Norma Schell nee Basham at Stanley Flat
An Introduction to Stanley Flat
Because of the many happy memories of Stanley Flat and our time in that district, I will try and depict life as I remember it, hoping to enlist the memories and stories of our friends who also lived and loved that little district.
I am not concerned with dates or information that can be readily obtained from records, but rather the personal observation and stories of the families who lived there. The life of the Community centred around the three main buildings, namely the Stanley Flat Soldiers Memorial Hall, the Stanley Flat Primary School, and the Methodist Church and Cemetery.
My story begins in 1934 when my father Stanley Eric Basham, my mother Irene Alice and older sister Thelma Mary came to live in Stanley Flat. My father had been appointed to the school as Headmaster, having transferred from Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island, where he had taught for several years. I was 12 months old, so this story has to begin with quotations from my mother's personal 1982 story — Irene Alice Basham, known as Rene.
Irene Basham's 1982 Story
Stan put in for a transfer from Penneshaw which we found very remote and lonely, despite the many good friends we had made there. He had no notification of the transfer until the last week of the school holidays. You, Norma, were one year old and Thelma was seven years of age. We did not even know where Stanley Flat was, except that it was near Clare. We travelled on the Karatta from the island to the mainland. It was a terribly rough passage to Adelaide. I hated it and was always seasick. Then we traversed to Clare by car and to our new home at Stanley Flat.
Stanley Flat School Residence - much modified by the 1960s
The School Room of the 1960s is at far left behind the house.
We saw a rather small, weatherboard home attached to a one-roomed school. The school room was at the back of the home where the four rooms ran one into the other, no passage. Stan later built a porch at one end of the house, and a third bedroom sleepout on one end of the front verandah. My first unpleasant surprise was the nests of big black ants all round the school house. In fact, I lived with ants all of the 34 years we were there. Black ants outside and the white ants that riddled the weatherboard home. The Education Department in later years always did minor repairs to the building.
After making inquiries as to the name of the Chairman of the School, we found his residence, a big house at the corner of the main road and the school road. Three tall palm trees were in the front garden. Here we met the Foreman family, to become good friends for all of those 34 years with them — Frank Foreman, his wife and family. One daughter Margaret was Monitor at the school (a similar position to a Junior Teacher). We formed a lasting friendship from that day on. We then met Frank Gertau, Chairman of the Hall Committee, and our closest neighbour.
The first function we went to was a dance at the Stanley Flat Hall, 300 yards from the school. We were welcomed to the district by Mr Lou Dux. People were so friendly to us. Another family with whom we became acquainted in the early days was the Coles family — George, his wife and the three sons. They shopped in Clare every Thursday and offered to bring out any mail and the paper, as they had done for previous teachers. The Coles, the Gertau, the Foreman and the Pattullo families were the first and always our very good friends, among others of course.
The Giles family lived just down the road from the school. Their son Brian later became the Commissioner of Police. Stan taught him and gave him extra coaching when he was enlisting in the Police Force. We always called him "Barney Giles". We also made good friends with the McAskill and the Dux families who live either side of the main road, almost opposite to each other. The school was the hub of the Community, and a very active community it was. Meetings were once a month, and in the latter years, the women formed the Welfare Club and met regularly to work for the betterment of the school. The school Arbor days were a long awaited event in the school calendar. Tree planting in the mornings and childrens' races, followed by afternoon tea — a great social event. During the War Years, the trees near the Hall were planted in memory of our Servicemen.
The Hall was the venue for all events. Regular dances on Friday nights firstly. Bernie Marsson from Sevenhills played the piano, no drums those early days. The 4-weekly dances were so exciting. We wore long evening dresses and, of course, the men wore suits and always a tie. Roy Beames was usually the Master of Ceremonies and was one of the best dancers.
Sunday School was run and organised by the Pattullo family, who looked after the church cleaning and the care of the Cemetery grounds where there are family graves. This property is now owned by that family who still care for the buildings and cemetery. Almost all of the family deceased are buried there. Miss Nell Pattullo was always the organist at the Methodist Church.
The Clare Golf Club was then in Robinson's paddock adjoining the schoolgrounds. They had their meetings in the supper room of the Hall. Murray Thomas and his wife Joy, from Stradbrooke, were generous to the district. Murray loved sport and donated land nearby for a cricket pitch, built a little shed for spectators, and began the Stanley Flat Cricket Club which entered the competitions.
