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It is interesting to think about the various factors which influenced us as children … our first days at school, our early reading matter,  so many new experiences which shaped our development.  Depending on our present age, the answers to these questions will vary greatly.

From Cane Fields to Comic books and beyond, I am proud to have lived my life surrounded by heroes.

No matter where we come from, we have wonder in our eyes and joy in our hearts and that wonder and joy must be cherished and protected. Even if it means learning by rote and worshipping comic book heroes. 

From the perspective of one who was a little tacker over 80 years ago, early school days were a brilliant adventure.

I rode a pushbike a couple of miles to a small one teacher school nestled in the surrounding fields of sugar cane, the main crop of the Burdekin District.

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Each of us had a slate on which to write, pencil and paper coming later, and no pen and ink until much later, and of course no ball point pens in those days. The slate was cleaned with a sponge, and in summer time it was important to freshen it up daily.

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typical school in the Burdekin

Our teacher was responsible for the education of students of different ages in different classes, usually in one or two rooms. We were introduced early to the letters of the alphabet and later to the intricacies of spelling, and the English language certainly presents some tricky ones. The most important times tables were practised at night for testing the next day.

Even today if you wake one old-timer up and ask “what is 12 times 14?” you would more than likely get the correct answer before he or she drifted off back to sleep. Not so today necessarily, with current students who indulge the luxury of the pocket calculator.

Mental arithmetic was another challenge mastered with practice and came in handy in later life. I can remember being in awe of my own father, who was then in his late forties, being able to solve in his head with apparent ease problems I had been set for homework. 

Criticism has been leveled at the practice of learning by rote, being able to recite the southern tributaries of the Murray River for example, or the names in order of the towns between Brisbane and Cairns by rail, but it was certainly good brain training and must have done some good.

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The early reading matter was our textbooks and we absorbed information about history and geography and early explorers, and the girls found the delights of cooking and dressmaking.

Much other reading was provided by the booming sales of comic books in the 1930’s, often to the disapproval of parents. This was indeed the golden age due largely to the prolific output of one highly talented storyteller, Lee Falk, who launched Mandrake in 1934 and a couple of years later my favourite, the Phantom. 

LEE FALK 

A lot of his success lay in his excellent choice of artists to illustrate his stories .. Phil Davis for Mandrake, and Raymond Moore for the Phantom. These strips appeared in the Australian Woman’s Mirror and Women’s Weekly and were eagerly read. Another one which I followed with great interest was Buck Rogers, 25th Century adventures, drawn by Dick Calkins and later by Rick Yager.

BUCK ROGERS AND WILMA

By this time America had entered the war with the very unwise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire  of Japan, which was not as successful as had been planned, and as Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

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Many American service personnel were stationed in Australia then and the local Lynch’s Beach settlement of privately owned huts, now the town of Alva, was taken over and private citizens not allowed there.

 This influx led to the introduction of at least two new things, Coca Cola and comic books, and we enthusiastic connoisseurs of this latter valuable educational medium revelled in the amazing adventures of Captain Marvel and Superman, wondering at the vulnerability of the Man of Steel to Kryptonite, and shouting “Shazam” in the hope of turning into our hero.

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It was a plus to learn that this name was derived from those ancient gods Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury so  our sceptical parents had to admit, reluctantly, that there was some educational value.

From Cane Fields to Comic books and beyond, I am proud to have lived my life surrounded by heroes.

My parents, my teachers and my comic book heroes. Each one contributing to a life that sadly too few children enjoy today. 

 

Thanks to Dodger for this.

And never forget

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