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Compiled for Darebin Heritage by Brian Membrey



School 824 : Memories, Reading and a Library

Up until my final year of 1957, there wasn't a library as such - I presume there was a small area set aside in one of the rooms for reference works such as atlases, dictionaries and perhaps even an encyclopaedia, but certainly not a reading room as such given the demands on classroom space.

There may have been others on a year-by-year basis, but the only set text books I can remember were a set of "Victorian Readers" and perhaps an atlas - I can only Readers for each of the six grades, but a facsimile edition issued in the late 1980s had eight books with two additional pre-school volumes featuring the antics of John and Betty, Scotty the dog and Fluff the cat.

(I had this set, but for the life of me cannot recall what happened to it - maybe Scotty ate it).

The series use constant repetition of certain phrases : one that certainly comes to mind was "Run, Betty, Run" almost invariably followed by "Run, Scotty, Run".

The library situation changed in 1956, my last year, when a three or four-room library and amenities block of steel and glass and almost certainly prefabricated was built along the line of the southern boundary - I can't recall any construction works, so I suspect it must have been erected over the summer break and it probably involved the removal of three or four of the old elm trees that lined the sides of the main building.

My only recollection of it is from the dux-of-school presentation early the following year and I'm pretty sure that this was the first time the building was used an that there was an official opening ceremony on the same evening.  It was certainly the only time I was in it.

Also floating back into focus is a School Projects book - more of a soft-covered magazine really, published I think by the Education Department in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce - containing heaps of companies and government departments to which you could write and with the inclusion of a few stamps receive materials suitable for the annual school project which was a mandatory part of the later years.

(I recall that in years 5 and 6 Mr Northey would encourage us to write away for the materials as part of learning to prepare a good business letter).

I don’t think there was a cost involved - it was handed out in class and I think copies were available at the School Shop - probably meaning Mr. and Mrs. Peck would have been driven insane by snotty-nose kids after freebies.

Again Green's newsagency came into play, supplying what I would now guess to be A2 size cardboard sheets suitable for pasting cut-outs or creating one's own drawings - the latter tended to attract more marks given they involve more personal effort.  

I think there was a range of subjects suggested in the magazine - Australian Aborigines and our perception of their life style at the time a popular choice.

(Not sure whether it was South Preston or at little later, but I remember trying something different - a side-view of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity project with a cut-away of the mountain in plasticine or modelling clay with the tunnel system created using tubular spaghetti - all in a shoe-box lid, but it fell  to pieces before it got to school and looked like an avalanche had wiped the whole multi-megabuck Snowy scheme off the face of the earth)!

Victorian School Readers

From left, originals, book four through six, the facsimile boxed edition of the 1980s, and John and Betty (the unexpurgated version).

John and Betty were the central characters in the Victorian Reader for the early grades (with their friends Scottie the dog and Fluff the cat). Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of schoolchildren learnt to read from this series which was used from the 1930s through to the 1970s.

(I did have the facsimile set, but don’t know what happened to it - maybe Scottie ate it).

"John and Betty" were loosely based on earlier overseas characters - "Janet and John (England) and "Dick and Jane" (U.S.A).- See more at: http://prov.vic.gov.au/blog-only/fun-with-dick-and-jane-readers#sthash.urtZ84eT.dpuf