125 years of school memories at Narooma

THE brass school bell that Narooma school children excitedly rang for hours on the day World War II ended hangs proudly again in the school courtyard.

The school bell fortuitously found on school grounds last year was fully restored by the same Sydney engineering company that forged it and its arrival back at the school is perfect timing.

It will be one of the centrepieces of celebrations this weekend at the 125th Narooma Public School anniversary reunion.

A cutting from the mock olive tree that still stands on the site of the original school will be planted and of course there will be the cutting of the birthday cake, with lots more activities and entertainment at the school this Saturday

Around 200 tickets have already been sold to the cocktail evening at the Narooma Golf Club on Saturday night but it’s not too late for anyone with a connection to the school to join the fun.

“Hong Kong, Darwin, Queensland and around NSW, they’re coming from everywhere,” celebration committee organiser Sylvia Gauslaa said.

“A lot of people have great memories of their time in this playground and coming back from the reunion will be a chance to relive some of those memories.”

She is one of several of the original 100th anniversary celebration committee members now involved in this latest celebration.

So was Elaine Noble, who attended Narooma Public School on 1941-1942 and who recalls looking out the windows at the sea and whales, a pastime still no doubt practised by today’s students.

Inside today’s Narooma News there is a four-page spread with more of the school’s history and also the full program for the weekend’s celebrations, proudly brought to by the Narooma businesses you like to support.

Check out the full program at the bottom of this story!

For whom the old school bell tolls

THE old school bell that once called children to school in Narooma has been located and is about to refurbished by the same engineering firm that made it at least 60 years ago.

The refurbishment was done free of charge thanks to couple of Narooma connections.

The bell is a centrepiece in Narooma Public School’s 125th anniversary reunion celebrations this weekend.

Principal Paul Sweeney explained the old school bell was found hidden away on the school grounds by the school’s general assistant Leo Jerkavitz.

“We’ve been doing a little bit of spring cleaning since I arrived 15 months ago and we happened to discover the bell as well as an old sign,” Mr Sweeney said.

Former student and member of the 125th celebration committee Christine Hendra last week offered to take the old bell back to Halliday Engineering, the same firm that made it and that once had the contract for all school bells in NSW.

The company was established in 1852 and is still going according to company director Luke Halliday, who apparently is contacted quite regularly to refurbish old bells for schools and churches.

In a great coincidence, working at Halliday Engineering is Chris Bradley, another ex-student whose mum owned the Oasis coffee shop in Dalmeny.

Mr Halliday said the plan was to “give it a birthday”, an engineering expression for a complete refurbishment including replacing the missing clanger, sand blasting, painting it and polishing it.

“It has a lot of dents as if someone was banging on it with a hammer and we will have to hand dress those dents out,” he said.

The exact age of the bell is not known but Mr Halliday said it was built at the firm’s old Erskineville location and as such it had to be at least 60 years old.

The refurbished bell and sign have already been reinstalled back in the school courtyard as part of the school’s 125th year celebrations this weekend.

125 years to celebrate at Narooma

THE Narooma Public School 125th Anniversary Reunion celebration on this weekend is coming together beautifully.

Former students and family are coming from near and far, young and old – up to 88 years old and perhaps older.

The organising committee are looking forward to catching up with friends from the past.

Emails were sent to many of the city newspapers and with a wonderful response from readers in Queensland, Darwin, ACT and all over NSW.

The committee has had lots of phone calls and letters from people who are coming or are unable to come - all wishing everyone well for the weekend.

For example, David Pearson, son of principal (1949-1953), Oliver Pearson and Geoff Pollock, grandson of principal (1953-1961) Robert Pollock have been in touch.

David will be here on the weekend, while Geoff was in town three weeks ago “having a look at Robert’s fantastic view of Montague Island”.

Another interaction came from Mrs Cheryl Balmer, great granddaughter of George Fuller and Martha Goodin, who lived in Narooma in the late 1800’s.

They had 10 children from 1879 to 1902.

Mrs Balmer had two original photos of Noorooma Public School from the early 1900’s - there are no dates on the photos - and she has kindly donated them to the committee.

The photos have been framed and together with a short story added, they will be on display at the school over the reunion weekend in the Small Hall, where a cabinet has been placed for storage and display of school memorabilia.

There was just one hiccup – unfortunately the time capsule buried at the 100th anniversary cannot be opened - yet!

The plaque in the amphitheatre states it is to be opened in 2039 - 50 years after the centenary and not 25.

The committee has apologised to all, especially to Mrs Joan Constable who gathered the items included in the capsule – she and others will just have to wait!

A reminder to all who are planning to come to the Cocktail Evening at the Narooma Golf Club on Saturday that tickets are selling fast and the cut-off date is today, Wednesday so get in now.

Tickets are $30/each and cash only at the Narooma Golf Club.

The Cocktail Evening will also see the big raffle go off, so get your tickets outside the Narooma Newsagents tomorrow.

Thanks again to all who have donated:- Trip to and tour of Montague Island from National Parks and Wildlife and Narooma Charters, one night at Amaroon Court, three nights Island View Beach Resort, $100 Dinner at Whale Motor Inn, two nights Big 4 Caravan Park, Auto Spares, Betta Electrical, Mitre 10, two nights at Narooma Palms and Gaye Spears.

Proceeds will of course go to the school.

