1960s school morning rituals

Dianne Robertson and Robyn Minard attended North Ryde Public School in the 1950s and 1960s. In this oral history they recount their memories of their morning rituals on school days.

The bus 

We caught an old rickety red bus to school, with no air conditioning and no seatbelts, which picked us up at the end of our street where we lived. It wasn’t even a real bus stop! No signs that said ‘Bus Stop’ and no bench seats for sitting. So we would sit on our brown Globite suitcases, as one would straddle a horse, and that stopped our legs from getting tired while we waited. 

Globite cases

The box like suitcases were quite strong and came in different sizes, our older sister had the largest one you could get. There were four sisters in my family so I think we had every possible size lined up in the hallway of our house.

The bus trip 

It was a bit boring whilst travelling on the bus, just gazing out of the window looking at the fruit trees in the orchards interrupted by rows of brand new homes on brand new streets. However, the journey would soon pass quickly when someone shouted, “How about a chanting rhyme!”. Our favourite rhyme which involved everyone on the bus was ‘Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar’.

Dianne’s 2nd Grade recount of her trip to school for her half yearly test in June 1962, North Ryde Public School. (Private collection of D Robertson)

The bell

We would run from the bus searching for our friends, hoping to have time to sit on a grassy patch together and thread daisy chains before the bell rang.

The large brass bell was quite loud and handheld by ‘a lucky chosen student’ who ran around the school grounds in all directions constantly ringing it so that we could all hear. 

Lining up

Then promptly we assembled outside our classrooms in two straight lines in silence. One line for girls and one for boys when we had coeducational classes. However we do remember having at least two years at school during which we only had all girls in the class and there were 40 of us! The classrooms had a certain smell, possibly created from all the wooden furniture and the bare floorboards.

In silence we marched into school to the beat of a drum. In silence we stood tall beside our timber desks which had seating for two students, all in rows facing the front. In silence we waited ’til the teacher invited us to repeat the oath, “I honour my God, I serve my Queen, I salute the flag.” In silence we remained standing in a very military manner as we waited to hear our teacher say “Please be seated” and so we did.

We were expected to be on our best behaviour at all times, never calling out and always putting up our hand if we wished to speak or give an answer. Class discussions did not exist. Being respectful was of the utmost importance otherwise there were consequences!

Rainy day slippers

Everyone knows how hard it is to keep your school shoes dry on a rainy day. The reality is that we couldn’t. Regardless of how much tip toeing and puddle jumping we did on the way to school we still ended up with very wet and soggy brown leather shoes and socks.

Fortunately, we were allowed to bring a pair of slippers to school during wet weather, allowing us to remove our saturated shoes, place them outside the classroom in the covered corridor and slip into our soft, warm slippers. Our fondest recollection of wearing slippers in the classroom was how quiet and peaceful the room became, giving us the feeling of being cosy and comfortable, just like home.

The School of Arts for Transition classes

The School of Arts was a community building located across the road from our school. At that time, North Ryde Public School was growing at an extremely fast pace and not being able to keep up with student numbers. The School of Arts building was acquired for transition classes in the infant’s department. Transition was a class between Kindergarten and First Grade. 

I remember entering this huge building, walking down two large sandstone steps into a hall which was used as our classroom. I recall an distinct old smell and on the right-hand side of the room adorning the wall was a picture of the Queen.

Questions and activities for students

  • How are these morning rituals similar to your morning rituals on school days?
  • How are the morning  rituals different to your morning rituals?
  • Why do you think the students had to be silent at school?


  • Draw a picture of the description of the child ringing a handheld bell in the busy morning playground.
  • Compose a short recount of your morning ritual on a typical school day.
  • Use a table headed similar and different or continuity and change to compare the sisters’ past experiences with your present experiences.