My name is Mary West (nee Goode). I was a Correspondence School student while growing up on Pilga Station (near Marble Bar). I was born in 1921 and began Correspondence lessons in about 1927 with my older sister Evelyn. There were six children in our family altogether and eventually we were all Correspondence pupils.
My father, Walter Goode, thought that education was important and set up a room for us to do our schoolwork. An old chap who worked on the station made our desks. He loved making desks, but every one was different. We didn’t have a telephone or a wireless but we did have our Correspondence books and a governess to help us with our schoolwork. My mother had no time to help us because looking after the station and its workers was a full-time job.
Correspondence lessons arrived in ‘sets’. They were rolled up so there were no fold lines on the pages. Lessons came with the fortnightly mail on the mail truck from Marble Bar and if the river was flooded we sometimes waited 6 weeks for them. There were no sealed roads and it took the mail truck about 4 hours to do the 64 kilometres. We also had to roll the lessons when we sent them back to Perth. I didn’t like arithmetic (still don’t) and found handwriting difficult especially with pen and ink because I was left-handed. We mostly used lead pencils.
We went on a visit to Perth with my mother one year. It was such a privilege to meet our teachers because we only knew them through the writing they sent back with our schoolwork. I met the Headmaster and was surprised that he was just an ordinary man! I remember a Miss Bevan as one of the Correspondence School teachers who we loved.
In 1936 Evelyn and I went away to Perth for a year to boarding school at Perth College. My mother had been one of the inaugural students and they offered her a substantial discount for our schooling. It was the first time I had seen a blackboard and the teachers realised that I needed glasses! We did pretty well and I finished with three prizes at the end of the year in Languages, History and English. My Correspondence lessons had taught me well!
For the next 5 years I was a governess at Pilga Station for our own ‘little kids’ (my two youngest sisters and young brother) as they worked on their Correspondence lessons. My brother was eventually sent to a government school in Midland because my father thought he needed to meet other boys his own age. In 1942 during the Second World War Evelyn and I joined the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) and served in the Corps of Signals. Evelyn was appointed Sergeant-in-Charge of an AWAS Barracks and I was sent to a Signals’ Section in Warwick, Queensland as Officer-in-Charge of the Signals office and responsible for the 20 or so AWAS girls and their welfare.
After the war both Evelyn and I married farmers and had children who came home from school and asked for help with homework, which we were quite able to give them! And helped keep the farm books! And were Secretary or Treasurer of the local CWA or Red Cross! All thanks to our early Correspondence schooling (or in spite of!).