Story: Country schooling

Fun and games

Fun and games

Children of Turiwiri School, near Dargaville, pose for their 1932 photo. Betty Frost (now Mrs N. Johnson) is third from left in the middle row.

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Games children played

Team sports were often difficult to organise at small schools with only a few pupils, but there were plenty of other outdoor games to play. According to Mrs Eileen Shaw, ‘With so few of us, we played “rounders” as the main game, with two teams, a ball and baseball bat and our own rules, with two bases to home. At one stage we had tin cans with sewing thread attached and the girls would be up at the school and the boys in the gully and talking to each other through them. I still wonder how much was heard, or was it shouting?’

Mrs Dawn Beattie, who went to South Ashwick school beside the South Ōpuha River in South Canterbury, remembers playing marbles, French cricket, hopscotch, skipping, hide and seek, running races and games with names such as ‘Rotten Egg’ and ‘Anti Over’.
‘Along the creek alders grew, and these were just great for bows, cut to your size. The stems of the dock flower heads were good arrows. Now these bows and arrows were used to shoot cockabullies in the creek, for the teacher’s cat. He left a bowl on the wee bridge to his house for this purpose.

'Climbing bars. What country kid needs them? On a wet day the shelter shed served this purpose well. Hand over hand we would go. Tree climbing, bird nesting. All country kids knew what egg belonged to what bird. Swimming was an exercise in itself, walking on a hot morning cross country to the Ōpuha River which was, at that time of year, a mere trickle. By the time one blocked up a bit to get it deep enough to just cover one lying down it was time to trek back in the heat across the paddock.’

Crime and punishment

Like all children, country school pupils got up to mischief sometimes. Here’s a story of misbehaviour from Mrs Noline Johnson: ‘One morning, when we were seated ready to start our schoolwork, we were brought to attention. Mrs Goldthorpe our teacher asked “Will those children who have been stealing maize cobs, please come out to the front?” No one moved, and she repeated the words, her eyes wandering over our classes, from standard two to six. My friends and I looked at one another; if I remember correctly, there were four of us. Then one stood up and went to the front and we others followed. Mrs Goldthorpe stared at us when we went out to the front, and told us to stay there. Then she turned to the pupils again and said, “Will those children who have been stealing maize cobs please come out?” Our group looked at one another and wondered why she asked the question again. Then another four children who lived the other way down the road came out to the front. It was the other group that Mrs Goldthorpe knew about, but did not know about us stealing maize cobs from our area on the way home. Even though our group had been honest, we all received the cane.’

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How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Country schooling - Personal experiences of country schools', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 4 March 2024)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 24 Nov 2008