Our History | Children band together

In July 1909, Yass claimed a first in several respects.

An irrigation plant was turned on at the public school and the Columbia Park Boys Club band from San Francisco came to town.

There is a wonderful sense of optimism in these two events. The school had successfully obtained a grant to install a windmill on the riverbank which pumped water to a tank in the school ground. The water was then piped to the school gardens, which had been established on the riverbank between the Tramway Bridge and the Hume Bridge.

The Sydney Mail reported "originally the gardens were a rabbit infested river flat overgrown with briars. The briars and the rabbits were exterminated, and the whole grounds wire-netted."

PRODUCTIVE: Yass Public School students working on their garden plots below the school on the bank of the Yass River. Photo: YDHS Archives

PRODUCTIVE: Yass Public School students working on their garden plots below the school on the bank of the Yass River. Photo: YDHS Archives

The project was progressive and far sighted. Girls as well as boys cultivated vegetable plots and "carry out various experiments in soil-testing, soil analysis, irrigation, manuring, cultivation and rotation of crops. Before school and after school the children may be seen working their areas, making and comparing notes. The habit of keeping records is fostered carefully."

Yass was the first country school to obtain such a grant. Mr NR Nielsen, MLA stated if the plant was a success, he considered it would not be long before a similar system was installed in every important country school NSW. He hoped the children would show an example to NSW and Australia by their industry, and that they were living in one of the most enlightened towns of the state. By encouraging school agriculture, a future farming population was being encouraged, and he knew it would have a far-reaching and beneficial effect.

BIG EVENT: The Columbia Park Boys' Band visit to Yass in July 1909 was recorded by local photographers Howard and Shearsby. Photo: YDHS Archives

BIG EVENT: The Columbia Park Boys' Band visit to Yass in July 1909 was recorded by local photographers Howard and Shearsby. Photo: YDHS Archives

Parents' and Residents' Association and scholars turned out for the opening. The Yass Courier reported "The proceedings were enlivened by the presence of the excellent band of the Columbia Park boys, the members of which, after marching to the school down the main street, rendered some very fine selections." The club had been formed in San Francisco to provide a place for boys to "indulge the various forms of energy" common to young boys and to constructively occupy their idle hours. The crowd showed enthusiastic support and even gave three cheers for the President of the United States.

FRIENDSHIP: The American flag was flown over Comur Street on many occasions in the early 19th century and particularly during World War I. Photo: YDHS Archives

FRIENDSHIP: The American flag was flown over Comur Street on many occasions in the early 19th century and particularly during World War I. Photo: YDHS Archives

Credit was given to the leadership of the headmaster Mr Dash. The local firm of WJ Scurr had erected the plant and apparently some of the boys built up enviable banking accounts out of the sales of their produce. As with the visiting American boys, youthful local energies were being constructively harnessed.

At the conclusion of the opening ceremony the windmill was apparently "spinning merrily".

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