Deb’s School Daze – Bennettswood State School Part 5

Deb finally got her Primary School memories to me and here it is –

So the challenge this time is all about our Primary school years which were spent at Bennettswood primary school. Bennettswood primary school ran off Station Street and Burwood Highway and we skirted directly into it via numerous windy roads and side streets.
I must admit my memories of primary school are fairly dim but I will try to recall as much detail as possible here.

I actually don’t ever remember Mum taking me to school. However, that would seem strange, particularly as I started at the age of 5 – I would imagine she had some time where she did so. Although having said that, I guess life was a lot simpler back then and seemingly there weren’t as many crimes or criminals to worry about. I do vaguely recall the episode that Karen spoke about taking Karen, me, Annette & Joanne to school (I think) one day, in Mum’s car and we turned from Eley Road left into Station Street and Annette went flying out the back door. There were no seat belts in those days and obviously the door wasn’t locked and she went flying out. I recall the laughter and the subsequent embarrassment from Annette – but I’m guessing she was absolutely fine or there would have been more problems.

As Karen and Laurie were much older than me, I actually spent nearly, or all of my primary school years walking to and from school. It was actually a fair hike to go in those days. I remember getting home around 4.00pm of an afternoon, so I’m guessing it was about a ½ hour – 45 minute walk. I do remember that I didn’t like doing it on my own, and would hang around outside the corridors after the bell went to see who I could walk home with. My favourite people were Sally Whitcher and Susan although I can’t remember her surname at the top of my head. The only problem with both of them was also that they didn’t have to go the whole way and Sally’s place was out of the way a bit, but at least it gave me some company.
Again I’m guessing, but I think there was probably around 500 – 600 kids that went to our school. It was a friendly school, well mostly. I do recall one incident with a young girl; I think we were in about Grade 3 who got teased a lot. This was simply because she was Italian decent and her name was Giovanni – which was of course a hard name to have in an evidently typical Anglo Saxon school. The kids were teasing and teasing her and eventually it upset me and I made friends with her and told them to back off.   We did of course have other kids from other descents as well, but mostly we were all white Anglo Saxon and you got away with having other unusual names if you were part of the “popular kids”.
We wore uniforms – they were green and white striped dresses and we had jumpers as well. I can’t remember what we did in Winter time, although I’m guessing that let us wear pants. I was certainly happy that by the time I got to Bennettswood I at least didn’t have to wear the silly hat that my sister wore and I was allowed to wear my hair long – again unlike Karen who had to have the short boys hair cut. I usually wore my hair tied up in pigtails and would put a green ribbon in them.
Winter time – I remember going to the school canteen at lunchtime and ordering a tomato soup which cost about 10c and certainly did help to warm us up. For Summer, the order of the day was a Frosted Sunny Boy and again it was only about 10c. In the very early days of my primary school life the school provided fresh milk for us in a bottle and we had to drink it. That was O.K. in winter time, but in Summer time, when they had been left out in the sunshine, it was bloody horrible, as the top of the milk had turned to cream. We were still forced to drink it.
I also recall an incident with my Grade 4 teacher – who up until that point I had thought a really lovely lady. Something had happened to her overnight and my memories of the actual event she described are really vague. However, she was keeping us in and accusing all of us of doing this “wrong thing”. She kept looking at me throughout the day and was “saying Debra, if you know anything about this, you have to confess”. The day dragged on and it came to the end of the day where she had decided to keep us all in after school. I just remembered that if I ever got detention I was going to be in some serious bother. So after about the 3rd or 4th time that she accused me, I actually “fessed up” and said, it was me. As I’ve said, I have no memory about what it was, although a vague recollection of perhaps some menacing phone calls to her overnight. I don’t know why I would have volunteered that I was guilty about a crime I didn’t commit, except to say that I was really terrified of Mum thinking I had ever been given detention. After that she let us all go home, gave me a very stern warning not to do it again and we were allowed to go home. After that, I never did like her again, and I think she probably felt the same about me!
I recall a terrifying incident one winter’s day while at primary school. It was pouring with rain; it must have rained so hard that I can recall the smell of my woolen jumper being wet. I walked out after the bell went and started to walk home – well really just got past the main buildings and was walking down the driveway. The rain was absolutely pelting down and the wind was howling. I had my umbrella up and was trying to shelter myself from not only the rain but the driving wind that was almost pushing me off my feet. With that I caught a great gust of wind and my umbrella turned inside out. You know when you see someone like that; you have a laugh, only this time it definitely wasn’t funny. As quick as a wink, one of the spikes on the umbrella literally stabbed me in the eye. I knew it was bad, because I couldn’t see out of that eye due to the amount of blood that was pouring out. By the time it had happened, there appeared not to be anyone around and I was getting panicky that I was seriously hurt and couldn’t find anyone. I managed to get myself back up to the school buildings and couldn’t find any teachers. Eventually still with the blood pouring out, I made my way to the office and there was someone still there. They took me inside and got me to sit down and held a cloth to my eye. They phoned Mum – and I had to wait probably around the ½ hour or 45 minutes it took her to drive to school. She flew into the office and got me in the car and off we went to see Doctor Hewitt – our family GP in Box Hill. Doctor Hewitt said I was a really lucky girl that if the spike had have entered 1 mm either side of my pupil I probably would have ended up blind. As it was, it just missed the main spot and I only had to wear a patch for a couple of days. Now when it’s too windy as well as rainy, I don’t bother with the brolly, I’d rather get wet.
I remember getting together with some of my girlfriends and creating dances – mostly to Susie Quatro. We would choreograph a dance and then all get together to make sure we had done it properly. I think I was always secretly annoyed that my sister did Ballet and I was never allowed to. Mum only let me choose “one thing” as an after school activity and for me that was Brownies and then Girl Guides.
I remember Grade 6 where I guess we had the first of the “muck up” days that the kids have now. The only difference being that ours was simply a day of dress up’s – I guess that tradition has carried on. I can’t remember what I dressed up as, but I do know that I have some photographs of my friends. A vague recollection is that I might have been one of the band “Kiss” members, but I’m not sure if I’m remembering me or my friends.
My favourite classes at Bennettswood were cooking – funny that I definitely didn’t like that tradition, once I grew up! I loved bringing home the bits that I cooked during the day and asking Mum and Dad to taste them. I don’t remember them going back for seconds, so I guess I wasn’t very good at it even then.
The other classes I loved were Art, Art, and more Art. Like my brother and sister before me, I was of the “arty” type. Although unlike Laurie, I couldn’t actually draw from my imagination – I became a really good copier and you could put a picture in front of me and generally I was able to replicate it. As I grew older and became better at my construction of the human body, mostly in pencil, I lost my natural ability to do a face, so replicated many poses of males and females all without faces. Maybe I should have obscured them a bit more and had a shot at becoming the next Picasso.
I was also a pretty good runner while I was at Bennettswood – I entered most running competitions and was known to win a lot of the sprints. Not much of a long distance runner, but had a good stride on me. I did also do Little Athletics (so I guess I did two after school activities at one stage) maybe that helped me. Or perhaps it was Dad who did run in the Stawell Gift one year. I also entered all of the hurdle competitions and the high jump. In primary school in the high jump I got through to the inter school sports and won and then got selected to go into the interstate sports. Unfortunately at that point, I was disqualified because I used to actually hurdle the high jump – I had no idea how to do the scissor jump, but could get just as far as anyone else by hurdling, so at that stage none of my teachers had picked me up on technique. I was bitterly disappointed to get no further.
Primary school was O.K. for me – I passed everything at that stage although began my dislike for subjects such as Math at this early stage. It really was just the stepping stone for me to move into high school and I couldn’t wait to be the big girl.

