The Black and Decker Kindergarten.
Wandong never had a kindergarten in the early days, children stayed at home with their mothers, who for the most part did not go to work. Early learning was acquired at home, and integration with other children was by playing with friends and neighbours children. For most local children school started at age 5, beginning at “preps” and continuing until grade six was reached, further schooling then occurred out of the town as there were and still are no secondary education facilities at Wandong.
That all changed in 1982 when Black and Decker approached the local lions club to provide manpower to build a Kindergarten for a television advertisement, the community gained what was intended to be a community centre and ended up with a facility that is still in use today. The Kimore Shire was approached and provided land on the reserve, Black and Decker supplied all the materials and the locals rallied to be part of this great opportunity for the town. Appeals were made for additional funding the shire added the princely sum of $1000, the reserve committee donating $10,000. Further donations of over $33,000 were obtained and the local community raised another $4500.
With a contingent of volunteers, the centre was built in one weekend, a Kindergarten was established in the building along with a community area for others to use. In 1983 a pre- school committee took over management and the building became known officially as the Wandong Pre School.
Marjorie Williams was the first teacher, Sue Cole was her assistant, Marjorie left and Lindi Leddin became the new teacher still assisted by Sue.
Over the years the numbers see-sawed, sometimes the numbers exceeded the places available while other years the numbers dropped so low the threat of closure hung over the kindergarten. In 1997 three-year-old kinder was introduced. Since those early days the kinder has grown, several redevelopments have occurred, with the building being substantially added to and playground modernised. Recently the centre has been upgraded to include the maternal health centre, moved from the community building nearby to a new and modern facility. Today the kinder is a valuable asset to the town, helping the children to begin their educational journey and a fun and safe environment and preparing them for the next step in their school life. But without Black and Decker and that ad, where would we be now?
Images below kindly supplied by Brian and Bobby Smith:
Education played an important role in the early settlement history of the region with the first school being established at Lightwood Flat in 1871, a short distance south of Wandong. Originally mooted as the site for a township it was soon bypassed by the growing population of Wandong and its associated industries. With 51 students the building at Lightwood was soon considered inappropriate and an alternative site was recommended. Although a second school was established closer to Wandong, the site still presented problems and in 1882 the school was relocated to Wandong at a cost of £127/9/- and was officially opened as the Wandong State School No. 1277.
Over the course of its 151 years of history the school has had 36 head teachers, seven female and 30 males and the school transitioning from 51 students to now over 460 students with approximately 49% coming from outside the Wandong area.
A publication on the history of Wandong’s schools makes for interesting reading – Wandong: From Lightwood Flat to the Forest, a History of Our Schools and is available on line for those wishing to purchase a copy.
With Robert Affleck Robertson’s arrival in 1883 the township of Wandong grew rapidly. With difficulties in transportation on Mt. Disappointment, it became apparent that a second school was needed to accommodate the children of the small forest settlement and in 1887, the Comet Mill State School No. 2788 was established.
Recognising the need to retain his work force in the forest Robertson applied to the Education Department stating he would provide a school if the department would provide a teacher. The school building was made of local huen timbers measuring 18ft x 24ft in size. Soon thirty children were enrolled. The Comet Mill school operated for thirteen years and employed as many teachers over its lifetime.
The first teacher Miss Emily Jane Clements (No. 8802) from Sale didn’t last long in the forest environment stating ‘that the school was in a poor condition with the timber in the building having shrunk and being full o holes’ and that perhaps a male teacher should be sent ‘ one that could eat with the single mill hands’. One can only imagine the primitive conditions in which teachers lived in the small forest village environment and the hardships they endured.