Cossens, Margaret (Watts) – Memories

In 1953 I began my HS education – easy transition, as we came to the same building:

  • HS rooms were the 4 rooms at the front of the Primary School facing Quinn St
  • Room 1: the Music room, because the piano was here, though it was a general classroom.  Music was actually “ “singing; Mr Terrill taught us many songs, and when I joined the School Choir we practised here.
  • Room 2: The Library – 2 or 3 bookcases at the back of a classroom.  I often borrowed 2 books a day, reading through recess and lunch and on the bus, and usually finished them both to return them the next day.
  • Room 3 – general classroom – I spent a lot of time here in Forms 1 and 2
  • Room 4: Science room
  • An army hut at the front of the school opposite the tennis courts and the Methodist manse was divided into the Needlework, Art and Commercial rooms, while Cookery was taught in a stand alone building which is now incorporated into the Library wing and is used for Art. 
  • A 2nd building, now demolished, was the Woodwork and Metalwork rooms. 
  • Of course, Cookery and Needlework were girls’ subjects and Woodwork/Metal for the boys.

One of my most vivid memories was learning to dance on the quadrangle facing Grey St.  Mr Nicol and Miss Moore (now Mrs Joan Guymer) armed with a portable record player, taught us the Barn Dance, Pride of Erin, Foxtrot and Waltz.

The School Social, held in the Town Hall at end of each term, was, of course, the reason for this activity.  We used to get dressed up after tea and ride back to the bus stop to catch the bus – no supervision, but the bus driver’s word was law and I think the most exciting thing that ever happened was that a few of the Form 4 students had a “snog” on the way home.  Actually, my brother John had a good technique – he’d sit with one girl and if she got off before him, he’d survey the remaining girls and invite another one to sit with him.

In Form 1 and 2 I was paddling along in the middle of the class academically, but found Maths totally benumbing, finally gaining my worst ever mark in my Report Book, 32%.  I persuaded Mum to come in to see Mr Rogers to request I go into 3C, the Commercial stream, the following year.  He was concerned that I might suffer later by not having French or Science, because they disappeared along with the Maths in 3C.  However, assured that I had no academic pretensions, Mr Rogers allowed me to change into 3C in 1955, and I blossomed academically!  Without the fear of Maths hanging over me I found the work enjoyable.  I think Shorthand became my “language” and Arithmetic, which I had previously regarded as another sort of Maths, was now achievable.  From Form 3 I was dux of my form every year.

Form 3 was an interesting year, as the new building was being erected on Tocumwal RD.  In Term 2, the two Form 6 girls, Anne Gladstone and Pam Farrell, Form 4C, John’s class, and my form moved into the C wing of the school, and building of the school continued around us.  We had all our general subjects and Shorthand and Typing here and were bussed to the old building for the Practical subjects.  The teachers made their own way at first –  Pam Farrell’s school magazine account tells it like it was!.

At this time and the following year, when all students moved to the school, though the Art and Gym were still to be built, the grounds were a sea of mud in winter and baked hard in summer.  Ghastly portable toilets were reached over duckboards, but finally, in 1957, the school, the only one to be completely built to its full plan, was opened.  I remember the opening vividly, as my Form 5 Domestic Science class had to cook the lunch, and as the official party was taking their seats in the dining room, we were dishing up pea soup.  To our horror, were didn’t have any soup for the final plate. Without getting flustered, Miss Richardson grabbed a saucepan of peas, strained some of the cooking water into the plate and said, “Don’t serve this to any of the staff; the visitor who gets it will be too polite to say anything.”

I was fortunate enough to gain a Junior and later Senior Scholarship each year from Form 3, but I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do.  I never gave Uni a thought; my real interest was in being a Librarian, but I knew Mum and Dad couldn’t afford to put me through the course, let alone pay for my board.  Then an Education Dept officer spoke to the scholarship holders in I think Form 4, and mentioned that after a 2 year PS training course, top students had the chance to complete a Librarian’s course.  I had my name down for that immediately, without discussing it with anybody, but Mum approved and so did Dad, though he said nothing to me.  Mum told me later that I was the 1st person in his family to go on to Tertiary training, and the 2nd in hers. I was awarded a Studentship at the end of Form 6.

