By Peter Cass.
Hello and welcome to my fourth annual GSQ blog. The original impetus for this blog was comments made to me by former pupils of Mum’s, at two primary schools in Papua new Guinea, that “your mother was wonderful, the best teacher I ever had” and “she ignited my life-long love of reading.” I thought, “Well. I might say a bit more” and then I thought “I don’t actually know very much about Mum’s own primary schooling. I wonder what it was like?”
Now, to set some context: a number of things about my mother, Janet Kathleen Edwards, mostly known as Kathleen, but sometimes Kathy or Kath, to her family. Kathleen, born August 1925, was the eldest of the three children of Lloyd Edwards and Ellen Pentland, with siblings Helen and Sydney (Syd). Their family lived in the Mallee region of Victoria, with a period on a farm settlement block at Tiega and then in the town of Ouyen.
My family provides supporting evidence for a comment by Judy G Russell, the Legal Genealogist, that family stories can be lost and forgotten in three generations. Neither Kathleen, nor Les my father, ever said anything much to my sister Lee and me about their childhoods and experiences growing up. I did put together a few comments from Kathleen, made over at least two decades, and from one conversation in the 1990s with my Uncle Syd.
Lloyd Edwards’ family was one of a number of families who had farms under a state government Farm Settlement Scheme, with mortgages held by the local bank. There were severe droughts and disastrous wheat crop failures in the early 1930s (Kathleen mentioned having to sweep the dust away from the front door every morning), and all the families experienced severe financial problems. All were offered the opportunity to declare bankruptcy and make a new start with fresh financing. Lloyd was the only one not to take up this arrangement, the family lost the farm and moved to Ouyen, where Lloyd worked for many years for the local Council.
Lloyd died in 1951, when I was two, so I didn’t know him. When we were on leave from PNG in the 1950s and 1960s, my family visited Ellen, his widow, and my “Granny”, at her large house in Oke Street, Ouyen. Ellen had a quite large home-based business supplying eggs provided by about 100 hens, to the town. Ellen was an active, long-standing participant in the Country Women’s Association (CWA) and her huge slow combustion stoves were used to turn out sponges and scones.
Kathleen’s primary school education
While they lived on the farm, Kathleen, Helen, and Syd attended the Primary School in the small settlement of Tiega, which had about 16 pupils. Kathleen, as the eldest, had daily responsibility for ensuring her siblings and a friend were on the horse which took them to school and back. She was also responsible for saddling the farm’s horse in the mornings, before school, to bring the cows in for milking, and again in the afternoon. She told me over thirty years later that she was not happy about being unable to claim playing netball or playing the church organ to excuse her from mustering.
At this point I realised that I had no photos from this time, although some had existed (I had seen a few during the 1970s-80s), including one of the three Edwards children and a friend all mounted on the farm’s horse to ride to school.
Kathleen completed Grade 7 at Tiega State School – as high as the school went – in 1937. The faithful Ouyen Times reported “Happy Times at Tiega”. The school’s Christmas entertainment was held in the barn belonging to Mr L Pickering (the Pickerings were somehow related to Granny’s Pentlands). The program included all three Edwards children, and Kathleen was announced as top of Grade 7 and Dux of Tiega School. 
Former pupils remembered that the Tiega school building burnt down in 1937 or 1938. I have not yet found any contemporary reports.
How to learn more?
What to do? Who are you going to call? That’s right. Not Ghostbusters, but Trove, that most amazing collaborative contribution by the National Library of Australia to the nation’s collective memory, and many blessings upon the government which continued its funding.
Many thanks, too, to the reporters and journalists for the newspapers of the time, especially the non-metropolitan papers, who seemed to leave almost no event unrecorded and who happily used interesting items from each other’s publications.
Kathleen as a child
The first event I found was reported by the local Ouyen Times on 19 May 1933: “Kathleen Edwards daughter of Mr and Mrs Lloyd Edwards of Tiega, was admitted to the Ouyen Hospital on Friday last suffering from a broken arm. The child is making good progress”. She would have been only seven and at no time did she ever mention this event to me or my siblings.
