Getting to school. The school bags were made from leather. We did not wear uniforms. Not everyone wore shoes as I recall. We took cut lunches to school but on Monday's we could buy our lunch at the school or from Wrightson's Baker next door. Those kids who were better off could walk to the fish shop at Highbury shops to get fish & chips. Thick slices of potato cooked in batter was popular. The fish shop is still operating. I can remember bread and dripping sandwiches sprinkled with salt and pepper. Everyone walked or road their bikes or scooters. Very few people owned cars.
At school. All of the old buildings from the 1950s have gone. The only structure recognisable is the swimming pool. There was the murder house of course where a dental nurse would drill without anaesthetic. The bell was rung by a senior student who walked around the school swinging the heavy brass bell. Punishment was delved out by having to write "forty lines" or in more serious cases by "getting the cuts". This was by way of a few smacks on the head with either a wooden ruler or leather strap. Milk was delivered to the school in small glass bottles which had cardboard seals with a small hole for the drinking straw. Sometimes the milk was heated by the sun but we still had to drink it.
Equipment. We learned to write with pencils until perhaps year five (standard 3) when we used pen and ink. The pens were a wooden handle with a steel nib which was dipped in the bottle of Stevenson's blue ink. I think I was able to get more ink on my clothes, school bag and the desk than on the paper. I can remember using a sharpened feather from grandmother's chook run when I had broken the nib. We were not meant to leave primary school until we could recite the "times tables" and spell the last word in the "Essential" spelling book which was theatre. Although there are differing opinions to the value of "learning off by heart" I know that the times table has served me well for 60 plus years. We used to sing "God Save the King" on a daily basis.
Entertainment. We had class and school concerts attended by family members. Entertainers would do the rounds of the schools putting on shows. There was the "Fun Doctor" who could do magic tricks and play the piano with his nose. Sometimes there were movies.
Sport. We have annual sports competitions with Northcote Primary School. I can recall playing rugby. We travelled to Northcote in the bus only to find that both teams had black and white hooped jerseys. The next time we played, we used jerseys made from sugar bags.
School trips. I can remember going to the museum several times which meant two ferry rides and four bus trips.
It's good to see that the school is still serving the area well.
Malcolm Hall (1948-1952)
Photo - Std 4 1952
Followed footsteps of 10 siblings. I am last of family now. 2 eldest sisters were original pupils, in new school, (now very old school), Alice lived to be 100 years. Eileen cut cake at 75th Celebration.
I just loved the school, every day the sand pit. The terraces were great and the cricket pitch on the top field. My best memories are in standard 3-4. A group of us above average in maths were put in a composite class of Std 3-4 with a brilliant teacher Mr A.D Upton. We girls though he was magic. We got to have him as a teacher for the 2 years. We got to play cricket with the boys at lunch time. We got to do the dishes in the common room which meant a biscuit. Owing to the age difference in my family (spread over 24 years) I had a niece (Maureen Roberts) in the same year as myself, and a nephew (George Davis) 1 year behind us. I remember a big concert for war funds in the 'Foresters Hall' and us smaller children stood on the stage in nightgowns holding candles while big kids sang. One boy Willie Waller, with such a beautiful voice, he sang solo. I vaguely recall trenches dug in the the very bottom below terraces under the trees, and us having air raid drill - scary. Best school ever. Hot cocoa at lunch time in winter in shelter shed under infant block. Getting to be important - running messages for the teacher. Being in main building, first room, really good. Will be at reunion (hopefully) with my 2 sons who both started at Birkenhead but had to go to Verran Rd School when built, both did very well. I have lived in Birkenhead all 87 years of my life and I pass the school nearly every day.
Lorna Lydiard (nee Bland) 1936-1941
The Centenary project team have seen an article from our 90th anniversary committee who were intrigued by this 1922 photo. We wonder if the mystery was ever solved.... Do you know anything about this photo of the boys and their model boats? We would love to hear from you. See their article here.
Mr Wargent – wow what an amazing man! Our family of 4 kids all had
Mr Wargent and he was our favourite for all of us. I visited him as a 17 year old heading into teachers training college and he gave me advice I have never forgotten.
“When you are cross with the class you use a big voice.”
“When you are really cross with the class use a stern voice.”
‘When you are very angry use your smallest voice.”
“The class knows the quieter you are the more they need to listen.”
Diane Saunders nee Sutherland (1977-1982)
Our Sports Day in 1964. The girls had a dress up race wearing clothing of their dads and the boys wore their mums. I think it was the only race I’ve ever won, so proud on that day.
In the one with my brother Malcolm (photo on the right), to the left of him I think is Janet Wooding. This was the lower sports field and grassed terraces, back in the day before the bypass. Angela Young (1958-1964)
I remember in the primers having a teacher called Miss Sweetapple (Yes real name!) She had a pet possum she would bring into the class in a cage, and the whole classroom smelt of slightly rotten apple!! That would definitely not happen today!
Maria Tyrrell (1972-1975)
One of my strongest memories from Birkenhead Primary was the Pet Day. My brother and I had a lovely ginger tom cat, called Ginger! We scooped her up in the morning and mum helped drop us to school in the car so we could take her in her cage. I recall during the day we all went outside to show off our pets. There were cats, rats, guinea pigs, mice and more. But our excitement turned to fear when my brother wasn't happy with the cat sitting in her cage. He thought she needed a cuddle so he opted to take her out. Alas, poor Ginger was terrified with all the commotion so she ran as fast as she could taking solitude under the classroom - right in the middle where no-one could reach her. We could barely make out where she was but the wide glowing eyes in the sea of darkness assured us she was still there. Mum was called in from work and we tried to coerce the shaking cat out to jump back into her cage. Unfortunately we didn't succeed. After school we went home and grabbed some of her favourite Jelly Meat. The rattle of the can and the quietness of an empty playground provided her with enough confidence to come out so she could enjoy a treat before being securely returned to her cage to go home. Needless to say that was the last time I recall taking a pet to pet day!
Jane Henderson (1981-1983)
Our Learning Trust is collecting memories from both the students and teachers who attended Birkenhead Primary School since 1919. We would love to hear from you!