Backward Glance: School Days – Tales of reading, writing and arithmetic on the Sunshine Coast
  • Wednesday 27 January 2016
As children go back to school after the summer holidays, council’s Picture Sunshine Coast shares a selection of school memories while providing a glimpse of school days long gone.

Who remembers being stood in the corner facing the wall if you talked? 

Perhaps you can recall marching into the classroom or sharing a tin pannikin of water at the school tank. 

In the early days, children sat in rows on wooden benches at long desks facing the teacher. Slates and slate pencils were the basic equipment for the younger students. The advantage of slates over paper was that they could be wiped clean and used again and again. 

Children had to bring a cloth or sponge to school to clean the slate so they could begin again, but often some would use their own spit and their sleeve cuff! 

As pupils became more proficient, school “copybooks” were provided for writing practice. They used nibbed pens and blotting paper which was used to absorb excess ink and dry the surface of the work to avoid smudges. Later, ball point pens took over from pen and ink style writing. 

Break-up and sports days were attended by the whole community and a school picnic to the river or beach was met with excitement by the children of the district.

Teachers were posted to small country bush schools in places they had never heard of and there was a high teacher turnover at remote schools as many found it quite challenging.

Hunchy School, which opened in 1924, had 19 head teachers in the 46 years it existed. 

Teachers had to find lodgings in the area, perhaps at a farmhouse, which if they were city bred could be pretty daunting. 

If staying some distance from the school, they might have to travel and from by horse over rough bush tracks or even cross a river by boat. Falls from horses were not uncommon, but as roads improved the journeys to school became less hazardous. 

Getting to and from school was an adventure for the children and teachers alike. For many years schools allocated a portion of the grounds to be set aside for a horse or pony paddock.

When the younger children started school, mothers would walk them part way along the bush roads. Those reluctant to go would wait until mother had turned her back and then follow her home at a distance. 

By comparison with their early predecessors, most of the Sunshine Coast’s children of 2016 will travel to school in modern buses and over sealed roads.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Hero image caption:  

First pupils at Belli Park State School in 1908 

Carousel image captions:

Image 1: Sisters Sonia and Linda Suosaari rowing to school across the Maroochy River from Stoney wharf, Bli Bli ca 1950

Image 2:  Students and teacher J.T. Wilson in their classroom at Woombye School, 1910 

Image 3: Break up day at Hunchy State School, Hunchy, 13 December 1963 

Image 4: Teacher Grace Hodgens on her Ashby bicycle outside the Beerwah Hotel ca 1925