Melbourne’s Weekly Times, had a children’s page, including a Birthday Club which sent birthday wishes to my Kathleen Edwards of Ouyen in 1935 and 1937. The paper’s “Margery Daw” acknowledged receiving letters from Kathleen Edwards in each year 1931-33. In a reminder to the unwary (or the too easily credulous) to check their sources and analyse the information gathered, I realised that there was another Kathleen Edwards, with a February birthday, living in the Narre Warren area. It seems very likely that it was this other Kathleen who told “Margery Daw” that she had four turkeys and a pet calf named Inky and knew a little baby boy named Tom.
On the other hand, I found much to indicate that my Kathleen, Helen and Syd, were quite active in community activities.
At Ouyen’s Eighth Annual Show in 1935, Kathleen placed first in School Work – Writing – 6th and 5th Grades. At the King’s Birthday Sports held at Ouyen in 1936, Kathleen and Helen participated in the Highland Dancing display.
Kathleen’s (unknown) musical ability
1935 was a busy year! At the Competitions held by the Australian National Academy of Music (A.N.A) in Mildura in September, Kathleen competed in the Piano Solo and Recitation, Girls 10-14. Kathleen does seem to have been a good pianist. I knew from our visits, that there was an upright piano in the big formal lounge in Granny’s house and had always assumed that my Aunty Helen had been the person who played it, not mum.
At the University of Melbourne musical examinations held in Ouyen in November 1937, Kathleen achieved Grade 6 (Honours).  The following year Helen achieved Grade 6 (Credit). Oddly, Kathleen was reported as gaining a Pass in Grade 5. A different Kathleen? A different instrument? Who knows?
At the A.N.A.’s 1938 Competition in Mildura, Kathleen and Pearle Williamson were equal first in the Piano Duet, ages 10 and under 14.
Kathleen and Jean Edwards (a cousin?) played a Piano Duet at the Children’s Concert held at the Victory Theatre, Ouyen , in January 1939.
Methodist Church Participation
Kathleen also participated in Methodist Church activities. Not yet 6 years old, she performed a solo at the Kiamal Sunday School Anniversary in May 1932.
At the Methodist Church Anniversary at Galah (a small settlement 15 kilometres west of Ouyen) in November 1937, there was “bright singing” by, amongst others, Kathleen, Helen and Syd.
One final report from the Ouyen Mail: the State President of the Country Women’s Association visited Ouyen on 2 August 1938, on Kathleen’s 13th birthday. At the “social afternoon” held in the President’s honour, “Miss Kath Edwards gave two humorous recitations which showed her elocutionary gifts”.  Kathleen is noted in other news reports to be regularly selected for recitations.
Heading into Adulthood
And there the newspaper reports cease. Kathleen had to go to Warracknabeal High School, boarding with her mother’s sisters, to begin her secondary education. We do know she was awarded a Junior Scholarship. I have no idea whether she stopped playing piano or whether she stopped participating in community or church activities. She never told me.
I have a copy of Kathleen’s Victorian Education employment record, which shows that she was appointed as a Trainee Teacher 2nd Grade on Probation on 9 February 1942, when she was not yet 16 years old. Her first posting, as was common, was to actually take charge of at least a class and possibly a one-teacher school. Frustratingly, neither the official record nor Kathleen have told me what or where!
How much do you know of your parents’ early childhood and education?
My thanks, as always, to my patient IT expert, editor and commentator, Pauleen cassmob.
 Ouyen Mail, 03 August 1938
 Local History Resource Centre, Ouyen Secondary College “What Happened To All The Schools?”, Ouyen 1989. P.52.
 Ouyen Mail, 19 May 1933, p.2
 Ouyen Mail, 18 Sept 1935, p.9
 Ouyen Mail, 01 July 1936, p.2
 Sunraysia Daily, Mildura, 3 September 1935, p 12
 Ouyen Mail, 17 Nov 1937, p.2
 The Age, Melbourne, 07 Sept 1938
 Ouyen Mail, 02 November 1938, p.2
 Ouyen Mail, 4 January 1939, page 4
 Ouyen Mail, 09 May 1932, p.2
 Ouyen Mail, 17 Nov 1937, p.3
 Ouyen Mail, 3 August 1938, p 1
 Junior Scholarships (1940, February 2). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), p. 10.