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Remember Those Early Years At School?

Going to school in the 50s, 60s and 70s was a completely different experience from that which our children and grandchildren might have today.

In fact, from the very first day, for many, it was a traumatic event.

From the cover of the book Adelaide Remember When, school children from Ethelton Primary drinking their school milk

From the cover of the book Adelaide Remember When, school children from Ethelton Primary drinking their school milk

Unlike now, there was not a lot of preschool activity such as play group, kinder gym or day care, so it was pretty much, one day at home as normal with mum and the younger siblings, and the next, thrown in a room full of complete strangers and an adult, also a complete stranger, out in front of the class, telling everyone to be quiet, no talking, do as you’re told.

In a recent post on the Adelaide Remember When Facebook page, many followers of the page joined in with their own recollections of their first day.

Lucy Tipani remembered: “It was traumatic. Thrown into the unknown. I can still see myself running after my mother crying, as she was leaving. But there was a lovely old teacher, Miss Fox, who tried to make it all easier for me, bless her.”


Terina Edwards told this story: “My teacher said at lunchtime ‘you can all go now’. So I did, I went home. I walked the three miles (5km) home and I remember it like yesterday. It was so hot and no one was home, so I had to sit on the veranda until someone came. Mum came running up to me and said ‘where have you been?’ She told me the police had been looking for me all afternoon. When I told her the teacher said that we could go, I thought she meant home, she didn’t actually say to lunch. Mum started to laugh.”

One of the other most enduring memories of those early years at school is the obligatory bottle of milk which was normally drunk at recess time. There was obviously little consideration in those early years of how the milk might be kept for hours without refrigeration.

Each morning at about 9am, steel crates full of these small bottles of milk would arrive and then be left sitting outside, sometimes in the blazing hot Adelaide sun, until recess time at 10.15am. By then the milk would be well and truly off, but that didn’t seem to bother the teachers, who proceeded to make sure that we all drank our one-third pint, every last drop of it!

And school discipline at that time was very different from what passes as discipline today. During those years, teachers had to be treated with the utmost respect, were always addressed as “sir” or “miss”, or by their full title, and generally ruled their classroom with a fist of iron.

In my Catholic school, the nuns simply terrified the kids with the constant promise of eternal damnation in hell and a regular caning, whether you deserved it or not, just to keep discipline. At high school I got the “cuts” at least once a day (as did most of the boys), while the girls got the ruler around the legs, or across the knuckles, mostly for talking in class.

In some government schools the headmaster usually administered the cane but at Catholic schools, every nun could beat you and your parents would not say a word.

From my own observation, school nowadays appears a much kinder and certainly a more gentle place. Children and their parents now would never accept the kind of treatment that we copped as kids growing up in post-war Australia.

What are your memories of going to school?

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37 Responses to Remember Those Early Years At School?

  1. Pam January 10, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    My first day of school I got the ruler over the knuckles for talking. Prior to this being the 3rd child in the family I was looking forward to going.

    • Janine Parsons November 15, 2018 at 4:57 pm #

      I just found the black and white photo with the children drinking their milk. I found a few familiar faces, but it took me a while to find myself…I’m the one having a great time playing on the slippery dip! The little girl 3rd from the left is still a close friend of mine.

  2. hank duyverman January 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    My first day at school in South Australia was at Mansfield Park Primary in 1954 and then Rose Park Primary, then Ascot Park. The differences were palpable. Although discipline was tough everywhere, it seemed to be meted out differently. It may have been the progression of time, but corporal punishment certainly was greatest in the earlier years. Rose Park, was still the pick of the schools and strong in my memory were the kindlier teachers – Mr Judd for one. At Ascot Park, Mr McPhee for grade 7 was the pick. He read to us fervently and the imagery of “Prester John” still cuts deep. It was this inauspicious start in literature, strengthened by Mrs Manoel and Mr Brewer [Marion High] that left me with a life-long passion for reading and the appreciation of language. I remain indebted to those early pioneers of “nurture”, “support” and “discovery” in learning.

    • elida stocco January 11, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

      I was reading your message on here about schools my first school was Ascot park in the late 50s I cant remember any teachers there as I was in different schools ever 2 yrs I just want to say it if you can remember a cross the road there was a fish and chip shop that he would have the chips ready for us kids 3d 6d and 9d and were wrapped in news paper and taste the best chips we ever tasted I was in the infants side as ascot park was a big school I hope im not bothering you in this message but I just had to write to you that’s my real name but im using my middle name as i don’t like Elida my married name is murada and maybe you might also remember the kids that went ther my cousins called Roy, Michael ,.and Kenny Seccafien …….
      THANKYOU….so mush for reading from me

      Regards JENNY MURADA

  3. danny bocchino January 11, 2015 at 4:59 am #

    I started out in the world of education in 1964 at Payneham Infant School. For my 1st 6 months in my 1st school, I was seated in back row of class-room. It was my silent world for each of those days till someone realised that I was hearing impaired – literally deaf. I did not learn anything at Payneham Infant School.