It was really only in the senior school that I became friendly with a number of students.  In Primary school I spent some time with Elizabeth Ellis and in High School I was saved by palling up with Pam Cherry, the daughter of the headmaster at Katunga PS.  When she left I experienced real loneliness, but gradually the girls in Form 5 and 6 became my close friends.  Form 6 was a wonderful year, taking subjects I loved (English, Literature, Aust. History and Geography and Commercial Principles & Practice).  Mr McKean suggested I do this, noting that I could go to Uni if I didn’t get into T P T C and do Commerce.  I sat in the back of his Form 5 class and worked on my own with his input when it was needed.

The 4 girls in Form 6, Glenda Hooper, Wilma Martin, Pam Johnson and I had a lot of fun together.  We were elected Prefects and enjoyed the responsibility, and the freedom of the Prefects’ Room, and bossed the only boy in the year unmercifully.

I passed all my subjects and entered Coburg Teachers College the following year.  With a Studentship, I was paid $7 a week, and a living away from home allowance of another $7 – wealth indeed to a girl who never received any pocket money, just spending money when I went out.  I was boarding at Moreland Hall, a Methodist Girl’s Hostel which had been a girls reformatory the year before – but that’s another story!


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Attendees of the BIG Reunion in 2007 are bolded

Adams, John – / Addison, Raymond – / Alchin, Douglas – / Amor, Maxwell – / Bacon, Gordon – / Barbour, Lorna – McLeish/ Baxter, Elizabeth – / Beisel, Billy – / Bellis, Gerald – / Bennett, Noel – / Blackley, Alan – / Brady, Graeme – / Browning, Robert – / Burkhill, Lorraine – / Campbell, Lois – Mackay/ Carey, Raymond – / Carter, Lois – Skoknic/ Carter, Noel – / Chandler, Lewis – / Chant, Lila – / Clough, Barry – / Condon, Alan – / Coppin, Thelma – Payne/ Cossens, Margaret – Watts/ Cowan, David – / Cox, Betty – / Cox, Colin – / Cunningham, Jean – Mackay/ Danaher, Eileen – / Dempster, Glenda – Chessells/ Dempster, Leila – / Doyle, Bruce – / Dunbar, Wilma – Seymour/ Durrant, Beverley – / Eddy, John – / Edge, George – / Ellis, Elizabeth – / Fennis, Neville – / Fleming, Dorothy – McLean/ Gardner, Joy – / Gartrell, Ann – Currey/ Gilliard, Patricia – / Gladstone, Leslie – Porter/ Goggin, Valerie – / Gooding, Claire – / Gooding, Elaine – Crothers/ Goodwin, Bernie – / Graeme, Gordon – / Grandell, Dorothy – / Gray, Carol – Heyward/ Gread, Lorna – / Hansen, Brian – / Harding, John jack – / Hill, Malcolm – / Hixon, Heather – Barrie/ Hocking, Kevin – / Hollands, Ronald – / Hooper, Glenda – Garner/ Hutchinson, Beverley – / Jack, Ronald – / Johnson, Pamela – Howard/ Johnson, Timothy – / Kellett, John – / Kennedy, Frank – / Kennedy, Peter – / Longmuir, Murray – / Marshall, George – / Marshall, Sue pamela – Watson/ Martin, Wilma – / Maw, Anthony – / McBride, Robin – Bohan/ McCallum, Robert – / McCluskey, Carolyn – / McDonald, Carole – / Mead, Gordon – / Mills, Isobel – Walker/ Mills, Marjorie – / Mullavey, Terence – / Needham, Stanley – / Neilson, Ronald – / Newman, Roger – / O’Farrell, Dermott – / Oram, Iris – / Patrick, Ian – / Peck, Heather – / Peep, Beppie – / Phillips, Kenton – / Reilly, Kenneth – / Ross, Roger – / Saunders, Maureen – / Schmedje, Barrie – / Scott, Marjorie – / Scrivens, Ian – / Seymour, Brian – / Sheils, Loretta – / Simpson, Don – / Smit, Theo – / Smith, Brian – / Stofmeel, Trudy – / Stone, Merle – / Strong, Noel – / Sutton, Andrew – / Sutton, Donald – / Tanner, John – / Taylor, Jean – / Taylor, Kevin – / Thomas, Barry – / Tuttle, Margaret – / Tweedie, Barbara – / Visser, Albert – / Walker, Douglas – / Walkington, Patricia – / Woods, Beryl – / Wright, Geoffrey