WHEN BILL O'Neill walks in the school gates every Thursday, he's welcomed by all.
The principal and staff know his familiar face well, the kids say hello to "Mr O" and the canteen staff ask if he'd like to order his regular - a meat pie.
Mr O'Neill has been a teacher for more than half a century and has spent decades at Manilla Central School, where he's still helping kids hear the music by teaching them band.
"It's just something I really like doing, it was one of those situations in life where you get paid to do something you really like to do," he told the Leader.
Mr O'Neill became an teacher in the early 1960s and worked at a small school on Goonoo Goonoo Station and in Werris Creek before he became an advisor, travelling to different towns and showing educators ways to teach music.
After a stint in Tamworth, he eventually settled at Manilla and still hasn't fully left.
The school's been such a fixture in his life he can't quite recall when exactly he started there, but he answered the question with a laugh.
"Lots of the kids I first taught here have now got kids that are here, that's how long," he said.
"They say to me 'You taught my mum' and 'Do you know my dad?'."
The school put on a special spread for morning tea last week, when an award from the Department of Education arrived to celebrate Mr O'Neill's years of service.
"The principal presented me with the 50-year award which we worked out was actually nine years late but that doesn't matter, that bit's not important," Mr O'Neill said.
Although he's been "semi-retired" for some time now and has seen sweeping changes during his time in the classroom, Mr O'Neill said it's the music that has kept him coming back for just shy of 60 years.
Lots of the kids I first taught here have now got kids that are here, that's how long.Bill O'Neill
"I just like doing it," he said simply.
"With music, the kids get out of it as much as they put into it and you get the ones that sign up thinking it's going to be easy and they fade, then you get the ones that stick at it and practice and the better they get the more they like it, and the more they like it the better they get."
The school boasts a band of about 20 students, who play everything from the clarinet to the bass guitar under the guidance of Mr O'Neill. He comes to the school once a week and gathers the children in the band room to practice their playing and performing.
But in his younger days, Mr O'Neill looks back on what life was like being a full-time teacher and a weekend rockstar.
"Years ago, you'd leave home on Friday afternoon, get back Sunday night," he said.
"I've played in a lot of rock and roll bands and things like that, currently I'm playing in the 2340 Big Band."
He said his favourite instrument - if he had to pick - would be the bass guitar.
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