Through some stories we may learn a little more about the history of our area.

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Miss Roberts Remembers

Bert Brooker's School Bus
By Beryl Newton

(Miss Roberts Came to Maleny as a school teacher.    She was a city girl coming to the country and taught at the Curramore State School.     She married a Maleny farmer and lived a very happy life in the Maleny District with Bill, her husband who passed away in the late 1990's.    Miss Roberts is better known to us today as Mrs. Beryl Newton.)

Fifty odd years ago the district around Maleny was largely a dairy farming area.   Homes were much further apart than they are today.    Nowadays with the land being sub-divided those dairy farms are disappearing.   Consequently, the number of school children in the district fluctuates as they grow older and leave school then leave the district to find employment or go to Brisbane for higher education as at that time there was no high school in Maleny.

Unless a small district was very lucky there came a time when it was no longer viable to keep a one-teacher school open for a few pupils.    Within a year of my resigning as a teacher Curramore school closed.

The school building was shifted to Elamon Creek where it continued to be used as a school building for a few further years.   The building is now used as a scout den at Kenilworth.

Curramore
State School

as it is today

at Kenilworth
as a scout den.

When it was time for our two children to start school we had to look at other means of education, as we knew it was no good asking for a new school.   After a few experiments, which provided unsatisfactory we decided to try for a school bus, an idea which was already being used in other parts of the Maleny District where pupils were taken to the Central Maleny School.

Witta State School was our closest school so we approached the Department of Education with crossed fingers and applied for a school bus to service our area.   It was necessary to have a certain number of students residing further than 3 miles from the nearest school.   Irrespective of our many applications, visits to Members of Parliament and deputations we were initially unsuccessful as no exceptions could be made to the rules.

Reluctantly all the pupils from our area were put onto bikes and they had to ride to school in all weathers.   We lived more than 4 and a half miles from the school.   There were some that lived further than that.   The trip was made twice a day – once to and then home again after school.   Our motherly hearts ached for the younger ones as those little folks had to trundle along the steep, hilly, stony, muddy roads in all weather.    Our youngest lad was called “Mud Guts” – shortened to “Muddy” for obvious reasons.

(Photo right - typical school room of the time)

 

At least twice a week Bill, my husband would have to mend punctures, straighten handlebars, replace spokes or repair seats after finishing work at the dairy.

 

One thing about it, all along the road neighbours would watch out for each little one riding to or from school.   This was both good and bad for them as on one occasion I remember that they stopped to break the monotony of the ride and threw stones at and broke the white china cups on the telephone poles.

Unfortunately for them, the news went before them by phone to their parents and they were met with spankings on their arrival home.

Photo left - "typical school ports and contents"

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Years later we found that, instead of coming home the shortest route they would occasionally ride home via the Witta-Maleny Road junction thus adding miles to their journey whilst we mothers wore out the window panes watching for them to arrive home in the twilight.

Then, one blessed February a new family moved into the district and with our youngest made up the magic number for the Education Department to supply a school bus.   To give the Department its due it moved very quickly once that magic number was reached.

Government bus payments did not bring a living wage by itself, so we had to find someone who could combine it with his own business.    No-one in our district had or could afford to buy a bus large enough to transport all the children.   Once the service was established, any school-aged child could be picked up, irrespective of the distance, and we were not going to leave behind any pupils who lived only 2.99 miles from the school.

Then “happy day” Bert Brooker happened.

Bert lived in Maleny, ran his own soft-drink factory, and owned a bus.    True it was a cream bus and he collected our cream.    The bus was actually a three ton International truck. 

School was 5 days per week and the cream run (milk came later) was Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday during summer.   On the cream pick up days, Bert would load the kids and cream into the truck from the "far end" and come in to the junction of  Curramore Road.    The kids would help him unload the cream and put it under a tree.  That tree is still there (near the north eastern corner of Nothling's farm.    He would then load the seats on, put the back on the truck and off they'd go to the school.   Bert would come back after, unload the seats, load the cream and finish the cream run.

We didn't have a refrigerator but an ice chest so ice would be delivered by the cream truck.   Mail and papers also came on the school bus.

In between the school runs, morning and evening he ran his soft-drink factory.    Bert ran his soft drink factory for many years until Coca Cola became popular and Bert's softdrink factory became unprofitable.    The old soft drink factory was located behind the current fish and chip shop up town in Maple Street.    It was later moved to Lawyer Street.    Bert and his family lived in a shed on the site for about a year whilst  his house was built at the corner of Lawyer Street and Bunya Street.   Bert resided there until he passed away in November 2002.

One Friday afternoon many years after Bert had stopped doing the school bus run and school busses had been upgraded he was in the bar of the Maleny hotel.   He was speaking to a couple of local school teachers.   Talk got around to the abolition of the cane and corporal punishment.

Bert told a story about one afternoon on the bus.   One of the boys (We'll call him Pete - not his real name as he still lives in town)  was playing up in the back so Bert put him in the front seat.

The kid gave a bit more cheek, so Bert stopped the truck, pulled a branch off a small tree and gave the kid a belting.   They got back in the truck and the kid said "You're a bastard Bert" so Bert gave him a backhander which stopped all argument.

The school teachers were a bit shocked at this and started sprouting about violence toward children, how it retarded development, and not the proper thing to do.    Slowly Bert looked over at a male person who was also sitting in the bar nearby and said, "didn't affect you at all did it Pete ? "

Pete just grinned and replied, "Noooo Bert" . . .end of discussion.

Some time later Bert was driving the children to school when he noticed the back of the bus (truck) rocking up and down.    Thinking he had a flat tyre he got out and checked each tyre, but all appeared in order.    Bert got back into the truck and started off again.    Within a short time the truck again started rocking.   Again Bert stopped and got out and checked each wheel.   He could find nothing wrong.   The students said to Bert,  "What is wrong Mr Brooker?."   He said, "The truck is rocking and I thought we had a flat tyre."     Every student got out and walked around the truck - scratching their heads and acting as innocent as only a young student can.    One student said,  "I can't see anything wrong Mr. Brooker.

 

Everyone got back into the truck and off they went again.   Between Curramore and the school this scene was repeated several more times, each time a check being made of the truck and the wheels.   It is thought that Bert never knew the cause but he would not have been too happy if he had caught sight of the students in the back of the truck holding hands and jumping up and down making the truck rock from side to side.

From this one may ask,  "Who won the battle."    Bert was well respected and liked by all the students who used that "school bus " to get to school.

Take a look at today’s school busses and think of what they were in Bert Brooker’s day there is a great improvement.

(Photo left  -  Bert Brooker in later life - about 2000)

There are many people still living in our town who travelled in those early school busses to and from school.    They all have special stories about those early days.    They all were relieved that they no longer had to ride their bikes to school.

I am sure that there are many stories, both funny, sad and tragic about those days and how we lived our lives.    I am sure that you too know some stories that remind us of our past.   Please let us know so we can share them.

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Like the naked city there are a thousand stories in the
Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Tell us your story.....

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