Memories of Life in Gawler 1938-1958 by Terry Krieg
|Type of thing||Personal
MEMORIES OF LIFE IN GAWLER [ 1938-1958] WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO SCHOOL YEARS,[1944-1954] BY TERRY KRIEG.
I was born in 1938 at Kapunda just before the start of World War II but my first real memories were of living near the North Gawler railway station with a constant stream of Barwell Bulls and steam trains which picked up in the mornings and disgorged in the evenings, multitudes of factory workers who travelled to Adelaide and suburbs for work. Many of them rode their bikes to the station and parked them in the lane between our place and that of Mr and Mrs Thompson who were retired farmers from Kimba. I had settled on a career as an engine [locomotive] driver in the South Australian Railways soon after starting school in 1944. Imagine being in the same class as a kid whose father WAS an engine driver. That was Ronny Newberry and he used to accompany his dad on occasion IN the locomotive. He told us he used to help shovel coal into the loco's furnace. How lucky was Ronny!
I started school in 1944 in the middle of Summer. To me it always seemed hot with fair dinkum heat waves very common. Five or six consecutive days of 100 degrees Fahrenheit were common with hottest days sometimes over 110 degrees. It was bloody hot and certainly hotter than the current "record" heat waves we're constantly told we're having and which are leading to a "frying" planet by century's end. And all because of that rotten" gas of life", CO2, which we're pouring into the atmosphere from our burning of fossil fuels. It's a pity there's been no warming of the planet for the past 17 years despite an 8% increase of CO2 in the atmosphere over those years. So much for Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming,- now called climate change by the way. My Grade 1 teacher was Miss West [Elsie Annie], a local girl who actually had a car. She was pleasant enough though quite firm with us tiny tots. Among all of the other lessons, we had singing as well and she used to prowl around the class listening for anyone singing out of tune.We used the First Primer for our reading lessons, indulged in simple addition, subtraction and of course times tables in our maths classes. Tables were to be learnt by heart and I remember [being a bit of a cleverdick]having to stand in front of a class of grade IV 's to recite my 12 times tables. 12 times tables from a Grade I kid? Unheard of! Mental arithmetic was a big deal in our maths classes as well. Spelling, reading and writing were big as well. In Grade II, I had the bespectacled, Miss Mara, a nice, quiet, understanding lady who led us through the Second Primer in reading and helped us to hold our pencils correctly when writing. John Hastings was our GradeIII teacher, a lovely, gentle chap who never raised his voice. It was a very comfortable class to be in. Mr. Hastings had escaped from the marginal farmlands in the north of the state. Before coming to Gawler, he was in charge of the school at Hammond, one of a number of small towns along the narrow gauge railway which serviced those farming centres. All of those towns and the railway closed many years ago but when a teacher myself during the 80's and early 90's I used to take my Year 12 geography and geology students on a field camp in the Flinders Ranges. On the way back, we would call in to see the delightful Mrs. Mary Markham, the sole resident then of Hammond and also the postmistress. She told our students about the early days of settlement and the railways on those marginal farm lands. In the school record book I noticed that John Hastings had been the teacher at Hammond in 1942.
In GradeIV, J.K.[John] Scholfield was my teacher. He was a pleasant and considerate bloke but like most male teachers those days, was armed with a cane. In his case, it was a short, quite thick piece of palm[no spikes] which he had named "Peter the pants patter." He'd deliver it ever so gently on the hand or the bum with the words "Bang Bang" and a wry smile. All very gentle, harmless and funny. We kids enjoyed him greatly. Around this time we had a special singing teacher, Mrs. Benion. She had settled in Australia from England. She was a diminutive lady with piercing eyes and wore substantial amounts of "lippy" and other make up. She could be quite "crabby" at times and so we didn't mess with her. She did have a fine singing voice and taught us poems and songs from famous English composers and writers, including Shakespeare. We sang "Where the bee sucks, there lurk I, In a cowslip's bell I lie. There I crouch when owls do cry, when owls do cry, when owls do cry. On a bat's back I do fly etc". Of course Alfred Lord Tennyson was a big favourite and we used to recite "The Brook" by Alfred Lord Tennyson." I come from haunt of coot and hern. I make a sudden sally and sparkle out among the fern, to bicker down the valley" etc and to the end "Where men may come and men may go, but I go on forever." Mrs. Benion's initials were O.M.C. Benion. I'll never forget Charlie Folland, Ron's younger brother saying to Mrs Benion one day, "I know what OMC Benion stands for Mrs. Benion." Do you Charles? "Yes" said Charlie. " Old Ma Cocky Benion." Charlie picked himself up off the floor having been knocked clean out of his seat by this small in stature lady. We were all pretty careful around Mrs Benion after that little episode.
