Grandad Dale starts school

I started school when I was five (in 1947).  In those days, Maungaturoto had only one school, which went from the primers (year 1) all the way up to form five (year 11), I think.  I don’t remember much about those very early days in my life, but here are some of my memories (some nice, some sad).

Teachers were much tougher on their students in those days, and were allowed to smack even little five-year-olds.  I was naturally left-handed and, at that time, teachers were told to try and force left handers to use their right hand.  I can remember getting smacked around the legs with a ruler because I couldn’t (or, maybe, wouldn’t) use my right hand.

In those days, we used to get free milk delivered to the school, every day, in dinky little quarter-pint bottles (120ml).  They had a cardboard top with a hole you could push out to put a straw in (similar to those “Just Juice” containers you put plastic straws in, but the container was a glass bottle).  In the winter, our teacher used to put the crate of bottles next to a little pot-bellied stove to warm them up.  She was probably trying to be kind, but the warm milk tasted really yukky.

Talking about milk, I can remember milk being delivered to our home (in those days, you couldn’t buy milk in the shops in country towns).  The truck would come around and we would take a metal container out to our front gate (the container was made of aluminium, it had a little wire handle, and was called a “billy”).  The milkman would ladle milk out from his great big container into our little one.  Later, we got a cow, which grazed in the five acres out the back of our house.  I used to milk it occasionally and, one day, just for fun, I lay under the cow and milked it straight from the cow’s teat into my mouth.  Half it went over my face and it was awfully warm and creamy.  Yuk.  Seventy years later, I still don’t like milk much!!!

Once a year, our school would have a “lamb and calf day”.  The pupils would bring along their pets to be judged (“best calf”, “best lamb”, etc).  There were also competitions for cooking (“best scones”, “best pikelets”, etc) and decorations like this:

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We played lots of sports.  The boys played mainly rugby and cricket and athletics, and the girls played mainly netball and athletics.  In those days, however, netball was called “basketball”, and what we now call basketball was called “indoor basketball”.  It was only much later that “basketball” became “netball” and “indoor basketball” became “basketball”.  Whew, complicated, eh.

By the way, my mother and father (“Nanna Nell” and “Grampy” to their grandchildren) were both really good athletes when they were young.  In 1926, when she was a girl, mum set the Whangarei Girls High School triple-jump record (I’ve still got the little silver trophy she won).  It was her very first attempt at triple-jump and yet her distance wasn’t beaten for another thirty years!!!  Dad was a top local runner and used to compete in running races at country shows like the Waipu Highland Games.  Later, when we kids were growing up, he became the coach at the Maungaturoto Athletics Club, which was fun for us kids.

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