It must have been 1928 when I just turned five when one of the Walsh girls took me along to the break-up of the year for the Coorparoo State School. But in 1929 I was launched on my academic path at the Loretto Convent for girls and infants. It was a pretty posh school catering for the upper crust Catholic girls. It was the only convent close to home (a little over a mile away). I have only four memories of the place - the beautiful frangipanni in the grounds, an excursion to White's Hill where I saw my first camera obscurer, and the fact that I shit my pants; I don't remember guilt, or anything negative about myself, just that I carried this heavy load of shit in my pants until one the sisters discovered my condition.
But the main thing to give my mother pride is that I made my first confession before Archbishop James Duhig, the Archbishop of Brisbane. My mother used to tell people of the Archbishop patting me on the head and telling her that I would become a future Archbishop of Brisbane. I used to have no end trouble dreaming up plausible sins to go to the confessional.
Kev and I (and Lawrence?) started at Loretto but it was time to go to the regular convent school. So by 1933 myself, Kev, Lonnie and Betty used to walk the three kilometres to and from St. James Parish school at Stones Corner. The most memorable thing of those days was the pottery at Kirkland Av. As we walked past the windows we could see the workmen busy with the clay on their spinning wheels as they fashioned the wet clay pots. Since Australia now goes off-shore for our pottery, you have to go mainly to the art potters if want your kids to see potters at work.
I remember little of St. James. The teaching sisters used to tell us of the Communists in Russia who ate babies. I do remember how I was hopeless at catechism and the sisters used to keep us in after school to encumber our minds with such questions as Who is God? and What is Sin?, What is a Mortal Sin?, and What is a Venal Sin? It seems that under life's pressure Aunt Nell hadn't been keeping us up to our devotional exercises. Not only did I make my first Holy Communion, but went on to achieve Confirmation in the Holy Roman Church.
By this time my mother had had enough of the Church. The priest from Loretto came and visited Katie. He proceeded to close all the doors and windows. Katie was being a bit worried about herself. The poor priest opened up, "Well, now, Katie. Tell us all about this contraception business?". Katie told the priest of life's difficulties and how she had lost faith in God to help the poor.
The priest went back and saw the Loretto sisters who asked my mother to visit them. My mother went to Loretto taking me, now about eleven years old, with her. To the sisters' question "Whence did you come?", they might have hoped for me to say, "From God", but instead I expounded on Darwin's theory of evolution. My mother paid tribute to the kindness and the good work of the sisters, but for Katie Englart it was a different world to that that she had entered as Katie Ryan.
The sisters at St. James used to cane us for not going to mass on Sunday. Brother Kevin and I used to cook up a story that we went to Loretto on Sunday. Our sister Betty let the cat out of the bag, we were found to have lied so our punishment was incremental. If my memory serves me, Kev and I got six of the best. The next year we enrolled in the Coorparoo State School.