From the 1920s to today

CORIO STATE SCHOOL Geelong Advertiser 13 Sep 1932

Records at the Corio school date back to 1866 when it is surmised that the present building was opened. The previous building, built by public subscription, and conducted privately, was situated on the opposite side of the road about 250 yards distant. This building, which was on the property owned by the Shannahan family, is still there. In the early records of the school there was shown an attendance of nearly sixty pupils. At different periods since then it has fluctuated between twenty and forty, and its present attendance of 45 is the highest for some years. The Present staff – Mr Riggal (head teacher) and Miss Muller – have the enthusiastic support of an energetic committee in providing equipment and comforts for the benefit of the children. In the past twelve months over 30 pounds has been raised and spent at the school. An outstanding piece of furniture in the school is a food cupboard with a compartment for each child. In this the children can place their lunches on arrival at school, and it is kept in hygienic surroundings until lunch time.


Hendy Street, Corio, 3214 Australia.


Prepared by John Tomlinson DALLIMORE   D.O.B. 31 October 1914

Formerly of 377 Princes Highway, Corio 3214

Now of Abervale Retirement Village, Church Street, Grovedale 3216

A scholar at Corio (Cowies Creek) School 1924 - 1926

Notes prepared 29 September 1986

The following story is reproduced in this website with the kind permission of the Geelong Heritage Centre whose reference for this story is GRS 1437.


My father had sold up his small farm at Lake Gillear and bought a Vulcan 3 ton lorry to ply between Colac and Melbourne. He found a farm house with many sheds at Corio, on the corner of Plantation and Melbourne Roads. That is how we came to settle here in August 1924. I was nine, and had been to Allansford SS No 3, Hopkins Point and Lake Gillear schools. I received three pence a day for attending the first two, over 3 miles from our home; but then Lake Gillear school was rebuilt, just at the foot of our farm and I had almost a year there, more than planned, as the bad flu epidemic of 1924 prevented our joining dad in April.

The farmhouse had been owned by a Mr. McGuinness who had sold out to a subdivider ‑ Mr De Garis. De Garis was ahead of his time. He had foreseen the possibilities of Mildura, bought up and subdivided there, with great financial benefit to himself, and also to Mildura which had immediately begun to grow bringing new wealth and industry. He then turned his attention to Geelong, attracted by the decision of Henry Ford to establish a factory at North Shore. He bought up land from Cowies Creek to the Corio Railway Crossing, a strip about five kilometres along the Melbourne Road and advertised its potential extensively, playing on the development a large automobile company would cause, with its thousands of employees and necessary feeder industries to spring up nearby. Many blocks were sold at 100 pounds each, mainly to people residing far away; but these represented only a small percentage of the subdivision. De Garis was deeply committed. He chartered a train to bring potential buyers to Corio, and organised a team of men to fence off with Harris rails the several planned parks between the Railway Station and the big hall owned, together with the service station, by Jim Shannahan, both just completed, and these with four weatherboard homes in course of erection nearby creating an atmosphere of activity.

Other men were digging away and painting the new fences. Lou White's famous horse drawn drays were waiting for the influx at the station, to take them to the hall for a meal, a sales talk by De Garis and a tour of the activity area. I have an idea De Garis planned his arrival by aeroplane to coincide with the influx. All could have gone very well, but the day was wet, very wet, and “Grandjean Park Estate", as this area was labelled had no semblance at all to a park - just mud, Corio mud, noted for its ability to cling to footwear, causing instant tallness, as the few who ventured out quickly discovered.

The day was an expensive flop, and compounded De Garis’s problems. People buying on instalments ceased payment in some instances. He could not meet his financial obligations, mortgagors and banks foreclosed. He faced financial ruin, attempted suicide once or twice before finally suiciding, in New Zealand I seem to recall. A fine brick house he was having built for himself (!) on the foreshore of what was then an attractive beach and almost completed, was stripped of all removables by the builders. I fancy many of the farmers never received full payment for their land but could not claim it back and people like my father who transported in lots of timber never had their accounts paid. However all this is jumping ahead about four years.

I remember my mother taking me to school to enrol me with the head teacher Mr Lindsay, to me an old man, a kindly grandfather type. We were a bit early ‑ only one boy was there, named Bedggood. Other names I recall were Anderson, Batterham, Evans, Judd, Looker, Moodie, McClure, Shannahan, Mitchell, Moore, Mills, a school of about 28 pupils spread over 8 grades, aged 5 to 13.

