A Small Magazine
The School Paper was a small magazine issued by the Queensland Department of Public Instruction, and later, the Department of Education, for the use of pupils in Primary Schools. It measured 14 cm wide by 21½ cm long and consisted of between 16 and 40 pages of stories, history, poetry, pictures, puzzles and sketches. The early copies were in plain white paper but by the 1950s the covers were printed in colour.
The paper was sold to pupils in the 1930s for a penny. For other issues before and after that date no price is printed on the copies. It may have been free in the later years. Different editions were published for the different grades in the Primary schools, with one edition being suitable for two or three nominated grades.
The earliest copy we have seen belongs to Daphne Postle and was issued in 1917, but in later issues of the 1950s an item called "Half a Century Ago in Queensland's School Paper", showed excerpts from much earlier copies. One copy was May 1st 1905 and featured a story called Progress of the Period. Starting in the reign of Queen Victoria it traced some of the discoveries in the fields of medical science; railways, including a photo of a train "running one mile a minute", which was the fastest any vehicle had ever travelled. Other subjects covered were telegraphs, cables and telephones.
This issue also records the latest wonder of the age - "A still more marvellous invention is that of Marconi's wireless telegraphy, by which messages are sent through the air. Ships passing in the Atlantic Ocean can hold communication with each other ……… and events happening on land are recorded in mid-ocean." At the time probably no child or adult in Chermside would have had any experience of the 'wireless'.
History Featured Prominently
Another issue recorded the San Francisco earthquake of 1903 complete with illustrations of the city and the Golden Gate before the bridge was built.
From time to time special issues of the paper were printed. One such is the April 1917 issue mentioned above, which gives an account of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. It was complete with a special cover printed in colour showing a commemorative picture of the soldiers at Gallipoli. It included men from all the allied countries. This issue would have been in time for the second Anzac Day commemoration and was the second issue devoted to Anzac. The tradition was well under way and the children were being instructed; so the legend was born.
Jean Tune still has the copies for the years 1934 to 1937 that she read as a pupil at Chermside School. The copy of 15th May 1936 is typical of the genre. At a penny it was very good value containing a wealth of entertaining information as well as giving the pupils practice in reading.
The front cover shows a Spanish gentleman watering his horses at a trough. The pupils would have been familiar with that scene. On the back cover is a puzzle quiz showing four sketches and each one contains the name of a famous man.
Several poems in the romantic, heroic mould are featured such as The Canadian Boat Song and Empire Day, which finished up "Mother England, our Mother, speak, and thy children come!" Finally, from the classical mould, Bucephalus, commemorating the great horse that Alexander rode in his world conquests.
Stories by Well Known Authors
The stories are likewise in the heroic mould, led by H. Rider Haggard's story of a titanic struggle between many enemies and the mighty Zulu warrior who held them off. (Shades of Horatius defending the bridge over the Tiber two thousand years before.) In similar vein, the story of Beowulf is told and how he slew the monster Grendel a thousand years ago. (Very much in the manner of Theseus slaying the Minotaur in Greek legend three thousand years ago.) A third story, "The Volunteers", is the tale of how medical science overcame Yellow Fever or "Yellow Jack" as it was called. All are inspiring stories which would capture the imagination of the young readers.
Finally in the heroic mould, is a photo of the fourth musketeer D'Artagnan. (Can you name the other three?) It looks suspiciously like Errol Flynn and it probably is, as that was a role in which he thrilled young people of the 1930s.
Sprinkled throughout are small items such as "Why a Man Tips His Hat" and "Why we cover a yawn and bless a sneeze." A regular section, "What is Happening in the World", featured news items such as "Dr Donald Thomson, a noted anthropologist, is leaving for a second stay among the uncivilised blacks of Arnhem Land". (This item is in strong contrast with the editions of the 1950s, which reflected a much more understanding view of the Aboriginal people.)
These little publications are extremely interesting from an historical viewpoint. They show the changing attitudes of Australians to such things as the British Empire, from mono-culturalism to multi-culturalism, from a rural society to a more complex urban one, from the horse and buggy era to the motor car era, etc.
One final item must have puzzled the children until the teacher explained it. The front cover of the 15th July 1936 issue shows the classical picture of Psyche, the daughter of Zeus, going on her visit to Proserpine. Why on earth would a mythical Greek princess want to go to Proserpine? Only those who know their Greek Mythology can answer the question. And maybe people who don't live in Queensland.