Geraldine (Eileen’s sister) said that the only time she ever wagged school with her friends they went to the sand hills. ‘When mum found out where we went we got a huge waling!
‘We used to run and jump on a train after the bridge so it was slowing down for the station, then jump off it a bit of the way down and then run back and jump on it again and jump off again.’
‘Jennifer, my sister, and my cousin used to walk along the railway line and pick up cigarette butts from the railway blokes emptying the train bins and they use to make me smoke them so I wouldn’t tell on them. They use to threaten me with a flogging if I didn’t smoke it, that way I couldn’t go home and tell mum that they were smoking because I was too.
Geraldine says that discipline was stricter at the school when she was there in the early 1970s. She says, ‘We had to sit with our arms stretched out on the desks and the teacher would be watching. If we even fiddled we’d get cracked with the ruler.
‘If there were any incidents after school, there was always punishment at school the next day. I got two swipes of the cane at school and it wasn’t my fault. Jennifer was fighting down the street and I was there with her. We got taken to the police station and got warnings. The next morning we got lined up at the principal’s. They reckon if they rub the hands with the pepper tree it didn’t hurt as much. I can tell you that is not true. We got two hits of the cane.’
From her position as a primary health care worker at the Menindee Health Centre, Geraldine sees some disturbing trends in Menindee. ‘There is a lot more drug and alcohol use, especially with the kids. The kids are drinking a lot earlier than when we went to school. I mean they are drinking at the ages of 12 and doing yarn (marijuana) at 12 and 13 years of age. It’s just really bad and sometimes I think the parents encourage the alcohol part of it, because they are letting their kids drink early. It’s just so wrong.’
Geraldine’s daughter, Shannon Rolton, went to the school in the 1990s. She says, ‘I think my schooling years were the best years of my life, that is when I had the most fun, when I was at school.’
‘They didn’t have the smartboards and stuff like that. I remember when I was in high school, we used to have the link up most of the time with our classes, but that has changed a bit, because we used to just do it with the phone — it wasn’t with the computer or anything’, says Shannon.
By Shannon’s time, students were regularly staying at school till Year 12. When she was in Year 12, she was involved in a student strike. ‘I think we were fed up with the teachers or something — I can’t remember what it was all about. It was student vacation time when we were supposed to be studying for our HSC exams and I think we had all had enough in Year 12. It was just before our exams so we all went and studied at another place, one of our friend’s sister’s place, and we didn’t go back to school. I think there must have been about twelve of us. We were fed up with the whole lot of the teachers I think.’
Shannon says there are more teachers now than in her day, but also more Aboriginal support staff. ‘That’s another thing that has changed too; there are a lot more Aboriginal staff here than back then. I can only remember Cheryl Blore when I was going to school.’From the book School Days – Education in Menindee.