    Then, I was enrolled for a few years at S.A. Speech & Hearing Centre at Gilberton in 2nd half of 1964. I also was given my 1st bulky hearing aid in same year of 1964.

    Not only I learnt how to communicate in both lip reading & the listening skills via use of a hearing aid, I also learnt the 3 R’s (reading, writing & arrithmatic).

    • Wolfgang Fellegger January 12, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

      Danny just wondering if you are the same guy that lived behind me at Felixstowe and played hockey

  4. Wendy Taylor January 11, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    I remember those bowl haircuts 🙂 i also remember my first day of school being wrenched from my mother at St Pius X Catholic School.
    I remember being terrified of Monday mornings. If we hadn’t gone to church on the Sunday we had to line up on the platform for a dose of ‘ the strap” from Mother Rock.
    It usually had company because my Brother Shaun was usually up there for some reason or another!

    I remember when my younger brother started. Shaun was lined up for the strap & because we didn’t want to leave him there my youngest brother started crying , then the rest of us siblings cried also, ( so she took it upon herself to give the whole 4 of us the strap)

    We either got it on the palms of our hands or they pulled down our socks & strapped our calves . Ouch , i can still feel that sting !

    Parents never intervened back then & Mum always made cakes for the staff.

    I remember having sour milk.

    I do remember the Big black & white television being wheeled in on the high stand so we could all watch the moon landing in 1969.

    I remember phonics & listening to a educational radio show every Thursday & writing poetry.

    But mostly i remember being a scardy cat.

    • Phil Shea December 21, 2015 at 8:20 am #

      I went to Christian Brothers in Wakefield Street. Late 50,s early 60,s. And discipline was very much part of the way the place was run. I seemed to get the strap regurlarly ,, and it was probably deserved . But it was measured out in degrees of severity . For what seemed like minor infractions youd get the strap on each hand , and depending on the scale of your indiscretion you could end up getting ” 6 of the best ” This was when [ The Brothers ] all grown men , would bring the strap almost off the floor behind they,re back and be almost off they,re feet with the force of the swing and made contact with your hand , if you pulled away in terror you,d get an extra one. I recall noting in my school diary jotting down the punishment , the amount of straps on each hand and by whom the punishment was delivered . It made for interesting reading at the end of the year. If they misjudged they,re swing and end up hitting your wrist as well , your wrist would swell up quite considerably and the blood vessels would burst and your wrist would be blue for days afterward .This was all done in front of the entire class. Each teacher had one of these straps in a pocket under his Habit .Very much de rigeur. But by far the worse was being forced to drink the milk . It came in little I pint glass bottles and was usually left out in the sun for hours , thus becoming curdled , And you nwere forced to drink it . NO EXCEPTIONS. Little wonder so few of us drink milk to this day . Looking back on it ,I could only surmise that these people would end up in jail if it happened these days

  5. Joanna January 11, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    There is NO DOUBT that ‘school’ was a very different experience back in the ’50, 60’s & ’70’s ….. The whole Planet has changed significantly – ‘HUMANITY’ has doubled in Number and LIFE is Very different …..

    I think my South Australian Education was BRILLIANT …. Mind you I never endured ‘Catholic School’ and NOW MY ‘JOB’ is ‘fixing the Education System of the Whole Planet’ FROM ADELAIDE ….

    Adelaide is only 178 years old – Our Indigenous only few (and Had a Law that was Against Hierarchy and Materialism …. and certainly wasn’t ‘Genesis Based’.

    ‘GOD’ needs an ‘Image Change’ VIA the Law …. Our Law is from C of E Doctrine – Our ‘Queen’ (our Head of State) is Anglican …. 350 – 500 years ago the English ERADICATED the Roman Catholics … they took the ‘English Language’ Doctrine and Law around the Planet with them ….

    The Catholics got back in to Britain & Australia took many ‘starving Irish’ ….. NAH – Our Whiole System of Education needs Fixing …. luckily it has all been ‘Written’ and the ‘Art Work’ behind the Politics “WHEN THE WAR IS OVER” is happening ….

    From Adelaide, SA we can do a ‘New Genesis’ which will make sure we don’t look Like the Bethlehem in the ‘Holy Lands’ …… A New Global Ideology is emerging that will bring ‘Peace on Earth Forevermore’.

    • Andy January 12, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

      Sorry Joanna, but this has got nothing to do with reminiscing about school days – it’s totally out of order.

