School History

A short story about a long history …

Main Arm/Toolond School as told by *Frank Mills


Whole school photo from 1960

The top end of Main Arm was rapidly being settled and the first school was called Toolond, after the parish. The school was virtually a slab hut, built in 1927 on the lower part of the school ground and two of the local bullockies, Jack and Roy Maxwell assisted with the construction.

Each Monday morning a ragged bunch of country kids (uniforms were unheard of) would assemble in front of the flag and recite after the teacher: I honour my God, I serve my King and I salute my flag. We marched into our one-teacher school and the various classes would take up their positions at their desks, which had inkwells for each pupil. It was an honour to be allotted the task by the teacher to fill all the inkwells.

Our playground was very interesting with large numbers of trees and hollow logs. We loved to explore and hide in the playground trees during lunch hour. Bullocks and cows usually shared our hillside playground. These cows would sometimes take our school bags and eat our lunch. However, our thoughtful teacher Mr Campbell, would not see an unfortunate kid go hungry, and always seemed to have sufficient lunch to share.

Main Arm was always a colourful presence at the Chincogan Fiesta

The school’s big event of the year was the annual Empire Day Picnic which was celebrated on the 24th May. Some of the events were sack, two-legged and egg and spoon races. Occasionally we would have a boil-the-billy race.

The school garden was about half an acre of the bottom playground. Each of us was allotted a small section and took great pride in our vegetable growing. Later the garden was used to grow one crop like potatoes, which was sold and the money used for school purposes.

The original Toolond Public School was relocated to its present site and officially opened as Main Arm Primary School on 27th February 1946. The main reason for moving the school was to bring it closer to the thriving banana settlement of Palmwoods from which a large percentage of the school’s population was drawn. Times have certainly changed since the provisional school of Toolond in 1927, but one thing hasn’t changed and that is the close bond that exists between pupils and teachers.

*Local historian Frank Mills was a pupil at Main Arm Public School

Main Arm parents

Our Teacher

By Frank Mills

It was way back in the thirties
At our little country school
Where twenty-six boys and girls
Were taught to keep the rule

Our school was on the hillside
Under which our school bags stayed
And our playground it was shared
With bullocks when they strayed

The school had two playgrounds
Above and below the road
The lower was for the horses
Which to the school we rode

The kids of Toolond School
They were a ragged bunch
Sometimes the playground cattle
Would gobble up their lunch

Our teacher was really thoughtful
For us kids he showed he cared
When the cows ate our lunch
It was teacher’s that was shared

In all my years at the school
The teacher never used the cane
He would get his lesson across to us
Through love and not through pain

The New Wave

Another wave of new settlers began to populate the Main Arm Valley in the 1970s. People from all over Australia and many parts of the world moved to the verdant valley to pursue an alternative lifestyle. Australia’s first multiple occupancy was born here. And it was the beginning of a new era, with many people from many cultures following, bringing a depth of diversity and colour to the school community.

Spaghetti Circus

Spaghetti Circus began in 1992 with a small group of Main Arm children. Leonie Mills’ energy and dedication provided artistic activities for local children and endless entertainment for the whole community. Spaghetti Circus now operates from Mullumbimby and has grown from a great idea to a nationally-acclaimed youth circus.

Spaghetti Circus born and bred at Main Arm School

75th Anniversary

In 2002 we celebrated the 75th anniversary of our unique school and many past students gathered to honour their special memories of their time at Main Arm.

From ex student Ben Vanderbyl

I attended Main Arm Upper Public School from 1964 to 1970. There were two teachers in 1964 but after 1965 there was only one so a hole was cut in the wall between the two classrooms. Only the teacher wore shoes but there was a pair of gumboots for us to mow the lawn. The students were divided into three groups (houses). We competed in sports and in growing vegetables. The vegies were sold to the parents once a month when the canteen was open. So we got to buy our lunch once a month and everything you bought cost one cent. Every morning we lined up in front of the school and sang God Save the Queen. A pint of chocolate milk was delivered every day by the mail man who drove a truck to collect the cream from the dairy farms. On the last day of school every year we got to mop the floors. The only excursions we went on were to Pocket School to compete in sports with the Pocket and Durrumbul and to Mullumbimby Primary School to compete against all the other local schools. We travelled to Brunswick to have our swimming lessons in the river before the swimming pool was built in Mullumbimby.