Home - Chermside & District History

1950s & 1960s A Boy's View of Chermside State School

Colin Tune

Colin Tune started at Chermside State School even though the family did not live within its drawing area. But there was a family tradition.

Colin's Entry in Chermside SS Register

No. 4153 Tune, Colin Norman 5.8 years

B. 16-4-49 - Father Norman Albert - Electrical Contractor - Pilba and then Barker Streets - Methodist -

Grade 1 (1955) to Grade 8 (1962) Left Dec 1962.

Introduction, Grade One 1955 and the 'most beautiful woman in the world'

Colin's first class photo 1B in 1955 taken beside the school. Colin is in the back row sixth from the left.

I was a Chermy Boy. A title worn proudly, emanating as readily in common conversation as your name, your address or the occupation of your father. As a child, I was raised in Chermside on Brisbane's northern suburbs. Ten kilometres from the city central, this was an outer suburb in the late fifties and early sixties. Bisected by Gympie Road, Chermside was a grid of streets, a dormitory suburb. I was the classically stereotypical "baby boomer" born when folk simply wanted to 'settle down' in peace, with children, on twenty-four perches in the suburbs.

Our house was actually located in Wavell Heights (a posher suburb than Chermside). The residence was on the border and 18 Barker Street was closer to Wavell Heights State School but my enrolment there was unthinkable; so Mum and Dad lobbied the Post Office to be the only house in Barker Street to be officially called Chermside. They won and I went to Chermside State School.

My grandfather was a first day pupil at Chermside State School in 1900. All of my maternal uncles and aunts were past students as were both of my parents. Yes! Unthinkable it was that I should attend any other school.

Just about everyone walked to school, no one was driven and only a few rode bicycles. 'Baby Boomer' schools were of a thousand enrolments. Adjacent were Wavell Heights, Nundah, Stafford, Windsor, Wooloowin and Kedron State Schools. All were high set weather board pale yellow buildings, with 'wings' each of about six rooms clustering parallel, joined by verandas where school bags hung outside rooms.

In Grade One my teacher was Miss Peasey. I thought that she was simply the most beautiful woman in the world. As a six-year old, I would wander in my thoughts of her loveliness. I admired her. She was a first year teacher. On 'breaking-up' day, I gave her a white and yellow brightly painted wooden flower brooch. I was enraptured the next year when I happened to see it worn.

We sat on long 'backless' forms. A 'strong' boy was seated at each end so that the pair could lift the brute onto the desk at the end of the school day. Our desks were one piece, seating about eight - the same length as the forms. Slates dropped into a slot at the top of the desk. We rarely wrote on paper. Our school day was spent, forty of us, chanting spelling and tables and attempting to write with thin slate pencils. The atmosphere was repetitive, secure and reverently respectful.

In the playground, we discovered interesting properties of a large tree. Sheltered by its shade, industrious little hands dug with fingers and sticks to the roots, breaking off thin specimens and savouring over and over that the wood had the sweet strong smell of sarsaparilla.

Grade Two 1956 and my 'professorial pedagogue'

In Grade Two my 'professorial pedagogue' was Mrs Kinnon. She was quiet sixty-year old. She wore a conspicuous red circle of rouge on her upper cheeks.

Rainy days were a joy. Firstly, I was allowed to 'wear' bare feet. Because all our recreation time was spent shoeless, the soles of our feet were leathery tough. One would leave for school early so that every puddle could be dabbled and gutters still slimy, from the open discharge of bath and sink water, could be slid along. We made dams in the gutters with dirt and clay, continually pursuing the conquest of allaying the rising water until a final collapse of the wall prompted squeals of delight. Sometimes, we wore mole skin raincoats. 'Big Lunch' at school meant racing boats; bits of stick and drinking straws, bent closed at each end, along the myriad of open gutters, framing each classroom block.

First recess, known as 'little lunch', heralded morning milk. The vendor delivered a thousand third of a pint glass bottles in wire crates usually stacking them in the sun. Seldom was the milk chilled. Daily, we were chastised as we carefully removed the foil lids undamaged, flicking them with dexterous masculinity we would vie for the extra bottles allotted to the absent students and show off to the girls by guzzling several rapidly. Gary Rose walked daily to Lusk's Corner Store across Gympie Road before school and in a glass jar with a lid sealed by greaseproof paper, purchased 'tuppence' worth of flavouring. After he had added to his, we formed a queue to be drizzled a 'smigin' of the sweetness.

