Early Years page 52+

Recollections cover Pages 52 thru to 58


Not long ago I looked along a beach. I thought, “what have they done to my country?” I found I could relate a little more to the Aborigines after that.
Collaroy - Narrabeen is certainly not the same as it used to be when St Joseph’s was young. Then again the beaches in the forties were scratched by barb wire. Yes, it was wartime and my memories of those early years of St Joseph’s include wartime things. That, then, is how I’ll start.
We used to do some special safety drill- I recall some talk about what to do if an incendiary bomb fell. We had trenches in the playground; there were strips of plaster on the glass in the windows of the church; and at night there were air raid warnings and searchlight beams crossed over in the sky.
I remember brown outs and black outs and camouflaged buses with “tin windows”. I remember the gas burner on the back of Dr Matthew’s little car and I remember ration coupons for clothes, food and petrol. Larger families could do a little trading in certain coupons.
We were young then and we didn’t fully realise the horror of it all so I’m blessed that other memories come to mind.
I remember the initials, I.O.+G.D - a Good Sam thing, of course. The Latin doesn’t matter for glory to God was given then and glory is given still.
I remember Sister Cataldus (with an obvious nickname) and Sister Geraldine. They travelled from Dee Why. They taught us well and made parish visits after school.
The Religion I learnt then carried me through the first few years of secondary school exams. It still serves me well and for more important things than exams. Today’s critics of the Green Catechism don’t take into account teachers like Sister Cataldus and Sister Geraldine, the home life then and the priests of that time.
I remember Father Farrell, Father Law and Father O’Neill. Great priests and coming from Dee Why they didn’t neglect Narrabeen. They too visited homes. I seem to recall Father O’Neill visiting mum and dad and catching them giving each other a kiss. Father O’Neill used to use a bicycle to travel about. Father Law had a car with a running board and at least one little altar boy had a ride on it.
Altar boys, of course, had to learn the Latin responses. We could read it or say it by heart and even follow the English translations for the other parts. Altar boys wore red slippers, red soutanes, white collars with studs and white surplices. The red would have looked good when Archbishop (Later Cardinal) Gilroy came to confirm us.
In school we learnt a lot of things “by heart” but don’t go thinking we didn’t get some good explanations as well and we mastered those long divisions of money with their three columns for pounds, shillings and pence. And we did more than ‘Readin’, ‘Ritin’ , ‘Rithinetic and Religion’. I remember ELOCUTION LESSONS and poems such as ‘Tarantella’; SINGING and songs like ‘To a miniature’ and ‘The floral Dance’ ; DANCING and the learning of over twenty dances such as ‘The Boston Twostep’ and the ‘Step up, step back, change places and bow, back to back, face to face’ one. We had sewing and knitting and I seem to recall some war effort work. Our teachers were very progressive and very hard working.

We were a lot for two teachers but they managed. Somewhere along the line Miss Kissane (later Mrs Smith) did help out and Mrs FloGehrig (Mrs Collins) and Miss 7? from up near the McLean’s helped with some music. 
Compared to now, of course, the school was small. I remember someone saying we could have a holiday when we reached a hundred. (pupils). Did we ever get the holiday?  

Where exactly were the classrooms? 

If I remember correctly we all seemed to fit along the side and in the back half of the church. Perhaps we used the two halves of the church formed when we pulled across the folding doors. There were folding doors to cut off the side section. Two sliding doors could be pulled across to cut off the altar and the tabernacle. I can’t remember if we always had the Blessed Sacrament reserved. Didn’t we go in through the sacristy for a visit? At any rate Mass and the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament are special to me and my appreciation goes back a long way. 
Sometimes little groups such as Bursary students or those studying for the Merit Certificate could use the “Lunch room” which at other times became the confessional or the St Vincent de Paul meeting room. Once I remember being the only sixth class boy in the “lunch room” with the girls. 

Whatever happened to Mary Salmon, I think she liked me and I was too shy, or was it studious? 

In recalling our accommodation I cannot overlook “The Shed”. That wonderful old church from Father Therry’s day, moved in from Careel Bay. I remember something about bird’s nests and lice but those lice we caught seemed quite at home in human hair until Lysol or kerosene or other drastic measures were taken so I guess we couldn’t really blame the starlings. 

What else do I remember? 

I remember we mixed our own ink from powder and we had ink wells to dip pig tails in. I remember the Plane that crash landed on the surf’s edge just below Waterloo Street. I remember the Everett’s just up from the school in Lagoon Street and the Milligan’s immediately behind the school in Ocean Street, where the school expanded. I remember ‘Mrs. Obbs and Bonnington Irish Moss’ advertisements on the Milligan’s radio. We didn’t have a “wireless” at the time. 

I remember the Dougherty’s and the Morgan’s who got off the bus just before the O’Dwyers and there were others whose names I hope are recorded somewhere. I’ll not attempt to list them here but may God bless everyone. I remember my mother once meeting us after school on a horse, we didn’t always catch the bus. We probably couldn’t afford it and it was only a mile and a bit. While speaking of money was it really only sixpence a week for school fees or was that the reduced rate?

