Air raid practice in the playgound?: ladies think back to old school days at Santa Maria

IT is a very special bond that brings a group of Orange women together twice a year to remember their school days at Santa Maria College with great fondness.

Several of the women, who got together on Monday, are aged in their 80s, however, time has not dulled their memories of attending school during World War II.

“Every day in our prayers before class we prayed for the soldiers. I had three brothers serving in the Pacific Islands, and one didn’t come home, so our prayers had a special significance,” said 86-year-old Elma Lincoln.

Her school friend and fellow reunion organiser Mary Watts, 84, remembers the sound of the siren  that would ring out across the school when it was in Byng Street.

"We would all run out and get down in the trenches that ran along the back of the school as practice, in case there was an air raid,” she said.

Mrs Lincoln says there wasn’t a strong emphasis on wearing the correct uniform, a rule that was imposed in the 1960s when girls could not leave the school grounds without hats and gloves.

“We were at school during hard times and not everyone had money. In many ways the 40s felt like we were still coming out of the depression,” she said.

Several of the women talked about the differences between attending school back then, compared to now.

“There was no such thing as a canteen or a tuckshop, everyone brought their own packed lunch,” Mrs Watts said.

Others recalled taking stale sandwiches to school on Mondays because the bakeries were closed on weekends.

Although the school rules were strict by today’s standards, the women said they had no regrets about the discipline.

“The nuns were strict, but always fair,” said Aileen Perry, who attended the school in the 1940s.

The school reached a turning point in 1966 when it moved to Hill Street.

Santa Maria College and De La Salle merged to create James Sheahan Catholic High School in 1980.

Sadly missing from yesterday’s reunion were former reunion organisers Pat Fitzpatrick and Cath Parish who passed away last year.

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