Bread was not baked in Brisbane on Saturday or Sunday. The 'staple of life' was packaged in wax paper, which was not totally airtight. By Sunday, bread was stale and by Monday basically inedible. To enable children to enjoy fresh bread, tradition dictated that Monday provided the busiest trade at the school Tuckshop, which opened on other days offering less extensive wares. On sale were salad rolls, pies, pasties and potato flakes as well as sweet delicious morsels now not 'politically correct'. Cream buns, cream donuts, soft drinks and a broad assortment of confectionery (we called them lollies) guaranteed that the eventual visit to the dentist would be painful.

Grade Three 1957 and my 'emanator of edicts'

3C the class of 1957 with more of the pupils wearing uniforms and looking more mature. They are growing up. Colin is in the back row second from the left.

In Grade Three my 'emanator of edicts' was Mrs Martin. We were no longer regarded as infants so the rooms had the 'new' screw down two-student desks. Mrs Martin was a large haughty woman in her forties. Unfortunately, she was an acquaintance of my mother's so any classroom misdemeanour was reported home. She was strict and we listened in fear. Our day passed trying not to 'catch her eye'; trying not to be noticed.

The school year trisected into three terms. At the end of each, examinations for Grades Three to Eight were conducted. In a wing, with walls which opened, four classrooms became one huge area. All classes in a grade would be assembled and the Headmaster, Mr Haupt, would administer the exam.

First on Monday morning were tables, each test twenty at a time, followed by 'applied tables', then 'weights and measures'. The examination lasted three days and included spelling, word building, vocabulary, Latin and Greek roots and reading comprehension. Social Studies, Science and Art were completed in our home-rooms also perused by "Haupty". After each twenty number facts, your teacher would call the first alphabetical name on the roll. That person then yelled out his/her mark. Each student was expected to know his/her position on the roll and respond accordingly in the correct sequences. With four classes bleating simultaneously, the room was a cacophony of random numbers, called from voices of many timbres.

A Report Card was issued each of the three terms. As well as marks and percentages in every subject, the paper folder also nominated 'place in grade'. As a result, we sat across the room in rows in our academic ability order. I was under enormous pressure to be in the first five in the class. In Grade Four in the first term exam, I came seventh and my life at home was almost intolerable, because of the family disgrace that I had wrought having this shameful result known publicly.

Sitting in class in 'place in grade' order was fun as the best looking girls are usually smart and I was among them. They were also organised so I was able to borrow resources, which I had invariably mislaid. By the end of Grade Three, in 1957, my behaviour was beginning to spiral downwards.

Grade Four 1958 and my 'facilitator of the facts'

In Grade Four my 'facilitator of the facts' was Miss Joan Fischle, a first year teacher with little 'rein' on the class. The school day was an uncontrolled rabble. Once again, unfortunately, Joan's mother was a member of the church ladies' guild, so Colin's frivolity needed to be restrained. Miss Fischle gradually mastered her chosen profession and by the end of term two the class was stable and productive. This was the year that I contracted chicken pox. Much to my mother's dismay, the doctor ordered me home for a week, thus ruining my Chermside State School perfect attendance record.
Joan Fischle finished her career still a "Miss", a principal of a school on the south side of Brisbane. When Wellers Hill State School, where I was the principal, suffered a classroom block destroyed by fire in 1993, she was the first to phone, offering assistance.

There was no intra-school Athletics Carnival. However, a Zone Sports was held at Nundah, where the fastest runners and strongest field athletes represented the school. Spring selection for the Zone Sports was made by lining students of the same age group along one boundary fence, a teacher called 'go' and we ran across the school field to the other boundary fence - the first four to arrive were chosen to represent the school. It was simply a stampede with many bodies tumbling to the stony ground; no lanes, no rules, no etiquette.

Zone Sports Ball Games were organised and tunnel ball was the focus. Lines were marked on the bitumen parade area. We trained and trained all lunch hour, "stop watched" measuring every team's 'PB'. I can still hear the sound of leather medicine balls skidding on the bitumen as the next team member to reach the head of the line flung the sphere with a 'last gasp' of effort straight down the tunnel of spread legs.