Among our friends were the Meyers, Elsie and Rex, and the Dux family, Lou and Yootha, their children Gilbert and Lois. We spent many pleasant evenings in their homes. We enjoyed great picnics in the Bumburnie hills on Pattullo's property. There were huge bonfires at night where we sat around singing and telling "yarns". Homemade bread, cake and gingerbeer were always supplied by the Pattullos from their own pantry. The Pattullo women were clever at handicraft of all kinds, and for many years were the teachers of Handicraft at C.W.A. in the State. Picnics also were held at Hughes Park in Watervale, and at Herb Turner's property often on a Sunday afternoon
We had no telephone and no electricity — kerosene lamps and a chip bathheater, and wood fires of course, the kitchen stove and an open fireplace in the lounge. There was also a big open fireplace in the schoolroom and Stan would keep that fire burning all day in the winter months. The Joe Butlers who lived up on the hill towards Stradbrooke had the telephone and gave us important messages whenever necessary. They had two daughters Barbara and Stephanie. Mrs Butler was a very artistic lady.
We had no water except rainwater tanks, so water was always scarce. Dad missed his vegie garden. He loved his garden. However Billy Gertau, brother of Frank and Jack, had a huge dam, 3 miles or so away from the school in the Bumburnie hills.. Dad would leave after school and walk there and back, returning at dusk with his vegetables. The school bought a big waterbag which hung under the pine trees for coolness, as well as smaller ones everywhere hanging in the shade, and you dare not waste a drop of precious rainwater.
Mr. Wade, the butcher from Clare, who worked for Overtons, called weekly in his horse and cart with fresh meat and each child waited for a huge piece of fritz that he would cut them. We would get a block of ice once a week in Clare for the ice chest, and often had to make an extra trip to Clare in the summer months to keep the ice chest cool. The Clare iceworks were in the town.
The mantle wireless we had bought in Penneshaw was soon to be replaced with a better model — this time a free standing, walnut veneered wireless which graced the floor of the dining room. We loved this wireless and it provided us with great entertainment. The Lux Radio Theatre on Sunday evenings and the Amateur Hour on Thursday nights were favourite programmes with us. The great singers Paul Robeson, Richard Tauber and many others were listened to with delight. Norma would sit with her ear up to the fabric covered hole in front where the speakers were, fascinated with the music.
We never seemed to have any money and just went from pay day to pay day — never saved and never seem to worry a scrap. Dad always wore his one dark suit to school, winter and summer. Even when the temperature reached 104 degrees in the weatherboard schoolroom, he would never think of taking his coat and tie off. In later years, he wore a Sports Coat but still his white shirt and dark tie.
When War was announced on a Sunday afternoon, everyone was stunned. You would have thought it was the end of the world. Food and petrol rationing came later, so we only used the car once a week to go to Clare for rations. The boys in the district left to enlist. We farewelled them all in the hall — Keith Gertau, Eric Harvey and Alan Gericke (to name a few). These 3 boys went overseas, Keith and Eric returned, but not so Alan. Keith's bags were returned with Eric Harvey and we didn't know whether he was alive, until news came just before Peace was announced. Keith had been with Eric in Lebanon, worked on the Burma Railway, a prisoner of the Japanese for 3 years and was very ill in Hospital for 18 months in a Prison camp. What a welcome home it was for him! Once again the Stanley Flat Hall was packed with all of the district attending the "Welcome Home".
Restrictions were not lifted till quite a time after the War. Our Hall windows still had the black curtains and the car headlights were all painted black with just a narrow strip open for light. Dad had joined the Home Guard and would come home after training in the Clare Hills, quite exhausted most times. He was not a small man but always enthusiastic and willing. There were no road signs or town signs allowed during the war years. The children knitted for the servicemen as we did — scarves, socks and balaklava hats. We collected scrap metal and old tyres to take to the depot at Cato's Garage in Clare. Fortnightly dances were held in the Hall and Fund raising nights as well with card evenings and concerts. Dances and Card evenings were held in private homes too. In fact, we had to buy a new lino for the Bruce Wallace's home because we wore his out dancing in the kitchen. The Education Department made allowances for the shortage of labour and Dad was allowed to go and work on the farms after school hours and on weekends. He stooked hay and did other general farm work. The women of course were doing the men's jobs.