      • Terry L September 23, 2016 at 10:15 am #

        Even in a gentle and musing blog such as this, you can’t escape the rant!

  6. Paula January 12, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    I started school in Adelaide in 1973, the school I went to had a “breezeway” between the library and the junior primary class rooms. Fortunately, our milk was always cold and shaded. I loved it!! Often having more than one bottle from other students who were not so keen on the lactose drink. I still enjoy having a glass of cold milk to this day.

  7. Kathy P January 12, 2015 at 8:19 am #

    It was 1969. I remember walking in with my mum. I was holding on to her skirt. I was crying and terrified. It was overwhelming. I am the eldest of 3 and came from a non English speaking background. My teacher was Mrs McKell. She was nice but very firm. Quite scary for a 5 year old who had never been outside the sanctuary of home and the familiarity of cousins houses as my playground. Yes we went to beaches and parks etc but that was always in the safety of my parents being around. To walk into what for me, at the time, was a huge complex of strangers made up of other children and strange adults (teachers & some parents) was extremely difficult.

    Yes it was certainly different in that era. I recall after that initial day, my transport to school was on the back of my grandpa’s bycicle. He had a special basket type seat made up for me. No helmets then!!

    I have great memories of the milk bottle moments, of playing in the yard with my French friend Veronica. I have memories of losing my first tooth at recess one day. I bit into my apple to find both blood and my tooth in it. I cried and binned the apple.
    I have sad memories too. My third grade teacher died tragically in a skiing accident.
    I recall the hot summers where we had to stand still for what seemed an hour or more (maybe it was) during assembly which were held outside in the yard. I recall assemblies well as I often fainted during them from the extreme heat.
    I recall my first knuckle wrap with a ruler. I was caught passing a note to my friend in Grade 6.

    I went to Challa Gardens School in Kilkenny. SA. My dad attended the same school for 2 years in the 50’s. I loved school. I had many friends and have some very good memories. I have the black and white class photos which I will always treasure.

  8. Andy January 12, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    Love the photo’ at the top. I was in that group, although I don’t remember the photograph being taken. I started at Ethelton Infant School in 1960 and I look back on those years now with great fondness.
    I loved my school days, despite getting the ruler across the hand on my very first day for turning around at assembly to stare at all the other kids. I’d never seen so many kids in one place before.
    I was sacked from my first ever job while in year1. I was a wood monitor and my job was to go to the wood shed (about 20 metres behind the photographer in the top picture) with the other monitor to bring back a container of mallee logs to keep the fire going in winter. It was a great job, until we were sprung whilst building cubbies in the woodpile.
    The invented games with friends, the walks to and from school (about 3 km each way) with friends or neighbours were all part of a different age. I can’t say I was really fond of the warm milk though.
    I didn’t get into trouble much at school, but the consequences were always swift and severe when I did. I never told my parents because the consequences would often be repeated at home.
    I still have vivid recollections of my infant school days when I smell fresh pencil sharpenings – the two are somehow linked. Those were my “good old days.”

    • Janine November 15, 2018 at 5:04 pm #

      Just like Andy I remember the smell of leather satchels and fresh apples and I recalled that smell each time I went to visit the school many years later to see local community musical nights. I also remember my Grade one teachers roll book with ‘contact’ of white bunnies. And the Principal was lovely but he told us some of the former students had been concreted into the walls for misbehaving. I;m pretty sure we knew he was just kidding. I couldn’t go back to see the school when it had been changed into apartments. It just broke my heart to see all of the good memories removed. but I did finally have a look after all these years. Which one are you Andy? I’m the one on the slippery dip!

  9. Sandra M January 13, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    I to love the picture at the top & am also in it front row 5th girl from left short dark hair my maiden name is “Long” great school (Ethelton Primary) didn’t like the warm milk tho

    • Joy January 24, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

      Hi Sandra, My friend Kerry went to Ethelton during this time and thinks she might be in the photo, but is curious about the year this was taken. Do you remember when it was?
      She remembers a teacher called Miss Lush who was hit in the eye by a student throwing a rock and as a result had to have a prosthetic eye.

  10. paul s July 21, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    I love reading about the old days for us pommy migrants i couldnt believe it the other week i turned up to do a job for a customer and she was an old classmate from 1970 at high school. I attended Para hills west primary in the 60s does anybody remember playing marbles in the dirt behind the prefab buildings and when it got too hot the teacher would open a trap door in the side of the wall to let cool air in but the wind blew hot 40 degree air in but we didnt care we were to young to bother
    Jam sandwiches and bobo cordial for lunch in a plastic lunch box.Walking home through a dirt padock where houses are nowbuilt .

  11. paul s July 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

    Looking for john king from para hills in the sixties best friend for years till he moved away. used to rollar skste with him every day Great memories Went to Para hills west primary together.Great lad sad how time and life makes people drift apart .Probably to young to realize that you should hold on to friendships if possible.Love to here from him.

