Early School Day Stories

My Memories of Pickering Brook School Days by Doreen Marchetti

From what I can remember, my eldest son Charles started his schooling at Pickering Brook in the year 1940, he was 5 years 11 months old. At that time it was the old school, a very small one at that. There was only one teacher then, Mrs. Richards, she had to have a monitor to help her. When Charles started school Malcolm Beard was only 4 1/2, I think and he was sent to school to keep the school open. As time went by they built a bigger school or added another classroom. Mr. Creswell was teacher then and we also had a shed built.

To raise funds for the Christmas Trees at the end of the year was hard. We would hold dances and when Rolf Harris was only 19 years old, we paid him 5 pounds to play the piano, so that goes back a long time. I thought 5 pounds was a lot of money then. My sister Lauree knitted. I have forgot how many Golliwogs for the smaller children and we had a man from Victoria Park who made a boat of wood work cheap for us, for the boys. The elder girls got sewing kits. They always had a lovely Christmas Tree at the end of school break up. Many dances were held in the hall then to raise funds for the P & C, it went towards things that were needed. As the district grew so did the population, we ended up with well over 100 children, and two teachers and a monitor by the name of Edna Hall. She was just out of training and boarded with my sister Jean (Mrs Miller) she had 2 children at school by then.

Then children planted trees there, they are still standing between the hall and school (not now), these trees were planted by some of the children on Arbour Day.

They also built a tennis court and children always had sport and competed against other schools. The teachers changed each year, it seemed we had a Mr Cresswell, and Mr Williams also young girl teachers but I have forgotten their names. Mrs. Greg Weston had a young teacher boarding with her, Dot Ayliffe was her name, I think.

The prison truck from Barton’s Mill would bring the children into school each day. As time went by they had a school bus.

I cannot remember when the convent was built, that did not last too long if I remember right.

I am sorry I cannot remember any more as memory not so good now, but I hope you can get a bit of help from this.

My Teaching Days at Pickering Brook School. by Mrs. E. Moore (Nee Hall)

In 1942 I was monitor teacher at Pickering Brook, Mrs Richards was the Head Teacher.

Transport in those days was quite a problem, as neither of us had cars. We caught a train from Perth Station which zig-zagged its way through the hills to Kalamunda, but you had to depend on transport to Pickering Brook. On one occasion I walked the distance from Charlie Marchetti’s* orchard. I boarded with Mrs Jean Miller who had a house on the property.* When going to Perth for week ends, the Prison Truck from Barton’s Mill would pick us up and drop us at Midland. To return on Monday mornings I would meet a wood carter in St. George’s Terrace, and be taken to the school.

For several months I observed Mrs Richards taking all classes, but later on a shed was converted to a school room, and I taught a permanent class. Infants and Std. 1 for the rest of the year. I helped a young girl doing her Junior* by correspondence who attended the school after school hours. A family from Islands north of Australia were transferred to the district and attended the school. Two boys – Ray Lees and Brian Michel were doing High School by correspondence.

Mrs. Beard was the pianist for our school concerts. Towards the end of the year our younger children put on a play – “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. We all enjoyed taking part in this concert.

*Charlie Marchetti’s property previously owned by the Thorley’s, and after by Mr & Mrs Ioppolo and now by M & K Condo.

* Mrs Jean Millers house is the cottage still standing in Mr Lui Marchetti’s property further up in Braken Road.

*Junior was what is now Year 10.

My School Days at Pickering Brook School as A Migrant Child. by Sara Marchetti

I was one of the migrant children that attended Pickering School in the fifties.

Having arrived from Italy in January 1950, I started school at the beginning of the first term for 1950. I still vividly remember my first day at a new school. I was wearing my new sun hat which my kind relations had made for us, as there were three girls in the family at that stage (Myself Sara, Clara and Josie) and a brother still a tiny tot (Lui Marchetti who later also attended the School).

Arriving at school and feeling a bit lost at not being able to speak English and also most things were strange as I had left a big school to come to this part of the world with very few classrooms.

The first to come up to me and introduce herself was Queenie Mazzardis now Mrs Q. Moro, she gave me all the help, as she spoke Italian and help me when trying to ask questions from the teachers when I required help.

The teachers must have felt like us, with the language barrier. I remember we were given school work that 1st Grade would have been doing until we got a better command of English.

There were a few of us that started that year and I remember being relegated to the verandahs to sit and do our work. I don’t know the reason, maybe it was so we didn’t disturb the other children in the class.

