IN THE BEGINNING: First-year pupils with head teacher Donald Price in 1910.
IN THE BEGINNING: First-year pupils with head teacher Donald Price in 1910.

Humble start to a flourishing future

IT WAS 1910 - the year of Haley's Comet, the death of King Edward VII and Andrew Fisher's government coming into power.

It was also the year the South Side School opened its doors to 24 students under the firm but fair hand of head teacher Donald Price, who would walk across the bridge from town, swinging his cane, every day for 30 years.

Gympie South, which celebrates July 4, 1910, as its birthday, became a reality after a group of residents held a public meeting on June 25, 1909, with the purpose of establishing a school in the locality.

In those days, the school building committee had to contribute one-fifth of the total cost of the school building, so 43 pounds had to be found before any building began.

An early problem which confronted the school was the need to fence the grounds to keep out cattle. This was not completed until February 1912. The original contractor drinking himself into an asylum and the fencing was done by Mr Ernest Smith, the school's neighbour on the town side, whose children were pupils.

The number of pupils rose to 50 in 1912 and in answer to an urgent plea from Mr Price, the department advised that Doris Walker, a pupil of Gympie State High School who had recently passed the competitive examination for pupil teachers, had been asked if she "could conveniently serve in your school”.

Miss Walker, who started at the school in 1913, always had an ambition to teach and she later admitted she used to line up a row of pot plants to practice on.

Planks on top of round blocks of wood provided seating at lunch hour, after which there were the usual games, skipping and drop the hankie.

Four days before the 1918 Armistice, the school was closed so the children could see the arrival in Gympie of the March to Victory Column and the end of the war saw schools closed for a week. In fact, November was almost totally taken over by rejoicing.

The same year, Miss Walker was transferred to Birkdale and was replaced by Miss Annie Scott, of Cedar Pocket, who boarded in Gympie and road out each day to South.

In 1922, attendance rose to more than 60 and an extension of 10 feet was made to the west wall of the school building.

One Thursday in June 1928, pupils were given a half day off to see Bert Hinkler's plane land at the showgrounds.

The depression forced the closure of some schools and cuts to teachers' salaries and those of the school's sanitary contractors.

In the 1930s, the Commonwealth Bank invited Gympie South to start a School Savings Scheme for students to "cultivate the habit of thrift as a means of providing for the time when unemployment and want are rampant in our midst”.

By 1941 it was wartime and funds were needed. The school children joined in an essay competition "Lend to Defend by Buying War Savings Certificates” and the Education Department directed all pupils of Grades 6 and 7 to attend Gympie High and Intermediate School. Enrolment was 18, the 1941 Christmas holidays stretched to three months and, in 1943, the school came near to closing.

When the war ended and the air raid shelters were filled in, the South Side School had a white ant problem and only 15 students.

In 1954, it was official - the South Side School would be known as Gympie South State School and the following year the committee became the P&C Association.

From the second half of 1960, buses passed Gympie South daily on their way to Central State School but in another two years South would be their destination, with the introduction of the Area School.

Closing of small schools in outlying areas and bringing students by bus to Area Schools enabled them to continue on to high school. South was one of the first Area Schools to be appointed and the date for the changeover was to be the first day after the August school holidays - August 27, 1962.

As well as the noisy building program for South, there were important but less obvious changes occurring relating to the winding up of the small news and preparations for the new.

Jim Boxsell, from the Langshaw school that closed in 1962, was to be the new acting head teacher, assisted by the school's then-head teacher Ean Kernick, Elwyn Keys (Pie Creek) and Margery Robinson (Central). On the Monday following the holidays, the population of Gympie South State School numbers increased from 17 students to 137, the majority travelling on four buses that pulled into school that morning on the first of many such trips.

There followed a period of adjustment for the children, parents and teachers to the new routines and, with the arrival of the official head teacher, Mr Raymond Cartwright, in 1963, long term planning began regarding the development of school facilities.

The 1960s saw the introduction of sports houses Dean, Kidd, Price and Stumm, named after well-known local identities who had supported the school, while the 1970s saw rapid development in the area close to the school resulting in Gympie South bursting at the seams and requiring a substantial building program.

Block A was erected in 1973 and Block C in 1976 with Block B enclosed to provide a Special Education Unit in 1978.

The '70s also saw the introduction of teacher aides, a tuck shop, construction of the preschool, the formulation of policies for the school curricula, and educational tours to various areas of the state and interstate.

In 1981, the Gympie South Community Swimming Pool was officially opened, the school's first Apple computer arrived in December '82 and the school celebrated it 75th anniversary with much pomp and ceremony in 1985.

The new $130,000 library was opened in '86, with an emphasis on computer storage of reference material.

Gympie South took a step forward in education in 1991 by giving its students a say in their learning by setting up a student council and, in 1993, the P&C installed fans in the classrooms and South started a Life Skills program, introducing students to the skills they may need in everyday life.

In 1997, South was selected as a pilot school in Education Queensland's School Based Management Program (Leading Schools) and construction began on the multi-purpose building, which was opened the following year.

In 1999, a paid full-time convenor of the hugely successful South Markets - held on the school ovals - was appointed. Proceeds from the markets went a long way to paying off the school hall.

When the school's centenary rolled around in 2010, Gympie South celebrated 100 years of growth and achievement.

In 2017, Gympie South offers its 545 students a school community that caters for the whole child. This is thanks to a dedicated teaching and non-teaching staff of 70, who have a passion for providing opportunities for all children.

NUMBERS BOOST

AFTER these outlying schools closed, the students moved to Gympie South:

Lagoon Pocket - opened 1881, closed 1970 (children attended Jones Hill State School until the end of 1970 then attended Gympie South from 1971)

  • Calico Creek - opened 1936, closed 1970
  • Glastonbury - opened 1879, closed 1960
  • Scrubby Creek - opened 1934, closed 1960
  • Warrawee - opened 1936, closed 1975
  • Greendale - opened 1930, closed 1960
  • Langshaw-Eel Creek - opened 1876, closed 1962
  • Pie Creek - opened 1896, closed 1962
  • Mooloo - opened 1919, closed 1962
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