School Daze 4 – Bennettswood State School

I don’t remember much about school excursions in those days.  I’m sure we may have had some but they were few and far between and none stuck in my mind.  However,  when I was in sixth grade at Bennettswood State School in 1968 we had a week long excursion to Tasmania, travelling via the ship “Princess of Tasmania” across Bass Strait on what we were later told was the roughest crossing in 20 years. Along with the huge seas we were also handicapped by broken stabilisers on the ship and there are several things that stand out in my memories.

Firstly, we did not have cabins and had to bed down for the night in a lounge seated in chairs. Anyone who has ever been seasick will know there is nothing worse for setting things off than watching someone else vomit into a bag. Feeling a bit queasy the first thing I did was turn my head away from the offending person only to come eyeball to eyeball with someone else in the same predicament. Then it was my turn.

I spent the night with several others on makeshift beds in the lounge foyer and eventually fell into a fitful slumber.

The next morning breakfast was free and needless to say I did not have any. David Palmer, however, made up for me and several others who didn’t eat by having three breakfasts – bacon and eggs, sausages and baked beans, and, a couple of bowls of cereal.

There’s one other vivid memory of the crossing and a lesson I have never forgotten. I went outside with Daryl Pryor to get some fresh air and we made the mistake of being on the windward side of the ship. There was a bloke above us who was obviously feeling as well as I was because he happened to let go of what was in his stomach while Daryl and I were beneath him. Fortunately for me it missed; Daryl wasn’t so lucky.

I have had one other crossing of Bass Strait by ship and that was on the vessel “Thala Dan” returning from Macquarie Island in 1980. If the Strait was at it’s worst the first time, it was at it’s best the second. To describe it as a mill pond on that occasion would not be an exaggeration.

