Saturday, 17 January 2015

More ex student recollections

JOAN GRESSWELL (nee RITCHIE) (A pupil 1943 - 1950)

My family have lived in Glen Park district for 6 generations. Ben Hazeldine who currently attends the school is a great, great, great grandson of William Ritchie who built the White Swan Hotel. William's son, James Ritchie, was the forester and occupied the forest quarters on the west of the reservoir.

Some of my earliest memories of school are about walking home, which most pupils did in our days. The worst times were when I had to walk alone. I had to walk past what seemed to be acres of furze and cape broom bushes and that was bad enough. The most frightening bit, though was having to cross a bridge in the road and imagining that maybe a troll lived under there, or that the hobyahs would come creeping out. Those scary stories were pretty real to us in those innocent days before TV.

I have good memories of walking home too. Some of the nice times were calling on my father's cousin, Miss Anas Ross, who lived across from the church. Anas loved to spoil us with Marie biscuits which we washed down with the Fizzo she made with cold water from the well.Sometimes we used to get the job of mailman. This happened if the mailman left Clarke's mail at the Post Office (Yes, in Glen Park!) instead of leaving it in their box. When that happened, Mrs Peterkin might give us the mail to deliver on our way home. It was hardly according to Australia Post regulations, of course, but they were different days and we didn't mind a bit – Mrs. Clarke usually rewarded us with a feed of sponge cake.

When Miss Coad was our teacher (1944?), she made a feature of our end of year concert. It was the highlight of our school year. I can't remember the theme of the concerts but I can remember the excitement of some children dressed as fairies and someone as the plum pudding. Naturally, there was always a big Christmas tree covered with tinsel and stars which we helped to decorate.

We didn't have the number of excursions schools have today but occasionally we had a school picnic at the lake. In those days we had the swinging boats, the zoo and the steamer rides to keep us amused. It was always a real community get-together and we thought our simple sandwiches and cake picnic a grand affair. Once or twice we even went to Geelong beach by bus - a truly big adventure in those days.

Royalty was "big" in those days also. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester visited the shire when the Duke was Governor General and Mr Clarke was the Council President. All the district schools - dressed in our Sunday best - assembled in Bungaree to greet and cheer them.

One of the big events in my time at the school was the construction of the basket ball court. It seemed there was a little more money and manpower available after the war - both to build facilities and to provide a specialist "Phys Ed" teacher - who came once to show us what to do.

Perhaps the biggest project ever undertaken in Glen Park was the building of the White Swan Reservoir. There seemed to be years of activity with earth-moving machines roaring day and night. Night shift operated under very powerful electric lights. We take them for granted these days at sporting venues and the like, but they were certainly a novelty when most of Glen Park was still without power. We lived about a kilometre from the site and the lights were so powerful they cast shadows into our kitchen at night when we turned the lamp out. One of the most noticeable aspects of the "Swan" construction was the incessant convoy of gravel trucks carting mullock from mines in Ballarat to be used as fill in the wall. The filling of the reservoir was also a sad time in many ways as some of the historical landmarks of Glen Park were lost forever. Some of these had strong connections with my own family.

The Buchan family property was submerged. The Post Office was run by this family for many years. The Peterkin family then took over the Post Office.

The White Swan Hotel, which gave its name to the dam, was one such casualty. William Ritchie, my great grandfather, built and operated the hotel. It was situated on the extension of the lane opposite Clarkes Road and was there until flooded by the rising waters. As well as a hotel it was also a general store for the hundreds of miners in the district at the time. These included many Chinese. In fact, family lore has it that there were 1000 Chinese miners in a local camp who bought up to a ton (1000kg) of rice a week from the store at the peak of the local gold rush.William Ritchie was a gold buyer as well as publican and storekeeper. To resell the gold, he walked to Geelong at night, with his mastiff dog at his side, to avoid bushrangers.

