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Underberg School has a rich history dating back to 1922. Below are some images and text extracts from our past.
THE STORY OF THE UNDERBERG SCHOOL
Written by D. de F. Nagy
(only certain extracts and unedited)
On the 22nd May, 1922, the Underberg Government Primary School opened with 5 pupils - Vincent Royston, Stanley Nicholsen, Cameron Thurston, Vivieen Stone and ......... Classes were held in the one room of the UNDERBERG BARKERS' HALL, and only for 3 hours each day as they had so few books and very little equipment. 9a-m. to 12 p.m.
A hostel was built - the old part of the present hostel - and this was to house 17 boarders. Mr. Groom was the first headmaster.
The boarders went home only about once a month for a week-end, and parents fetched them in carriages pulled by horses, or sent a riding-man with extra horses.
There is the story that once Mr. Nicholson brought his spider carriage drawn by the two horses 'Major' and 'Captain' to the School and left the horses inspanned while be went to do some shopping. The train must have just arrived and on it was a circus. I suppose the circus animals made many strange noises, so the two horses took fright and bolted, breaking the disselboom of the carriage and galloping home to the farm.
So poor Mr.Nicholson must have had great difficulty getting home that night!
There were day scholars then who rode to School. The Craigs came from Green End at least 8km away, and some of the Taylor family from the other side of Himeville, and they very often got caught in storms going home Vivienne Stone walked up from Scotson every day. So it was hard on those children of long ago.
The first Matron was very nice - Mrs. Royston - and the food they say was good but the old iron-bedsteads were hard.There was no play-room, and the children had to play in the corridor, or sit on the hard benches along the walls - which were painted dark brown up to a half-way mark and must have looked very dingy.
It was bitterly cold in the winter as there was not heating, and lighting was by paraffin lamps which were hung up. There were no special games as there are for you now - no tennis courts - swimming pool or playing fields - the grounds were open veld around the hostel.
For exercise the children were taken for walks. Once when walking along the side of the Railway Line near Woodford Halt, one of the girls Lettie van der Merwe fell into a deep pool and nearly drowned.They always called that'Lettie's Pool'forever afterwards.
They sometimes went for picnics, and once in 1926, 9 or more children ran away after the -picnic, thinking they would have a great adventure. They lost there way and finally arrived late at night at Mr. Nicholson's farm "Highlands". They could'nt get anyone to open the door as Mrs.Nicholson thought it was the dog knocking at the door, but at last got up to see what the noise as really was. l am sure they were glad of the warm milk and home-made bread.
The train was a great boon and was much used although some families still went to Pietermaritzburg by ox-wagon, or horse-drawn carriages. The first cars had a hard time of it on the dirt roads, which were often muddy and rivers had to be forded too. The train brought up the food supplies which could not be obtained locally, and the Hostel food was collected in a wheel-barrow and brought up here.
The boys were sometimes naughty, I am told, and I wonder if you are too? They say some boys shot grasshoppers with bows and arrows, and cooked the insects and ate them. They say that, but do not know if it is true.
Although life was harder for those first children at your School, they learned their lessons well, and many of them became very successful not only in farming but in the cities too.
For the 50th birthday of the School I wrote a play or pageant telling the story of our district and of the school, and everyone had great fun acting in it. We had a carriage too and I can show you one at our Museum if you can come along. We also had one of the first motor cars here.
The children who sat here when I was Teacher have now grown up, and some have children of their own.
So much has been done to the School in the last years and it is now a very up-to-date School, especially since your new Hall has been built.
Your life is very different too, coming to school as you do in cars, seeing T.V and going to Sports Meetings in other districts in your own bus, seeing films and having so many other entertainments.
Beautiful ! How times have changed !