The WorId War Honour Board looked fairly new, with people I knew named on it. There was a cupboard in the north west corner which contained a small library. The teacher’s desk stood high, blocking out the open fireplace, which interrupted the blackboard that otherwise occupied the entire north wall. The entrance lobby was a skillion type on the east, extending from about midway along the school wall to perhaps six feet out to the north, where there was a door which led into a small store room reaching back towards the chimney. A row of hooks in the lobby catered for caps, coats and lunch boxes and ended with a washbasin in the north east corner. Outside was the tank.

Entrance was a double door on the south wall of the lobby, with boot scraper. There was an asphalted area east of the school and lobby, for assembly and this continued as a path to the shelter shed, divided into two, girls in the section closer to the school. West of the shelter shed was a garden and flagpole. Another garden containing a derelict cactus or two was north of the chimney. In the south east corner was the boys’ vegetable garden area. Against the south fence, on a level with the shelter shed, was a small shed, perhaps 3 x 4 metres, which was locked but nobody took any interest in it. It housed garden tools and wood for the fire. The only other buildings were the two single loos ‑ boys near the north boundary girls near the south.

Gum trees ran down the north and west boundaries, grubs had found a home in many and eventually caused their death. Trapdoor spiders lived under some, a source of interest. There were red backs too, very common throughout Corio, and still so. A thick boxthorn hedge ran along the front fence, broken by a pophole near the north end, and by pedestrian and vehicle gates about the middle. Dozens of sparrows nested in the hedge, apparently undeterred by the immediate loss of their eggs.

A two metre wide cobblestone road ran from Melbourne Road along Purnell Rd. to Hendy Street, thence to the school gate. It was so overgrown to be barely visible. All the rest of these two roads were unmade, and practically impassable in wet weather. Plantation Road was installed to the main gate of our house, about 60 metres, and we discovered the reason was it once belonged to a councillor. The rest of Plantation Road was a track, which wound round large boxthorns bushes where the road starts to dip. At its corner with Hendy Street was Shannahan's dam, flanked with willows and several mulberry trees which received no attention but were always prolific with berries. Behind were two fine Norfolk Island pines.

Moving up the road towards the school was Shannahan’s home, noted for its big grapevine, apparently the sole survivor of a once flourishing vineyard area, how it weathered the disease which destroyed all the other vines is a mystery. Corio, originally Cowies Creek, seemed to be carved into 10 acre blocks in the early subdivision, and there were huts of remains of huts around in 1924. Apparently the manor house of Cowies Creek was a two storey bluestone home off Refinery Road towards the railway line. This had two underground tanks, a wide shallow one, and a narrow one about 10 metres deep. The house had been stripped of all useful materials, the stark walls were demolished by Grammar School boys as a Saturday activity over many months.

A limestone road, gleaming white in the moonlight, gave access to the Melbourne Road. Purnell Road continued straight down to the beach, flanked by high boxthorns. The advent of Shell in 1952 brought many subdivisional changes including the loss of this portion of road and the redesign of its entry into Melbourne Road, with the new name “Refinery Road”. Two houses at the intersection, belonging to McQueen and Looker have gone.

The Melbourne Road was narrow and from Bacchus Marsh Road corner to Ocean Child Hotel was made of limestone, very .slippery when wet, a great danger to cyclists. I suppose because the majority of workmen at Fords travelled by bike, it was soon upgraded and a little later the stretch from Fords to Bacchus Marsh Road intersection was laid down in concrete. There were many underground tanks as early settlers used locally available limestone in their construction rather than purchase imported tanks, although our home had two old rusted out metre‑cube iron tanks. Some were flat top and fitted with a windlass, others had a dome top, like ours, which still exists with its pump in what is now Sandon Exotics 0rchid Nursery, perhaps the only survivor of early settlement.

I found it was tradition to sing as we marched into school. 0ften there was a discussion on what song would be used, the louder voices would win out when no decision was made. The general one was "Will you come into my parlour said the spider to the fly”; but there was also one for each season ‑ "It's Spring and the Wattle is blooming as we march along", "In Winter’s chilly daytime", "In Summer’s golden .sunshine”, "In Autumn's frosty mornings”. The song was repeated to allow all to end up marking time at our desks, until told to sit.

There were 8 grades. Older pupils were delegated to take the beginners. Desk tops lifted up to provide a personal blackboard and a lot of "bubs" time was spent in drawing pothooks, a forerunner of script writing. Multiplication tables were recited.

