Compiled by Maidee Smith from records at the State Archives.
The first application for a school at Hoffman Mill was in 1897 when the residents, on 13 July 1897, advised the Education Department that they were prepared to erect a building for the school and accommodation for the teacher. They were supported in their application by the schoolmaster at Wagerup and he was asked to mark a suitable site on the plan forwarded to the Department.
A month later, the Manager of Yarloop Timber Station wrote to the Department saying a suitable building could be erected in four weeks which could be rented by the Department at about 10/- a week. He suggested that toilets be installed instead of the pan system.
There were 30 children in the town who needed schooling and the building was completed and ready for occupation on 13 December 1897 – just in time for the Christmas holidays. A month before, an inspector had visited the school and was favorably impressed by it.
The teacher, Mr JH Otto was notified of his posting and opened the school with 22 children present. After the holidays, lessons resumed on 28 January 1898 with Mr Otto as head teacher. A letter sent to him at that time was lucky to find him having been addressed to ‘Hoffmans Mill, via Yalgoo’!
Millars Timber and Trading Company (Millars) manager at the time was Mr F Brady and he did all he could to promote the school. The fabric of the school was the ‘best ever seen’ by the inspector. It was all jarrah, with jarrah lining and ceiling, tongued, grooved and beaded.
The names of the children attending were: – Arthur and Olive Rutherford; Lilian, Percival, George Horace and Elsie Tidy; John, Catherine and James Brennan; Herbert Flower; William and Edward Properjohn; Harry Lou and Miriam Barrow; Elsie and George Parkes, Leslie Gilliard; Agnes, John, Annie and Sarah Martin; Ada McSwan and Florence, Martha and George House.
In 1915, a query was made to the Department whether four-year-olds should be admitted to school and the reply was that the regulation stated ‘admit children from 4-6 years’.
This was sometimes necessary to keep the numbers up and stop the closure of the school. The teacher at that time was TK Wynne-Kinnear and there were 26 children on the roll.
However, the mill closed down as many did in those war years. Although the wives and families could remain in the houses, some families moved out. When school resumed in January 1916, only 15 children enrolled; by 13 February only 13 remained.
There were not enough pupils to keep the school open by 3 March and so it closed down. This opening, closing and re-opening was the pattern for so many bush country schools for many years. During the years from 1909 to 1913, a transportable school also operated at the Hoffman Mill Landing – opening, closing and moving when the area was cut out.
On 3 July 1919, the old mill was destroyed by fire – a rather common occurrence in timber towns, and a new mill was erected eight or nine miles away at the current Hoffman Mill Bush Landing site. The school had been burnt down as well. The numbers were down as the workers left, but some children still needed schooling. It was suggested that they could use the mill hall as a school room and an approach was make to the mill manager at Yarloop, Mr Driver. Counting the younger children, there would be about 15. These included: – Theo, Charlie and Llewellyn Fischer; Ada and Phyllis Taylor; Lillian, Fredrick, Emily and May Alrick; William Beard; Marjorie and May Elves; Edith Miller and Susie Rodgers. Their ages ranged from four years to 14 years.
The Department was advised that if they sent a woman teacher she could board at the boarding house. The housekeeper there would make her comfortable.
Lionel White was then the manager at the mill and advised the Department that the school and quarters would be built just as before. The Department replied that there was no teacher available. The previous teacher had been Frank Smith. He had complained about the high rent and had asked for a reduction. Mr White advised the Department that board for a single person would be 32/8.
In June 1921, Millars was asked if the quarters could be used by a married teacher with three children. But it was deemed not suitable and the Department was asked to send a single teacher if possible. The single teacher they sent, James H Best, found the single quarters unsuitable too and he moved into the boarding house. By December that year, Alice Roberts was the head teacher, so Mr Best did not stay long. But nor did Alice Roberts, because in January 1922, Frank Smith returned to re-open the school. He complained there was no copper in the school quarters. These quarters had four rooms with the back verandah enclosed as a kitchen.
The new school was on the hill, opposite the mill and the water supply came from pipes laid from the mill. These were on top of the ground so the water was often hot and as the pipes grew older the water became dirtier with rust.
Numbers dropped and Mr Smith was told to close the school at Easter of 1921. It re-opened again on 18 July 1921, with James Nest as head teacher and a list of dates and attendance show how it just kept enough pupils to stay open for many years.
In April 1922, Mr F Smith had 21 pupils on the roll, two months later there were only 18 left. Later on, the figures were much the same – 1938 saw only 21 on the roll.
In 1939, there were still 21 and in 1940, Mr John Halse had 23 children at the school. By 1949, Mr Robert Darragh was head teacher but the numbers were dropping and by 1951 he only had 18 children on the roll.
