AFTER growing up on a dairy and poultry farm at Strathalbyn, Marian Harvey never imagined she would eventually become recognised for her research into the history of the small community school at Hartley almost 50 years later.
Marian won the historic research award at the Alexandrina Council Heritage Awards for her book History of the Hartley School.
Hartley Community Incorporated funded the project to allow Marian to compile the Hartley School history book that celebrates 51 years of schooling from 1919 to 1970.
After marrying her husband Eric 49 years ago, Marian moved to Hartley to live on Eric’s family’s 2000-hectare farm, where she still lives today, running a broadacre and prime lamb operation.
Although Marian had never written a book before, the idea came to fruition after she became the secretary and treasurer of the Bremer Ladies Friendship Club.
“The Bremer friendship club was formed in 1972 after the school was closed in 1970 because originally the school had a ladies welfare club,” Marian said.
“I became the secretary and was handed a box of minutes from previous meetings – they were very interesting and it was a chance to reveal a great local story.”
But it was not until four years ago that Marian decided she wanted to write a book.
“I had some memorabilia from the Hartley School and I thought I would give it to the Strathalbyn museum and they asked for the minute books in particular,” Marian said.
“Before I handed the books over I thought I should summarise the minutes because once pieces of history are put in a museum, it is hard to get back.”
The book shares the stories and photographs of 35 families that were integral to the school’s survival.
Through advertising in local newspapers and the help of the State Library of SA, one by one Marian located former Hartley School students.
“The state library had the original enrolment book, and an entire list of the teachers and students, as well as their section numbers to find out where they lived,” Marian said.
BOOK BRINGS BACK FOND MEMORIES
HARTLEY School’s history has brought local families back together to celebrate a book showcasing its community spirit.
History of the Hartley School author Marian Harvey said it was important the school’s history was documented because it was not widely known, and many of the original students were no longer living in the district to help pass on old stories.
“In those days, a community’s school was what connected a town together and my husband Eric was a student there too,” she said.
“It was a community-owned school so the parents of the children were the backbone for the school’s survival because they had to raise all the money to pay off the school.
“All the past students I interviewed had fond memories of the strawberry fetes and picnic day events they would hold to raise money for the school. They held the picnics on our front lawn.”
Marian said the school’s community spirit also impacted nearby communities at Woodchester, Salem and Strathalbyn.
“There were families from across the district who were very important and helped to keep the student numbers going all those years,” she said.
The eldest living student interviewed by Marian was Hilda Joy, who was 92 years old.
“Hilda was brilliant – she had great memories and was one of the original local students,” she said.
“She took our minds back further than anyone else could.”
The school opened in 1919 with 22 students and closed in 1970 with 12.