There were practically no buildings from 0sborne House out, just a few farm houses and two hotels. Nearest state schools were North Geelong, Lovely Banks and Lara. Apart from Matthew Flinders exclusively for girls, there was only one high school, Geelong High, and one Technical School, The Gordon, with its junior school. Pupils came by rail to attend. I think the nearest highs and techs otherwise were at Ballarat, Colac and possibly Werribee.

Cowies Creek emptied out into the log pond, ships mainly from Tasmania, would empty out their cargo of logs to be milled there, but only the brick engine‑house remained.

On the area occupied by Fords Chassis Plant were large sheds where skins were hung up to dry out. Sims Cooper could have been the owners. The smell almost reached Corio when the wind came from that exact direction. The worst smell Corio had to bear came from a big piggery on the site of M.C. Herd where there was also the abattoirs. Blood and bone fertiliser was made periodically, happily rather seldom; but the stench had to be experienced to be believed.

School life was under the discipline of the strap. Teachers kept strict control. The playground was mainly long grass, with a lot of onion weed. The boys played cricket and football, all joined in rounders and brandy, the girls generally contented themselves with hopscotch and skipping on the asphalt. Despite some children walking from North Shore Railway Station and beyond, I can recall no one coming by bicycle or horse. All walked in all weathers.

My father was almost immediately put on the school committee, which became very active and ran euchre parties in the school under the light of a very big kerosene lamp suspended from the centre of the ceiling. I remember particularly Mr. McQueen, a keen player who intrigued me by wearing two pairs of spectacles. While taken seriously, there was always a lot of banter exchanged. The committee provided prizes and dad would collect them direct from the wholesalers in Melbourne. I still have a fine volume "Kidnapped" presented as a prize.

Committees of several schools combined to fund a scholarship worth 10 pounds or 15 pounds a year for a 3 year period, and this I think was first awarded in 1925. I had the distinction of winning it in 1926 and Corio became the holder of the board which then passed to the next winner’s school. The depression brought an end to the scholarships, and I think the board still hangs in Little River School, strangely I cannot recall ever seeing it although when I went on to the Grammar School in 1927, other boys in my class certainly let me know it was there.

0rganised sports days developed after I left but in 1926 our teacher chose several of us to go to combined sports at Lara. We duly reported; but the teacher there regarded us with great suspicion, and asked when we had had our own sports. On learning we had not had our own sports day, he said we would not be eligible to compete, so home we went, rather disappointed but perhaps a bit relieved, although we wished to show them that pupils from a small school could run and jump as well as anyone! I think our experience caused the combined sports to become better organised.

We had a speaker for Anzac Day 1925 and Mr. Lindsay had arranged a programme during which I was to recite the poem "On the 25th of April, far across the sea”. Lovely Banks school was included, along with parents, which packed the small building. The Lovely Banks School teacher was a young man and he quite blanketed poor Mr. Lindsay out, in fact he took over the show. However when he was caught unawares momentarily, Mr. Lindsay rose from obscurity and said, "Now, Jack,” so up I got and recited my piece. It brought applause, more I think in sympathy with Mr. Lindsay than for the quality of delivery!

The committee had social evenings in the school, and Mrs. McClure who manned the North Shore railway station from her home opposite, would always provide an item. She wore short skirts and seemed to me to be only five or six years older than her eldest daughter. She sang such songs as "Hanging apples on the lilac tree” ‑ a ballad telling of a lass who said she would never marry her admirer until apples grew on lilac trees, and eventually was caught hanging them there ‑ typical of the songs of that era.

Mr. Lindsay left in 1925 to be replaced by Mr. Jack Riggall, a young but excellent teacher. I can thank him for his personal application to my studies which without doubt caused my success with the scholarship. He remained at Corio for several years. I think Mt. Fogarty replaced him.

The school closed down for a while during the war ‑ children were taken to North Geelong I think. After it reopened Shell came, bringing an influx of children, many Dutch, and the Avalon School, being closed, the building was moved over. I had purchased building blocks surrounding the school many years earlier and the Education Department was negotiating for the purchase of the long narrow block on the north side, and the row on the east which backed into the school, when the Housing Commission advertised it had taken over my land and that of all other owners in the area bounded by Purnell Road, Bacchus Marsh Road, Plantation Road and the Highway. We were staggered but the reason became obvious with the subsequent news of the Refinery project.

I think people get a more realistic deal now. Shell became a mixed blessing. Our beautiful beach became ruined, pollution now is considerably lessened; but under no circumstances should such an industry be allowed to develop so close to a big city.

John T. Dallimore


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