Westerway school centenary this Saturday

Westerway Primary School teacher Wendy Holdsworth, left, and
principal Andrea Long looking over an old scrapbook of newspaper
cuttings about the school and its community.

A CENTURY of Derwent Valley schooldays will be celebrated at Westerway this weekend when the local school has its 100th birthday.

In 1920 the town was newly renamed from Russell and had only recently ceased to be the end of the line for Derwent Valley railway traffic.

The new school started with 36 students under the supervision of headmaster Mr A.J. Huxtable. It had no electricity until 1934 and no telephone until 1951. A renovation in 1940 gave the school its familiar frontage which remains virtually unchanged today.

Hop-growing was an important local industry and would become the bane of teaching staff at the new Westerway State School when more than half of the students would be absent, having gone hop-picking. Fruit growing, the timber industry and the railway were the other big employers at the time.

Westerway Primary School pictured around the time of its opening
as Westerway State School in 1920.

When Westerway’s school opened in 1920 there were neighbouring schools at National Park, Tyenna, Maydena, Fentonbury and Ellendale. A century later only Westerway Primary School remains and most of its students progress to high school at Glenora. When the Fentonbury school closed, its remaining four students were paid a bicycle allowance to compensate for their bike ride to Westerway.

A centenary committee has spent the last two years exploring this rich history in preparation for the 100th birthday, which will be celebrated this Saturday, February 29. The whole town will be involved, including local businesses and community groups.

The school, at 1619 Gordon River Rd, will be open to visitors from 10am-3pm. Historical exhibits will be on offer, as well as more than 20 displays including Brighton Vintage Car Club, horse and cart rides, history trail, Inland Fisheries Service, Parks and Wildlife, railway display, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, Tassal, Maydena Bike Park, Hydro Tasmania, wood chopping, oral histories, historic farming practices, photo displays, beekeeping, tractors, hop picking, PCYC, junior fire brigade, shearing, blacksmithing, D’FAT, Salvation Army and more.

The school as it looked in 1946 after an extensive renovation
earlier in the 1940s.

Local businesses including the Possum Shed, Westerway Raspberry Farm, Aussie Bob’s Fish and Chips, and the Westerway Roadhouse will provide food and refreshments. Tours of the school will be available at 10.30am, noon and 1.30pm and there will also be a berry festival just along the road at the Westerway Raspberry Farm.

Free bus rides to the centenary celebration will be provided from Maydena and Ellendale. The bus from Maydena will leave from the top shop at 9.45am and will return at 3pm. A bus will leave the Ellendale shop at 10.15am and return at 2.30pm. Free shuttle buses will operate to and from car parks and other venues in Westerway, so there will be no need to try to park near the school.

The school as it appears today.

An old-time dance will be held in the Westerway Community Hall from 7pm on Saturday.  Tickets cost $20 and need to be pre-purchased by calling 0411 273 614 (no door sales).

“Come along and help celebrate the amazing stories and achievements that have carried our school through 100 years of learning together,” teacher Wendy Holdsworth said. For more information or to book a tour, send an email to wendy.holdsworth@education.tas.gov.au or phone 6288 1110.

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