Grade Five 1959 and my 'conveyor of the concepts'

1959 Class 5C and uniforms are everywhere. The back row have grown, their heads are getting up to the top of the hoarding under the school.

In Grade Five my 'conveyor of the concepts' was Mr Mahony, the son of the local police sergeant. I taught with Paul ten years later on staff at Aspley State School. He too was a teacher in his first year of service. I was particularly poorly behaved that year. I was regularly sent from the room. One day, my brother Keith who was then in Grade One, threw a block of wood in the air and struck Aleda Semple in the head producing a gaping wound. Mr Haupt, the Head, on arrival at my class, seeking my home phone number, found me outside and informed my parents that I was consistently expelled from the room.

Some days later I was ordered to the office. I ran away and hid, returning to the classroom fifteen minutes later. When my disobedience was discovered I received four strokes of the cane instead of the one that I would have suffered. Mr Haupt had a small office. He stood you along one wall. You were ordered to hold out your hand, with the palm open and up. He took the cane and lifted your hand with the stick by placing it under the palm. When at his desired height, he raised the whippy wood and brought it down onto your palm with such speed that the arc of descent was punctuated by a whistle of air. The sensation was instant stinging pain followed by a numbing of the fingers. When I received the second on each hand I was unable to write for the rest of the day. It was my tenth birthday.

I seem to remember that this was the year that painters worked outside the room on Melbourne Cup Day so with ears straining, we head the race. 1959, didn't Borehead fall and Lord Fury win?

Because of his inconsistency, I loathed a certain teacher. He would allow any sort of fun then 'about turn' and punish a student for a similar behaviour on another occasion. One day, I simply had a piece of grass in my teeth during morning exercises. He called me forward and ''king hit" me across the ear. At that time I had an abscess in the inner ear. The pain was excruciating as it burst. He then made me run around the oval for half an hour. For the three decades of my teaching career, I always held the view that children do not begrudge punishment, which is just, appropriate and consistent.

Every morning the whole school assembled on the bitumen area for parade. The deputy principal, Mr Hopkins shouted, "Parade attention" and with military precision we snapped to the command. He would call for the playing of the National Anthem and the band rendered God Save the Queen. We looked at the flying flag at the head of the pole rigidly at attention with our hands across our hearts. At the conclusion, we recited a piece of prose about our love of country.

In the latter years, I was a member of the Chermside State School Band, an elite honour and the envy of my classmates. My mate, Joe Rentoul taught me to play the drums and assisted my entry. One had to start on the triangle, then as vacancies occurred one moved to the cymbals then to the side drums and bass drum. Chermside State School featured a fife band and the girls played with skill giving us pleasure rendering the percussion, using the four side drums and single bass drum. On several occasions, we participated in parades through the streets of Chermside and Wavell Heights. Once we even shook hands with the Governor after playing at a Scout Muster.

Under the school buildings, girls played a game called 'beam'. Two participants stood either side and under a timber bearer, throwing a tennis ball, which hit the support and rebounded to be caught by the thrower. The girls varied the rules; however the degree of difficulty was increased by systematically taking a pace further away from the beam. Finally, a participant would miss and the ball flew through to the person on the other side, who then competed. When I was in the younger grades, I watched them fascinated at the precise skill displayed. In the eighties, when visiting on a holiday from Cairns, I took a sentimental journey to the Headmaster, Mr Haupt, then a frail aged man. He died soon after. On the way to his house, I passed through the Chermside State School grounds and marvelled at just how low the buildings actually were. Indeed, I was unable to stand erect. As a child, they seemed so lofty.

Grade Six 1960 and my 'example of the exemplar'

In Grade Six my 'example of the exemplar' was Mrs Monsour and we were located to the Rode Road side of the complex, recognition that we were now in the senior school. Our desks were paired adult sized, similar to those still employed in high schools. She was a 'matter of fact' teacher with not a lot of personality but featured interesting approaches; not that teachers were afforded flexibility in their curriculum delivery. I learned a lot that year. Social Studies was particularly interesting, concentrating on other countries of the world as well as the sea explorers from Marco Polo to Captain Cook.

Classrooms were becoming more interesting. Of course, no child's work was displayed. However maps and charts gave succour to the curious, bored eye.