School Daze 3 – Bennettswood State School

Dad worked at a paper distributor, E C Blackwoods, and so we always had stationery; exercise books, derwent pencils, folders etc.  Boy did I love my Derwents, no other kids had them and the colours were richer and stronger than anything anyone else could use, and of course when we were taught all of these things we had to write a few lines in our Exercise books and illustrate the story.
The other bonus of Dad’s job was that we always had brown paper bags and grease paper to wrap our sandwiches in.  There was no such thing as Gladwrap and nor were there pre-packed snacks.
Lunch was sandwiches, vegemite, sometimes with cheese, jam, and in the hot weather tomato.    Not altogether of course .   The latter I used to hate, because by lunchtime they’d generally have made the bread soggy.  Snacks were a bit of fruit, apple or orange mainly, but the odd banana when they were in season.   
And unlike now, fruit was really seasonal, there weren’t cool stores, there weren’t even big supermarkets, fruit and vegetables were bought at the Green grocer and inevitably those stores were run by Italians or Greeks – Con the Fruiterer, Mark Mitchell’s famous character really existed and was maybe partly based on that same guy at Bennettswood shops that we used to visit.
Once a week we were allowed to buy our lunch.  You had to fill in an envelope in the morning and the lunches were then delivered to the class room in the late morning.  There weren’t a lot of choices, sandwiches, pies, pastie or sausage roll was the extent of it and given we took sandwiches the other days of the week it was a pie and sauce for me.  I can’t remember the number of times I burnt my lps on boiling meat, but on a cold winters day it was fantastic.
The tuck shop sold icy poles in the warm weather most of which were water based.  The most popular were Zig and Zags, one of which was orange and white, the other green and red, but don’t ask me which was which, and then there was Sunny Boys and Raz’s.  They were around 2 or 3 cents each at the time.
Every morning play we were given a half pint of milk.   Delivered in glass bottles and crates it was the job ot the milk monitors to deliver the crates to each f the class rooms and then to collect the empty bottles and crates at the end of play time.  It was an honour to be a milk monitor because it meant you could drink as much milk as you could fit in.  I think I managed a gallon one day, we used to race each other in sculling it and seeing how much we could actually stomach.  Of course it was always better on the cold mornings because if it was left in the heat of the sunshine for too long it would curdle in the bottles and that was enough to make you gag.
If it rained at lunchtimes we were allowed to stay in the class room, but if we had the choice we’d always choose to go outside.  Funny, even if the days were cold, we warmed up pretty quickly because we were always running around. And anyway, whilst we had oil heaters in the classroom they often didn’t work so it wasn’t any colder outside anyway.
I’m not sure when I started to walk to school, maybe in Grade 3 or 4 at around 7 or 8 years old.  Mum drove us in the early years but when Debra came along I think we started to walk.   In 1967 for my tenth birthday I was given a bike which was my pride and joy.  It was an orange Fujicycle, three speed, white walled tyres with a light and pack rack on the back.  When I got that I started to ride to and from school, and that didn’t take me too long at all.
My 10th Birthday – The day I got my bike
It was very much a white Anglo Saxon experience.  The only Asians we saw were behind the counter in the local chow shop.   In that part of the world even the Greeks and Italians were still yet to arrive.   Whilst there were plenty of wogs and dagos in Brunswick where my grandparents lived they were few and far between at Bennettswood in the early years, although by the late sixties we were starting to get a few.  Of course as kids, it didn’t matter to us what there names were, they were the same as us anyway, but Smith and Jones were much more common than di Grazia and Mihalos.
Our biggest prejudice centered around the rural kids.  For some reason our school was involved in an experiment where a group of kids of mixed ages were placed in a class together as if they came from a small country town. I have no idea why, but it made them separate from the rest of us and those of us in “normal” classes looked down our noses at them.  Rightly or wrongly, and more likely the latter than the former, we thought they were dumber than the rest of us.
We had to wear a uniform, ours was grey with stripes on the collar and cuff of the jumper in two shades of green.  We also had a matching green tie and it was compulsory to wear all of that, although the caps of private school kids were absent from our uniform.
I never had long pants.  The concession to the cold weather of winter was that we wore woolen shorts instead of cotton ones and long socks instead of short ones.  We had to wear black shoes and it was my job to polish them each morning, not only my own but everyones, and I’d sit on the back step of the laundry, brush and cloth in hand, rubbing away the dust before we walked out the door each morning.
Dad always used to tell us the story of a teacher of his called Daddy Egan who used to use the edge of a metal ruler to belt kids over the knuckles if they misbehaved.  Corporal punishment was still allowed when I was at school and it wasn’t uncommon for kids to get the strap or a yard long ruler smacking them on the bum if they played up.  Usually this was done in front of the class as an example to the rest of us as to what lay ahead if we were naughty.
I only remember getting the strap once at school.   That was when instead of playing brandy with a tennis ball we decided to use oranges.  Brandy was a game where we’d line up in front of one of the brick walls and the object was to have someone piff the ball as hard as they could at you.  If you got hit it was then your turn to throw the ball.  You can imagine the mess the oranges made and that day we were in the process of having a great deal of fun when one of the teachers arrived on the scene.  Four of us were marched straight up to the Headmaster’s office.  His name was Mr Allsop and unfortunately for me he had previously been headmaster at Merlynston State School at a time when my Uncle Keith was School Council President and Mayor of Coburg.     So not only did I get six of the best but the longest lecture about how disappointed my uncle would be in me.  We were then given letters to take home to our parents and have them sign it and brought back.  Lucky for me Dad’s signature was pretty easy to forge so there were no further lectures on how upset my Mum and Dad or Uncle were.
There were fights at school and in the time honoured tradition of schools up till that time at the first sign of an altercation word would go around the schoolyard and we’d gather somewhere down the back of the school in a large circle and start chanting “Fight Fight Fight”.    Not sure what the teachers were doing but they’d usually arrive sometime after the first blows were struck and when they were seen to be approaching another shout of “Teacher!” would go up and we’d all scatter to the four winds.  Most of the time the fighters got away with it.

School Daze Part 2 – Bennettswood State School

The corridors of the school were always busy during the breaks.  Then as now we had hooks outside our classroom where we hung our bags.   Inside were desks at which two people could sit.  There was a lift up lid invariably covered in penned notes like John Loves Betty or Mr Stafford has a pig face.  Sometimes they were carved with knives and if you did that the trick was to smudge the new carving with lead pencil or ink to disguise the fresh cuts in the wood.   You were dumb if you wrote something like Loz was ere so that people could identify you but even then if you had a clever tag you could always deny it was you.  Foo was here was one I used to use together with the face that now I think of it looked like a penis drooped over a fence.