An upsurge of work at the mill in 1944 brought increased numbers of children to the school. When it opened in February, 37 were enrolled. There was an average attendance of 31 children. Scripture lessons were given by a visiting Church of England minister, the Reverend J Paisley. By March that year, more desks were required as the numbers grew.
As there was no radio at the school, they couldn’t hear the Anzac Day school broadcast, but the Rev. Paisley came and gave a suitable talk to the children instead. There was also a visiting physical education instructor that year who gave a valuable demonstration of rhythm work and country dancing. This was a great benefit to the children. On the more practical side, the boys helped the teacher fix lining boards to the washroom. These were supplied to the school by Millars. The parents organised a dance in August to raise funds for the school at which 22/- was raised and most of it was spent on library books for the school.
When school opened in January 1945, 35 children enrolled. In February that year, the school doctor arrived to examine the children. Their teacher was transferred in March with the new teacher arriving the next day. He was Mr B Cruse and a month later a monitor (Mr J Haley) was appointed to assist him. However, Mr Cruse had mumps and measles that winter and the school was closed for five weeks. The enrolment was up to 40 by August and on 16 November 1945, the school was closed for the day while children all went to Yarloop to join in the Victory Sports day held there.
School re-opened in 1946 with Mrs Smart as the sewing mistress and Miss P Smart on probation as a monitor.
There were 24 children on the roll. The monitor, Miss Smart, was ill in March and when she recovered she was transferred to the school at Hakea. During the year, the enrolment increased to 30. One of the new boys admitted in August 1946 was Fiore Rando, who later became a head teacher himself. The children enjoyed a school holiday on 18 October when the Duke of Gloucester visited the school and granted them a special holiday.
At the end of 1946, Mr Cruse was given a transfer to Dowerin and Mr G Lee came in his place, opening the school on 3 February with 29 children. His wife was the sewing mistress and the visiting clergyman (The Rev. B Sumner) gave the scripture lessons.
During 1946, the chimney at the school was replaced.
In 1948, there were still 29 children enrolled, although the Rando family had left to go to Cookernup and others had arrived. The Rev. B Sumner again gave the scripture lessons. A medical inspection of the children was made by Dr Anderson in December and three of the children were excused from sport because of their health. They were Ray and Joy Rynke and Elaine Pedrazolli. Mr Lee was advised of his transfer to Bayswater in 1949 and the new head was Mr Darragh. At times, his car was the only transport available in the town and in October, he was called upon to transport a man, with his foot badly crushed, to the hospital in Yarloop.
Mr Darragh was due for his long service leave in July of 1950 and when he went on leave, Mr Lay took over at the school. There were 30 children attending at the time but in August when the school dentist arrived, only 21 children had returned to school – some families must have left during the August school holidays. The numbers were still down in 1951 when 22 children arrived. At the time, Mrs Higgs was the sewing mistress and Mr Darragh was still on leave. He returned in March. In July of that year, another special holiday was given in honour of Sir James Mitchell. Another special day at the school was 7 February 1952. This commemorated the death of King George VI.
At the time, the enrolment was 26 and the teacher was again Mr Darragh. He was transferred to North Beach at the end of the year. Mr WD Rob arrived in 1953 to an enrolment of 28 children. For some reason at that time, five children from the area were travelling to the Tallanalla School. The children were given special lessons in May that year about the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth so they would understand the ceremony better.
Numbers suddenly increased in 1954 when 37 children enrolled and the head teacher applied to the Department for an assistant. Miss Massam arrived on 24 May to assist. She found the room overcrowded and by July it was worse with 42 children at the school. The inspector, John Mack, came in July and said a new room was needed. The Infants and Standard 1 children were being taught in the supper room at the hall.
Mr Rob was again head teacher in 1955 and only 31 children arrived for school. The other children were going by bus from Tallanalla to Harvey for schooling. A wireless had been purchased and in March, was used for the first time to listen to the school broadcasts. As the number had dropped, the Department decided in April to transfer Miss Massam to the Banksiadale school. All the children could now fit into the main school with the head teacher. However, the situation was not good and a request was made for another assistant. Miss Massam returned from Banksiadale after only two weeks there.
As well as the wireless, the school received a projector. In October, a technician from the Department, Mr Clamp, came to install it and show how it worked. For the first time, in November, a parents’ day was held at the school and proved very successful.
