uncoated straw hat would have been destroyed in weeks.
There were two pie carts that pulled up outside the Innisfail school each lunchtime -- Bob's and Bill's, if I remember rightly. Some liked Bob's pies and some liked Bill's but in both cases a pie cost 6d and I would occasionally be given money to buy one for my lunch. You could also get lollies at the nearby corner shop which were priced at 2 for a penny. I remember buying liquorice there a few times.
While I was at school in Innisfail I usually went home for lunch. Where we lived (Campbell St) was quite close to the school. I always made my own way to and from school. At first I walked and later I rode a bike. I was never driven as my mother never learned to drive.
Schoolfriends I remember from when I was at school in Innisfail include Alan Peiniger, Don Anderson and John Harris. The last time I was in Innisfail (1989?) I heard that John Harris's wife had left him and he was living at the "Crown" (hotel).
One of my few memories from primary school time is picnics at Etty Bay (outside Innisfail). Whether they were school picnics or Sunday School picnics I cannot remember but suspect the latter. I loved Etty Bay even then. I remember that a popular softdrink on such occasions was Hanush's "Cherry Cheer" -- a sweet red drink. I preferred Sarsaparilla. Icecream used to be served on such occasions in small cardboard "buckets" out of a big stiff green canvas bag otherwize filled with dry ice (Frozen carbon dioxide -- itself something of a wonder). Much watermelon was also eaten. There were also egg-and-spoon races and suchlike that I used to avoid as far as possible.
Only one report card from my schooldays at Innisfail has survived. It is my report for 1953 (Grade 4). For English I got 65 out of 80 for Term 1, 68/80 Term 2, 95/110 Term 3. For Maths I got 33/80 Term 1. 59/80 Term 2, 71/90 Term 3. For Social Studies I got 33/40 Term 1, 36/40 Term 2 and 44/50 Term 3. The teacher comments are: "Maths need much strengthening" in Term 1; "His writing spoils otherwise good work" in Term 2; "Good work has been done" in Term 3. The class teacher was Mrs F. White.
I also have the certificate showing my results in the "Scholarship" (Secondary entrance) examination. For Mathematics I got 110/150, English 120/150 and for Social Studies 89/100 -- which translates to an 80% mark overall. I seem to recollect that that was seen as a very good result at the time. To "pass your Scholarship" was a big deal back then and you only needed to get 50% or more to pass.
If you google Innisfail State Rural School, you will mostly get links to things that I have put online. Other than that there are only some old newspaper clippings put online by Trove, the excellent service by the National Library of Australia.
So I want to put online a document that will show once and for all that it did exist. It is my old Grade 4 report card mentioned above.
It is a rather tattered document but it is the only record I have of 7 years of my life.