We started writing with pencil but some time around Grade 2 we graduated to fountain pens.   We were constantly reminded not to make a mess.  With Fountain Pens?   Were they kidding, you couldn’t help but make a mess.  I dunno what blotting paper was supposed to do but it didn’t clean up spilt ink.
The front of the class was dominated by a huge blackboard and some teachers were particularly good at drawing all sorts of wondrous things in multi-coloured chalks.  Others simply used it to denote what the days lessons were going to be.  There really were times when some of us had to write “I’ve been a naughty boy” just like Bart Simpson.

Above the blackboard were two things – a world map much of it coloured in pink to denote the British Empire’s extent and the other a PA system over which the famous lunchtime message about Mr Stafford used to blare.

History was British in those days.  We were taught about Julius Caesar and the Roman Invasion, about the Vikings and the Angles Saxons and Jutes, of Alfred the Great and William the conqueror, the Spanish Armada, and the conquering of the new World.  Never mind that Christopher Columbus was an Italian in the employ of the Queen of Spain, he had an English name, in fact I even had a few Christophers in my class.
I clearly remember when Francis Chichester became the first person to sail solo around the world in the Gypsy Moth IV because Mr. Stafford used to teach us for an hour each day and he would keep us updated on his voyage.   It was a triumph of Empire and Chichester later became Sir Farncis, just like Sir Franics Drake who famously played bowls whilst the Spanish Armada approached.   Here was British chutzpah at its best, brave men doing monumentally brave things just because they could.  I think most of us dreamed of being a knight in those days.  We of course had no idea that the Empire was in fact on its last legs and Great Britain was in the process of losing the adjective great if not the name.

Australian history was made to look boring.  We didn’t learn anything about the convict era other than the First Fleet and even then the story was about Arthur Phillip and John McArthur rather than the thieves, trollops and charlatans that were the true founders of the country.   We learnt of the Rim Rebellion and little about Eureka.  Of course the explorers featured heavily in what we were taught, Cook, Blaxland Wentworth and Lawson, Bass and Flinders, Burke and Wills, and always in the context of the valour and heroism of the British.    Now it’s unfashionable to teach these things, the black armband view of history may have perhaps taken things too far the other way.    But at least now more of the truth is taught.

Every morning we had an assembly where we’d line up in our classes and say the Creed –
“I love God and my country, I honour the flag…”and I’ll be buggered if my brain can actually remember the rest of it.  And then, just before we’d March off to the drumming of side drums and the thump of a bass drum we’d all sing God Save the Queen at the tops of our voices.
In Grade 6 I was one of the reserve drummers, not good enough to be in the permanent band I was only called upon to step in when someone was away sick, which wasn’t all that often.

The PA system was not only used for making announcements like rainy day timetables or short lunch times which occurred on rainy days so that we could get let out early, but it was an educator in it’s own right.  The ABC “For Schools” program broadcast all sorts of things, many of which were slanted towards our British History.   Before Anzac Day every year we were told the story of Gallipoli and of Australian heroes like Simpson and his donkey, we weren’t told of the disastrous decisions of the British High Command who sent thousands of young Australians to their deaths.  We were told about the Rats of Tobruk but not of the disaster at Singapore.    Australians fought for King and Empire and we were living free because of it.

Apart from the pink on the map we also knew of the Iron and Bamboo curtains behind which lurked enemies who were hell bent on destroying our way of life.   We were told to fear the yellow peril we were shit scared of the specter of nuclear war and were never sure when the Red Chinese or the Russians were going to launch an attack on us.  But even if an A Bomb fell all we needed to do was close our eyes, cover our ears and hide beneath the school desk.  Buggered if I know what we were supposed to do if at happened when we weren’t at school.  But it wasn’t a constant fear, life went on normally, we only got scared when we got told about it.    We were the lucky generation who grew up in the aftermath of a world war at a time of great prosperity and whilst we were told we had enemies that only made us stronger.
And we were also fed religion over the PA every Easter as well.  We walked with Jesus as he shouldered the cross, we sailed the Ark with Noah and learnt of the baby in the bull rushes and how he lead his people from Egypt.   We were scared by the story of Sodom and Gomorah and booed Judas as he betrayed the Lord.  Religion wasn’t force fed, it was simply part of the school year at those times when it was deemed important.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom we also had singing lessons.   We sang songs published in an ABC song book distributed to us each year and we were delivered school papers which contained stories, poems and songs for us to learn on a weekly basis.  We learnt such classics like Click go the Shears and sang rounds of Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree and Row Row Row your Boat.  I don’t think there were any songs under 50 years old that were in our repertoire.  But we learnt the same stuff our parents had learnt before us and for all I know what my grandparents had learnt as well.

And that theory was born out by the early reading books we had.  We all learnt to read with John and Betty – “This is John.   This is Betty.   John can run.    Betty can run too.”   It’s a wonder any of us learnt to love reading.  But sometime in around Grade 3 or 4 the teacher came into the class with a big box of puffin books that we were allowed to borrow and take home.    I can remember one book in particular “The Weirdstone of Brisingamen” and the author Henry Treece who wrote historical novels.   And it was then that my love of reading began. 

