Clyde Fenton School prepares for 40th birthday

PAST AND PRESENT: Former student Natalie Sarny, who now works as a special education assistant at the school, and Year two student Lethan Smiler.

PAST AND PRESENT: Former student Natalie Sarny, who now works as a special education assistant at the school, and Year two student Lethan Smiler.

Clyde Fenton Primary School is blowing out 40 candles on its birthday cake next month and will be hosting a big party to celebrate. 

Assistant principal Donna Capes said the school is hoping for a “big turnout” of past students and teachers.

“Clyde Fenton school was opened in July 1977, and we are celebrating our 40th Anniversary in 2017,” Ms Capes said.

“We are asking ex students to fill in a questionnaire about their experiences and memories of the school, to be part of a display showcasing the history of the school.

The short questionnaire includes questions about past students favourite teachers, naughty pranks and what they are up to now. 

THROWBACK: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory performed at CFS in late 90's and early 2000's.

THROWBACK: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory performed at CFS in late 90's and early 2000's.

“We will be having our celebration day on Wednesday, June 21.

“This will commence with a special assembly, to which previous Principals have been invited,” she said.

“We will be having a blessing ceremony, speeches by past staff and students, and presentation of special awards for outstanding students, followed by a vary large cake.

“Visitors will then be able to visit the classrooms where there will be various displays, such as timelines of the decades, featuring past staff and students, and also a look back, with photos, videos and costumes, at some of the performances put on by CFS students over the years,” Ms Capes said. 

“Classes from CFS will then be running a fete, with lots of fun activities for families to join in with.

“In the afternoon we will be having family games and competitions.”

Dr Clyde Fenton with his aircraft, Darwin, 1937. Picture: supplied.

Dr Clyde Fenton with his aircraft, Darwin, 1937. Picture: supplied.

Clyde Fenton’s Story

Clyde Cornwall Fenton OBE was the Northern Territory's first flying doctor.

According to the NT Government website he was unlike the other doctors with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, Fenton was also his own pilot.

 Fenton was a self-taught pilot, and flew without the aid of any navigation equipment, air charts, and often proper landing strips.

Clyde Fenton graduated as a medical doctor in 1925 from Melbourne University.

He then had a stint in the Royal Air Force in England in 1928.

Fenton returned to Australia and headed outback, first to Wyndham, Western Australia and then on to Darwin.

Fenton earned his pilot's licence with a goal to join the Royal Flying Doctor Service, but the founder, Reverend John Flynn, had a policy of not using doctors as pilots.

FLYING DOCTOR: Clyde Fenton started making a name for himself in 1934 as the Government Medical Officer in Katherine. Picture: supplied.

FLYING DOCTOR: Clyde Fenton started making a name for himself in 1934 as the Government Medical Officer in Katherine. Picture: supplied.

 As a result, Fenton privately raised money for an aircraft, and in March 1934 arrived in Katherine as the Government Medical Officer.

He started an aerial ambulance rescue service which grew into the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service.

“Fenton, tall, lean and bespectacled, became well known and respected by communities, pastoral properties and missions throughout the Top End,” biographer Brian Reid said. 

“His kindness and determination to help became legendary.

“He also received attention from the media, both local and national, for his daring rescues, escapades, and occasional pranks, which often brought him into conflict with aviation regulatory authorities,” he said. 

Calls for medical assistance came through the two RFDS stations at Cloncurry and Wyndham, and were relayed by telegram.

Fenton utilised primitive bush strips and runways to pick up the patients and return them to Katherine for medical treatment.

With no navigational equipment or radios, landings were made on strips lit by kerosene flares or car lights, and only the railway lines and the Katherine River were available to estimate his position.

To the Civil Aviation Department Fenton was a disaster, but to the people of the Top End, he was a hero.

During his career he survived plane crashes, made a flight to China in a small open aircraft, and was once stranded for five days after a forced landing.

On May 14, 1940 he received his call up for the RAAF by telegram.

He was eventually based at Manbulloo airstrip near Katherine, from where he made many emergency medical flights.

In August 1942 the No 6 Communications Flight was formed with Flight Lieutenant Fenton in command.

This unit delivered mail and food supplies to army and RAAF outposts, as far afield as the Wessell Islands.

The unit was at various times based at the Ross Smith Aerodrome in Darwin, and at the Batchelor airstrip.

Fenton left the Territory after the war for Melbourne, where he died on February 28, 1982.

HISTORIC PLANE: Dr Clyde Fenton's Gipsy Moth, is on display at Katherine Museum.

HISTORIC PLANE: Dr Clyde Fenton's Gipsy Moth, is on display at Katherine Museum.

One of the planes he flew, a Gipsy Moth, is on display at the Fenton Hangar at the Katherine Historical Society Precinct.

He has also given his name to a World War II airstrip, Fenton Airfield near Hayes Creek, and is remembered by the Clyde Fenton Primary School in Katherine.

Questionnaire 

All answers should be emailed to katie.talbot@ntschools.net

Name:

Years at CFS:

Who was the Principal?

House team:

Can you still sing your house chant?

Best friends at school:

Favourite subject:

Favourite teachers and why:

Favourite food from the canteen:

What did you like to do at recess and lunchtime:

Naughtiest thing you ever did:

Favourite memories of CFS:

Advice to current students at CFS:

What are you doing now?

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