When people of my age (don't ask!) talk about their childhoods and their schooldays, there is an expectation that they will deliver a lecture with the theme: "Now in my day..." and tell you how tough it all was and how "the kids of today" don't know they're alive.
I don't quite see it that way. While I have very fond memories of a happy childhood and no recollection of serious problems at school, I do not see it totally through rose-coloured glasses. Some of it was good, some I would rather not have experienced.
I am realistic enough to admit that some of our modern creature comforts and advantages would have been welcome back then and I am pleased that my children and later generations were able to benefit from the advances and affluence of the last fifty years. I spent all of my school days, primary and secondary, in a country town on what is now the Sunshine Coast during the late nineteen forties and early fifties.
I walked a mile to school and a mile back, regardless of the weather. By the standards of those days, that wasn't really very far, although I walked it every day from the age of five until I was fifteen. I feel I should remind you, however that until I started High School, I, like all of the boys, went bare-footed every day. Even girls in less well-off families did not wear shoes - shoes were for Sundays and special occasions, such as class photographs (if you were in the front row!).
Only the well-off people in town and farmers had cars. A ride home from church was a luxury and a great thrill for us, especially when, like me, you were car-mad. Often it was standing in the back of a ute hanging on to the back of the cab or the fabric hood.
A real treat was when the summer rain came and the creek was over the town bridge. That meant we couldn't get to school. What a shame! That was rare, however and whatever the weather we had to trudge through the rain to school. It was typical that at just on three o'clock, a storm would break and of course I had no raincoat - it was either left behind at school or I had again ignored Mum's advice and not taken it to school at all.
A highlight of the walk home was a stop at the local fish shop for threepence (3 cents) worth of chips. In the later part of my time at school, there was a shop opposite the school where we could get a pie for sixpence (5 cents) if you had saved enough pocket money.
The primary school day, from around Grade 4, invariably began with a quick session of mental arithmetic around the class: "Neale, what is 235 plus 23?". Watch out if you didn't answer quickly. I don't remember ever having a teacher I didn't like. Perhaps I was a natural crawler! Of course, corporal punishment was the order of the day and you didn't dare get a mental arithmetic sum wrong, or write badly, or (Heaven forbid!) talk in class. Out came the ruler and it was a smack or two on the hand or across the knuckles. The ultimate was to be sent to the headmaster's office - that meant the cane across the hand or across the rear end. I refuse to say if I was ever on the receiving end or not and if so, certainly not what for!
We (my three brothers and two sisters and I) seem to have come out of it pretty well. Having caring parents and the influence of a strict Presbyterian upbringing leave their mark.
"Now in my day ......................."
Class photo 1951 - Neale is on the right, wearing a tie