Jack looks back as Mount Pritchard turns 100

As Mount Pritchard Public School prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in September, an ‘old boy’ pops in for a visit. Pascal Adolphe reports.

Students with a teacher and elderly man in front of a brick wall. Students with a teacher and elderly man in front of a brick wall.
Image: Mount Pritchard Public School captain Ariana Siemionow, Jack Osborne, school captain Mueez Kadeiri and principal Natalie Piccinin.

One hundred years ago, mobile phones, credit cards and liquid paper did not exist.

Mount Pritchard Public, which celebrates its centenary this year, opened in 1924, initially as an infants’ school.

When the school was converted to primary status in 1937, a young Jack Osborne was among the school’s first Year 4 cohort.

Jack was born in Leeton but his father, a schoolteacher, died when he was very young and the remaining family moved to Sydney.

He spent the first years of schooling at Cabramatta Public, even though his family home was a few doors down from the Mount Pritchard school site.

“There was only one classroom (at Mount Pritchard), it just wasn’t big enough,” Jack said.

“We all went to Cabramatta. We used to walk there – three miles – cutting though bush tracks and a dairy.”

Now aged 98, Jack has never used a mobile phone, credit card or liquid paper, despite their invention during his lifetime.

As a prelude to the official centenary celebrations later this year, Jack recently visited the school to reminisce about his three years there and share life stories with current students.

“We had happy times at school,” he said.

“I remember Mr Young. He was very strict and when he spoke, you knew you had been spoken to. An uncanny thing, he’d be writing on the board, and you might be messing around back here, and he’d sing out your name – eyes in the back of his head.”

Jack also discovered a passion for athletics at the school.

“I was a good jumper in those days,” he said.

“I ended up going to the Sydney Sports Ground and represented the school in the broad jump and triple jump.

“At the side of the classroom we made a sandpit where we used to practice.”

Mount Pritchard Public Principal Natalie Piccinin said the school had a strong athletic tradition, which continued to the present day.

“We now have a proper official sandpit,” she said.

“And we have a synthetic running track. We have enough to do a 200m race.”

Among the school’s most notable sporting alumni are Parramatta Eels legends, Eric Grothe Senior and Geoff Gerrard.

Mount Pritchard Infants School opened in September 1924, with an enrolment of 28 pupils and one teacher.

When it became a primary school in 1937, a new classroom was added and an additional teacher appointed. Today the school has 342 students.

Jack graduated from the school in 1939 aged 13, then went to Liverpool High for a year, before leaving school at 14.

“I got a job working at a chemist shop in Strathfield for 15 shillings a week,” he said. “That was five and half days delivering medicine on a pushbike.

“But I wasn’t there that long. My cousin and I found they were paying better money in town at a place called Crown Crystal Glassworks and that was 35 shillings for five and a half days.”

Through World War II and beyond, Jack worked on the railways until 1948 when he got married, moved to Silverdale and ended up working on the Warragamba Dam construction site.

“When you’re building a dam you do many things,” he said.

“I was there for 35 years doing mainly concreting for eight years, then the dam opened and the next 26 years I became a maintenance man.”

Jack lost his wife in 1986, which prompted him to retire. And the secret to his longevity?

“Just being active. I always found something to do,” he said.

An elderly man holding up a book. An elderly man holding up a book.
Image: Jack spoke with students about his memories of Mount Pritchard Public.
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