I remember quite well one assignment we were given to do. We had a page of words and next to it we had to draw the meanings. As none of us knew this word (Cheese) until one bright spark by the name of Frank Dell Franca said that he knew what it meant. If we all gave him a few coloured pencils each, he would tell us. Needless to say he knew no more than us as we all drew a (Church) as it sounded like a church in Italian.

We soon fitted in with the mainstream. Some left to go to other schools and others arrived so there was always a good mix of children.

We had sports on a Friday. There was sewing classes for the girls, and the boys had woodwork, some had gardening. It was really quite pleasant with the amenities that were available.

The teachers consisted of both female and male, and I’m sure they all left their mark on us , some more memorable than others, but I’m sure they all gave their best.

By the time I left school a new shelter shed was built and new classrooms were built on the site of the old ones.

A new oval was formed though it was all gravel and a bit hard on your bare feet. It gave us more room to play such games as softball, it is now grassed. We had swings, roman rings, see-saws. The girls played mainly on them, the boys played mainly cowboys and indians. Then the craze would switch to marbles and cricket in between.

Every now and then they (the boys) would have to be our partners when we danced at the hall.

I’m sure most of us would have fond memories of a school that played a large part in our formative years.

Reflections 1970 - 1973. by Mrs. Peg Anning

Late 1969 my husband and I were on long service leave overseas, when our son informed us we were posted to Pickering Brook School for the start of the year 1970. Our son did some searching and told us “it is in the hills”. We were delighted.

On our arrival back in W.A. we were anxious to see our new school. (I always say “our” new school as I felt as part of any school as my husband). Our delight came when we saw our lovely orchards – trees in orderly rows and fruit in abundance. The school house was the old “groupie” style, which we had lived in at two previous schools. But we had electricity!!! The electric stove never did work but we had a No. 1 Metters Wood Stove which came in for heating as well as cooking. The local timber mill came in handy for firewood.

An inspection of the school showed us three rooms and an office, a shelter shed in a grassy area and large pine trees. It was a three teacher school divided into “grades” and the year broken into three terms. School year began in mid February with the littlies starting in the year they were six. The pupils came from orchards, Barton’s Mill, and surrounding district. About 70 in all (if my memory serves me right). They were happy children. Older ones would shepherd younger ones and all were happy. The teachers names I can recall are Mrs. Jones, Miss Cuneo, Miss Oldfield, who taught with Mr. Anning, but not necessarily in the 1st year. I was involved in as much as if something or someone was needed it was involved or someone was needed it was “fetch Mrs. Anning”. Also I did the school cleaning. It was a year of getting to know each other. The year ended with me in hospital, and Mrs. Hitchins taking over the cleaning. The first year ended with a Nativity Concert in the Hall and a Christmas Party. The parents enjoyed a barbecue outside under the pine trees.

Unbeknown to us, during the school holidays the Nuns from the Catholic School on the corner were transferred. This was 1971. Gary Godbold was President of the P.& C., Ken Ellery Secretary,and (I believe) Millie Sala Tenna was Treasurer. All the children from the Catholic School arrived on opening day February 1971 to enroll in the State School. Sixtyfour unexpected students into a three roomed building. An urgent call to the Education Department and the Catholic School was rented and the children divided up into various classrooms. This caused the Education Department to hurry up its building plans for the new school to be built. The building commenced 3rd Term in readiness for the opening of the following year. Now with over 130 pupils another teacher was appointed.

It was truly an International School. Australian, English (British), Italian, Yugoslavian, Portuguese, and even Aboriginal. All got on well together. Pioneer families, and I believe descendants, still live in the area and attend Pickering Brook School. During 1973 Barton’s Mill closed as a prison, and the Officers children drifted away. Others went on to Senior Schools.

During 1973 my husband had an operation for cancer, and was absent for six months with a relieving Headmaster. He returned for the later part of the year, and held his annual Christmas Concert. It was a happy School and we were sorry to leave. But only as far as Kalamunda where I still live.

It pleases me to see orchards still in existence and not turned into urban sprawl. And the school still being used, although the old house is gone.

Good Luck Pickering Brook School. Your years in the school will be important to you in years to come.

