19 January 2014
All the back to school catalogues landing in my mailbox prompted nostalgic memories. Getting my stationary order was the best thing that happened to me all year. Brand new pencils, rubber, ruler and exercise books.
Fountain pens and plastic ink refills. Or a Schaeffer that sucked up ink from the bottle. Or plain old nibs slipped on the to handle, dipping it in the ink in the ink-well fixed sunk into the desk.
It was a bit humiliating a couple of times when school began and I did not have my stuff because mum could not pay for it. The school would rustle up something for me. Even just thinking about it, half a century later, tightens my chest and brings tears to my eyes. You would think I would be over it by now!
Sharpening my new pencils was a ritual that never ceased to inspire me with eagerness to get stuck into the new year of school. I can still recall the smell of the new painted wood as it shaved off, the tang of the lead. Mum would slice a flat edge off from the end of each pencil and I would write on my name with my new Biro. (I suppose that is still the same these days, unless you get a packet with your name already printed on the pencils. It is just not a big deal if you lose some because they are so cheap to buy.) And every year, I would have the same thought, what do I use the big hole in the sharpener for? I don’t think I ever had a pencil thick enough to make use of that hole while I was at school. I do now, my charcoal pencils.
Some years I covered my exercise books with plain brown paper, but others we had proper book cover paper and stuck on labels. Clag! oh yes, how could I forget Clag. I loved the stuff. Sure beat flour and water paste for ease of use. The books began so pristine. I wish one had survived to the present day. I do still have my childhood sketchbook though. Not that I know where it is at the moment. In the junk room. Hopefully not eaten by mice.
Sometimes my school clothes were secondhand, especially dearer items like blazers and bowler hats. But not always. We always had new shoes.
Protractor, you always had to have one. I wasn’t much good at maths. Just could not get interested, not the way I loved writing, reading, geography, history, art and crafts and learning French (cannot remember the language now of course — non, oui, la fenetre!) I got by in sewing and cooking.
School bags, catching school buses, playing hopscotch, the list goes on.
I will come back to this page one day and add associated memories to this list of schools.
Balmoral Consolidated School — and I was STILL in Grade One, having missed prep!
Gray Street Primary, Hamilton – Grade five
George Street Primary, Hamilton – Grade six
Hamilton High School – Forms 1-3
Casterton High School – Form 4