The quiet, gentle teachers of the first four grades represented the "Calm before the storm" for in Grade V, we had an absolute tyrant, a spindly, height-challenged, Jekyll and Hyde character called Bill Mc Carthy. He was sometimes quite pleasant but had frequent bouts of brutishness when he would wield his cane most unmercifully. At times he was vicious and singled out a couple of boys for excessive treatment. The "cuts," numbering between two and six, were delivered with all of the force he could muster with the cane coming from way above his head. I was sickened by his treatment of one lad who shall remain nameless. But I shall never forget the Grade V sadist. He was a thorough going bastard. In Grade VI, we had Keith Horsnell, a pleasant, dedicated teacher who got on well with everyone. We liked him a lot and felt deeply for him when his eldest son died under tragic circumstances.
We got to GradeVII and were now in the hands of J.S [Jack]Clark. He became a state Labor politician many years later. Mr. Clark was an energetic and quite imposing figure, mostly pleasant and understanding but prone to bouts of short temper which occasionally exploded with devastating effects. Everyone froze as he suddenly took off down the aisle. "Who's he after?" We were all shaking. He passed me [phew] and Neville Warnest who was behind me. Then he swung around, and with a powerful open hand knocked Neville out of his seat and onto the floor. Everything went quiet after that. Jack Clark's son Bernard, was in the class and he and I shared the 'dux of the school" position in 1950. We were each awarded the Dr. Dawes gold medal in recognition of our dux of the school status.Ties for the medal were unprecedented [Bernie and I each got 95.6 out of 100] However, two girls, Glenice Percy and Elaine Thomas also tied for the medal in 1950.
To keep up with our progress during the year,we had a weekly test of mental questions,arithmetic,spelling and dictation [writing]. 50 marks out of fifty was called "full honours"and a progressive score of the number of full honours for eacg student was kept. Bernie Clark and I got 23 full honours that year. The most important manual task throughout the primary years,especially in gradeVII was hand writing. We had graduated to writing in ink by then using pens with nibs. Everyone took a turn to be ink moniotor which involved adding water to ink powder and pouring same into ink wells which were bored into our desks. The body had to be sitting up straight , feet flat on the floor and with the pen pointing at the shoulder. We had to write with a light upstroke and a heavier downstroke. They taught us to write in those days. I don't think they do these days.
Those primary school school years [1944-45] saw the last two years of World War II and I can remember an air raid shelter which had been dug in grandfathers back yard,. We kids used to play in it. There were black curtains in the house, pulled down at night to make everything black and therefore invisible to any potential enemy. We kids of course fought in the war and we used to make propellers out of bits of gum bark, then pretend we were either a "spitty" [spitfire] or a lancaster bomber as we charged down the school yard hill, shooting and bombing the "crap" out of the Japs and the Nazis. There were huge celebrations when the war ended,[I was seven years old]. We kids fashioned drums out of 4 gallon kerosene tins, hung them around our necks and marched up and down the streets banging them in celebration of war's end.
Jack Clark conducted our daily "saluting the flag" ceremony at school. He'd blow on a little tuner, wave a drum stick up and down twice as we all sang "Doh - Soh" before launching into the song of Australia. That was after we had saluted the flag."I love my country and the British Empire. I honour her king, king George the VI. I promise cheerfully to obey her laws." etc etc. Then we'd march around the yard behind the drum and fife band. Ronny Newberry played one of the side drums and being quite small, he wobbled around quite a bit as the drum swung around him as he marched. Occasionally we'd have to stand "on parade"perfectly still in 100 degree heat . It was murder and plenty of kids keeled over at times. It didn't pay to be out of step. Sporting equipment was in short supply. There were a few medicine balls, a few cricket bats and balls [composition balls - of soft rubber] and stumps and bails and a few footballs. They were used continually during recess and lunch times. We invented a few games for ourselves, including "flyer" which involved placing a few short gum sticks several feet apart down a slope. Each player had to charge down the hill placing his/her feet between consecutive sticks and then taking a mighty leap after the last stick and marking with the last stick where that player had landed. The next player had to try to extend the last stick further. There were plenty of "gutsers" with grazes and ankle sprains resulting. There were two monstrous swings in the playground on Princes Park. We'd get on them, stand up, swing up to the horizontal, sit down and then as the swing came through, we'd bail out. We marked the landing spot for the next player to beat. We were airborne for two or three seconds and descended from a considerable height [3 or 4 metres at a guess] and travelling several metres before landing. We were nuts. It's a wonder no-one was killed. There were plenty of scrapes and bruises however.
