Randoms One by One - # 2
We were a sort of musical family. My father played the piano accordion and the harmonica (mouth organ) – he could not read a note of music – he played totally by ear and he played very well.
My mother had an upright piano which she had learnt on as a girl. Myself, my brother and my youngest sister learnt on that same piano.
I started on the piano in primary school and continued until I finished high school. My brother learnt at the convent where the nuns hit him across the knuckles with a ruler when he made a mistake! My teacher, Mrs Donahue, had fingers twisted, swollen and painful with arthritis but she could still pound out a tune to show me what it should sound like. Instead of a ruler like the nuns, she would put a coin on the top of each hand and I had to play without them falling off.
My other sister started learning guitar and not to be outdone I wanted to learn too. It soon became apparent that my fingers and the strings did not agree with each other! Guitar did not last long.
I had a school girl crush on the High School music teacher who seemed to be able to play every instrument ever invented. I learnt to play the clarinet with him.
One afternoon a week I would go to clarinet lessons and another to piano lessons. I went through stages of which one I liked best and the other would suffer. I could practise the clarinet in the kitchen – playing to my mother as she prepared dinner. I remember playing "When The Saints Go Marching In" - ad nauseum!! The piano practise was lonelier as the piano was in the loungeroom which was a "shut up" room; only used when visitors came. I have often thought I would like to take up the piano again – but that would require buying a piano……..
There were approx 500 students in our entire school (Kindergarten to Year 12) …. hence electives in the secondary and high school were limited. It seemed that if you were a girl you had to learn Cooking (Home Economics) and Sewing (Textiles & Design) in the years 7-10. The boys got to do Woodwork and Metalwork – and never the sexes be mixed!!
I did not want to learn cooking or sewing – even then I knew I was no Martha Stewart! My father wrote to the Department of Education lamenting the lack of opportunity given to country girls and appealing to them to allow me to study something more useful – like French (my choice) – well I thought it was going to be more useful!. They eventually agreed to me doing it by correspondence. There was no teacher to teach me - I would get tapes for the reel to reel machine and I got to sit in the library and teach myself. When it came to exams one poor teacher who probably did school girl French 20 years before got to "examine" me. I sat French in the School Certificate (year 10) and then dropped it. I never had a conversation in French!