If anyone is having trouble getting tickets to the Cocktail Evening or wants any other questions answered, please contact Sylvia on 4476 2761 or email naroomabobcat@bigpond.com

Have a look at website www.naroomapublicschoolreunion.com or check out the event on Facebook.

School history shared with Narooma Historical Society

125th Narooma Public School organising committee member Sylvia Gauslaa’s photos and talk about the history of Narooma Public School found an appreciative audience at the Narooma Historical Society recently.

Narooma Public School was first called Wagonga Heads when it opened on 25 February 1889.

That’s because a school called Noorooma already existed and was located in Tilba.

By March of the same year, however, the school changed its name to Noorooma and the school in Tilba became Tilba Tilba school.

Later the spelling changed to Narooma Public School. The many name changes presented a challenge for those tracking down the history of the school over the years, she said.

The first school was situated in a site called “The Pines”, which overlooks the slope that descends from the Princess Highway to Lakeside Drive.

An olive tree, which was originally planted on the school grounds, and an historic plaque pinpoint the location of the first school.

The building was moved to its current location in 1929. When the Kianga school closed in 1938, two buildings from that school were moved to Narooma Public School.

Narooma Public became Narooma Central school in 1944, although its official opening as a central school was not until 1966. With the opening of the Narooma High School it became a public school again.

In 1989 the school celebrated its 100th anniversary when around 3000 people attended the week-long event.

The organising committee are hoping the 125th will be well received and are busy preparing a weekend of activity, including an old-fashioned picnic, planting a tree that has been propagated from the original olive tree at the former school site, unveiling the refurbished school bell, and cutting a birthday cake.

Plenty of Narooma Public School yarns

THE organising committee of the 125th Narooma Public School reunion has come across some wonderful yarns in the recent months.

Stories like the one that come from a phone call from local ex-student Merrick Willcocks.

He had a lovely story about the school bell, which has been refurbished and will be unveiled this Saturday.

On this particular day in 1945, word was expected to come through that World War II had ended and a public address system was set up in the “big room” - the 4th 5th and 6th class room.

Headmaster Mr Frank Nichelsen assembled the children to await word. Once word came through the children were allowed into the playground and the bell tolled for hours!

When Merrick’s daughter, Susan, was in 6th class she was appointed the “bell ringer” for the year. She was extremely excited and couldn’t wait to get home to tell mum and dad.

Another interesting story from Ailsa Finn (nee Healey) is that during the war the children dug a trench on the western boundary of the playground, from Kookaburra Gully (where the amphitheatre now is) down to the cricket nets (on the northern end of the playground).

The Amphitheatre in Kookaburra Gully was built for the Centenary in 1989.  The pavers were sold for $5 to ex-students and students of the time and their names were etched into the paver by Bob Bennett one of the driving forces behind the centenary 25 years ago.

The Amphitheatre was used as the assembly hall for some 20 years after the Centenary - weather permitting - as the old assembly hall was not large enough to hold all the school students.

The new school hall has taken over the assembly days but the amphitheatre is still used on occasions such as book week when the children dress up and parade their favourite book characters.

Bob Bennett was a student at the school during the 1950’s and was the general assistant at the school in the 1980s.

He and his wife, Trish built and ran the Narooma Squash Courts in Hopkins Place, in the late 1970s.

His passion for the school was contagious so much so that the driveway into the school was name “Bob Bennett Drive”.

Rose family school connection

JOHN and June Rose of Narooma brought in some great old school photos to the Narooma News last week that used to belong to John’s cousin Margaret Rose.

The photos are of school classes at Narooma Public School when Margaret and her sister Betty attended the in the early 1940s but the earliest dates back to 1917.

The photos do have any dates attached to them and the oldest appearing photo has the children in some great looking uniforms and dresses.

Margaret and Betty father and John’s uncle Ken Rose operated the punt across the Narooma inlet for many years.

Copies of the Rose photos have also been forwarded the 125th Anniversary Reunion committee, who is compiling a collection of photos for the celebration.

Organiser Sylvia Gauslaa said the Rose photos were actually featured in the 100th celebration too.

“I love the first one with all the lace – that one looks the oldest – it’s such a shame there are no dates or names on them!” she said.

Narooma Public School 125th Anniversary Reunion program:

Friday, March 21

AFTERNOON - 1pm School open for visitors, 1.45pm Children to entertain returning guests followed by an afternoon tea “Meet and Greet” in the library.

EVENING - Narooma Players gathering

Saturday, March 22

DAYTIME (at the school) - 10am P&C stalls, 11am Planting of mock olive tree propagated from the original tree at “The Pines”.

11.30am - Restoration ceremony of the original bell

12.00pm - Cutting the 125th cake! Followed by picnic, games and fun!!! Entertainment over lunch will include Narooma High School students Sam Sly and Sam Hodge. Croquet demonstrations throughout the day.

EVENING - 6.45pm Cocktail Evening to be held at the Narooma Golf Club ($30/each) with the raffle draw during the evening.

Sunday, March 23

MORNING - 9am farewell breakfast at the School Amphitheatre

(Further details contact Sylvia on 44762761 or at naroomabobcat@bigpond.com  - check out www.naroomapublicschoolreunion.com or on Facebook Narooma Public School 125th Anniversary Reunion, PO Box 291 Narooma)

All past students, teachers and staff welcome - tell your family, tell your friends!!

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