The day Peace was announced was a great one. Everybody headed for Clare and the Town Hall. They went in cars, carts, jinkers, on horse back and on bicycles, anyway they could to get to the town where all met and talked sang danced — and drank. After 6 long years, it was wonderful.
Stanley Eric Basham With his 25 year Silver Service Award
Oh, we had such good times at Stanley Flat and made so many friends there. We were just one big happy family, each caring about the other. The Education Department tried to persuade Stan to take the promotions due to him. This meant a transfer and in no way would we leave Stanley Flat. This was our home and we loved the district and its people. He remained at the school (on a much lower wage than he was entitled to), happy with his friends until his retirement at the age of 65 years on October 11, 1966, after serving thirty three and two thirds years as their teacher.
Unfortunately, the advent of cars and motor bikes made it easier to get to Clare and other towns. After the war, people started moving off, and the social life of the "Flat" just fizzled out. Dad retired on the day of his birthday and would not even complete the school year. We had a party for the children, with a cream cake and raspberry drinks. Only about 24 children were at the school, and four of them were "The Bashams'" grandchildren.
During the later years, the old school building and house were demolished, leaving just the old shed which was a separate building near the school. A transportable timber one-roomed school was erected and used for those few years. We moved into Clare to live. It was a sad day for us when they demolished the school and the house that had been our home for 30 years. Anne and Phillip were born during those years and went to school with Dad also.
The demolishers left behind the front cyclone fence with the gates still swinging open (as they had always been). Only the three big pine trees in the house yard remained, still with the nests of magpies. The old asphalt tennis court that Dad had put down for the children was all broken up. The play equipment and the Flagpole and other items were taken to the Museum in Clare and elsewhere. A school bus now ran to Clare with the children of the district. Nothing was left of the old place which had been the scene of great activity for so many years. Where dozens of children had learned the three "Rs" and to be responsible and respectable citizens had gone. Here parents had met and formed great and lasting friendships, and they still have so many wonderful memories of those days at Stanley Flat.
Written by Irene Alice Basham (Rene) — l982, Clare
The Final Day at Stanley Flat School
The Stanley Flat School Children sit at their desks,
with their Headmaster, Mr Basham, watching from behind.
It is for the last time, before the School closes for ever.
Mr Basham watches the "Last March into School".
The Last School Photo is taken before their departure.
My childhood memories are of a carefree happy and loving family life. I think we had the ideal existence, living in the beautiful district of Clare, which I love. We had so many friends and we wanted for nothing, contented with our lot.
I was only one year old when we moved to the schoolhouse at Stanley Flat where Dad was appointed as Headmaster. We were all involved with the life of the district and it was a busy life. My first memories of our home as a child, was the sound of magpies warbling, morning and night, nesting in the pine trees surrounding the house — a lovely sound I still associate with Stanley Flat.
The 1960s Stanley Flat School & Residence
The story below gives the layout, from the kitchen door at bottom right to the school on left
We described our home as the house of 4 rooms joined on the schoolroom. In reality, the four rooms went from one into the other, the full length of the school room at the rear, sharing the same wall of weatherboard. Dad and I would only have to go out of our kitchen door, around the water tank and into the school porch, and later a quick trip home for lunch. The building consisted of weatherboard, with an iron roof. In latter years, the place was always being repaired by the Education Department, the white ants had moved in with a vengeance and never could be entirely eradicated from the building. Mother, being a meticulously tidy person, waged a full time war against those ants — black ants in huge nests outside in the yard, and white ants inside. Small ants were often in the food cupboards as well. Still - What were ants to happy kids? Our lives were full of interest. Dad was a great but firm teacher, particularly firm with his own children. Only the best was good enough, and no favouritism, in fact quite the opposite. Being the boy he should have had (until brother Phillip was born 12 years after me), I really felt it at times.
Stanley Flat School Residence - much modified by the 1960s
The School Room of the 1960s is at far left behind the house.
The Sleepout and Porch additions are as described below.
