Reminiscences of an Evandale school teacher 1936

Evandale 1936 – Donald M. Sullivan

As a very nervous 17 year old, my introduction to teaching at Evandale was far from encouraging. Sitting at the table trying to look occupied and composed before classes commenced. A girl 8-10 peeped around the door and, after a scrutiny of fully 10 seconds, lordly proclaimed along the corridor I don’t like m as well as the last one’. And so in late January 1936, I began my 43 years with the Education Department.

A lasting impression of Evandale (despite the initial morale deflation it is a favourable one) of its Englishness. It could easily have been transported from the “old” country: a village with its two traditional churches opposite each other – Church of England (Rev. Earle) and Presbyterian (Rev. Fraser) – with traditional incumbents; houses bult to the footpath, hedges, rolling fields. One could also sense a social strata difference, probably heightened by the Depression. The homes of the early settlers on the land were substantial, later arrivals on the land built timber, Federation type homes while those in the village more mainly of modest timber construction.

Fortunately, over fifty years there have been no basic changes in the main street.

The school building comprised three classrooms opening on to a verandah extending the length of the building – and each room had a fireplace. The headmaster, Mr Houstein, occupied the middle room with Grades 5-7 and he could keep an eye on proceedings in the other rooms through glass connecting doors. The infant classes were in the northern room with Miss Haley, who was transferred during the year. The junior teacher with Grade 3-4 and in the remaining room (he too, was transferred during the year).

School life was a regimented, no frills regime with the three R’s dominating – and the same could be said of most schools of that era – but the pupils survived and made their way in life. Basically the youngsters didn’t differ from those of today – a few independent spirits, many lively ones, an occasional rebellious body and a sprinkling of “goody-goodies”.

Morning and afternoon classes commenced with the “fall-in”, and inspection, followed by a procession into class, usually to a march strain from an old gramaphone. The curriculum was a restricted one with variation provided by singing once a week and likewise drawing (usually an object or objects placed on the table). Physical education consisted mainly of drill vie: astride jumping, arms flinging etc to counting, and some pattern marching. The rest of the week was devoted to the “essentials”, culminating in Friday morning tests. There was no school library, no bus transport of pupils and no parent’s association. The pupils arranged their own sporting activities although there was an inter-school sports event with Campbell Town. The main extra??? event during my short stay was a special train excursion to Hobart.

It is amazing how some things come to mind. One intellectually retarded lad had a strong aversion to composition (who didn’t?). On one occasion I persuaded him to really write and he did, two full pages with a full stop at the end of each. He was delighted and I was pleased but would have been more so if I had read the conclusion of one of Mark Twain’s letters to his editor who had complained about a lack of punctuation marks with the comment “distribute as required”.

1936, however did see a change in educational outlook at a higher level, the beginning of area schools.

I was fortunate to be boarding with the Misses Carter (Grace, Jess and Ella) – it was a home away from home. Their brother Bruce, who lived next door with his wife, daughter and black dog, conducted a carrying business with the help of his son, Royce, and Tom Hoggett.

I remember Teecie, (is there a cricket connection?). She was the apple of her father’s eye and there was a … dog which regarded himself as her protector. He could be a savage blighter – his other role was guardian of the lorry, especially when in motion.

Bruce was quite an identity given to speaking his mind but would not hesitate to do a good turn. In his quiet moments he liked to reminisce, particularly about football – he was known as the “black snake” in his Cananore playing days, and I would be very much inclined to give him a wide berth on the football field. He was not impressed with an early statute which required the driver of a traction engine to be proceeded by a person carrying a red flag. “As if the …..thing couldn’t be heard.”

Royce had many trips to Launceston, usually with Tom Pullen and they didn’t always go to the pictures – one of the set had either seen the film or had been well-briefed by someone who had!

The recreational life of the village was typical for a small country town of the era: cricket and football teams naturally, some hockey, a tennis court and swimming in a river pool. Of the social scene, the two hotels definitely had their role but I cannot speak from experience) dances were frequent and periodic trips to “town” (pictures, parties etc), usually in Bruce’s truck, converted with tarp and seats, after the day’s milk run. The concert party were a lively group, and names that readily come to mind are Mrs Cheek, Stancome Mothers, Harry, Betty and Tom Pullen. Rehearsals were great fun with an exhilaration of walks home on frosty moonlight nights and not always in a group.

As far as I can recall the three main events in the town were the annual sheep sale, the show, (equestrian, sheep and handcrafts), and Anzac day, when the community participated genuinely and patriotically.

All in all, Evandale had, as it certainly has today, much to offer.