When I was growing up, there were three schools in my town. The Catholic kids attended the convent school which was beside the nunnery and the church In the north part, over the river, kids attended that school until they completed Standard Four and came to the ‘big’ school for the rest of their education.
This institution had three main buildings. You started in a smallest block as primmer (kindergarten) kid on the term closest to your fifth birthday. I do not know if there was a definite time period for this section. I only know that when I eared to read, I was promoted to the next block of classrooms for my primary (elementary) studies. The third block of rooms housed the secondary students. We also had a toilet block, a swimming pool, a covered bike rack and a two roomed building near the front gate which housed the dental nurse.
Dental nurses were provided in many schools. We were all examined on a regular basis and the nurses provided basic care. I can still recall the sickening drone of an old foot pedal drill as a cavity was filled. We all dreaded being called over there for an inspection. The nurses provided excellent services for kids whose parents could not afford dentist visits or who thought losing teeth was an inevitable part of aging. When I was young, it was common to have all your natural teeth yanked out and replaced with dentures.
Another scary activity at school was an annual vaccination to protect against diphtheria and typhoid. This was done because part of the town did not have indoor plumbing. Actually it was quite handy to have extra lavatories or dunnies available. If someone was using ours, I could dash to a neighbour’s backyard and use theirs. The dunnies were emptied by the night cart man. I remember when trenches were dug to lay sewer pipes because they went through my grandfather’s vegetable garden, much to his annoyance. Once the whole town was hooked up, we didn’t have to be jabbed in the arm at school.
Next week, I will write more about my schooling in the small town.