Getting to and from school was a daily adventure for Margaret Rogers and her brother George back in the early 1950s, MONIQUE PATTERSON reports.
Countless people have listened as their grandparents shared their stories of walking to school.
Most would have miles to walk and would do so in rain, hail or shine.
But not many people can say they had to deal with the wrath of the ocean just to complete their education.
That became the daily challenge for two siblings, Margaret Rogers and brother George, when their family moved to Griffiths Island at Port Fairy in 1951.
Ms Rogers has fond memories of their two years living on the island.
"It was one of the best times of my life," she said.
"It was so special."
Her father Fred was the Port Fairy harbour master and her mother was matron at the Port Fairy hospital.
"My brother and I had great adventures," Ms Rogers said.
"It became our island."
To get to school, Ms Rogers and her brother would walk through marram grass and cross the beach to the jetty where their father's small boat was moored.
In winter gumboots would be an essential item to trudge along the narrow track.
"Often the waves would come up to the top of your gumboots and sometimes your gumboots would get stuck in the sand," Ms Rogers said.
Her father rarely slept as he was constantly on watch to ensure the lighthouse was operational to help guide seamen into the harbour.
"He was there watching every night," Ms Rogers said.
"If it blew out in the middle of a storm he would have to go and light it with a match."
When he wasn't tending to the lighthouse, he would be keeping an eye on the seas with his binoculars.
"When he wasn't looking, he would give us his binoculars to keep watch," Ms Rogers said.
"We were unofficially employed."
Ms Rogers said there was more than one occasion when the trio's trip home from school almost ended in tragedy.
"I can remember at least three occasions when it could have been life or death," she said.
Ms Rogers said a strong current almost took them out to sea one afternoon.
"I remember we were literally being swept out to sea," she said.
Her father told his two children they were going to have to jump in the water and swim to the shore.
"He said to us 'when I say jump, jump'. He said 'don't look behind you, go straight home'," she recalled.
The two did as they were told, rushing home not knowing if their father was behind them.
"I remember walking along that long jetty not knowing whether he had made it or not," she said.
"That was the longest trip I'd ever had."
Luckily her father had managed to gain control of the boat and secure it to the jetty.
The boat was severely damaged but the three lived to tell the story.
Mr Rogers would be on full alert during storms.
If he witnessed a boat in trouble, he would use flares to send out an alert.
"The storeroom was full of these rockets - to me they were like huge fireworks," Ms Rogers said.
Living on the island and being at the mercy of Mother Nature was a great life lesson, she said.
"One thing we learnt was discipline," Ms Rogers said.
"My father said you had to respect the sea. There was no mucking around. It was life or death and there were moments when you knew you were combating elements that were beyond you."
On one afternoon, when Ms Rogers and her brother were out playing on rocks, she spotted a boat that appeared to be in trouble.
"We would take turns looking out to sea," she said.
"If I was playing he would look out to sea and vice versa.
"I remember one day I saw a boat, it was obviously a fishing boat and I could see what looked like a white shirt coming from the rudder.
"I thought 'that's funny'."
Ms Rogers said the boat's location also made her think something may be awry.
The two kept watch for over an hour until their father returned to the island.
"As soon as he got there we ran up and told him," Ms Rogers said.
"He came and looked and immediately knew something wasn't right."
Ms Rogers said her father used the phone on the island to raise the alarm and the man was rescued.
Her instinct that something wasn't right was correct.
The rudder had somehow dislodged and the only way the man could steer the boat was to lean over and hold it in his hands.
Ms Rogers said he was exhausted and metres away from hitting rocks when he was rescued.
Her father, a man of few words, was extremely proud of her efforts.
"He said 'well done'," Ms Rogers said.
The man spent a number of days in hospital and came to the island to thank Ms Rogers for saving him when he was discharged.
Ms Rogers said she was pleased with herself but didn't even share the story with schoolmates.
"It was just a normal thing to me," she said. Ms Rogers said she and her brother loved seeing the different types of wildlife that frequented the island, from the mutton birds to the marine birds and the odd albatross.
Snakes were another inhabitant of the island, but Ms Rogers doesn't remember seeing many.
The cottage they lived in was an old whaling station and Ms Rogers had a great view of the ocean from her bed.
There was no electricity connected to the island and Ms Rogers remembers doing her school homework with the help of oil lamps.
Ms Rogers remembers nights when she and her brother would watch huge waves pound the lighthouse and swamp the beach in front of their home.
Several times each year they watched in wonder on tiptoes from the top of the lighthouse as a whale and her calf scraped their barnacles on the treacherous reef.
Ms Rogers, who now lives in Perugia in Italy with her husband Marcello, returned to Port Fairy for the first time in 37 years this week.
She said it was confronting to visit the island and see that her former home was no longer there. Ms Rogers said her father was heartbroken when it was demolished.
"I remember he had a one-man battle with the ports and harbours to try and keep that house," she said.
Her father, who never missed a day of work, travelled to Melbourne to plead his case.
"He took two days off work and went to Melbourne to fight with some bureaucrats," Ms Rogers said.
"He did everything he could. He tried to get other people involved but no one seemed to care."
Ms Rogers said she was pleased there hadn't been many changes made to the island.
"I'm very impressed with the way they've kept it," she said.
The town itself has changed drastically, Ms Rogers said, but it still had a great vibe.
"It was a sleepy little fishing town when we lived here," she said.
Ms Rogers said it was great to return to Port Fairy. She spoke about her memories of life on the island at a night held by the Port Fairy Historical Society.
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