The four-roomed house had a front verandah, no passage way. Dad built a sleepout room at one end of the front verandah, with steps leading down from their bedroom — a timber structure with wire sieve windows all around the top, where hung large canvas blinds for privacy. I slept there during the winter and summer months in my teen years. A porch was built later at the other end of the kitchen leading into the laundry and bathroom, just an enclosed area but giving us privacy and another room. Once more Dad was the builder, a handyman he certainly was. They were all very small rooms, with kitchen stove and an open wood fire in the lounge. There was one large open fireplace in the schoolroom which Dad would light every morning early before the children arrived on those cold winter mornings.
The wall between the schoolroom and the house was so thin and riddled with white ants that all Mum had to do was to tap on the wall when she needed Dad. He would then excuse himself from the class and pop around to see to the problem. The old clothes line in the back yard was a wire strung from the pinetrees to posts which unfortunately were often knocked over by the children or a stray football. There were no fences between house and schoolgrounds. Many were the times that Mum's lovely copper-boiled white sheets had to be rescued out of the mud and rewashed, a long procedure and hard work those days without a washing machine.
We children loved the messy old pine trees. We used to climb them and throw pine cones down at the boys in the schoolyard. I was a tomboy, not like my two more docile sisters. I started school at four years of age and couldn't wait to begin — or Dad to begin teaching me. The school Inspector turned a "blind eye" to me being there, so all was well. At 9 o'clock, Dad blew his whistle and we assembled in the school yard before the flag pole. The flag was raised and we would sing the National Anthem. Dad had a good voice, so we were almost all in tune. Then it was observation time — weather and cloud formation, also current events observed. Sometimes, to Dad's amusement, a few personal family anecdotes were eagerly told by a child. I think Dad kept up with the local gossip at times and enjoyed imparting it to Mum at Recess time. Then we marched into the schoolroom with the Drum and Fife Band. I was so anxious to join that band. Into the classroom we marched to the tune of "Chairs to Mend" and other easy melodies. If you couldn't manage to play them on the fife, you could still "look important" and "makeout". Recess was at 11 to 11-30 and again in the afternoon from half past 2 till then to 3. Lunchtime was a full hour from 12.30 till 1.30. Home time each day was right on the dot of twenty to four. And so that was our school day and I loved every minute of it — so much so that when I had to go to complete my education to the St. Joseph Convent School in Clare, with their strict rules and discipline, I hated it.
During the War years, Dad had no assistant teacher. The school numbers in one year reached 72, and usually averaged about 50 children. He taught everything that had to be taught, except sewing and knitting which Mother taught on a Friday afternoon for two lessons. The boys did woodwork with Dad in the shed adjoining the schoolroom. Incidentally, I didn't like sewing or knitting and was no good at it, much to Mum's disappointment. Dad taught the 7 classes all subjects including woodwork, sport and physical exercise for everyone, and rhythm dancing for us girls — singing lessons and acting too. Everything was covered but Religious Instruction which in later years was given by the Ministers from the local Parishes. At times, it was difficult being the teacher's daughter — we were expected to be clever, why I don't know? Dad was harder on us than on the other children. Also we were excluded from some of the children's activities in case we "tittletattled" to "the boss" as they called Dad. We played football, however, with the boys in Robinson's paddock since we were needed to make the required number. The races on Arbor day were also held in Robinson's paddock. That was a great day, eagerly looked forward to each year — Treeplanting in the morning and after lunch the Races. Dad was not an athletic looking man, but had been a good allround sportsman. He was very active, and woebetide anyone who thought they could run away from him when in trouble. He could run fast even then. We had physical exercises each morning for a quarter of an hour — I loved that too. We bent and stretched and balanced and did all sorts of healthy exercise.
The annual concerts were the greatest event in the calendar year, looked forward to and spoken of for months before December arrived and rehearsals began. After the end of the year exams we began, under Dad's supervision, making costumes and scenery. Dad had a flair for entertainment and comedy and used it well at these concerts. People filled the Hall to capacity, standing room only. The concerts were so well done and made a talking point in the district each year. When my own children attended Stanley Flat for those few years before Dad's retirement, I was involved again of course, this time playing the piano accompaniment.