Part 3  in a couple of days but here’s a challenge in the meantime.  Some of you know me now as a grey haired old bloke so let’s test your powers of observation – pick me out in the photos and leave a comment with the year and the position I’m in.  🙂

The Days were Colder when I was younger – Bennettswood Primary School Part 1

This weeks challenge was all about Primary School which of course is a long time ago now.   I clearly remember one event from my first day of school and that was entering a classroom with two of the biggest kids my age I had ever seen, Daryl Pryor and John Docherty.  They both ended up around 6 foot 3 in the old language but seemed way bigger proportionately to me back then.

The days were colder when I was young.  And warmer too.  Winter mornings used to suck the warm air from your lungs as soon as you poked your head above the bed cover, and the summer northerlies sucked the moisture from your body during long hot pre-daylight savings days.
The winters seemed longer, darker and danker.    Walks to school were often in the rain and in those days plastic raincoats were only used to keep the rain off you.   School uniform was shorts , no matter how cold it was, the knobby knees of my childhood knocked together in the cold.   Before the roads were made on the estate the puddles in the potholes would freeze and you could lift a sheet of ice off like a pane of glass.  Frosts were common, and Gardiners Creek often flooded when the rains came.
Our house had one heater, briquette replaced by oil and then by gas.  In the lounge room, it did not heat the bedrooms down the passageway at the back of the house and on those winter mornings we’d gather in front of the fire to get dressed in the warm.  In the early school years, before Mum went back to work she’d drive us, in an old Vauxhall with no heater, no radio and wind screen wipers that occasionally worked.
Bennettswood State School was typical  of those built through the 50’s and 60’s in Melbourne.  Several wings of grey besser brick, flat roofs, and asphalt coated quadrangles separating the buildings.   It was nestled in amongst the triple fronted brick veneers of a relatively new suburb peopled with middle class Anglo Saxons for the most part.   The back of the school was a paddock which contained a flattened out oval which the school footy team played on.  For the bigger kids it was possible to kick out from full back and score a goal at the other end on a good day, something I never did.
The banks of the oval cutting were covered with carpobrotus plants, more commonly called pig face, lovingly planted to stem the erosion of the yellow clay by the assistant Head Master Mr. Stafford.    Every lunch time, over the public address system an announcement would be made, “Those children going down to the oval, please don’t step on Mr. Staffords pig face.”    You reckon that didn’t make us laugh.
The grass in the back paddock was long.  Because it was adjacent to the creek there were tiger snakes around in summer, but we didn’t really take too much notice of the warnings.   We’d tie bunches of grass together into traps and then watch as kids would run around and fall over as their feet got tangled up in the trap.
I wasn’t really one for playing footy and cricket during the breaks.  In winter we’d create skid pans and many was the time when we’d trudge back into class covered in mud.  In summer the dirt became somewhere to play marbles.
The quadrangles which echoed to the sound of drums each morning as we marched into class after assembly became the arena for battles of British Bulldog or my favourite, Humpo Bumpo.   Both those games involved someone being “he” who had to complete a task in order to have more people join him in the middle.   In the case of British Bulldog we’d all line up against one wall and on a count you’d have to run to the other side of the quadrangle.  The person in the middle had to lift both your feet off the ground and if he succeeded you joined him in the middle to hunt in packs.    In Humpo Bumpo you had to hop on one foot from one side to the other whilst the one in the middle hopped at you trying to knock you off your feet.    Bruises and grazes were common but that was part of growing up – no cotton wool in those days.
I went to School with a kid called Clive. He was comparatively small and certainly a little eccentric when most of us were playing humpo bumpo, British bulldog or chasey, he spent the play time pretending he was driving around in a magic motorcar. The tough kids picked on him mercilessly and the others like me who wanted to fit in laughed and made fun of him just so that we wouldn’t be on the outer. I remember one year I got invited to his birthday party but I didn’t tell Mum about the invitation because I didn’t want to go. As far as I can remember nobody went. What a horrible thing to do to a kid and I am ashamed looking back that I bowed to peer pressure even though at the time I didn’t know what it was.
Eventually Clive snapped and during one art class he picked up a Stanley knife and sliced another kids calf muscle open and I remember feeling sick looking at the exposed muscle. I often wonder what happened to Clive, all I know is that he didn’t go onto Burwood High School like the rest of us.
There was another kid, Andrew, who gave me a hard time for a while. One day he swung a punch at me and I saw red, chasing him around the school ground. Fortunately for him I didn’t catch him, or maybe fortunately for me because I don’t know what I would have done if I had grabbed him. Andrew went on to become a successful sculptor and stone mason and we became reasonable mates during high school, whilst not close we got on OK from that day forward. I actually caught up with him 18 months ago at a school reunion and he’s a good guy.
And yet another kid who lived up the road from us in Massey Street and one day after school he came into my front yard and decided that he would practice a judo throw by tossing me over his shoulder. I remember that it hurt and I picked myself up, rushed around to the backyard, grabbed a handful of stones, jumped on my bike and pedaled as hard as I could back into the front yard taking aim and knocking his front tooth out with a stone. He went crying home to his mother who then came down and told my Mum a version of the story.   I think Mum and Dad ended up having to pay for the tooth repair.

