SCHOOLING IN THE EARLY DAYS
Schooling for children in the very early days would have been difficult to say the least. Only one teacher with many children of all ages to educate. What a task that would have been!
An extract from T W Kemp’s book, Comet State School Centenary 1877/78 -1977/78 reads:
The school was also known as Comet River State School and Cometville State School. A letter dated 14th May 1912 from F C Dodds, Secretary of the school committee, to the Department of Public Instruction requested the name of the school be changed from Cometville to Comet State School.
With the building and opening of a courthouse in the established town of Emerald in July 1881, the Cometville courthouse became vacant. It was renovated by Mr Lambert for £226.0.0 ($452.00) and made suitable to use as a school. The children and their teacher moved into the old courthouse building in October of that year.
Accommodation for teachers had always been a problem. With the transfer of the police in 1890 to Emerald, the police building adjacent to the courthouse/school was used as a teacher residence. A paragraph borrowed from “From Humble Beginnings the first 100 years of Comet State School 1877 – 1977” in which Mrs Emma White nee Crocker, who attended Comet School between 1904 and 1910, remembers her teacher living in the old police station.
In 1966 accommodation was built for single teachers. Twenty years later, in 1985, a house for family accommodation was constructed, the better accommodation encouraging teachers to stay on. Up until this time it was hard to keep single teachers who, in most cases, came from the city to live in the one room cottage available to them.
THE NEW SCHOOL BUILDING
The old courthouse/school building needed repair. A letter from the Department of Public Works, dated 4th October 1934, states that the cost to repair the building was £107.0.0 ($214.00). The cost to remove the building was £40.0.0 ($80.00). The cost of repair was more than the building’s worth so in 1936 a new school building was constructed alongside the old school/courthouse by the Jell brothers (Alf, George and Frank) of South Brisbane at a cost of £425.0.0 ($850.00).
Until the advent of septic systems, there were outhouses down by the ant bed tennis court. Past Principal Peter Hulthen recalls that the toilets were serviced by the school teacher for $1.00 a pan. A new hygienic toilet block was opened in 1973. He said that the Public Works Department took about eight months to construct the building.
THE ANT BED TENNIS COURT
The ant bed tennis court was maintained by the parents of the children attending school. Meat ant mounds would be collected from the paddocks to break up, water and crush with a heavy hand operated cement roller, to create a hard surface on the tennis court. The court now has a smooth all-weather surface and night lighting; a vast improvement on the ant bed.
FLIES AND BITING INSECTS
There were no fly screens in the building to keep out flies and biting insects. When the Comet River was flooding, sandflies invaded the town. A tin with a wire handle and holes punched in the sides was called a smoke billy. Loaded with smouldering cow manure, it created smoke to keep the dreaded insects at bay. Peter Hulthen recalls burning cow manure in a smoke billy in the classroom to ward off the sandflies.
A smoke fire was kept burning in the playground for the children, allowing them to play during the lunch breaks. There was no Aerogard at that time. Instead, a mixture of olive oil and Dettol was used on bare skin. It worked, but was messy. The oil soaked into clothing.
RIDING TO SCHOOL
At the rear of the school grounds, behind the tennis court, there was a paddock in which children who rode to school each day could graze their horses.
THE DEMOUNTABLE SCHOOL BUILDING
In 1977, a demountable building was bought and placed at the rear of the existing building. It was a long building with two classrooms and a verandah on the southern side. Ventilation and light were provided by banks of louvres on the northern and southern walls.
This new building helped to cater for the growing population of school children whose families had moved to work on the construction of the high-level main road bridge over the Comet River. They resided in the Main Roads camp on the Railway Reserve near the showgrounds. The demountable building remained in use until 1995.
THE NEW SCHOOL
In October 1996, a hundred and twenty years since Samuel Clark and the tent school arrived in Cometville, a new school was opened. Fundraising by the Parents and Citizens allowed for the installation of air-conditioning. Since then, another building has been added for the younger grades. All buildings are now air conditioned.
The old 1936 building is still in use today by the school staff and children.
-Compiled by Rosemary McLeod, 2017. Acknowledgements: Trevor Kemp “Comet State School Centenary 1877/8 – 1977/8”; Elena Keating B. Ed., Dip. T. “From Humble Beginnings the first 120 years of Comet State School 1877 – 1997”; Ernest Slatter; Margaret McLeod; Audrey Bywater; Alan McLeod. Photos: Rosemary McLeod Collection / Trevor Kemp Collection.