Dad's word was law, he never had to speak twice. His favourite discipline to the "wayward " boy was to send him outside to cut his own switch from the tagasaste tree. After great drama, he would dramatically test out the strength of these switches and often reject them as not strong or large enough for the punishment to be inflicted. They would be sent out for another. I don't think the punishment inflicted was anywhere as frightening as the anticipation. Despite the use of the cane at times, these culprits seemed to have nothing but affection and respect for Dad in their adult years. It sounds as though only the boys were in trouble with the teacher, but I can assure you the girls got into trouble too, their punishment milder but just as effective. I certainly got my fair share of these, being a "showoff" and "spoiled" (or so my mother and sisters informed me). There were never any "backward" children at Stanley Flat, the slower to learn were singled out for extra attention. I have memories of Dad at his desk table, with the little ones on his knee or standing between his legs reading or writing at his desk table. Children who graduated to High school from Stanley Flat were expected to achieve good results, such was Mr. Basham's reputation as a teacher. He maintained that there were no backward children, only backward teachers and parents. In sport also, they could more than "hold their own"; Dad's method of training was a good and patient one, as he imparted his own natural ability and skill to the children.
There was not a large number of motor vehicles in those days — horses, drays, traps and jinkers, also trolleys for carting the fruit and grapes. Mrs and Miss Aiden Lee had a most elegantly "turned out" trap, all shiny, black with polished harness, complete with oilskin also black and shiny to cover the blankets on their knees. They dressed almost entirely in black, complete with hats and gloves for all occasions. I was most impressed with their "rig" but never had the pleasure of a ride in it, of course. But Mrs Frank Noble, the mother of my best friend Maxine, would take me to Clare with them on shopping days. I could hold the reins and drive the horse at times also. They were wonderful trips, especially if the lamps on the side of the trap had to be lit for the return journey at dusk.
Mrs Frank Gertau who lived only 300 yards from our home and right opposite the Hall was a fine horsewoman and a hard worker, as she had to be with two daughters and five sons. They had a fruit garden at Bumburnie. She would bring fruit back in the trolley, but more often in the jinker or the light dray. The frisky brown horse they called Mickey, in the shafts, tested her skills. Only Keith and Jean dared ride that horse, so flighty was he. But Mrs Gertau handled him well. When she turned the last corner to home, it would take her all her strength to handle Mickey. They would fly past our house, with Mum looking through the kitchen curtains and holding her breath, praying for Mrs Gertau's safety, yet she always came to a sudden stop at her gate, quite safe.
Murray Thomas of Stradbrooke was a very "go ahead" man and stud sheep breeder. He always seemed to have a new vehicle, motor bike, truck or car, and drove past our house at a very fast speed, kicking up the yellow limestone dirt on the road. Mum would shut the windows and rush for the feather duster again, saying mild swear words under her breath. That feather duster was never far away from Mother's sight, nor the broom either.
Jack and Bill Gertau and also Bill Slattery drove Model T Ford trucks. I guess, even then, they were antique vehicles. I often had a ride in them. They would give me a lift home, putting the bike up on the back of their vehicle. We girls rode in and out of Clare to school and work in those years, Thelma worked for the Stanley Dried Fruits Association for 8 years and rode her bike all the time. The Coles family had a big black sedan car. It seemed very large to me, especially since Mrs. Coles was a tiny lady hardly able to see over the dashboard. Martin, the youngest son who drove it at a very early age, almost had the same problem. The Ramm boys who lived at Bumburnie walked to school each day and usually without shoes — quiet boys from a large and hardworking family. Mrs Ramm was so generous and always sent a huge case of food to the supper functions at the Hall, far more than her own family would ever eat. Miss Ferg Pattullo always made the milk coffee in the copper in the kitchen of the Hall. That coffee was renowned for its flavour; the leftover coffee was always bottled up and delivered to Dad, a favourite of that family. The two families, Pattullos and Bashams, remained very close friends all of their lives.
The only time we felt "out of it" was on a Sunday afternoon, when Sunday school was conducted in the Methodist Church next door. Sister Anne and I used to climb up onto the school roof and try to see into the church windows. We would listen to the hymns being sung, sometimes not too tunefully. The Methodist picnic was of course "off limits" to the Catholics in those days; Dad would have been invited but Mum and we children as Catholics definitely not. After some years, mainly through the kindness and the intercession of the Pattullo family, we were invited to attend. That was a great day, but I must admit we went the first time in "fear and trepidation", wondering what the "Methos" had in store for us "Pats". Of course nothing dreadful happened, so we continued to go for a number of years and had a great time with our school friends.