  12. paul s July 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

    Looking for john king from para hills in the sixties best friend for years till he moved away. used to rollar skste with him every day Great memories .Great lad. sad how time and life makes people drift apart .Probably to young to realize that you should hold on to friendships if possible.Love to here from him.

  13. GT July 25, 2015 at 1:11 am #

    The warm milk was horrible on a hot day lol

    I used to be the milk monitor for our class and would deliver it to our room and then request permission to go to the toilet into which I would pour my sour milk lol

  14. Phil Shea December 28, 2015 at 5:25 am #

    The thing that bemused me , was that the connection between being forced to drink warm curdled milk and the school yard/playground perennially smelling of human vomit seemed lost on these so called educators , go figure.

  15. Laurie October 22, 2016 at 3:07 pm #

    I went to Challa Gardens Primary school and remember my teacher Mrs Truman who never hit a student once in her career and retired late in life. She would come and dress me at home and take me to school sometimes and was such a lovely person. I have such fond memories of her. She was the Teacher for the Opportunity Class, what today the Special School. My son has Downs Syndrome and goes to a Special School in Adelaide and his teacher reminds me of her.

    • Lynnette Dale June 10, 2023 at 12:06 pm #

      Laurie, my brother was in miss Truman’s class, as you say she was the best teacher, his name was Leigh Martin, I always remember a mrs Sanderson she was my first teacher there, can not remember the year, then grade six miss Smith and Mr Humphris grade 7
      A lot of memories there

  16. Nick Gagliardi December 20, 2016 at 9:48 am #

    in the 60s any photos of the class kids?

  17. Nick Gagliardi December 20, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    trying to find Raelene Knox and Christine Pudney they were in my class at ethelton

  18. Juia February 19, 2018 at 3:00 pm #

    I went to a school in Para Hills. We had just emigrated from the U.K in 1964
    Does anyone remember the fire that broke out and the school had to close?
    My teachers name was Miss Tucker.

    • Kevin Hopkins October 22, 2018 at 11:36 pm #

      Hi Julie my name is Kevin ; went around with Little Jean;Joe Spezzano and the crowd at Para Hills shopping centre.Often wonder where they all are now that was 1964/

  19. Gregory Dolman January 20, 2019 at 11:56 am #

    I am looking for anyone that went to para Hills primary school or Blackfriars Priory school

  20. Michael Smith September 25, 2019 at 3:23 pm #

    i cant believe it ?

  21. Miss Magoo May 23, 2020 at 7:16 pm #

    I went to school in the late 70s in Adelaide and went to both playgroup and kindergarten. As did my husband. Perhaps those things came in during the mid 70s?

  22. Kevin hopkins January 9, 2021 at 8:11 pm #

    Anyone remember Para Hills shopping centre 1964 Joe Spezzano, Little Jean, Diane cass, dave robinson, carol robinson,Iva Smith Marylyn,Linda pauly.Lots came to see me off when i went back to UK i.

  23. Paul shelmerdine January 9, 2021 at 8:51 pm #

    Kevin Hopkins hi mate did you know my brother Bob. I used to have a beer with Dave Robinson over the years I believe he’s passed away now .

  24. DEAN GOWLING January 18, 2022 at 4:00 pm #

    do you remember a teacher Mr Jarvis cruel bastard ruined my childhood

    • Lynnette dale June 10, 2023 at 12:10 pm #

      Dean, remember him well, my brother Tony Martin was in his class

  25. Christiane Koenig October 26, 2022 at 12:30 pm #

    I went to findon infant school in Adelaide from 1969-71. Does anyone know the Adresse of it? Does it still exist? My mother was Sigrid Koenig a fashion designer those days. We moved to Hong Kong, Our familylife continued going to Iran, then when the time of the shah was over, we went to germany. I remeber beeing stared at my lunch when it contained dark german bread. the teacher made me speak in german to excuse myself when I was late. In those days i didn´t know of the german history.

  26. kym horsell August 3, 2023 at 6:30 am #

    I started kinder in 1960 and later went to the nearby Hectorville Primary School.
    I remember learning to sing ba ba blacksheep in French and learning the bones of
    the human body.
    I don’t remember much about the school grounds. I seemed to play between what I
    think were the 2 main buildings.
    I remember catching every disease known to science in the first year of school.
    Unfortunately my parents were in the police/military so we left Adelaide when I had reached
    Grade 2. The next time I lived there I was in “leaving” year of Highschool.
    Now — a few years later — I’ve done the rounds of past addresses and found none
    of the school I attended anywhere have survived 60y.
    Oh well. A different world. Only I am the same. 🙂

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