I remember the O’Reilly’s, the Mullin’s and the Thompson’s at Mass on Sunday morn and the Saint Vincent De Paul Society and the “Visitor’s Florin Collection”.

I remember cutting wood and bagging horse manure and mum leading the way. 

I remember Jack McLean’s newsagency and the Bryson’s shops, Douglas’s boatshed and Scarf’s butcher shop. 

Mrs. Scarf senior was a generous Lebanese lady who paid me for some little job. She lived up on the hill near the Mullin’s just before Narrabeen. 
I remember Furlough House and the wall we could run along from about Narrabeen Street to just before the terminus. I remember the Roxy theatre with its generator housed at the side of the building. Does the little shed still jut out?. I remember the vacant block opposite the church and the dentist on the corner and the old bakehouse around in Waterloo Street. 

I remember “King Pin and the Rusty Sword” and the mysterious spot that appeared on the backs of shirts after going to the toilet. (Ask me about these things later). 

I remember the circus kids who attended when the circus came to town. I remember the death of John Lucich in those days before antibiotics existed. May he and all those who have died since, rest in Peace. 
I remember Father Parker and little mounds of earth that appeared in the playground waiting for donations so they could be spread but I remember him for more than that great priest that he was. 
And then Father Sobb and those shell case vases.. .and. 
.that’s another chapter and a big one too so let’s pause for prayers of thanks and praise- Glory be to God. 
Jim O’Dwyer. 

My first day at St Joseph’s, Narrabeen, was in September, 1943. We had moved from Lithgow and I was in 6th class my Primary Final Year (or Merit exam, as we also called it). I was surprised to find that I was the only pupil from St. Joseph’s sitting for the Primary Final that year and as a result, come examination time, I had to travel to Dee Why school to do the exam. 
My class teacher was Sister Cataldus, what a lovely lady she was and what tales she could tell today’s teachers about composite classes! 

I loved my few short months at St Joseph’s. The other children, the Wiltshires, the Bowles, the Dawes, the Thrussels (to name only a few) are still familiar names and faces in the district. They were so friendly and made me feel really welcome. I even delighted in a nickname (Fussy) bestowed on me by a lad called Brian Stanley. He thought I should really have been called “Skinny” but that name was already taken by Betty “Skinny” Cadman. 

At the end of the school year we had a school dance, in the afternoon of course. It was a wonderful end to my schooldays at St Joseph’s an association which was renewed in 1965 when my sister, as secretary of the Mothers Club took me to many a Mother’s Club fund raising or social outing. 

Then in 1970 I stood at the gate again, this time leading my four year old son, into Miss Moore’s Kindy class and so began another 12 years association with the school. I wonder if I’ll have grandchildren to go to St Joseph’s?
Frances Adams (Stephens). 

The year was almost over. Narrabeen, a pretty little beach side suburb with its shaky old wooden bridge, unmade roads and crystal clear lake, was a haven for holiday makers. 
Mary Ryan’s pub, Bryson’s fish shop or Mrs. Erikson’s grocery shop where kids could buy ham sandwiches on crusts for tuppence; the old Roxy Theatre with its Saturday arvo pictures or Douglass’ boat shed, were all part of the scene.

Sisters Geraldine and Cataldus, after travelling from Dee Why every day, were the guiding hands, both scholastically and religiously for more than their share of today’s middle-aged people.
The old dentist’s house next door where the new church now stands and the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread from the bakery behind that. Jeff Steeler, the local taxi driver on the other side and the old tram shed at the terminus.
The memories come flooding back!!
How well I remember the day the school was almost empty and rightly so, for who would deprive a child of its first taste of chewing gum. It seems every kid with a penny to spare stood in line at the local confectionery, some even doubled up for this delight to the taste buds.
How times change!
Now try, if you can, to visualise rows and rows of little Catholic boys and girls all standing to attention in a dusty school yard to welcome their new priest, a real soldier, and the stories they told their parents of real cannon shells being used for flower vases on and around the altar.
John Bowles (circa 1979)

I started teaching Kindergarten at St Joseph’s in 1948 in the old church under the supervision of Sister Thomas Francis. At that time the school consisted of only 2 class rooms. The following year I was given the side verandah as a class room having to move tables, chairs etc., over to the original Church every Friday afternoon, also evacuate the classroom for funerals. From there we moved to rooms in Ocean Street these being old houses bought by Father Sobb.
After teaching in these rooms for a number of years they were then moved further down the playground and I continued teaching in them when the first stages of the new school was built. Then at long last the day finally arrived. I was given a room in the new section of the school and there I stayed for the remaining years of my teaching at St Joseph’s. Over that period of time I taught classes ranging from 25 to 99 children.
During my 30 years of teaching at St. Joseph’s I saw many of my colleagues come and go and that leaves me with many happy memories.

Mollie Moore.

St Joseph’s has been an influence in my life for more years than I care to remember. My memories go back to the day I started school as a five year old.
1964: Kindergarten - Miss Moore - “How I cried”.
1965: Year 1 - Poking pencils through big gaps in the floor of our classroom.
1966: Year 2 - Sister John and the bottle drive.
1967: Year 3 - Sister Alacoque - mental arithmetic and the cane “ouch”
1968: Year 4 - The new building and Wednesday netball.