Each year, we had a marbles [alleys,dooks, dates]season and everyone was playing for "keeps" Starries were favourite marbles as were the larger Tom Bowlers. In turn we'd "pink up."Closest to the ring into which each player had placed a marble, would shoot first and try to hit as many out of the ring as possible. If you "stuck fat", you put marbles you had scored back into the ring and retired from that game. The aim was to get as many marbles out as possible, including the last one. It was necessary to speed away as far as possible having hit the last one out of the ring. Everyone then had a shot at you. if someone'fluked" a hit, you forfeited the marbles to the hitter and then started the next game. When shooting your marble you were not allowed to "funnick" [jerk your hand in the direction of the target. ] Funnikers often had their shootin hand held by another player to ensure there was "no funnicking".My best day saw me home to mum at "winners of 32" That season I won over 300 "dates".
The school was next to the Gawler oval which had a trotting track around it. We kids would sit on the bank above the road watching streams of cars coming from Adelaide and surrounds to the trotting meetings. We'd each claim a car as it arrived much to the amusement of all of the other kids especially if it was seen as an inferior model. Occasionally we'd be treated to the passage of the "night cart" powered by one horse as it arrived to disgorge the previous night's collection of night soil. It had a bell and hence the definition of a "hum dinger." That's a night cart with a bell as we all know. Gee we had lots of laughs about the night cart but it was a vital service in those days. Few people had a septic tank with a pull chain toilet. Most dunnies in those days were "long drops", including ours at no. 3 King Street where we lived. Toilet paper came from the Advertiser at tuppence a copy. Not the best toilet paper by any means but we had something to read while "abluting."
In 1951, we all headed for high school. It was about half way up Lyndoch Hill on the way to Sandy Creek.We had a different teacher for each subject and in first year we studied nine subjects, English, Latin, French, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, General Science, General Knowledge and Woodwork [the girls did Domestic Studies]. If you scored 85% or better in a subject you got a" credit". I got 9 subjects and 8 credits at the end of the year. But Keith Applebee from Two Wells cut me down to size.He got 9 subjects and 9 credits. A smart boy was Keith. W.T. J [Billie] Middleton was a noted science and maths teacher who used to put me in my place if straying. " Sit down Krieg - you make the place look untidy." Jock Chambers taught Book keeping but found himself teaching us Science in first year. There was Kingsley Fletcher for General Knowledge and Brian Cornelius for Woodwork. Aubrey Lange and Bertie Lamshed also taught Woodwork. Brian Cornelius and his wife Dawn, had 5 children with four of their names commencing with P. They were Peter, Paula, Petra and Patrice. The last girl was Dierdre I think. Jeff Sladden came to teach Physical Education while Ruth Simmonds taught English and French. She also had us for singing. A nice gentle man, Colin Mc Mutrie [Mookie] had us for Latin and I remeber him telling of a famous student translation [Latin into English] of Caesar adsum iam forte, Brutus aderat, Caesar sic in omnibus, brutus in is at. Caesar had some jam for tea, Brutus had a rat, Caesar was sick in an omnibus, Brutus in his hat.
As we progressed into the senior years J.W. Wilson took charge of chemistry and the Headmaster throughout those high school years was J.K.Nicholls. I finished at Gawler high school at the end of 1955. We had to go to Adelaide for Leaving Honours and so that's where I headed in 1955. I went to Adelaide Boys High School where I repeated my Leaving studies, having made a hash of it in 1955 at Gawler.
I commenced 1956 at Adelaide Teachers College where I began training to become a primary school teacher. Student teachers spent a few weeks at the end of each year doing some "prac teaching" I spent several weeks at the Gawler Primary School under the supervision of North Adelaide and state footballer, Don Lindner. He used to accompany the kids in singing lessons on a violin. He was a very competent violinist. In 1957, I spent the first 11 weeks of the year [Jan-March] at the Woodside army barracks doing "National Service" That's where we learnt how to be soldiers. Somehow, I was placed in C Company, 14 Platoon where all of the Port Adelaide and Broken Hill boys seemed to be. That was an eye-opener but we had lots of fun as we prepared to do our bit for the country. I was a pretty good shot having had lots of practice as a kid and in my teens. I outshot the Company captain one day on the rifle range. Over 25 yards, I shot a less than half inch group [5 shots] with two bullets very nearly going through the same hole. It surprised everybody, including me. There was lots of chaiacking among the trainee soldiers over their shooting skills. " You couldn't hit shit off a lamp post." and " You couldn't hit a cow in the arse with a hand full of wheat." being common put downs for those less skilled.
In 1957, Wattle Park Teachers College opened and we primary school trainees were housed there. I did a third year at Wattle Park in 1958. That extra year there and at Adelaide University enabled me to have a secondary school appointment. And so, in 1959, at 20 years of age, I was appointed to Millicent High School to commence my teaching career. My wife Geraldine, then 15 and in Intermediate [Year 10] was a student at the school. It wasn't until she had turned 18 that we started dating.I'll tell you more about my years from age 20 to age 76 later on.