Mr Patrick Heffernan was my primary school teacher for Grades 3, 4 and 5. He was very strict, and known to give the cane or writing lines as a punishment very freely. He believed very strongly in the 3 R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic. He also believed in discipline and respect for others. This being said, I feel he was the greatest teacher I had in all my school years and I adored him.
My class was the largest in the school (being Nangus Primary) for many years, having 8 students. There were 2 Peter’s, 2 Lindsay’s and a David, with Debbie, Jane and myself. Debbie, who lives in Katoomba, and I keep in regular contact with each other.
We were taught spelling and punctuation from a special book by Johnson and Bruce called ‘Let’s Be Good Spellers’ of which I still have my Grade 6 copy. Every Friday morning we were given a test from the pages of this book. I gained a 1st place certificate on many occasions for my spelling. My challenge was to beat Peter Daly.
We also learnt our times tables, spending many hours on the school veranda reciting these as a group, followed by writing them as homework. Also on Friday morning was a maths test consisting of whichever times table we were learning at the time; along with geometry, addition, subtraction, etc. I still recite these tables if I can’t instantly remember what one number times another number equals.
After recess on Fridays, weather permitting, we did our folk dancing practice. This was great fun and usually done outside with the whole school participating. At the end of the year we performed for the district at our school concert. The boys wore their sports uniforms, while the girls wore 5-shorts with a crepe paper skirt decorated with flowers of crepe. I can remember my mother making many of these skirts on the treadle sewing machine, plus most of the flowers, as flower making was one of her many talents.
One morning each week was dedicated to craft – the girls learnt sewing in summer and knitting in winter. I still have my sample book from these sessions. The boys mostly did woodwork. We all did some cane-work and some work with stiff card and paper. Being allowed to use the guillotine was a special privilege.
School magazines were given out once a month. I have a few of these. They held stories, poems and crosswords, with a few pictures for colouring.
Friday afternoons always involved sport. Boys and girls played cricket, softball and ball games such as tunnel ball together. The boys played football while the girls did netball. I remember the district sports held in Gundagai each year with up to 20 local schools taking part. We all travelled to the primary school in Gundagai, then marched up the main street and down to the big oval along the river on the right of the current freeway travelling north.
Once a year our school participated in the Wagga Wagga Eisteddfod. This was as exciting as it was nerve wracking. Our small group of about 18 students usually sang two or three songs which we had been practising for weeks prior. Our uniforms were pressed, shoes polished with hair and nails checked in the change rooms, then on stage to perform before hundreds of people in the auditorium. The applause was wonderful, whether we deserved it or not, we always felt better after it was over.
I was fortunate to complete all my primary school years at Nangus. My last year there was 1970 with Mr Monks for Grade 6. However Mr Heffernan and his teachings will always be a big part of me and who I am.