In my eight years at primary school, I only remember two or three playground fights. The vindictive, complicated nastiness of this day and age was not pervasive. We all 'got along' and we were happy to be children never demanding to have all decisions explained to us. We allowed grown ups to rule our lives so that we could pursue the important adventures of childhood. Fighting was probably the most serious school misdemeanour, guaranteeing at least four strokes of the cane.

In Grade Six, we had music once a week. All four classes of the year level were herded into one room and a visitor, Mr Moxey, (An Education Departmental Music Teacher who used to visit several schools in the area) taught songs of little interest to eleven year olds. At this time, I learned 'Crimond' and the 'Happy Wanderer'. We mumbled a quiet chant, "Musical Moxey makes me mad". I loved music but have always been disadvantaged by a poor singing voice. Half a dozen of us, all boys, were deemed to not be musical and were banished to work in the potato patch beside one of the buildings. This mortally hurt my feelings. From this I learned an important lesson; in all of the choirs that I have conducted, I have never precluded any child, who wished to participate.

We invented a game, which we named Bongo. All competitors stood in a circle with both fists held at waist height in front of their bodies. Someone counted "one potato two potato three potato four; five potato six potato seven potato more". Around the circle each fist would be counted and if yours was tapped on "more" you had to put that fist behind your back. The last person to have a fist (we called them a 'spud') in the middle was deemed to be "up", which meant that he was the person deigned to be the 'seeker'. That boy would then close his eyes and count to five hundred by fives. During that time, we disappeared into the mass and bustle of busy, active humanity, which was the playground.
The person then had to wander and find us - when we were spied he would cross his arms above his head and call "Bongo 'Tuney'" (inserting the person's name). You then had to follow him around the grounds until either, all were found, or if a participant could touch him unseen then everyone was free and the process repeated. This game was enjoyed hundreds of times without argument, squabble or quibble.

Grade Seven 1961 and my 'tower of truth'

Grade 7C and the back row is well up with the school weatherboards. Colin is still in the back row last on the right. They look well and truly spruced up in their uniforms and not a bare foot in sight. Unfortunately there is no class photo for their Grade 8 year but they could hardly improve on this one. As Colin implies they were proud to be Chermy boys and girls.

In Grade Seven my 'tower of truth' was Miss Morrish. She lived near the present psychiatric section of the Prince Charles Hospital. She was a champion netballer (then called Women's Basketball) who represented Queensland.

In one of Queensland's few commercial air disasters, in 1961, a Fokker Friendship plunged into the sea off Farr Beach near Mackay killing all aboard. The team was on that flight but Jill Morrish had 'missed the plane'. Jill was a fine teacher, whose approaches and presentations were interesting.

In the latter grades, students completed exercise books, in which a sample of work had to be presented in 'copper plate' quality. Also copy books were arduously scribed with liquid ink from a well in the desk using a pen nib which blotted if pressed anything but very lightly. I was a disgraceful writer and an untidy presenter.

I represented the school in Rugby League and Cricket. Our standard of cricket skill was superior to any level of school sport existing today. Matches were fierce affairs played with passion and intensity. Rugby League was structured in weight divisions, not age. Teams commenced at four stone seven pounds, continuing in half stone steps to six stone then a top weight of six stone ten pound. At the commencement of each season, an official 'weigh in' was conducted. There was no coach. Every Friday, we made our way by bus or bike to Stafford's Gibson Park. Organising ourselves, we played our game then returned to school, all completely unsupervised. The "footy" was tough, "no quarter" was asked for or given. Few players seemed to be injured.

In the school, at any one time a dozen children wore plaster splints over a 'broken arm'. Just about all boys fractured a limb or suffered multiple suture wounds during their childhood. We fell over, fell out of trees, fell off bicycles and sustained injuries tackling and wrestling. The ambulance called to school was a common occurrence.

The annual ANZAC service was held on the nearest school day to the 25th April. Hundreds attended, sitting and standing in reverent silence. A huge wreath was laid and the Ode recited. Present were a couple of Boer War veterans. Our grandfathers were World War I diggers and our fathers went to World War II. Strong men, conservatively dressed, in stoic silence they stood in the crowd, proudly wearing the small lapel badges of returned servicemen.

