PREPARATIONS FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL: The day before school began at Mosman Primary, (it was the end of January 1962 at the close of the six-week Christmas school holiday break), I excitedly packed the Globite school case Mum had bought me only a few days before. I can still remember ‘exactly’ what was packed in it because I kept the school case open in my bedroom and on my bed, admiring its contents more than a dozen times during the day and into the early evening. There was one blank twenty four page exercise book with ruled lines; a pencil case containing two lead pencils, a pencil sharpener and rubber. We used lead pencils in those days as ink pens were too expensive and too messy. I think ball point pens were invented shortly after I started Primary. They were extremely, extremely expensive. Mum later bought me one with a warning that if I lost it or it was stolen, I would be using pencils again! Also inside my neatly packed school case were three thin paperback textbooks the school had told the parents the students would require. One was for English and Grammar lessons and the other was for Social Studies that included both History and Geography. The third was for Maths. Sitting on the chair beside the bed and neatly folded was my school uniform consisting of a light blue shirt and grey shorts and socks. Beneath the chair were the new school shoes (black) Mum had bought me the day before, with yet another warning. My feet must not grow too quickly! Shoes were very costly in those days, particularly school shoes.MOSMAN PRIMARY SCHOOL, (1962 – 1965) was located beside Avenue Road, with Mosman High School on the Belmont Road side of the large block that both schools shared. An asphalt playground divided the two with a painted and thick white line dividing both the playground and the two schools. The year was 1962 and the Berlin Wall was fresh in our minds. We had watched on television the unfortunates who had tried to escape across the Berlin Wall from east to west and who had been shot, knowing that we would also face a similar fate if the teachers or prefects caught us crossing the white line dividing the playground and the two schools. Sometimes, if a tennis ball or football crossed over the line during playtime, a student would bravely dash forward to retrieve the ball; if teachers were close by shouts of help would have the ball returned by obliging students on the other side of the line.
The Primary School was located in two demountable (temporary) structures for years Three and Four, while years Five and Six shared an old two-storey brick building opposite the shops in Mosman Junction. In the summer time, the demountables made of metal and tin were unbearable, even with all of the windows and the door wide open. We had fans but these only circulated the hot air and made the situation far worse! On really hot days, classes would be held outdoors and under the shade of the trees running along the Military Road side of the school block. Sometimes, when the temperature was in the high +30s and approaching 40 degrees, the children would be allowed to go home.
The 1960s was a time of great scientific advancement. Astronauts (and Cosmonauts) had entered space for the first time and Mosman Primary School was not spared this ‘scientific’ advancement. At 8.45 a.m. each morning, whether it was raining or shining, assembly would be held in the playground in front of the old two-storey building. The students would stand in five or six straight lines and at military attention. The school principle would then climb a prefab stand quickly erected by two or three of the male teachers. He would proceed to address the assembly, telling them what was planned for the students for the day as well as for the week. Unfortunately, the principle had a soft voice and though we strained our ears hard to listen, we could not hear a single word he was saying. This problem was finally rectified with a hand-held electronic megaphone. Nevertheless, when the principle moved the megaphone, even just a few centimetres (inches) it would send out a high-pitched and annoying electronic screeching sound… “Today, Class 4B will be… (screeching sound lasting several seconds), will be cleaning the lower…. (screeching sound), playground on the…. (screeching sound) western side of…. (more screeching sounds). I think the megaphone lasted only a few weeks. The principle must have complained ‘loudly’ to the Education Department. Barely a week later, he had a new microphone and two large speakers. Never again could we complain that we could not hear him. I’m sure the people in the nearby shopping centre at Mosman Junction also heard everything said at the school assemblies!
My best friend at school was Gary Foster and we spent much of our lunch times reading comics, particularly the Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Captain America and other Marvel super heroes. Gary was extremely talented artistically and drew his own comics. I also drew my own super hero comics but not quite as well. I should also mention that during my time in the infants and primary schools, nearly every class had two or three, sometimes more kids, who suffered from polio. It was extremely sad. When I finally entered high school and in my first year there, we were given the Salk vaccination, a miracle vaccine that finally ended the scourge of polio. We were one of the first to receive it. I remember lining up, with rumours circulating up and down the line that the vaccine was delivered by a long and painful needle. Nothing of a sort! It was a vaccine taken orally and it tasted like strawberry jam!