Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Australia, Day One

Posted by hyperpat on September 24, 2008

My Australia trip is finally a reality. After our lovely fourteen hour flight from San Francisco (preceded by four hours of getting there plus check-in and security/customs), we landed at Sydney at 6:35 AM. We now proceeded to spend two and a half hours getting our luggage, changing currency, and taking our shuttle bus to the hotel. We dropped our bags in the room, and went for a little hike in the rain to the local train station, where we boarded one of their electric powered trains and headed for Cronulla, another hour trip.

On the train platform at Cronulla

On the train platform at Cronulla

By the time we got there, we were already an hour and half late for our appointment with the principal of the elementary school that I attended in 1954-1955. I then proceeded to compound our problem by turning the wrong way out of the train station, eventually getting us to the Cronulla Public School, which unfortunately was not the right one. A very nice lady there got us straightened around, and after a two-mile hike (still in the rain), we finally arrived at the South Cronulla Public School, only two and half hours late.

South Cronulla Public School main building

Given how late we were, I fully expected the principal of the school to only give us a few minutes of his time. Instead, we got a shock. Not only did he take time from his schedule (very busy, as it was the opening day of the school term) to sit and talk with us, he dug up all the old records of the school (which stretch back to its founding in 1947, and even some records going back to 1943 when the school catered to infants only) and let us peruse them to our hearts content.

In the school staff room going over records

I couldn’t find any record of my own time there (the records were very sketchy for the first/second grades), but I did find the entries pertaining to my older brother Mike, which showed at one point that he had an injury that I’d was not previously aware of (a “poisoned foot”) that took him out of school for a couple of weeks, and a class photo of him for 1955 that I didn’t have in my current photo collection.

Mike's 1955 Class Photo

Mike is fourth from right in the back row. As far as I was concerned, this already made the trip a success. But the principal wasn’t done with us yet. Just after the kid’s lunch hour, he assembled all of them, put us in front of this crowd of bright, clean, and well-behaved students, and let them fire questions at me about what it had been like there fifty years ago. Then he had the students present us with some nice souvenirs of the school, and led us off to another conference, this time with just four of the upper grade students for some more in-depth questions. And then, as if he hadn’t done enough, he went and bought us lunch.

Myself with school principal and students

Myself with school principal and students

Now I don’t know how an American elementary school would react to having an alumni from fifty years back show up, but I must give a strong two thumbs-up to this man. He absolutely went far out of his way to make us feel welcome, and was genuinely interested in what I could tell him about my experiences in that school from so long ago. From what I saw of the students in this school, he also runs a pretty taut ship – I doubt if I could go to any public school in America and find such a bunch of decorous, disciplined, and bright kids. And this same feeling also applies to the teachers we met, as they were definitely set on working together to get the job done, and obviously were dedicated to seeing that the kids were getting the best education they could provide.

After we left the school, we took a short stroll through Shelly Beach Park. Back when I went to school there, this park and the beach were visible from the school grounds. Now there are too many buildings in the way. But it’s still a truly great park and beach.

Shelly Beach looking south

Shelly Beach looking south

Shelly Beach Bath

Shelly Beach Bath

Shelly Beach looking northeast

Shelly Beach looking northeast

This will have to do for now, as after finally getting back to hotel at about 6PM that night, we found we really were exhausted, with no energy left to do much else that day, and with the prospect of an early rise on the morrow for the first of our planned sight-seeing tours.

3 Responses to “Australia, Day One”

  1. I also attended the School in 1955 and was in fifth class younger brother,Ken was two years younger.. I only have one pic and that is of sixth class in 1956..I was in Marshall house and I can still recall John Marshall’s visit to the school shortly after his death.

  2. Hello Hyperpat:

    I was amazed to find your post during a Google search for Cronulla Public School. I also lived in Cronulla for a few years because my father’s work took us overseas often in the 1950s and early 1960s. [Home was New York.] I attended Cronulla South for fourth grade in 1959 and had a wonderful teacher named Mr. Hagner. As I recall, the classrooms were in simple wooden buildings arranged around the playground. The main building was probably the same one you show in your photo. I have a class photo similar to your brother’s, except that my classmates were wearing school uniforms in 1959.

    Your beautiful photos of Shelly Park and Beach are nostalgic for me. We were taken there to swim by the school, perhaps once a week (I don’t quite remember.) Also, my best friend Marie lived in an apartment building just above the beach on the south side, so I was there often.

    My family stayed in Australia for two-and-a half-years, but after my year at Cronulla South I was chosen to attend Hurstville Girls School, to which I travelled daily on the train.

    It’s heartwarming to read of the wonderful reception you received at Cronulla South School. The Australian people we met during our stay were very friendly and welcoming, and we all have fond memories of our time there. I have not been back since we left in 1961, but I would like to someday, and I would definitely try to revisit childhood scenes. In the photos I see on Google Images, it looks as if Cronulla has grown and been developed a great deal in the last fifty years.

    Deborah

    • hyperpat said

      Please excuse the late reply, but unfortunately I’ve been in the hospital multiple times from September through December (heart problems), and it’s taken me a couple months since to really get back into the swing of things.

      I’m very surprised to have anyone from Cronulla South see and reply to this post, as after all that was really a long time ago, and it’s very nice to hear from someone else who attended. You are very correct: the classroom buildings were simple wood affairs that were elevated off the ground on some short post supports. You’ll be happy to know that these buildings still exist and are still in very good condition. I still remember the experience of being in those classrooms – got my first lesson in public speaking and voice projection (those rooms are fairly large and you really needed to speak up to make yourself heard in all corners of the room) when I was required to stand at my desk to deliver my answers to the teacher’s questions.

      I also remember that playground. At the time I was there, only a small portion of it was paved asphalt, the rest was grass and sand, which led to my favorite play time occupation, shooting marbles in that sand!

      I actually lived in Miranda (and my younger brother was born there), commuted by train every day and walking to get to the school on those days my Mom couldn’t drive us over there.

      I have more photos of the school and activities there along with the surrounding area. I’d be happy to email them to you if you like, just provide me your email address – mine is hyperpat711@yahoo.com

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