A. Peggy Anning. (1996)

Extracts from Mrs Hazel Hodgson (Nee Weston) About Pickering Brook School In The 1920'S And 1930'S

In 1916 the first school had been built in the area known as Carilla. It was a one-teacher school and remained until 1930 as the only school in Pickering Brook. I began school in 1926, the teacher being Mrs Millar. The school was a wooden building – very small with a tiny porch containing a wash basin and rows of coat hooks, and with a ramp. There was a verandah rook but no floorboards. In the playground were two pine trees of good size, and once I can remember there was a outdoor Christmas Tree for the local children and the Christmas Tree was one of these pines. In later years the Christmas Tree was held in the Carilla Hall which was opened in September 1926.

Every child received a present from Father Christmas, a part often acted by Mr Selk. Money was collected beforehand from everyone in the district and other funds collected by way of a dance or card party.

A new school was built in 1930, just a few metres from the original school and nearer Millar’s railway line and the road. Mr Henry Harris was the teacher then, having followed Mrs Millar in 1928. The numbers had grown and the old school was too small so a timber and asbestos pavilion-like building replaced it. It was a long building with a verandah each end and con one verandah was a small storeroom: on the other there were basins and rows of cat-hooks and a bench for seating. There were three large windows on each side of the room and a proper fireplace instead of the old black free-standing stove in the old school.

I believe the 1930 building is now at Victoria Reservoir acting as a information and briefing center for visitors.

In winter we used to bring glass bottles of tea, cocoa or milk and at recess time Mr Harris would place them in a half kerosene tin of water and put it on the bars that went across the hobs and we would have a hot drink at lunch time. After a while I think the boys would attend to this job. The Boys also used to clean and fill the inkwells each week – a good job for missing a bit of routine work and one they enjoyed.

While we were still in the old school but not long before we moved to the new one, Rose and Vincent Sala Tenna commenced school. They were the first children of the Italian community to attend our school I am fairly positive. As I look back I think Rose and Vin must have felt at sea with an alien group who didn’t understand anything about multi-culturalism. When I began a two year period of teaching at Pickering in 1946, I think about two-thirds of the names on the roll in my group of infants, Std 1 and Std 2 were Italian, but the children were born in Australia.

We had drill most days, standing in rows doing stretching and bending excerises on the spot, very stiff and formal. There were school sports each year with age races, relay races, egg-and-spoon and three-legged races etc. Our main games were “rounders”, simple versions of cricket and football, various forms of hop-scotch, Red Rover and other team chasing games.

Along one wall of the “new” (1930) school was a battered bookcase and on its three shelves was the school library. Among the books which I loved were a couple of books by L. M. Montgomery, author of the “Anne” books, several by Mary Grant Bruce who wrote the “Billabong” book and “Seven Little Australians” by Ethel Turner.

A few plants were grown at the new school but I don’t think there was a school garden until Miss Lugg came in May 1932. Then there were three garden beds laid out, each ringed by stones, and each bed had its own group of children to look after it, dig and plant and weed. I can remember my brother and I wheeling a little hand-cart of manure for our group’s plot. It was cow and fowl manure and I don’t think I did much shoveling.

The school quarters were at the far end of the school-ground, very small and cramped by today’s standards.

1929 was the centenary year of our State and towards the end of that year there was a great inter-school day. Canning Mills, Maida Vale, Barton’s Mill and Karragullen Schools all competed. The sports being held at Pickering on the sports ground next to the school and hall. It was a level patch and quite a good natural ground which had been graded a bit. Our school colours were Maroon and Gold. There were glossy printed souvenir programs and the combined schools sang several songs. We had practiced these songs beforehand in our various schools with Alice Hewison (later Mrs Beard) playing the piano for us at each practice session. It is interesting to note she played for such events on many occasions and was still doing so during my teaching years at Pickering twenty years or so later. On the 1929 sports day she also played for us, the piano being moved to the landing at the side door of the hall and the children were in lines below.

The City of Perth was illuminated in the Centenary Year to greet the Duke and Duchess of York, parents of our present Queen Elizabeth 11. All the children of the district – most of them anyway – were taken by truck with some of the parents to the city to see the lights which were beautiful, and especially so to us “bushies” who rarely saw an electric light. It was fairyland. There were souvenirs of the Royal visit. The school children were given a centenary medal which was bronze and much larger and heavier than a penny. 1929 was a gala year.

In May 1932 we had a new teacher appointed. Mr Harris had taken an active part in district affairs but teaching had lapsed a bit. Catherine Lugg, a 23 year old, was a wonderful teacher and full of enthusiasm, and we learned like wildfire under her guidance. Miss Lugg married Neil Grosvenor, a teacher, in May 1933.

