Coolangatta State School celebrates
COOLANGATTA State School's youngest student Alexander Snowden joined hands with two of the oldest surviving students Mable Watson, 104, and David Simpson, 76, to cut the school's 90th birthday cake.
Past and present students, teachers and community members celebrated the milestone at a family fun day at the school on Saturday, followed by birthday celebrations at the previous school grounds on Kirra Hill yesterday.
Guests could not help but remark on the coincidence of the current swine flu hysteria occurring on the 90th anniversary of the school's foundation due to the 1919 “Spanish flu” epidemic.
After years of lobbying, Coolangatta residents finally got their own school in 1919 when the influenza outbreak closed the state border for four months, preventing more than 50 kids from attending the Tweed Heads school.
David Simpson, a Coolangatta pupil from 1938 to 1945, said: “Obviously, it shows science still hasn't conquered the flu virus.”
Mr Simpson spoke fondly about his school days.
“I had a wet rubber sponge to clean my slate in kindergarten. Later we had exercise books, pencils and simple pens with steel nibs and ink wells,” Mr Simpson said.
“There were boys' and girls' toilets with earth closets - usually smelly. We drank water from a tank with cupped hands.”
Mr Simpson said the boys played marbles and the girls played hopscotch, tiggy, hide-and-seek, jacks with pigs' knuckles and skipping.
“The 1939-1945 war spanned most of my school days. In 1942 the fear of a Japanese invasion was very real,” he recalled.
“Our school windows were protected by a crosswork of white tape to minimise splinter injuries from glass.
“We had to carry a cloth bag containing a bandage and a wooden peg to bite on for a bomb blast.”
The school was first located in the town hall on the corner of Warner and Griffith streets, then on Kirra Hill and finally at its present site opposite Len Peak Oval in Kirra.
The school's 90th birthday co- incided with the 125th anniversary of Coolangatta and Queensland's 150th year.