Maxine Noble, daughter of Frank and his wife, was my bosom buddy. We met in Grade l and decided to become lifelong friends as kids do. So began a long friendship until marriage, when sadly we drifted apart. I loved to visit her home and stay the night at the fruit garden over Robinson's hill. Life was so different for them — feeding the animals, picking fruit and grapes; always honey and cream on the table for tea. I loved that treat. We helped separate the milk and cream in the underground cellar where the dairy food and fruit was kept for coolness. Then there were the rides into Clare in the horse and trap, wrapped in warm rugs on the cold, frosty mornings — an hour's journey but what fun.
Ferg Pattullo formed the Guides and Brownies and was our Brown Owl for years. She was still in charge when I took my daughter Alison there to be enrolled as a Brownie. In later years, the Guides and Brownies met in the old Church building which had long been disbanded as a place of worship. In earlier years, they met in the Hall.
I remember the many functions held before and after the War ended, and during those war years. The dances and card evenings in the Hall, and in private homes. We children played outside amongst the grapevines. How those winter frosts each year devastated the vines, mostly currants in those years. The frost each year seemed to test the endurance of the hard working blocker severely. At these card evenings and dances, the women took their "basket" of supper, the men homemade wine. What fun was had by all. The first "tin-kettling" I went to stays in my memory. We all met at McDonalds corner, people coming from all directions. Then quietly moving "en masse" to the Foreman's home. Then "all hell" broke loose — stones thrown on the roof, tins and buckets banged with a stick, all yelling at the tops of our voices. What a din it was. This was the occasion of "tin-kettling" for Margaret Foreman and Arthur Pritchard.
Murray Thomas was a great worker and a generous man for school and district. He with Dad started the Golf Club in Robinson's paddock. Murray provided a cricket ground on his property just down from the school. Then he built his own tennis courts and table tennis room, fully equipped, adjoining his house. The Stradbrooke Tennis and Table Tennis Clubs were formed and were most competitive. We, as a family, played there for many years.
School, School Picnics and Other Marvels for Kids
The school picnics were most exciting for us kids. On occasions, a bus took us to the beach at Fisherman's Bay and Wallaroo. We children had races and climbed the mangrove trees at the Bay. On other picnics, we always found a suitable large tree for the rope and tyre swing. I loved the big swings. And what fun it was to get into a drum or curl inside a large tyre and be rolled down a steep incline, falling out at the bottom, half scared, giddy but triumphant — then back up the hill for a repeat thrill. All went home after those picnics, late in the day, filthy and exhausted, parents and children alike. But what a day to remember till next time. We went on many picnics and often. We spent many evenings with the Coles family, George the father and Mrs Coles, a short woman, always with a smile on her face. The three long lanky sons were racing fanatics and used to go past the schoolhouse, Martin in the rear in early years on a little bike. My first cycling "buster" was off that bike. I went down Robby's hill, full speed, the set wheels making legs work like mad. I finished up on the 4th Hole of the Golf course, even having the presence of mind to duck under the wire fence that surrounded the scrapes put there to protect them from the sheep that grazed the paddock.
A Really Special Outing
Stanley Flat School Children
with their Headmaster, Mr Basham
On board the Troubridge bound for Kangaroo Island
Children started school usually about 6 or 7 years of age, some were 14 or 15 before they finished Grade 7, and very big boys. Dad was a firm teacher and kept control with a stern but loving hand. Some of the bigger boys tried his patience and tested him out. They were taller than he was, and needed disciplining The boys those days always seemed to be fighting. They would organise a "punchup" down the road after school, out of Dad's sight. The girls and other boys would all crowd around, "making out" they enjoyed it, but it was serious business at times. We were never allowed to go to see these events.
