Way back when

A solitary building surrounded by a small playground, Blady grass and scrub crowding in from the fence line beside a rutted two-wheeled track through the bush. Another road, unsealed, forms a boundary as it passes close by the school gate. Can you picture it? It is rather hard to imagine, but this is how I remember Freshwater school when I began my long ago school days in 1941. Corkill Street was just a two-wheeled track and old Smithfield Road was a dirt road. I grew up in Maree street and walked daily to and from school.

The single building consisted of one large room partitioned into two smaller rooms by folding doors. Steps led down from the verandah. Underneath, partly enclosed with corrugated iron sheeting between timber stumps, was not cemented. The dirt floor proved ideal for playing marbles, especially in wet weather.

During the years of World War 2, air raid trenches were dug near the old Moreton Bay fig trees. When a siren sounded, everyone would run and huddle in these trenches, hopeful that, in the event of an enemy bombing raid, no one would be injured by shrapnel or debris. Of course during the wet season the trenches filled with water so we would just have to trust to luck that the enemy would not appear.

One wet season, my sister Rosena, who had just started school, played too close to the trench and fell in. She was in grave danger of drowning but for the prompt action of the head teacher, Mr MacDonald, who jumped into save her. As Mr MacDonald was always impeccably dressed in long sleeved white shirts and long white trousers, the figure who emerged from the muddy water filled us with awe. Our family remains deeply indebted to Mr MacDonald’s quick thinking.

The grounds themselves were kept neat and tidy by the efforts of the older classes. Push mowers, cane knives, brush hooks and much back breaking weeding and digging were the only means available. It took a lot of hard work but it also provided a sense of achievement when the job was done.

Contributed by: Ron Gallo (student 1941-1947)

Other members of Ron’s family to attend Freshwater:

Dennis Gallo son (1964-1970)

Ronelle Gallo daughter (1969-1975)

Kirsten Little grand-daughter (1996- )

Nikkola Little grand-daughter (1996- )

Taipan Tom

When I took charge of the Freshwater State School in May 1951, there was very little playing area. The fence (four strand wire) cut across from Old Smith Field Road to Corkill Street (just in from where the toilet block is now situated). The uncleared portion was a swampy area harbouring reptiles and other vermin, in which grew ti-trees, swampy mahogany and on the higher levels, wattle trees and a few blue gum. We soon made application to have this area cleared and this was done immediately. The fallen trees and the undergrowth were burnt.

At the top end a large hollow tree lay. Apparently it was the habitat of a taipan snake. During recess one day several pupils playing hide and seek ventured to conceal themselves in the hollow of this tree trunk. One of the lads, a ten year old named Bruce Stringer, was bitten by this venomous reptile.

I applied a tourniquet and used the old method of slicing across the fang marks to induce bleeding and then rushed the lad to hospital. Prior to meeting the ambulance we had difficulty keeping him conscious. Some of the venom must have edged past the constriction bandage because before the ambulance arrived his muscles became convulsive. On arrival at the Cairns base hospital, Dr Ivan Lister injected snake bite anti-venom. I think it was the first time it had been used in cairns.

It saved the lad's life and as far as I can make out, left no after effects. Just for the record, Bruce is now Dr Bruce Stringer- I don't know where he resides.

As a result of this incident, one Freshwater wag nicknamed me "Taipan Tom" despite the fact that my treatment in the first place was ineffective.

Contributed by: Thomas John Lynch (principal 1951-1966)

Last reviewed 03 January 2020
Last updated 03 January 2020