When Betty Reid started at Burnett Heads State School there were air-raid shelters dug in the ground outside classrooms and she recalls collecting her family’s cattle on her way home from school.
Now decades later Betty will close the school gate one last time, as she retires from her teacher aide position to take up a simple relaxed life, to enjoy gardening, in the beautiful coastal town.
Betty has a long-standing history in the Burnett Heads community. Both she and her children attended Burnett Heads State School and Betty went on to spend the 44 years as a valued staff member.
Betty said her first school days were too long ago to recall in detail, but all the days spent at primary school were good.
“Now we had to walk to school. So, I guess there were no other options,” she said.
“And there wouldn't have been any other options in Burnett Heads – it's a great school, great place to be educated.
“Now there were things here that children of today wouldn't have known.
“There were air-raid trenches when I came to school, just out from B block, but (they) were filled in later after I started school, nobody got buried in them as they knew not to go in them.”
Learning plays a big part in Betty’s life
Betty said through life it was important to continue learning along the way, and she said young minds today often taught older souls a thing or two.
“Little children don't believe you can learn something new from them,” Betty said.
“And you do. And I think they respond to those remarks.”
The youngest of four, Betty said they were always given newly painted bikes each year to ride to school, and it didn't matter that the bike had been passed down from the elder sibling as her dad also gave it a fresh look.
“We all had a brand new painted bike every year, because dad used to rub them down and we were as proud as punch – so our bikes were always passed down, but always newly painted when we started school and it was great,” she said.
“There were no cars to bring you to school then, they didn’t need to have a lollipop crossing. And another thing there were horses, we had a horse paddock at the preschool … people came from Mon Repos on their horses to school.”
When Betty was a young girl, on her way home from school she recalled often having to collect the family's herd of cattle.
“My mum and dad had the dairy here, so on the way (home) where the water tower is now, I would have to collect the herd of cattle and take them down and let them through into the gate – and that gate is my gate today!
“I am very lucky because dad gave me the block of land.”
Transport to and from school wasn’t the only major change Betty has been part of over the decades. The uniform, always reflecting the school colour of maroon, has changed with the times and when Betty attended she said it wasn’t compulsory.
Fond memories of the old school days
Betty said during her time as a student there were just 85 other children enrolled along with just two teachers, which was considered quite large for the time.
“I wouldn’t swap any of our days, we were very well provided for even though the times would no doubt of been harder for people then,” she said.
“You look today, the children have so much today, and the technology – it’s wonderful.”
Betty said as she leaves Burnett Heads State School and retires, she plans to take life a little slower and appreciate the smalls things even more such as gardening, but she won’t miss it too much as she plans to stay involved in the school community.
“I’ll just take it slower and just take advantage of the extra time,” she said.
Betty has fond memories of working with different teachers over the years, and said she valued her teacher aide position.
Burnett Heads State School Year 2 teacher Suzanne Strachan has been working with Betty since before the turn of the century and said she treasured the friendship they had formed.
She said she will miss Betty’s caring nature as she is always there to comfort the children, also Betty’s art skills and the tales she would tell the students about living in the Burnett Heads community in her days.
“I think we will miss her great knowledge; she is a good source of information when we do history things in HASS,” Suzanne said.
“We always talk about school in the olden days, she was always a great source of information for what it was like in her time at Burnett Heads and now. And the kids are really amazed that she would come to this school as a child herself.
“Betty is my right-hand person. I will definitely miss her, and I hope she will come back to volunteer and keep in touch.”
- Last year Betty Reid helped celebrated St John the Divine's 80th birthday