Returning to school stories, one of the pleasant memories that comes to mind is the open fire. On the coldest days the teacher allowed us to move our desks a little closer to the fireplace to keep warm. Another thrill was when, with the aid of some outside help we acquired our first school radio. I can remember the nature studies and singing programs that we all followed in the broadcast book.

There always seemed to be a piano, at least in my days and this was mostly used for social events held at the school. There was at least one other use made of it though, I had my "John Thompson" lessons on it - given after school by Miss Terry.

Threats of closure, though topical, are not new either. Rather than transferring to a Ballarat secondary school at Form 1 (Year 7) in 1948, Norma Coffield and I were asked to stay on to complete Grade 8 to help keep the numbers up. Although the garden was already laid out, Mr Svenson (C. 1947), an ex-serviceman and keen gardener, gave prizes to encourage all the children to assist with a major refurbishment of the garden during his years at the school. The big pines were well established even in the 1940's and were one of our favourite play areas. With no computer games, super-heroes and monsters to amuse us, some of our favourite games were to use the "fir-bob" as we called them (pine needles) to set out plans for playhouses and to thatch cubby houses we made from branches and scrap timber.

Do the kids get it too easy these days? In our day we all had allocated duties that included cleaning and dusting the school every day, bringing in the firewood, filling the ink wells and other chores.


During the year 1926 Miss Coles was teaching at Glen Park SS 1135.

As Miss Coles resided in Melbourne she boarded at our home, so at the early age of 4 1/2 years I walked off to school holding that lovely ladies hand. Those days we wrote on our slates with scratchy slate pencil.

Mr Allen taught next, he rode a motor bike. Mr Robert Gowan rode a bicycle out from Ballarat each day, he was a wonderful teacher. Those days we had a Garden Plot at the back of the school ground, we all shared the chores of digging, planting, weeding, watering etc of the vegetables, flowers & strawberries. Some times we would go for nature hikes. We planted pine plantations, our parents would come with us and help on Arbor days, the proceeds of sales of the pines would go to the up keep of the school.

The only heating at the school was the open fire place. After roll call of a morning we would do exercises and running on the spot to warm us up before class. We would take turns to walk to the Post Office to get the teacher's mail during our lunch time break.

The girls played Football, Cricket, Rounders etc with the boys, we did not have competitive sports in those days.

Mr Gowan tried to teach the children swimming in a muddy dam not far from the school. I mostly minded the little ones, never did learn to swim.

We used to decorate the school and have a Concert for the Christmas break up. Proceeds would go to the up keep of the school.

During the latter years the District School Inspector would walk into the classroom unannounced and I might say unexpected by Teacher and Pupils. Mr Gill or Mr Heathcote are names I remember, they would pick out a child at random to recite a poem or work out a sum on the blackboard, examine our work books etc. I do not know whose face would be the reddest the poor teacher or the pupils. On the last day of school Mr Gowan always had a special treat for us. I shall never forget the lovely red and yellow toffee slabs that the senior girls would crack up and place in white paper bags.

Perhaps that is why I shall always have proud and wonderful memories of having been educated and received my Merit Certificate from Mr Gowan, Head Teacher of the "Glen Park State School 1135" in 1934.

ALAN JEFFREY (A pupil 1925 - 1933)

The Jeffrey family had lived in the district all of their school days. There were 16 children in our family, Mum and Dad made 18.

We all went to Glen Park all our lives, we lived about 1.5 miles away and walked to school at all times rain, hail or shine. There were as many as 8 going to school at one time and no one went to another school. We had a lot of good times while there.

Every year we used to have a school and Sunday school picnic combined at Lake Wendouree gardens we used to have concerts each year and a Dance afterwards. We also had a day trip to the Zoo.

Glen Park had a Cricket team in the Ballarat Competition. The team was very competitive and won one premiership and were runners up three times. We had to call on boys from Wattle Flat and Pootilla to keep the team viable. We also had and still do have a very efficient Fire Brigade. Myself, Mrs Ritchie and an officer from the Country Fire Authority formed the Brigade in 1951 or 1952 and it has functioned ever since.

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