Almanac Memories: First day of school 1956, Noble Park PS.


Noble Park PS    Image by Gayle Nicholas



I remember well my first day of school in 1956 at Noble Park Primary School. 


At the time I had no idea what a school was, or for that matter, what school was all about. Not a skerrick of an idea.


I didn’t attend kindergarten. Mum was very protective of her first born child, and with three other siblings she felt there was plenty at home to keep me amused and occupied, therefore no need for me to attend kindergarten she explained many years later. Consequently, I wasn’t exposed to those background institutionalised social interactions at kinder my new classmates  experienced, and it was probably a disadvantage for me for a short while .


Mum, as I remember, had bought me a brand new leather satchel, not the carrying kind but the type you wear on your back. It was tan in colour, not the dark brown I wanted and I  hated it. I remember vividly the distinctive smell of the leather and the rhythmic sound the shiny buckles tapped out as you walked if they were not buckled up. That smell and sound still remain with me after nearly 65 years, indicating how firmly those initial impressions were ingrained into my memory. Although I did not like the satchel it was forever there, a continual part of my early schooling.


Mum was excited about my first day of school, more so than me, though, I could not understand why. Mum packed a treat of my favourite biscuits to take with me. They were just a plain biscuit  but I absolutely loved them, especially licking the hundreds and thousands on the top!  Quickly, I became aware there must be something special about this thing called school. 


Mum and dad had tried to explain the concept of school to me but at that stage of my intellectual development it was well beyond my scope of comprehension. In fact, it probably made me more apprehensive about starting school. I was very content in my own little world at home and I was quite happy where I was thank you very much!


Another recall of this day still vivid in my memory was the toilet bag. Sitting at the kitchen table with mum we packed the bag with a bar of soap contained in its own plastic container (at least I think it was plastic!), a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, and I’m sure there was a face washer as well. All these items were contained in a cloth or plastic bag with a drawstring to enable it to be hung on a hook labelled with your name outside the classroom. As to why we needed to take them to school was totally beyond me, but as my mother said, I would soon discover and understand why. I was to learn so many new things at school,  I was told, whatever “learn” meant. It was all beyond my comprehension!


After packing my satchel with my lunch consisting of fairy bread, a drink bottle, the contents of which I cannot remember but probably cordial, and I think an apple together with the toilet bag we were ready for my first-ever trip to school. 


Looking smart in my new clothes, with my hair slicked back, shining with the lavishly applied Brylcreem, parted immaculately to the right my mother took my hand, led me out the door and onto the road to learning we went.


 At the time we lived in newly established housing estate that included many other young families with kids of similar ages. Many of my playmates in the street were also to be introduced to this new concept known as school.


It was about a fifteen minute walk to the school along a dusty, unmade road full of potholes of various sizes and depth. There were no footpaths and I remember mum being concerned about my new leather sandals and socks getting dirty. Mum was quite fastidious about my cleanliness then. 


Eventually our destination was reached. It was so overwhelming; there were numerous green buildings, kids and mums everywhere, some crying, some screaming, while others clung nervously to their mothers for dear life, or so it seemed. Some held bags of all descriptions, some were like me with satchels on their backs while some mums held the bags for their child. Amazingly everyone appeared to have new shoes of some sort on, shiny black or brown ones, some with laces, some with buckles; this school must be something special I again thought to myself as I surveyed the scene around me!


Soon we were assembled in orderly lines outside designated rooms; who directed us there I have no idea but mum obviously knew where we were supposed to go. And stand in line I did, probably for my first ever time and the first of many more to come, I was still holding mum’s hand looking apprehensively around me and trying to get my head around this thing called school. Nothing was grabbing me at this stage! 


With no idea what a teacher was or for that matter what they looked like my attention was curiously attracted to a lady passing by carrying a bucket and a mop. She had an apron on, was a lot older than mum and she was short and solid in size. I remember her long, grey frizzy hair and scarf. Was she a teacher, I wondered? And why did she need a bucket and mop? 


Mum tried to explain she was a cleaner but again this meant nothing to me. 


Nothing much was happening and like any five year old I became restless. Whining and whinging started everywhere, arms and hands were pulled and I  wanted to go home, I think we all wanted to go home. Mum must have been embarrassed by my whinging so to placate me she took my treat from my satchel hoping food in my mouth would calm me down. Bad mistake mum! For the first time I learnt the value of nagging, you can get what you want by nagging, well, nearly always.


Then unexpectedly, we were leaving and returning home like many of the other children and their mothers. Apparently not all families could be processed on that day so we were sent home and asked to return the next day to complete our enrolment. I felt relieved about that. I believed my adventure with school was  over, perhaps forever, and at home I would remain with mum. I was more comfortable at home.


Sitting on the floor with my lunch unpacked around me, I nibbled on a sandwich as mum explained what had happened but again I had difficulty understanding what was being said. At least I had survived my first day at school even though I did nothing more than stand in a queue for what seemed like an eternity.



Couldn’t find Grade Prep photo 1956, probably not one taken. Here’s me in Grade 1 1957, front row left.



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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. great article !!
    The best thing I remember about my first day at school was that we didn’t have any school!. January 1968 … It was the hottest day in Junee’s history up until the roaring hot temperatures of this summer with all the records being broken. I turned up all ready to go on my first day a new haircut a new bag and my pencil case all ready to go.I was dressed in my pristine new light grey shirt with grey socks (with royal blue and white trim) and grey shorts. We all went in the gate of North Junee PrimarySchool to be met by the Principal who promptly told us to go home and get our togs!!!. We then gathered at the Junee Municipal Pool and played in the pool for the whole day (even the trains stopped running for a while because of the heat) and literally the whole town was at the pool happy days.My mum who sat with all the parents under the trees bought my lunch from the pool tuck shop, I remember I had a sausage roll with sauce and a Paddle Pop!! – absolute luxury but after that it was 2 Vegemite sandwiches with cheese mostly!

  2. I’m WAY younger than you Col but have no recollection of my first day of school. I didn’t go to Kinder either. I had 4 brothers (at that stage) and about 400 neighbours so school seemed superfluous.

    But I do remember prep. And I do remember my little brown satchel school bag too!

    My first day must have been 1970.

  3. Gayle George says

    29th January 2020.
    My first day of school they wouldn’t take me so i had a melt down had a blood nose and a tantrum.
    And from that day on i hate school with a passion.

  4. Col, I don’t have clear memories about my first day at primary school but a lot from later years there. I went to Blenheim State School, about 80kms south-west of Brisbane, a one teacher, country primary school and had only male teachers for all seven years. At that time, the school’s population ranged between 20 to 30 pupils. I loved learning, especially history and geography, and read a lot. I think I had about 5 different teachers in my time there and the last three, Mr John Kelly, Mr John Bovey and Mr Peter Whelan, were wonderful men, great teachers and excellent role models. It was their impact that made me want to be a teacher – I wanted to be like them and I have revered them throughout my life. Equally importantly, I had very supportive parents who encouraged me and my siblings to go on as far as we wanted to with our education so that we could have opportunities that they didn’t have available to them.

  5. Great recollections there Col. Whilst I can’t recall first day specifics, I do recall the specifics of the first year..I hated school, I think it would be called separation anxiety now. The minute the bus rounded the corner I would start pleading to stay home. The three girls who lived on the neighbouring farm were then put in charge of me for the trip to school, with, I might add, a bus load of horrible high school kids who sat up the back smoking!

    I did survive :) but certain smells take me right back there..especially the smell of the lunch shed..I still don’t eat peanut butter because of it.

    And you also brought back memories of that toiletry bag…wow,,,definitely had one of those in the 70’s

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