My grandfather Albert Chapman rowed his father’s red cedar boat to Darawank School from his island home in the Wallamba River. Albert’s children Mervyn and Bert rowed across the river and then rode a horse. When the boy’s sisters reached school age, all four children mounted the horse in single file to travel to Darawank School. The government paid their mother Maud 6 pence a week to help with the expense of keeping the horse.1
My father Mervyn built our family home at Shalimar, with no transport to Darawank School. My mother Daphne rode a push bike with a passenger carrier to convey my brother to school while strapping me to her body. When she was expecting her third child though Daphne applied to the Department of Education requesting transport for her children to go to Taree Public School on the bus travelling from Forster to Taree – Pappalardo’s Red Baron.
The Red Baron was my first encounter with Maisie Philp, the bus conductor. She was always kind and caring. One day I was ill, she instructed the driver to drop us off at her home, she cleaned my clothes, made me breakfast and the bus dropped me to school where she delivered me to the classroom.
When I reached third class the Department of Education reapplied the “school catchment rules” meaning we had to go to Darawank School.2 Dad purchased second-hand bikes for us to ride the gravel road. My mother’s patience snapped when the road was partially tarred and a storm hit making it sticky. Our wheels stuck and we were covered in tar. After a kerosene wash Daphne promptly wrote a letter to the Student Transport Sector and services again resumed to Taree. Such were the trials of getting to school!
Author: Marilyn Boyd
1 (In 1945 when the subsidy increased it was capped at 5 pence a day per child with a maximum of 1 shilling per day for more than 2 students being conveyed). Northern Star, 4 June 1945, 5. Subsidy Increase for Conveyance of School Children
2 NSW Department of Education School Intake Zones (Catchment Areas for NSW government schools, https://data.cese.nsw.gov.au/data/dataset/school-intake-zones-catchment-areas-for-nsw-government-schools