End of Part 1
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I have a lot more to say and will flesh a few more things out before I upload it.  Truth is I don’t know how long it will end up.  I guess we’ll all wait and see.   Now sisters, if you read this, you’re getting a bit behind me now.

Deb’s early years

Well the challenge went out to my sisters to start telling their story and what they remember and it’s interesting for me to see what Deb has been prompted to write about.  So I’ll post hers first, Karen’s will come at some time and me, being the oldest will try and fill in some of the gaps as we work through this exercise.   This is for our kids, so we can give them the echoes of our childhoods before they fade as echoes do.

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Debra Richardson

The first 5 years

So the challenge is about the things I remember in my first 5 years of life!
Well, that’s a hard one to remember back over 40 years.


The first thing that comes into my head is remembering sharing a bedroom with my big sister. I loved that. Although I’m sure she didn’t! as I go older I did such things as going through her wardrobe and borrowing her clothes and trying to make out that I didn’t. I’m sure that didn’t endear me to her.

I remember living in Box Hill and sharing the house with Mum & Dad and my brother Laurie and my sister Karen.
Our house was quite modest, had been painted and wall papered by Mum – which is I guess where I get that talent from.

I remember having our dogs although I can’t remember how old I was when we got our miniature poodle Bamby who I loved desperately. I do recall being told about Noddy, our golden Labrador and how he would sit under my pram and mind me every time I was placed outside. I’m not sure though that I have actual memories of that.

I remember being ill several times in the first part of my life. I remember vaguely being minded by my cousin Cheryl and getting really sick and taken to Fairfield Infectious Diseases hospital. I asked Mum only about a year ago why did I go to an infectious diseases hospital. She simply replied that I was really sick running a temperature etc and I was taken there. I asked her but why infectious diseases and she said “just because!”. I still find that weird for instance why wouldn’t I have been taken to simply another hospital like the Royal Children’s hospital?

I clearly remember going to hospital to have my tonsils taken out. I was about 3 years of age and Mum took me to hospital, I think it was Box Hill Hospital where I was born. I remember Mum sewing me a new nighty and dressing gown it was blue with pretty flowers on it and lace around the collars and hem and she also made one to match for my white teddy bear which I took everywhere with me. I remember the Doctors holding a mask to my face and telling me it was fairy medicine and I would go to sleep and dream of fairies, which I’m pretty sure I did. I remember Mum picking me up and driving me home in the old car and stopping at a milk bar somewhere and she went in and bought me banana flavoured toothpaste and a new toothbrush.

I went to Bennettswood Primary school, but don’t have a lot of memories of my first year. I do remember some of my primary years and some of my friends there. One notable memory was of a girl there Giovanni who no-one liked and everyone was teasing her because she was a “wog” – I took her under my wing and made sure she had people to talk to and play with. Even then, kids were cruel. I also remember one day down at the oval playing sport, when suddenly the teachers yelled at all of us to “get down, lie down, lie down” – we were getting swooped by magpies, it must have been breading season. Unfortunately one of the boys, Kevin Bond got swooped and pecked in the back of his head. He was bleeding everywhere and had a fairly large hole in the back of his head. I am still very wary of magpies now as an adult and it must have been due to that incident. Kevin Bond was a kid who’s great-grandfather (?) was the captain of the Titanic. I remember Kevin had a locket with his grandfather’s photo in it.
I remember walking to school, although I’m not sure if I did when I was that young. In later years I certainly did. I remember two things about that, one was that I had to walk down a lane way to get to Eley Road and it frightened me all of the time. So much so, that I imagined people jumping out and getting me and often ran the length of that laneway to get to the road. The other thing I recall when I was in primary school was walking home one day and seeing some UFO’s. I was with other children and there were quite a few flashing objects in the sky – from my recollection about 6 or 7 of them. They definitely weren’t planes and they appeared for several minutes. Many of us just stopped I the street and stared at them. In my excitement, I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Mum and Dad that night. It was in the papers the next day – I don’t know what they said, but I obviously wasn’t the only one that saw them.
I remember getting home from school and making myself a snack of Vegemite on toast and being excited about Mum getting home from work. I always met her at the front door or on the porch when I heard her car. She would always say “let me get in first”. She would then take off her coat, put her bag down, start dinner and then have the time to ask me about my day. I wondered why she seemed flustered by my greeting, but realize as an adult, my kids did the same thing and I often heard myself saying “let me get in first”.

I don’t remember much about TV in my early years, other than the fact that we had a black and white telly and it used to be fuzzy a lot. I also recall the “test page” appearing on TV after dark, when the telly stopped of a night time. I do remember one of my favourite shows being “Treasure Island” – but I don’t know how old I was. Mum entered me into a competition and as a prize I was sent out postcard/photos of the crew and they had all signed it. I thought that was fantastic. I wish I still had them.

