School Memories From 1920’s Southland

School Memories From 1920’s

I have mentioned school picnics in previous posts but Mum has added a little more in her description of picnics from Winton.

“The school picnic was the high light of the year. Everyone would be up about four in the morning to milk the cows and get to the factory and back home in time to catch the train at 8.30am. We used to go to Colac Bay, Riverton or Bluff different years and just loved the ride in the train. We stopped at the station and then had to walk to the beach. Colac and Bluff weren’t too bad but Riverton was a long way to walk and carry lunch and things but everyone was happy. Then home again about 5.30 and cows to milk before everyone was done.”

I found a report from the Winton Record about picnic days.

The annual train excursion was an event usually arranged to include schools as far north of Winton as Fernhills and as far south as Lochiel. Passengers were picked up also at interveneing stations. Close to 1000 adults and children were carried. It took two engines to pull the human freight and 24 carriages to hold them, mostly in palace cars (trucks with awnings). The palace cars were in use for many years and before the availability of motor transport, the whole district supported the school excursion. On journeys to Colac Bay, Orepuki or Tuatapere even two engines sometimes had difficulty pulling the picnic train over the Longwood incline and the train would then be moved in sections…Picnics to Bluff were sometimes arranged to coincide with a return trip from Bluff to Steward Island.

I haven’t confirmed this with Mum, but I have a note of how much she had always wanted to go to Stewart Island and that she had finally achieved this when she was 8 or 9 years old. This note is among details of school picnics she’d talked about so I assume her visit coincided with a picnic as mentioned in the Record article.

Manual (practical training in cooking and sewing for girls and woodwork for boys) was another highlight of school for Mum. During standards 5 and 6 on a Monday (possibly just for one term, Mum couldn’t remember for sure) off they’d go to Invercargill in a second class railway carriage specially reserved for them. Along the way children from smaller schools joined them. “We walked from Invercargill railway station to Don Street, almost up as far as Doon Street to the Manual Training Centre.” Apparently Mum could never get her eggs and sugar well beaten enough. Every time the teacher checked her progress she told Mum, ‘no, they need more beating’. Mum reckoned she spent all morning just beating her eggs.

“We had basketball (netball) at school and used to play against other schools. I always played defence (goal keeper) because I was tall. Also tennis but I didn’t have a racket so I couldn’t play that.”

“I went to Winton High School for a year but left when I was fourteen and stayed at home and helped my mother in the house and milked six or seven cows each morning and night. I also helped my father on the farm if I could. At that time Ina was driving the milk to the Dairy factory in a horse and cart.”

When Mum left school Ivy was already nursing, Minnie took housekeeping jobs/helping with babies elsewhere, Nessie was at Teachers training college, Ina helped on farm, too. When I asked Mum if her brother Eric (5 years her senior) was still living at home then, she confirmed he was, but when I asked what he did her reply was short. “Nothing.”

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