Mum always seemed to know what was going on, and made sure we were home. Obviously Dad turned a blind eye on these occasions after school was "out". I'm not sure that I wanted to go, but you would never admit that to anybody. Our neighbours on the Church side were the Waters family, who I believe were "squatters" in the little old stone house that nobody seemed to own. George White, the wellknown Rodeo rider and artist, a clever man, also lived there for some time. Dad would take me to chat with him. He fascinated us with his sketches, and his tales. The Waters family had an ugly looking fox terrier they called "Butcher". Its howl sounded like an air raid siren, and it howled whenever Mr Waters (Alby) left the place. It was always chained up then, thank goodness, but still that dog scared us.
Singing lessons were the highlight of my week — not so for my friend Martin Coles. He was always sent outside to chop the wood when singing lessons were on. There were a couple of other boys who also helped to "build up" Dad's woodheap. My memories are of Dad "splitting" wood after school. We girls then picked up the "chips". I had a few mishaps by sitting too close to Dad while he worked. Whatever my father was doing, I was usually sitting there watching and learning. He was to me the cleverest person in the world, and could do all things.
Dances and Music
The dances in the Stanley Flat Hall were a highlight for all. The show night dance was always crowded. Who knows what new boys we might meet at that dance. During the war years, I remembering one "topsy turvy" ball, men and women reversing roles and dressing. Mother had a photo of these folk. Hedley Snashall who for many years was manager of the Dress Department at McConnochies Store in Clare, really stole the show on this occasion. In gold lame, hair adornment, gloves and even gold evening shoes. I was fascinated at the antics of the adults that night.
Frank Gertau was the caretaker of the Hall. Mum arranged the hiring of the hall piano for me to practice on which I did for years, never having a piano ourselves at home, picking up the key from Mr. Gertau and returning it each day. Mr Gertau had to light up the gas lights in the Hall before each function. The gas house was a little shed on the eastern side where the toilets have now been built. Of course, those toilets then were out to the back of the Hall yard. At about 11.30 each evening, the gas lights would flicker and almost go out. He would have to stoke the gas up again, but would leave them dim for a time, to please the young "blades" who looked for the right partner at that time of the night for a little bit of "romance" on the dance floor. When I started playing for dances, I played "by ear" as they called it. The "real'' pianists used music, so when the lights were dim, I would be persuaded to provide the music. I can still play some of those particular pieces of music, with my eyes shut. Of course as I got older, I was annoyed missing out on all the fun on the dance floor.
I remember the dance bands of the district. Wilf Bond played a button accordion, beat a drum with one foot, the other on the cymbals, and also blew into a mouthorgan or a handmade trumpet which he sang into — a real "one man band", perfect dance time, but a little hard on the ear at times.
Bill Borlace at the drums
Bill Borlace, a returned soldier, took up drumming and he played regularly. In fact, he played drums to accompany me for years, the two of us travelling all over the district providing music for the dances and Balls. The princely sum of 15/- was given for Saturday nights and 25/- for a long night (till l.30 usually). Jean Schultz (Gertau) played with her uncle Wilf Bailey on drums, and Rex Williams and Kath Baxter played piano for dances in my day. Hard work with a piano sometimes out of tune, ivories of some keys leaving sore fingers, but the extra money I loved to have to spend on clothes. I loved dancing so had to make that difficult choice, fun or money.
On weekends we rode our bikes into Clare to the Swimming pool in the summer, and on weekends rode miles about the country side, on the main and back roads. Of course we rode into school, church on Sundays, and Music lessons in Clare on Saturday mornings. By jove, it was cold at times along the "Flat". Faces and fingers would literally freeze, and we had chilblains on the back of our legs and on toes and fingers.
I played for dances at Stanley Flat and at most of the other small halls in the district from the time I was about 18 years of age. There was always a dance on somewhere at weekends. When my children went to school at the Flat, I played for their concerts and special events at the Hall. The people of the District gave me a kitchen evening before Neil and I were married. I was then working with Dad as a Junior Teacher at the School. We three girls celebrated our 21st birthdays and our wedding receptions in the Stanley Flat Hall. Can you blame me for having very sentimental ties with Stanley Flat and that Hall!
From a very early age we would go to the dances, sleep in the corner of the hall or sit with rugs around our knees watching our parents dance. We learned to waltz before school age, and what a thrill it was when another adult asked us to partner them in the Canadian Barndance, where we got to change partners and dance with everyone on the floor, instead of dancing with another child.