We lived opposite our “aunty & uncle” Aunty Hazel & Uncle Andy. I always thought they had a beautiful house – a little white one that was always immaculate. We always walked through the back door, to get into their house which took us through the kitchen. I don’t remember why we never went through the front door of their house. I was friends with one of their Daughters Judith and we had several trips away over the years with Mum and Aunty Hazel. Most notable were the trips to Bonnie Doon and the Star Glen ranch where Mum and Aunty Hazel would stay inside all day by the open fire and Judith and I would go trail riding on the horses. I rode a beautiful ex-racehorse Madam a big black girl, who would play up on everyone except me when she took riders out. Uncle Andy worked for a lolly place and every time I went over there he would give us bags of lollies to take home. I loved that! Judith loved horses and I have a memory of her running outside to cuddle a horse one day who was riding down the middle of our street. She was hurt as she cuddled its backside and it kicked her in the head. That didn’t stop her from still loving them. I also remember Judith unintentionally hurting me too one day. Again I don’t remember the age I was, but we were playing in our backyard on the swing set when I stopped to go inside and get us a snack. As I was walking back to the swings, I was telling Judith to stop swinging whilst I was walking up and she didn’t. I was consequently struck in the back of the head by one of the steel posts that you put your feet on. I needed stitches in the back of my head.
The other “aunties and uncles” that lived next door to us where “Aunty Claire and Uncle Bill”. They also had two daughters – one closer to Karen – Annette and Joanne was closer to my age. They had a lovely house in Massey Street and I was jealous that they had their own rooms. I remember Aunty Claire did a lot of cooking, there was always something cooking every time I went there. Especially at Christmas where they made many things. The thing about Christmas that I loved a their house was that they used to hang chocolate decorations to their tree and every time I came across I was allowed to “take one” home with me.
I remember Summer time with friends and family – always in the immaculate outdoor above ground pools that Dad kept immaculately clean. He spent many hours outside cleaning and would then encourage us to get in and create “whirlpools” so that he could scoop up any leaves etc.  I remember outdoor BBQ’s – again Dad’s domain as he was the “outdoor king” firing up the Barbie, cooking the snags and sunning himself in his white singlet and handkerchief hat.
Birthdays – I definitely couldn’t say I remember any from under 5 years. I have however seen photos so am a little unsure as to whether my memories are real or those perceived from looking at photos. I do however, think that I was given my first “walking doll” – she was a beautiful doll with black hair, a bride, and you held her hands and she walked. Nana gave her to me and it was either for my birthday or Christmas. In later years I remember thinking she wasn’t as beautiful as I had thought when I first got her. Her hair was very wiry and I guess they simply improved the production of dolls over the years.

Bullying Too

My daughter Erin has not had anymore trouble with bullies so far but it got me thinking about some of those I came across in my school days and made me examine some of the things I did which I am not all too proud of. I’ll state at the outset that I wasn’t a bully – take a look at the photo of me on my first day of school and I hope you’ll agree I didn’t look like one.

I went to School with a kid called Clive. He was comparatively small and certainly a little eccentric when most of us were playing humpo bumpo, British bulldog or chasey, he spent the play time pretending he was driving around in a magic motorcar. The tough kids picked on him mercilessly and the others like me who wanted to fit in laughed and made fun of him just so that we wouldn’t be on the outer. I remember one year I got invited to his birthday party but I didn’t tell Mum about the invitation because I didn’t want to go. As far as I can remember nobody went. What a horrible thing to do to a kid and I am ashamed looking back that I bowed to peer pressure even though at the time I didn’t know what it was.

Eventually Clive snapped and during one art class he picked up a Stanley knife and sliced another kids calf muscle open and I remember feeling sick looking at the exposed muscle. I often wonder what happened to Clive, all I know is that he didn’t go onto Burwood High School like the rest of us.

There was another kid, Andrew Patience, who gave me a hard time for a while. One day he swung a punch at me and I saw red, chasing him around the school ground. Fortunately for him I didn’t catch him, or maybe fortunately for me because I don’t know what I would have done if I had grabbed him. Andrew went on to become a successful sculptor and stone mason and we became reasonable mates during high school, whilst not close we got on OK from that day forward. I actually caught up with him 18 months ago at a school reunion and he’s a good guy.

There was another kid who lived up the road from us in Massey Street and one day after school he came into my front yard and decided that he would practice a judo throw but tossing me over his shoulder. I remember that it hurt and I picked myself up, rushed around to the backyard, grabbed a handful of stones, jumped on my bike and pedalled as hard as I could back into the front yard taking aim and knocking his front tooth out with a stone. He went crying home to his mother who then came down and told my Mum a version of the story. I think Mum and Dad ende up having to pay for the tooth repair.

Later on in High School whilst walking home one day I was approached by a kid who was a couple of years ahead of me. He asked me what the time was and when I looked at my watch I was embarrassed to find it was on upside down. When he noticed he punched me in the nose and just walked off. I didn’t take that route home ever again.

Even on holiday at Corowa one Christmas there was a kid who was interested in my sister. He was a local and some of them thought that they had the right to continue to run the town and gave us outsiders a hard time. The fact that he liked my sister didn’t save me this day when walking on my own to the pool, he did the old bully push and shove and also punched me in the face. I took it without flinching, turning the other cheek. On that occasion I regret not taking a swing back at him.

So to Clive I apologise for not going to your birthday party. To the others who hit me, I wish I’d had the courage to hit back because it might have saved some other kids from copping the same sort of crap.

Bullying Too

My daughter Erin has not had anymore trouble with bullies so far but it got me thinking about some of those I came across in my school days and made me examine some of the things I did which I am not all too proud of. I’ll state at the outset that I wasn’t a bully – take a look at the photo of me on my first day of school and I hope you’ll agree I didn’t look like one.