In the 1940’s the school increased its numbers and a monitor was appointed as well as a head teacher. The monitor system was a good one as it enabled students who had matriculated, after five years of high school, and who wished to enter Teachers’ College, to have a year in a school doing part of the teaching under the guidance of the head teacher and other trained staff. The monitors became conversant with the job and he/she and the Education Department could see whether they were mutually suit.

Pickering Brook had a couple of monitors until by 1946 the numbers were sufficient to warrant another trained teacher, in addition to the head. Ian Cresswell was the head in 1946 and I was appointed as the second teacher – assistant was the title. Ian Cresswell was keen for me to be appointed because of my being local and the always difficult problem of board for the teacher thus being solved. So after five years of teaching in other schools, I returned to my old primary school.

Once again the “old” school came into use and after twenty years I had returned to the same school room where I had begun school in 1926. I spent two happy years there. The children in my room, Infants, Std.1 and Std.11 were especially likeable and I have always had an extra warm feeling for them.

1947 Mr. A. E. (Bert) Williams came as headmaster – the first time he had had any staff – and he was very successful in our school and in many others afterwards.

Later on, in the 1950’s, another new school was built – pre-fab with a couple of class rooms. The 1930 school was still used for manual at least, and the original school dismantled. Later still, the present cluster school was erected and is a far cry from the tiny 1916 building, and of course the staff has increased greatly.

Extracts from Mrs. Alice Beard'S Interview on Pickering Brook School

Mrs. Alice Beard attended Pickering Brook School from when it first opened until 1920 these are some of her recollection.

The teachers name was Miss Seymour and she came all the way from Bickley, that’s about five miles (8km) from here towards Kalamunda. She used to walk five miles every morning to school and walk back at night time and we had a lot of fun walking behind her. We had a railway line just here outside the school, and we used to walk along that railway track home and Miss Seymour also walked home along that railway line, and she used to talk to herself all the way along the line. We always used to stay behind, and I can tell you sometimes we didn’t hear too good ourselves. We had been naughty girls or something or other. She was a wonderful old lady, just the same.

The school was one tiny little room with a roof that went up to a vee. It was just a little square like a box with a roof that went up. There were fifteen desks there and every desk had an inkwell with black or blue ink in it, and we used to have pens we had to dip in the inkwell. I’ll never forget it. It had a great big fireplace – a massive fireplace. It smoked the place out when you’d light it. I remember that well because my elder sisters who were much older than me used to have to clean the school, sweeping the floor and dusting around the few desks. My sister was one and one of the French girls was the other one. They used to complain about having to take the ashes out of the fireplace. It used to be full up to the top with all these burnt out ashes and everything and they were all over the floor and they used to have to clean it out ready for school each day. They used to have a great big yard (of course it was all bush then).

The French girl’s and her brother’s came to the school at the same time as me. They had the orchard where Natta’s is now, and our school was just between them and where the school is now. It was down there just behind that shed you call your Lunch Shed (Art Room now).

In the winter time we had lunch in the school and in summer time we were all out in the yard. There were lots of stumps to sit on and only one toilet. We used to call it a WC in those days. It was a little wooden shed with just a pan underneath that you used. There was no pull the chain or anything like that. It was terrible.

We used to play Red Rover. There were no swings or anything to amuse ourselves on other than what we made up ourselves. We used to draw on the ground a place where we could play hopscotch. Then out mothers bought us skipping ropes. There were nearly all girls, there was only one boy I think. We used to hide in the bush – hidey we used to call it. We’d go out and build ourselves a cubby well away from the school, because there was plenty of bushes there and sticks to build a cubby.

We never went on excursions in those days.

I was only in Buds in first and second and third classes and was about 10 when I left Pickering Brook and went to Carmel School.

Interviewed by Claire Collier

Extract from Interview with Sydney Russell on The Carilla Hall/Pickering Brook School

The school was a one-room school with one school teacher. Wood fireplace, no electricity, no phones, no anything. As far as I can remember if had an iron roof and was made of weatherboard, and it was called the “New School” when I started in 1931, because it was. There was an old one in the school yard, that was used for woodwork and metal work and as a storeroom and things like that. One teacher, one room, and all ages in one room. Plus a bit of a storeroom out the back.

My first teacher was Mr Harris, and I get rest mixed up. There were a lot more after that.

