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120 Year Community Arts Fair - Speech by Mrs Angela Gadsby

Good Morning Mrs D'Netto, Distinguished Guests, Staff, Students and Parents

I would firstly like to thank Mrs D'Netto for inviting me to speak to you all on such a momentous occasion for Runcorn State School.

I am honoured to represent my grandmother, Betty Brown, and my Great Grandmother, Magadelen Mann, who were both students at Runcorn. I am also a parent of Olivia and Ellie Gadsby who currently attend Runcorn.

My great grandmother, Magdalen, attended Runcorn in 1918 which was at the beginning of the last pandemic the world saw – The Spanish Flu. My grandmother was a student from 1936 until 1943 which was during the second World War which started in 1939.  Life was vastly different in the 1930s and 40s.  There was no TV, no computers, no IPADS, most people didn't have electricity.  There was no running water, the only water came from tanks which meant whole families would bathe in the same water.  My grandmother, being the oldest of five, was usually the last child to bathe just before her mother.

Times were hard with most people having very little money to live on.  My grandmother's family didn't own a car, she didn't even have a bike to ride to school on as they could not afford one.  She lived on a farm where Stretton is today. She lived there until she was a teenager, when they moved to the land where Sunnybank Hills Shopping Centre is now. There were very few houses as the whole area was small farms growing fruits and vegetables and raising chickens and cows. As a 5 year old she would walk from Stretton to Runcorn School. She would have to walk all the way down Gowan Rd to Hellawell Rd with her mother. That is where her mother would leave her to journey on with friends to school.  The roads were not bitumen only gravel and dirt.  There were no traffic or street lights or lollypop people to help cross the roads and there were very few cars on the roads also.

Runcorn had approx. 400 students back then.  There was only one main building and a smaller one which was situated on the Beenleigh Rd end of the school.  The children didn't have any playgrounds to play on. The Principal lived on the school grounds down towards the school pool.  Where the pool is today, there were lots of pine trees that were farmed which the children would have to attend to and weed. Each year on Arbour Day the students would plant a new tree. They only had 2 toilets that were on the Ardargie Street side of the school grounds.  These were not flushing toilets like we have today. 

During the war, fathers dug trenches along Ardargie Steet in the event of an air attack. They would have air raid practice drills where all the students would have to get down in these trenches amongst the dirt and be very silent. They were a bit like the fire drills you all participate in today. Luckily these trenches didn't ever need to be used in a real war situation.

The school day started at 9 and ended at 3 exactly the same as today's school hours.  Children learnt reading, writing and arithmetic or maths as you would all know it, and religion. Children didn't have books to write in or lead pencils or colouring pencils.  They used slate boards which were like small blackboards and slate pencils.  On very rare occasions they got to use paper and pens which they had to dip in inkwells. Teachers were strict. In the words of my grandmother, 'kids who misbehaved got whacked'.  She still remembers having chalk thrown at her for talking too much in class.  She would also have to stay back in class to write lines. She remembers having to write, “I must not talk in class“ 50 times during playtime.

Because most families didn't have a lot of money the children did not wear uniforms but there was always the expectation to come to school looking neat and tidy.  Once school was finished for the day children would return home to the family farm.  They didn't get to play, or watch TV or get on Ipads and play Roblox or Minecraft.  They had to do their chores like milking the cows, feeding the chooks and other animals.

School lunch was made up of a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and a piece of fruit. The fruit was usually something that was cheap or that had been grown at home.  There was no such thing as Tuckshop. Tomato sandwiches were very common for my grandmother which were usually soggy by lunch time. Plastic had not been invented and there were no snack sized packets of food bought from the supermarket.  Students didn't have fancy, insulated Smiggle lunch boxes to put lunch in. A cheap brown paper bag was all they had. There were no ice blocks to keep lunch cool on a hot day. On occasion they would bring some milk that had been milked from the cow at home and access to water was from tanks at school.  There were no running water taps or water bubblers to grab a drink from.

At lunch time they would play games like hopscotch which they would draw on the ground with a stick and use rocks to throw into each space. They played Fly using 4 sticks found laying on the ground and rounders which was like softball. Like today they would play Tiggy and Hide and Seek.

And just like kids today, breaking up day on the last day of school was party day when parents would bake lots of goodies for the whole class to enjoy.

Whilst so much has changed over the years there is still so much that is the same.  Children liked to have fun and play games just like you all do today.  The importance of attending school and education was a priority to most like it is today.  Children got into trouble for the same things they do today like talking too much or misbehaving though the punishment may have been a little harsher back then.

Runcorn State School has always had a wonderful sense of community and I don't believe that is any different today.  My grandmother will turn 90 next week and even though it has been many years since attending school she still holds Runcorn and her time here close to her heart.  She has many wonderful memories and she made many lifetime friends and like her I am sure you all will get to have the same experiences and create the same memories to hold on to.


Mrs Angela Gadsby

Last reviewed 08 December 2021
Last updated 08 December 2021