That Old School Photo

#52 ancestors 52 weeks

School Photo Wangolina School South Australia

All of us would have our old school photos that we look at over time to see how fashions have changed or what our haircuts looked or to determine who that person is that we just met. As a teacher have many a school photo from both my childhood and my working career.

The Wangolina school photo above was given to me by a distant relative. So what appeals to me about the photo. The photo itself represents the era of the small rural one teacher school, so common in the early 1900’s and that by the late 19070’s had all but disappeared in country South Australia. Students in the class would have ranged in age from 5 to 14. Many students left school much earlier and received only a basic education. At the time this photo was taken universal education would have been the right for all children. Across country South Australia are the remnants of schools or signs indicating where schools had once been.

Wangolina school was first opened in 1887 and my great grandmother Rose Elania Tilbrook COOPER was one of the first pupils at the school. The first teacher at the school was Miss Venn. A three roomed weatherboard building had been placed on one of the allotments when Wangolina Station had been surveyed for a township.

Rose and her sister Maggie

Many of the COOPER children passed through this school and Rose was just one of them. Henry George COOPER my grandfather was another of the COOPER children to attend the school. He can be seen seated in the second row on the right at the end. Like many he completed his schooling in Wangolina and as Naracoorte was the nearest high school his schooling finished as an early age.

Through the ages teachers have always looked at ways to ensure that they have gravitas and authority. I am sure in a one teacher school this would have been difficult to achieve at times and often the students would be taller than you. The image of the teacher standing on a block of wood to appear taller and to stand out from the students has always appealed to me. We would not see something like that today, work health safety and a risk assessment would not allow it. But from the distance of time it makes the photo appealing and differentiates it from many other school photos.

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