In 1956, with Mr EJ Bunn as teacher, there were 28 children at the school. The numbers were much the same in 1957 with 27 children. In April, a polio clinic visited the school to immunise the children. In May, there was a visit from the school inspector, Mr John Mack, but no adverse report as before on overcrowding. On Arbor Day that year, it was decided to have a guest speaker and Mr Marshall from the Forestry Department gave a talk to the children. After the talk, they planted trees around the school. A ‘new’ school building was erected in August. It was the Cookernup school which had been transported to Hoffman.
At the time, there was no religious instruction for the children. However, in September, the Rev. Currie visited the school to make arrangements for scripture lessons. By October, the new school building was in use and it was officially opened by Mr Ivan Manning MLA. The inter-school sports was held in Harvey that year and all the children worked hard at their training for them.
Their teacher was transferred once more, this time to Huntly. The new teacher in 1958 was Mr DJ Eborall with Miss B Nelson as sewing mistress. There was another rise in enrolments with 46 children, and the Parents and Citizens Association held a meeting to suggest that the Willowdale school building should be brought to Hoffman. In April that year, the free school milk scheme began. With such a large enrolment, an assistant was required and the junior section of the school was taught by Mrs Eborall. She was relieved in June by Mr Keith Rutherford who arrived from Harvey to take the lower grades. The large enrollment also made more work for the school cleaner, Mrs Hutchinson, who complained that her wage of £3/0/4 per week was too low for the work required of her. By July, 43 children were at the school when Mr Rutherford was withdrawn. The children planted six trees on Arbor Day that year. The school dentist visited again in July, and in October the training for the school sports at Yarloop was well under way. The children did well and twelve of them were chosen to compete in the Brunswick sports to be held on 31 October.
In 1959, 43 children enrolled. They kept up their sports training and that year, 14 were chosen to compete at the Burekup sports in October. In December 1959, there was a rumour that the mill was to close down and the school too. However, it re-opened in 1960 with 23 children from the remaining eight families. The mill was re-opened in July of that year, Arbor Day was observed again and more trees were planted. During July, more families were moving in from Mornington Mill as that town ‘wound down’ and six children were admitted to the school. In August, a debating club was formed and the school published a newspaper.
Also in that month, the mill manager, Mr Ucich, arranged for two old whims to be moved into the school grounds. Paint was donated and the old schoolroom was painted. During the August holidays, there were many visitors to the town, including the Mill Superintendent, the Chairman of Millars, the ex-teacher from Willowdale school and his wife, Mr & Mrs Stuart, also the Deputy Head Teacher from Harvey and his wife, Mr & Mrs Jeffery, as well as the Roads Board member, Mr Ridley and his wife.
It was a busy year at the old school room, as in September of that year, a field day was organised by the school for the Harvey Teachers’ Union Branch members and their families. Altogether, 35 attended. The programme included a trip through the mill, a trip to Willowdale and Mt Keal where a forestry officer, Mr J Doherty, guided the tour. They were treated to a demonstration of chain sawing and tree felling by Mr P Burke. After refreshments, a dance was held in the hall. Again in October, the school was well represented at the sports day held at Picton.
In 1961, the enrolment stood at 26 and selected children helped to dig a hole for a flagpole. After much digging, the hole was ready and the flagpole was erected with help from the forestry gang. On Arbor Day that year, three blue mallee gums were planted. The 1961 sports were held in Waterloo and some of the parents assisted with transport so all the children could go. Millars wrote to the Department in May 1961 to give warning that they planned to close the mill early in 1962 with the majority of the families being transferred to Yarloop. The company had relinquished the mill site at Nanga Brook too and the school there did not re-open in 1961. However, 13 children of forestry workers required schooling at Hoffman. So in 1962, Mr GB Leaver was sent as a teacher. As these workers may have had to relocate to Tallanalla or Hamel by the end of the year, the final closing seemed imminent. The school water supply was now uncertain as the mill had closed and supply came from there. Mr John Mack, the inspector, was asked to arrange for a supply from the Forestry Department. Although only 13 children were at the school, they took part in the annual sports in October and this year they were held at Brunswick.
It was decided that the school would close at the end of 1962 and the final day was 21 December. The physical education equipment was sent to Harvey, the piano was to be returned to the Department for a major overhaul and the keys of the building were to be left with a forestry official, Mr Doherty. A query came from LG Cluning to the Department asking if the school building, ex Cookernup, now at Hoffman, was for sale. The furniture and stock was all gone and the town, being deserted, resembled a ‘ghost town’. Unfortunately, there was a lot of interference with the buildings. There was an offer to rent the building for 10/- but the Department decided in September 1964 to ‘dispose of the buildings’.
A contract for the sale and removal of the Hoffman Mill school was awarded to Mr LE Tremain of Brunswick Junction, and the removal was completed by the 4 February 1965, thereby ending 64 years of education in the area.