At the end of the Second World War my father Eric purchased a 270 acre farm at Mooloo. This rural settlement was one of several surrounding the gold mining city of Gympie in the Mary Valley, Queensland, Australia. Eric needed to recover his health after those tough war years and anticipated a good rest cure while share croppers managed his land.
The settlement name, “Mooloo” was given to the area by the Kulbainbura aboriginal tribe, traditional inhabitants of that area prior to gold rush days. By the time we arrived in 1949 they’d long ago moved on.
Being city slickers we arrived for our first day at the Mooloo School by car. This caused immense interest as the toughened farm kids either jogged five to seven miles to school, rode horses or bicycles. It was unheard of to have someone driven to school, and they could see great potential for toughening these city slickers up. We’d provided them with long sought entertainment.
The second day my innocent city Father paid a courtesy call to our neighbors and found they had kids who attended Mooloo School as well. Would their kids see we were looked after going and coming from school until we knew the ropes? The parents assured Dad we were in good hands. The kids gave us long appraising looks and then glanced at each other with obvious evil intent.
Next day was the beginning of our real education. The neighbor kids started off down the mountain trail like kangaroos with bee hives in their pouches. We managed to keep up with them for the first mile, but our city upbringing began to have its effect. While they were waiting for us to catch up after each lap of the marathon they’d jump over bridges into several creeks on our way to school, school bags and all, and shimmy up muddy banks with whoops of joy, arriving at the road refreshed for the last stages of the journey. They didn’t seem to object to a wet lunch several hours later.
After several weeks of conditioning we managed to keep up with the two boys and a girl, but decided against any refreshing dips along the way. Eventually Dad heard through the grape vine we’d been providing entertainment to the school as they toughened us up, took pity on us and bought bikes to ride to school and back. The neighbor kids loved that. No longer were they inhibited by the slow city slickers. They could now lap us on our bikes.
Now you’ll surely understand when kids are persecuted as we’d been it develops a mean streak in their natures. Not being as rough and tough as the farm kids I resorted to strategies to keep their minds occupied.
One of the masterpieces, of which I’m justly proud, was the discovery that hooking a Ford coil from an ancient Model T to the rural schools tin urinal produced startling effects. It had a definite taming effect on those feral children. They emerged bow legged after each visit until they finally figured out where the buzz was coming from.
Another diversion which caused consternation to our teacher from time to time was the bolting of the school bell to the floor. The teacher was a rather cruel fellow, and delighted to beat us for the most trivial offences. In this day and age he would have been fired by the school system, but these were hardy days after World War II, and teachers reigned supreme. Obviously the teacher needed a lesson! Anyone heard of Figsens? No? I guess that dates me.
Well Figsens was a brand of pills whose specific purpose was to wake up old tired digestive systems. In cohorts with the girls who were expected to brew teacher’s morning and afternoon tea we added Figsens liberally to that refreshing brew.
We didn’t have TV in that era, so had to resort to other forms of entertainment. The huge decorative picture on the one teacher school wall was so placed to give us unimpeded reflected oversight of the campus and its activities. The original wide screen! Our teacher was a one man relay team that day rushing madly between the classroom and the convenience block. Sometimes he cheated and only did half a lap before rushing back to the comfort room.
Well we both survived the Mooloo school experience, though I carry with me battle scars from my regular rendezvous with the teacher’s cane.
Many years later on vacation to Australia from Asia I took my children on a nostalgia trip to old Gympie in whose shadow I was raised. On the outskirts of town is a mining museum where you can see some of the artifacts of the mining era, and other interesting snippets of Gympie history. They’ve relocated the old school to that site, and we discovered records of all those who passed through that school, now defunct.* Brother Barry and Sister Jan were there in those books. I called my children over to show them their Dad’s school records.
Would you believe it my name was not there! Had I been eliminated from the records of the school as a form of teacher revenge? Had I ever attended the school? But for those of you who are naturally skeptical scars prove I was there.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011, all rights reserved”
• The Mooloo rural school was closed in 1962