In 1868 the Council for Education bought a building for £25 and the Currajong School opened it’s doors to teach the children of Parkes. Starting with just 15 girls and 13 boys, it wasn’t long before the school rapidly began to grow, especially with the discovery of gold in the region.
Parkes Public School was established in 1876 staffed by headmaster Mr Archibald Booth and his assistant, and with enrolment numbers totalling 93. As the regions population increased and student numbers swelled to 460, a P&C Association was formed in 1917 and a separate infants department established. Overcrowding in 1956 saw numbers expand to 1023, with every class holding 40 or more students, which lead to large fund raising efforts and the construction of new buildings over the following years leading up to the Parkes Public School Centenary in 1968.
Further changes such as the inclusion of Clarinda SSP School, along with technological advancements have continued to assist in the evolution and development of Parkes Public School.
Many staff, students and residents of Parkes have witnessed and been a part of the changes over the last 150 years. The O’Donoghue family is just one of many multi-generation families that have attended Parkes Public. Ann (Doreen) Smith started 1st class in 1941 and is proud to witness her great grandsons Jordan and Lewis Todd attending in 2018.
She remembers sitting next to Rex Aubrey, Parkes Shire’s first Olympian, however her most vivid memory of primary school is the air paid practice the school would have. “A teacher would blow a whistle and all students would run into the lane at the back of the school and lie flat on their bellies in the dirt,” she said.
Cliff Cowell has similar memories during the latter war years when there was the threat of invasion by the Japanese, with air raid trenches dug through the school’s playground. “It was exciting, although prohibited, to ignore the planks placed across the top of the trenches as walkways, and to jump down into them and run down to the toilets, climb out and answer the call of nature, jump back in and run all the way back,” he said.
One of the most memorable moments is recalled by former teacher, Marg Jones. On July 21, 1969, hundreds of excited children and teachers crammed into the Assembly Hall in front of a small black and white television to watch the moon landing.
“Our own Parkes Radio Telescope played a pivotal role in relaying pictures of this event but due to poor weather conditions the landing was delayed. We waited a couple of hours with little children becoming increasingly restless and teachers anxious,” she said. “The TV screen showed mostly snowy pictures but finally Neil Armstrong came out the door of the ‘Eagle’ and made his famous statement “That’s one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind’”.
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