Former student and teacher, Alan Mitchell was guest speaker at Bingara Central School Assembly Friday June 29.
Alan started school in the year 1947, in Kindergarten. “Kindergarten was held in the Presbyterian hall, so the class assembled at the school each day, and we then took a leisurely walk through the main street. We would stop to speak to different shopkeepers, and have an occasional ice cream from Eli Brown, a cigar smoker, who was a great supporter of the school, being a president of the P & C and later a Patron. The class arrived late morning for lessons to begin, and then early after lunch, we’d return to the school for dismissal” he said. Kindergarten teacher then was Barbara Davidson, later to become Barbara Goodwin.
“From 1948 to 1953, Years 1 to 6 were taught in the old building. School buses started to run in the 1950’s, thus the school population grew and the new school that was being built wasn’t nearly big enough. It was only able to house some Infants and the Secondary Department. The old school continued to be used for the Primary Department. Woodwork and Agriculture classes were held in the cloakroom and weather shed of the new school. Some classes were still housed in church halls at the C of E and the Druids hall.
In 1954, the new building was partially finished and students moved in as First Year High School students. A lot of that time was spent landscaping in readiness for the official opening in September 1955. Buildings from schools that had been closed down were relocated to Bingara, and later portable buildings were used.
In 1954 it became Bingara Intermediate High School and the Leaving Certificate classes were added. Numbers were never high but a dedicated and sincere staff delivered excellent tuition and gained results. Each year seemed to produce at least one Teacher’s College Student.
“Over the years many past students have returned to Bingara as teachers, including Judy Doherty, Judy Alsop, Roy East, Pauline Patterson and myself. And today Fiona Craddock and Nicole Galvin, both past students of mine!”
When schooling at Bingara Intermediate High School ended at the end of 1959 he began his Teacher Training at Armidale Teacher’s College, which was for 2 years. At that time, after graduation, teachers were placed on a bond for 3 years to teach in NSW; anywhere the Department of Education wished to send you.
“New teachers were given a choice of where they might like to go, and of course the majority of young teachers applied for the coastal area. Needless to say, most were posted west of the Great Divide. My telegram didn’t arrive till the first week of February, and as all Eastern schools had resumed by this time, I knew it was west for me!”
He was told to report to Lightning Ridge Public School February 6, 1962, and to proceed there by train to Walgett and then catch the mail truck, which ran only 3 days a week, to The Ridge! Luckily, his parents came to the party and were able to drive him out there. He still recalls how “gob smacked by what appeared before us!”
A corrugated iron hotel, a couple of shops, a bakery and butchery combined, which only opened 2 days a week, tin shacks, a new police station, trams for houses and a lot of dust, heat and flies! Not to mention a one roomed school. (He started to wonder what he was doing but there was nothing to do but get on with it.) No electricity, air conditioning and no water supply.
Alan tried to get accommodation without too much luck. So he stayed at the Police Station for a couple of nights and then got private board on a property.
It was the first year of 2 teachers at the school, so being the junior teacher, he was given the store room, there was just enough room for the 14 pupils, K – 2, and a blackboard propped up against the wall.
Student numbers increased rapidly and by half year he had 28 pupils – so half sat outside while the other half were taught in the storeroom.
By the end of the year the Department had divided the classroom to make 2 small rooms.
At the end of the year the Head teacher returned to Sydney and Alan was transferred to Cryon, a small one-teacher school between Burren Junction and Walgett.
It was a very isolated school on black soil roads, with no phone, electricity etc., so if a summer storm blew in the parents would arrive to collect their children so they wouldn’t have to stay all night at the school, and Alan would leave to drive the 10 kilometres to where he had board, with 5 children as passengers, 4 from where he was living and dropped one off on the way. They mostly made it without having to be towed out of a bog!
Mr Mitchell left there in 1965 and worked around Moree and then Gosford. “Yes, I eventually made it to the coast” he said.
In 1983 he returned to Moree as Assistant Principal and travelled each day. His wife and children were at Elcombe, and Alana and James enrolled at Bingara Central School where they stayed until the end of Year 10, which was all that was available at that time.
In 1984 he took a demotion and returned to Bingara. “I enjoyed my teaching years here immensely, a great staff and great students. Behavioral problems are very minor compared to other schools.”
After teaching for forty years, in 2002 “I decided it was time to retire from full time teaching, and have been casual teaching ever since. I really enjoy being associated with the school, the interaction with the school community, especially the pupils. Although numbers have declined, a great variety of courses are still offered by a dedicated staff.
It is wonderful to see so many people, ex-students, teachers and people who have been involved with the school.
To present day students, make the best of what you have, accept every challenge that comes before you, be positive, be proud of yourselves and your school, as well as your family. Set your goals at a high level, and do everything in your power to reach them, not all goals can be achieved but try. Make many good friends and enjoy their company.
We look forward to the future growth of education in Bingara.
STRIVE TO SUCCEED