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During the War Years
Our school days were spent in Mareeba. There were no high schools, only two primary schools, the Convent and the State. Any student fortunate enough to attend high school had either to board at Herberton or Charters Towers, or spend four hours each day travelling by rail motor ("The Rattler") to the Cairns High School. The cost of boarding school fees and travelling expenses priced high school education outside the budget of the average family.
School life was very different in so many ways fifty years ago. For instance, there were no buses to transport children to and from school. For most of us it was Shank's Pony (walking). The lucky few rode bikes.
Discipline was very strict. The cane was readily used on boys by all male teachers, especially the Headmaster. Girls were not caned but there were other punishments including writing out the Good Manners Chart and being kept in long after school had closed for the day. Female teachers did not use the cane but made efficient use of long rulers to chastise both boys and girls.
We were proud of our flag and our country. Each morning when Parade was held teachers and students stood to attention, facing the flag while the national anthem was played. After parade we marched into school to the sound of our fife band. It was a great privilege to belong to the band.
Woe betide you if you were left-handed in our day. Teachers insisted that all students use the right hand for school tasks, especially writing. Some children became ambidextrous but most spent miserable years struggling unsuccessfully to become "normal" right-handers.  Uniforms were optional but most students wore "civies" . Many of us were shoeless, sometimes by choice but often from necessity.
There was no such thing as Tuckshop. Mum cut your lunches. Sometimes we were lucky enough to be able to buy a pie and peas from the pie cart when it called at the school gate in the lunch hour. This cost three pence and was a real treat.  Mrs Robertson had a lolly shop directly opposite the school entrance. All her lollies were home-made and absolutely delicious. Some lollies had pennies or half-pennies in them! 
The Coming of the Yanks
During the war years (1939-1945) our schooling was severely disrupted. Mareeba State School was confiscated by the Forces and became an army hospital in 1942.
"Great!" we thought. "No school!"  But this was not to be. The convent was made available to Grades 1-5 State School children every afternoon. The Catholic children had their half-day in the morning which was only fair as it was their school. Grades 6 and 7 had to attend school all day so they were set up in the Church of England Hall. The classes were large and there were no partitions so learning was not easy. Later a hall was built by the Americans to accommodate the State School children and all day lessons began again.
There was a good side from the take-over. For example, they left buildings behind. Also, before the Yanks we only had sanitary pan toilets. The 'dunny man' collected the pans at night. After the war the school was the first place in Mareeba to have a flush septic system. No more dunny carts!
Food parcels were sent to soldiers, especially cakes and biscuits. Some would send a loaf of bread, take the middle out, and put a bottle of whiskey inside. Some soldiers got them, but sometimes they didn't get past the Post Office, or the whiskey would be taken out and just the bread sent. Rationing was necessary so that supplies could be sent to the troops and also to England and Europe. These supplies didn't all reach their destinations because many ships were being sunk.
 We couldn't buy ice cream because the Yanks liked it so much and the children were mainly left out. But they gave us their chewing gum - cartons of it! - to make up. If your family knew a paratrooper and could get a parachute, you could make beautiful undies and blouses from the silk chute, which was beautiful quality. Families went shopping together in those days. There was no self-service. The store keeper weighed everything out - one lb (pound) of sugar or 8 ozs (ounces) of cheese. When you paid your grocery bill, a packet of boiled lollies was given to the children. The green grocer was a Chinaman who came around with a pole across his shoulders and a basket on either side with his vegetables. At Christmas he would give the children a gift - ginger, lychees, nuts or, if you'd bought a lot from him, chocolates.
War in our Sky
Mareeba was very much a war zone during our school years. The air force was very busy and this made a great difference to our lifestyle. Thousands of troops were stationed from Cairns to Mt. Garnett. At the school we had slit-trench air raid shelters. The fire siren was the air raid alert and the all clear was just one long wail. Planes were often overhead so we had plenty of practice in air raid procedures. Every child had an I.D. tag which was worn around the neck or the wrist. This was so that if we were bombed while we were at school, our parents could identify our bodies. I.D. cards were carried by adults. At night all homes and shops were blacked out with special paper and there were no street lights. Even torches were slits. At night when the Japanese planes were overhead, the search lights and AckAck guns kept them up very high. The airforce boys used to dip their wings on returning from missions to tell us that all was well. If they flew straight in, we would know there would be someone missing that night. This was very sad for children. For some of us, it was our first experience of seeing men cry.
The Brisbane Line
Because of the Brisbane Line, there was evacuation of families to the South, especially children. The Brisbane Line was drawn because most of the population and industry of Australia was south of Brisbane. It was decided that it was impossible to defend all of Australia so we all knew that if, or when, the Japanese invaded, everything above the Brisbane Line would be abandoned.
This report was compiled by Joan Bimrose and Joyce Anderson
This page was published as the culminating activity for a unit of work on the Victory in the Pacific Celebrations.