The Families of Stanley Flat
We all knew the families of Stanley Flat. In the very early days after 1934, here are some of the names of the families. Beginning at the Spalding turn off, there lived the Rex Kimbers. Rex was a returned World War I soldier who had lost a leg in the battle. My husband Neil, as a teenager worked for him for several years. Then their cousins the Roy James, lived next to the Lou Dux family, Herb Turners, Leo Giles, Mac Barber, Morrie Noble and his mother (Morrie later married Ruth Pycroft who still lives in the same house). Next to them was Bruce Wallace, Wally Penfold, Alvin Lee, Harold Dack, George Victorsen, Neil Kimber and Tom Pycroft.
Then further to Clare township lived the Dolans who had a great apple orchard where I am ashamed to say we kids pinched our lunchtime grannysmith apple on the way to school on our bikes during those High school years. The Clem Koops were near Inchiquin Hill. Returning on the other side of the road from Inchiquin Hill, the Frank Earles whose son Dean still operates his business there. Neil Kimber and behind Kimbers property was Stan McDonald and Rene his sister, the Frank Nobles, Pycrofts and two families of Robinsons. Robinson land adjoined the Racecourse and the schoolyard on the other fence line in those days. Past the school road was a big house with three large palm trees where Foremans lived, then Mrs. Lee and Mervyn Lee, Goff Tilbrook (Argus), McAskills, Alan and Ivy. Behind them were the McEvoys and on the hill above them lived Mrs. Pavey.
Then to the Spalding turnoff where there was the "House that Jack Built" owned by the Slattery family. This house was originally a stopover for the changing of coach horses in the very early days. That completes the main road families as I remember them in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The road leading from the main road to the school had a landmark. Angie McLean and Russ McDonald had a pigsty which most times polluted the air with the smell. We girls would get an extra "spurt" of energy as we passed by Angie's pigs. At the top of the little rise halfway to the school and the Hall was the home of the Giles family, Barney Giles their son later to become the S.A.Police Commissioner. The Frank Gertaus were our closest neighbours living right opposite the Hall. The little house of four stone rooms with a large iron shed at the back of it housed Mum and Dad Gertau and seven children, five of them very large men. The Howard Walden family lived on the hill across from us. The Waters family in the little stone house down past the Methodist Church, then up the hill to the Butlers.
Quite a long way then to the crossroads before the next home, the Bauers, then several homes together on both sides of the road to Stradbrooke, Dinhams, and Coles to the right up the hill, Whitemans, Victors on the southern side of the road. Turning left at Stradbrooke to the Bumburnie road lived Billy Gertau, the Pattullos, and the Ragless families. Over the hill to Frank Gertau's fruit garden later owned by Whites, and the Ramm family. We had close contact with almost all of these families, such was the involvement of the people in the school, Hall and the Church activities.
In the 1950s and l960s, other residents were Win and Harry Johnson, the Gilberts, the Rowleys, Fletchers, Wundkes, McNamaras, Ochoto, Leaney and the Merry family; Arthur and Alice James who worked for Stradbrooke, the Colberts and so many more I can't remember. Because for 34 years my father taught school here and was very active in every aspect of the district life, we made many close and lasting friendships. I returned at 21 years of age to teach with my father at the Stanley Flat School, leaving to have my eldest son Geoffrey. Murray Thomas always generous, lent me a motor scooter to ride from Clare to the school each day. I did that until it became "unseemly" for a pregnant girl to ride a motor scooter. Then for a short time I drove Neil's Austin traytop truck to work. It was wonderful to teach at our school, and an added bonus to work with my father, a great teacher and friend. My four children went to school there until Dad retired in l966, a great experience for them and for him. They became very close to their grandfather in years to follow.
More than ever, I realise as I grow older, what a fortunate child I was, to have lived in such a community all of those years. A community of people of all ages and backgrounds who came together and were committed to the Stanley Flat district. I have such close ties with that district to this day. Now after living 25 years in other areas, Neil and I are back in Clare to retire. Two of our sons live on the land in this district, and we are delighted to again meet with old friends of the past.
The Stanley Flat School has gone, our home also, the Methodist Church building still standing, but the Stanley Flat Soldiers Memorial Hall is better then ever, well maintained by a new group of dedicated Stanley Flat residents. I hope it always remains so.