I went to School with a kid called Clive. He was comparatively small and certainly a little eccentric when most of us were playing humpo bumpo, British bulldog or chasey, he spent the play time pretending he was driving around in a magic motorcar. The tough kids picked on him mercilessly and the others like me who wanted to fit in laughed and made fun of him just so that we wouldn’t be on the outer. I remember one year I got invited to his birthday party but I didn’t tell Mum about the invitation because I didn’t want to go. As far as I can remember nobody went. What a horrible thing to do to a kid and I am ashamed looking back that I bowed to peer pressure even though at the time I didn’t know what it was.

Eventually Clive snapped and during one art class he picked up a Stanley knife and sliced another kids calf muscle open and I remember feeling sick looking at the exposed muscle. I often wonder what happened to Clive, all I know is that he didn’t go onto Burwood High School like the rest of us.

There was another kid, Andrew Patience, who gave me a hard time for a while. One day he swung a punch at me and I saw red, chasing him around the school ground. Fortunately for him I didn’t catch him, or maybe fortunately for me because I don’t know what I would have done if I had grabbed him. Andrew went on to become a successful sculptor and stone mason and we became reasonable mates during high school, whilst not close we got on OK from that day forward. I actually caught up with him 18 months ago at a school reunion and he’s a good guy.

There was another kid who lived up the road from us in Massey Street and one day after school he came into my front yard and decided that he would practice a judo throw but tossing me over his shoulder. I remember that it hurt and I picked myself up, rushed around to the backyard, grabbed a handful of stones, jumped on my bike and pedalled as hard as I could back into the front yard taking aim and knocking his front tooth out with a stone. He went crying home to his mother who then came down and told my Mum a version of the story. I think Mum and Dad ende up having to pay for the tooth repair.

Later on in High School whilst walking home one day I was approached by a kid who was a couple of years ahead of me. He asked me what the time was and when I looked at my watch I was embarrassed to find it was on upside down. When he noticed he punched me in the nose and just walked off. I didn’t take that route home ever again.

Even on holiday at Corowa one Christmas there was a kid who was interested in my sister. He was a local and some of them thought that they had the right to continue to run the town and gave us outsiders a hard time. The fact that he liked my sister didn’t save me this day when walking on my own to the pool, he did the old bully push and shove and also punched me in the face. I took it without flinching, turning the other cheek. On that occasion I regret not taking a swing back at him.

So to Clive I apologise for not going to your birthday party. To the others who hit me, I wish I’d had the courage to hit back because it might have saved some other kids from copping the same sort of crap.

Bullying Too

My daughter Erin has not had anymore trouble with bullies so far but it got me thinking about some of those I came across in my school days and made me examine some of the things I did which I am not all too proud of. I’ll state at the outset that I wasn’t a bully – take a look at the photo of me on my first day of school and I hope you’ll agree I didn’t look like one.

I went to School with a kid called Clive. He was comparatively small and certainly a little eccentric when most of us were playing humpo bumpo, British bulldog or chasey, he spent the play time pretending he was driving around in a magic motorcar. The tough kids picked on him mercilessly and the others like me who wanted to fit in laughed and made fun of him just so that we wouldn’t be on the outer. I remember one year I got invited to his birthday party but I didn’t tell Mum about the invitation because I didn’t want to go. As far as I can remember nobody went. What a horrible thing to do to a kid and I am ashamed looking back that I bowed to peer pressure even though at the time I didn’t know what it was.

Eventually Clive snapped and during one art class he picked up a Stanley knife and sliced another kids calf muscle open and I remember feeling sick looking at the exposed muscle. I often wonder what happened to Clive, all I know is that he didn’t go onto Burwood High School like the rest of us.

There was another kid, Andrew Patience, who gave me a hard time for a while. One day he swung a punch at me and I saw red, chasing him around the school ground. Fortunately for him I didn’t catch him, or maybe fortunately for me because I don’t know what I would have done if I had grabbed him. Andrew went on to become a successful sculptor and stone mason and we became reasonable mates during high school, whilst not close we got on OK from that day forward. I actually caught up with him 18 months ago at a school reunion and he’s a good guy.

There was another kid who lived up the road from us in Massey Street and one day after school he came into my front yard and decided that he would practice a judo throw but tossing me over his shoulder. I remember that it hurt and I picked myself up, rushed around to the backyard, grabbed a handful of stones, jumped on my bike and pedalled as hard as I could back into the front yard taking aim and knocking his front tooth out with a stone. He went crying home to his mother who then came down and told my Mum a version of the story. I think Mum and Dad ende up having to pay for the tooth repair.

Later on in High School whilst walking home one day I was approached by a kid who was a couple of years ahead of me. He asked me what the time was and when I looked at my watch I was embarrassed to find it was on upside down. When he noticed he punched me in the nose and just walked off. I didn’t take that route home ever again.

Even on holiday at Corowa one Christmas there was a kid who was interested in my sister. He was a local and some of them thought that they had the right to continue to run the town and gave us outsiders a hard time. The fact that he liked my sister didn’t save me this day when walking on my own to the pool, he did the old bully push and shove and also punched me in the face. I took it without flinching, turning the other cheek. On that occasion I regret not taking a swing back at him.

So to Clive I apologise for not going to your birthday party. To the others who hit me, I wish I’d had the courage to hit back because it might have saved some other kids from copping the same sort of crap.