The band played the National Anthem, God Save the Queen. Joe beat the bass drum loudly and crisply to each syllable of every word. We side drummers played a non-stop roll, commencing softly on the edge of the pig skin then, in the second part, moving to the centre. The snares vibrated with a dramatic chatter, the fifes penetrated a flute-like melody line. Standing, playing the roll, rigidly at attention, eyes fixed proudly forward, looking at the men some with their arms across their hearts, even in my tender primary years, I broke into 'goose bumps'.

Grade Eight 1962 and my 'lover of learning'

In Grade Eight my 'lover of learning' was Mr James, who had just arrived in Brisbane from Far North Queensland. He was loud. I liked him and we 'got along' fine. He used to drift off the topic at hand and tell fascinating stories of his home in the tropics. My parents sent me to Cairns on a train with the Young Australia League for ten days that year, 1962, and I saw with my own eyes many of the word images that he had painted.

As part of the examination process, the Headmaster visited our room each term to inspect students' books. Each would be brought out and placed open on the desk as we sat rigidly upright. "Haupty" would then saunter around the room peering randomly. My bookwork was always a struggle and I was envious of the skinny, smart girls with dowdy long plaits and heavy tartan skirts, who consistently produced spectacular offerings.

Our books were, Exercise, Social Studies, Copy, Technical Drawing, Art, Science, Composition and of course Day Pads in English and Mathematics. Occasionally, the teacher gave Health Lessons, which were always focused around oral hygiene. Any other subject would have been considered 'rude'.

Once a week we travelled by tram to Wooloowin State School for Manual Training. The girls accompanied but they were taught Domestic Science. The Grade 8s walked to the middle of Gympie Road to the tram stop, flagged a passing tram and rattled stop-start along Gympie Road through Kedron to Wooloowin State School, which is in Lutwyche. Trams were open on both sides and the rain and wind blew in. We had great fun.

In Manual Training, sheet metal work, carpentry and technical drawing were taught. A small table that I made still resides in my mother's study. I loved using the tools and enjoyed learning their correct use and proper maintenance. I told my parents this but they said that I was not "good with my hands" and that I was smart and therefore would pursue a profession, not a trade.

For a couple of years in the summer, we again travelled once a week to Wooloowin for Swimming. One of the great status symbols of a school was whether it possessed a pool. There was an anti-tinea bath to paddle through first, then into the dressing rooms from which we would emerge literally in a minute ready for the plunge. Being children of the beach and the coast and the creek, all of us could swim so we learned life saving, rescue carries and water gymnastics. It was great fun and we were heartbroken on any occasion that a swimming day was wet and subsequently cancelled. Once again, all travel on the trams was completely unsupervised.

At the end of Grade Eight in 1962, I sat for the last Scholarship Examination in Queensland. The idea was that if you passed you were allowed to enter secondary education free. If not, then your parents paid. Conducted at Kedron State School, there were three papers Mathematics, English and Social Studies. My parents shared my participation in the final Scholarship as a sentimental status symbol.

Predicting which map of the world would be in the Social Studies paper was great sport. From memory the map in my year was Canada. I achieved 72% for English and 93% for Mathematics. This was regarded as a fine result. The names of students who passed Scholarship were published in the Courier Mail. The next year Grade Eight did not sit for a public exam and in 1964 the cohort transferred to secondary school.

From my primary education, I took a legion of facts and concepts, which I use to this day and have shared with the countless students that I have taught over the years. I received a broad education in a happy, supportive, respectful, sober, simple environment.

I was a Chermy boy.


Colin started at Brisbane Boys College in 1963 and graduated Senior in 1966.

After completing primary at Chermside Colin attended Brisbane Boys College, Toowong from 1963 to Senior in 1966.

He then went on to Kedron Park Teachers College from 1967 to 1968 and then to teach in the state system for a couple of years.

An interest in radio led him to become an announcer at 4NA Nambour in March 1971 where he stayed for 12 months.

Returning to Brisbane he worked at 4KQ for some time with Russ Tyson on the night shift and doing weather reports in an aeroplane. After about 18 months he returned to teaching.

He remained teaching and his last appointment was the 9 years he spent as Principal at Strathpine. He retired in about 2006.

Post Retirement

A recent photo of Colin taken in 2008. He still has the Chermy smile.

After about two years of retirement he travelled, with his wife, to England and took up a teaching appointment in the UK. The holidays are spent travelling around Europe. They were going to spend Christmas 2009 in Berlin.