We played Skippy, Hoppy, Rounders, marbles and a few others at recess and lunchtime.

We did not have to wear school uniforms then, just any clothes.

When I went home after school I had to do some jobs. Things like we had chooks to feed, get sticks for the fire, and help Dad with growing veggies and things like that.

Some silly little things we used to do. When the steam train to Barton’s came up and down the railway line which ran just in front of the school, we used to put pennies and halfpennies on the rails just to see the engine squash them flat. We though that was funny. Until one day the driver gave us a great blast of steam and we all disappeared in the cloud and we didn’t go near that engine any more.

Another thing we did was we used to jump off the hall roof into a heap of sand and one of my schoolmates (Tony Mazzardis) and I decided we’d play parachutes off it. He borrowed his Aunty’s umbrella on a hot summer’s day, jumped off the roof and turned the umbrella inside out. Not very popular when he got home!

We used to get an old motor or tractor tyre, wrap ourselves up inside it and see who could roll furtherest down the hill. Nobody said we might get hurt or anything. We just had fun.

Somebody brought a footy along and we used to spend our playtime kicking it up into the pine tree trying to make it stick up there, so we could say “Please teacher, can I climb up and get our footy?’ They’d say “Yes”. Today they wouldn’t let us – they’d say we might fall.

The GO Slow Race on push bicycles was another game and the idea off the race was to see how slow you could go on your bicycle without putting one foot on the ground. If you fell off you were out. The idea was to balance on the bicycle for as long and as slow as you could. The last one to fall off or go the shortest was the winner.

Interviewed by Alicia Rayment

A Few Memories of My School Days at Pickering Brook School. by Joan Della Franca

I started school in 1942 as Joan Sala (Sala Tenna) aged six. The first year I rode Pillion on my late brother Peter’s Bicycle, he would have been about twelve.

As there was no high school in the vicinity and no bus service, Peter and others stayed on at Pickering Brook as correspondence students until they were fourteen, a lucky few went away to boarding school.

In 1942 a railway track and small train passed directly in front of the school, where now the footpath lies. This train carried timber from Barton’s Mill to the Pickering brook siding where its load was transferred to the train to Midland/Perth.

The following year my younger brother Ralph started school. From my memory, Mrs. Richards was my first teacher, with a trainee teacher who taught me to read.

Being war-time we all had to be drilled in air-raid survival. The big boys had to dig trenched close to the school as air-raid shelters, I don’t know how they ever managed as the soil was so hard!

During World War 11, all the children at school had to wear a cord around their necks with an identification medal and cork attached. When Mrs. Richards blew the whistle we all had to run outside, put the cork between our teeth and jump into the trenches. When drill was over we got out, dusted off our clothes and went back to class.

I would say that they were sad years for Mrs. Richards. During her time as teacher here, her son was reported as missing in action. That day Mrs. Richards wasn’t at school, we all waited awhile then went home, it wasn’t until the next day we knew what had happened.

The Anzac Day Ceremony was usually held on the Friday before Anzac Day. We would walk to Mrs. Annie Weston’s house, half a kilometre away and sit on her lounge room floor and listen to the ceremony on her wireless. The school did not have a radio at the time.

I remember a teacher called Miss Hurley who taught the younger grades in the little old school (built in 1916). Once a week, Miss Hurley took the girls for sewing lessons and the bigger boys for basket weaving.

From 1945 to 1947 Mr. Ian Cresswell was the Headmaster. Mr. Cresswell was not very capable in my eyes, as I felt we were not being taught as we should.

Unfortunately for the whole school, from 1948 to the end of 1950 we had the most excellent teacher in Mr. Bert Williams and his wife Ethel.

Also in 1948, Barton’s Mill School closed and all children were transported to Pickering Brook by way of a truck, with a Warder driving and a trusted prisoner on the back to lift children onto it. All the children living in Pickering Brook from Barton’s Mill to the school got a lift including myself.

With the influx of the Barton’s Mill students our school increased in numbers considerably, requiring three teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Williams and Miss Dorothy Ayliffe. We all loved Miss Ayliffe, especially the boys. She was tall, young and beautiful and rode a bicycle to school from Mrs. Annie Weston’s house where she boarded.

I really loved those years as Mr. Williams favourite subject was history, I just Couldn’t get enough of that!.

I left school at the end of 1950, I was fourteen.

I feel forever grateful to the small band of teachers who nurtured me through my school years.

Your truly,

Joan Della Franca