School buildings showing Miss Moore’s Kindergarten.

1969: Year 5 - Watching the Lunar landing on the schools one and only B/W television.
1970: Year 6 - Learning to play the recorder from the television.
Between 1971 and 1978, St. Joseph’s and I parted ways but I was soon back,
this time as a teacher.
1979: - A student teacher on Mrs Roe’s Year 3.
1980: - The children in my first year 3 played Cupid. They had Ken Taylor and me dating, engaged and married before we were even on a first name basis.
1981: - Sure enough the staff were singing at our wedding and the children in my next year 3 were offering their best wishes along with the “we told you so’s” from the children the year before.
1982: -A wonderful year I who insisted “Mr Taylor must be Mrs Taylor’s dad, after all he had the same name”.
1983: -A return to Year 3. A class that shared everything including Glandular Fever- “Thanks kids”.
1984: - Another Year 1 - we baked and then froze in our demountable classroom.
1985 & 1986: Saw me teaching two wonderful kindergartens. We made chocolate
crackles, flew kites, ate pink food at a pig party and even held a
graduation ceremony for the big promotion into Year 1.
1987-1989. I am no longer a full-time member of staff at St Joseph’s but if one is quick one can occasionally catch me doing relief work at the school.
The most rewarding part of my long association with St Joseph’s school is the friendships I have formed with classmates, parents, staff members and my ex-students. If there is one thing I have learned in the last year or so, it’s never ask my ex-pupils how they are going at school. The last young person I asked replied “You mean Uni”? Where have the years gone?.
Congratulations St Joseph’s on your Golden Jubilee.
Frances Taylor (Filacamo)

My teaching career started at St Joseph’s in 1979, thanks to Sister Patricia and a very patient Year 4.
Trying to fit in that year, saw me cast as a tin man in the school’s production of the ‘Wizard of Oz’. My Year 4 thought I was type cast.
Year 4 taught me so much. I basically had the same children again next year, so I could learn even more from them. I had passed the yearly test, so I was told.
I often remember the many children’ I have taught during my seven years at St Joseph’s and occasionally run into them shopping or at church.
Remembering the first school camps, the school’s plays, swimming carnivals, gala days and picnics are just a few of the wonderful activities, the memories of which flood back about St Joseph’s. Many close and lasting friendships from staff, parents and ex-students has been a feature of the atmosphere and spirit that comes from an association with the school. I gained far more from my time at St Joseph’s than I could possibly have given and look upon my time there as an enjoyable period of my life.
I congratulate the school and its living community on reaching its 50th year.
Ken Taylor

St Joseph’s Narrabeen, has been part of my life since I was a very small child. Some of my earliest memories include those of my three sisters and I being bundled into the car by mum and dad and heading off to Church on Sundays. At that time, the Church was still the more traditionally styled brick building which now serves as the Parish hall. While Father Sobb would preach his sermons, I would often take time out to gaze around at the life-like statues of Jesus, Mary and the saindt, and at the beautiful old-fashioned style paintings of the angels with their trumpets proclaiming “Gloria in Excelsis”.
It wasn’t much later that I started my first day of school at St Joseph’s Narrabeen. Mother Wenceslaus and Sister John were a bit frightening in their long, black habits and wimples covering their hair completely so that, as a child, you could not be entirely convinced that these nuns were women - not men, as their names implied!!
The first 2 years of my schooling were spent in the old weatherboard classrooms with the verandahs along the sides. I think that even then some classes were still being held in the tiny, old timber church which stood in the school grounds. Later, I would move to the brick part of the school and, later still, to the “new” classrooms that were built parallel to Ocean Street.
We kids went through all the normal joys and fears at school but there was one big fear that especially sticks in my mind - ‘The Colonel’ . The Colonel was the school caretaker who lived in the tiny room near the ‘white house’ cottage and who seemed to be forever collecting rubbish and burning it in the incinerator. He was a gruff old man and many of us kids would taunt him until he scared us off by threatening to put us in the incinerator as well. (I can assure you I always stayed at a safe distance!!)
Amongst the greatest joys at school were those proud and special times when we received the sacraments for the first time, especially first Holy Communion. Wearing that beautiful white dress and veil made me feel like I was in a heavenly fairy-tale and I suppose to all the grown-ups looking on, we really looked like little angels belonging in heaven.
Midway through my school years at St Joseph’s, Mother Wenceslaus was replaced as school Principal by Sister Louis (Patricia Thame). Although many of us, as children, were frightened of her, I have a great deal to thank Sister Patricia for, really, as it was she who gave me my first teaching position and started off a very happy teaching career at St Joseph’s, Narrabeen.
My six years as a teacher at St Joseph’s saw many changes to the school-new staff, new buildings, a new Principal with new and progressive ideas and reforms, new resources and equipment and even a new parish priest!
Even though I am now living away from the parish and teaching at another St Joseph’. in Port Macquarie, St Joseph’s, Narrabeen will always be like home to me and my memories of my years growing up there and being part of the community there will always be special.
Lia Woerde (nee Visser).