Recollections: primary school

I adored my primary school, a little local suburban number I would walk to and from each day. I had my best friend Belinda who was outrageously beautiful and otherwise just ran with the pack. Apart from my nameless kindy teacher, I remember all my teachers: Mrs Rafferty, Mrs Bramhall, Mrs Miller and Mr Eagleton.

My entry to school was marked by massive panic that I couldn’t write my name. When i recounted this to mum recently she was agog, AGOG, telling me I was writing sentences by the time I got to school. Of course I was. Probably reading Enid Blyton on my own too.

There was one standout incident for me in this year in which David Stockler took my pencil sharpener and would not return it despite my many requests. I kept putting my hand up and calling the teacher’s name, to which she would reply ‘in a minute’ or ‘when I’ve finished helping __’ and so on. Eventually I’d had a gutful so stood up ON my desk, stamped my foot and declared in a loud clear voice, also known as yelling, ‘David Stockler has my pencil sharpener and I want it back NOW.’ As the oxygen drained from the room I turned to see an ominous figure filling the door frame and casting a long shadow, the Principal of the entire school, Mr Chapman.

Mr Chapman's eyebrow inspiration

I was promptly taken outside and given a talking to by this imposing figure, the contents of which I have absolutely no recollection except being acutely aware of his eyebrows. Like tentacles sprouting from his forehead, they were simultaneously terrifying and mesmerising.

In 1st grade it was Mrs Rafftery, a young waif of a thing I was besotted with. She had this hairdo that I admired so much I tried to replicate it at my June Daly-Watkins debacle. It was a bum part, then straight and then, dear GOD, curly (permed perhaps?) at the ends. In hindsight perhaps the poor woman was just growing out a bad idea.

That was the year David Stockler and I got in trouble for talking during a test and that I had to take home the cuisanaire rods because my mathematical ineptitude was already quite evident. I remember being so embarrassed about this I tried to sneak them into my bag before anyone could see, only to drop them on the verandah and watch them go sailing down between the cracks in the floorboards to the dirt below.

OH THE HUMANITY

This all happened just as the twins (David and Michael I think) were returning from an appointment with the eye doctor. Michael was wearing glasses which, in 1979, was the schoolyard equivalent to a duck wearing a target during hunting season. You could see he was miserable. In a bid to avoid the classroom and thereby hold off the FOUR-EYES taunts for just a bit longer he went under the building with me to collect up all those rotten rods.

The following year I had Mrs Bramhall who had taught my brother two years earlier. She announced this and her love for my brother (“such a good boy”) on my first day and promptly told me she was going to call me Kimberly. I pointed out to her that Kimberly was not my name, a fact she disputed for some time. She viewed me with great suspicion, that if my brother had been the good one then I had to be the bad, but a relentless campaign of flowers from our garden eventually won her over. That was the year I got a boil on my knee, a scar I still bear.

I cheated in a spelling test because I knew Saturday was not spelt with an “er” but for the life of me couldn’t think of what did go in that space. I “accidentally” dropped my pencil and on picking it up looked over Belinda’s shoulder and copied. OH the chagrin. It was also the year we made White Christmas (was there anything better than the last few weeks of school when it was all Christmas craft and carols?) and I got to stir the bowl more than anyone else because I did it properly. I remember how upset Belinda was about this and how tickled I was by it.

Mrs Miller was a complete trip in Year 3. An old school (read: elderly) teacher who would make us do maths and English tests every Friday afternoon while she sat at her desk with a small transistor radio playing the races. Isn’t it funny, that’s about all I remember of her. The Osti dresses, the hot curler set hairdo and that’s about it. I was going to say she was very quietly spoken but then thought, no she was quite fierce so perhaps she was a yeller? Again, the memory denies.

And then there was Mr Eagleton. I remember the first day of school in 1982 and how he was standing up on the verandah next to our Principal Mr Chapman, he of the incredible eyebrows.

This great murmur was running through all of the students gathered on the hot asphalt to find out their class for the year. Who was this new teacher? OH the excitement! He was as tall as a lamppost with a sandy brown beard and blue eyes. And as it transpired he was my 4th grade teacher.

Fourth grade was an interesting year. The realisation that I wanted to be a writer, that Christopher ___ really did have anger management issues, that Andrew ___ really was an annoying little git and that Alison ___ was a show pony with a show mother to boot. It was also the year I consciously wet my pants because seriously, I wanted the free undies you got from the school nurse. What I got was a pair of scratchy ill-fitting gender neutral undies which were grossly uncomfortable. Lesson learnt.

Mr Eagleton was an absolute force. He had come from a country school in Nyngan, a town which had just experienced the worst flooding in its recorded history. We thought that was fabulously romantic. He announced that now we were in 4th grade we could write with pens rather than pencils except me. I had broken my right arm roller skating during the summer holidays and I was not allowed to use a pen until it was heeled. I was enraged at this gross injustice as quite frankly, my left handed writing was really quite neat. Still, wait I did. Once cast-free my love of the kilometrico knew no bounds.

He announced that we were not children anymore and therefore Charlie would now be called Charles and Jamie James. Charlie was pretty naughty and I recall Mr Eagleton picking him up by his ears on one occasion. God knows how many times that poor kid got the cane. Ahh, the good old days of public education.

It was the era of the assignment which involved sheets of art paper (you know the stuff, rough on one side, shiny on the other) sticky-taped together and then concertinaed. If you owned The Lettering Book, only available through Book Club, you were SORTED. Those assignments were all written solely off information learnt from National Geographic and out of encyclopaedias. Talk about the age of innocence.

And then it came to an end. Fifth grade was a year when many of us moved to one of the private schools in the area and I was one of them. It was on our last day that James cornered me in the wet area off our classroom and declared his love for me. I was incredulous. He loved ME? Oh my. But then I was cranky. WHY leave it to now, why not tell me MONTHS ago? Now, now it was too late. Heart, officially broken.

 

Onward!

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  • http://www.thekidsareallright.com.au Rachel @ The Kids Are All Right

    What a great collection of memories. One of my strongest recollections of primary school is the smell of the stencils, freshly rolled out from the machine that used some combination of ink, carbon and magic. Us kids would hold them out to our faces and inhale deeply. There was a teacher’s aide whose sole job was to crank out the stencils. Who knows what effects she is suffering today from those fumes.
    Rachel @ The Kids Are All Right recently posted..It takes a village to keep teens substance free

    • http://www.allconsuming.com.au allconsuming

      GASP! The Gestetner machine! That purple ink! The fumes! Oh that aide would’ve been high for YEARS.

  • http://shineslikeapostcard.blogspot.com Mary

    I’ll always remember Mrs Barnes who taught me in Year 3. She too was quite elderly and would always put Damian —– in the dunce’s corner and forget she had done it. He would stand there for hours, she would finally remember and hand him masses of jelly beans. I was always a bit jealous but too good a girl to ever be put in the dunce’s corner.

    Ahhh the memories you have brought back.
    Mary recently posted..Postcards Twenty

  • http://the-accidental-housewife.blogspot.com.au/ The Accidental Housewife

    I owned the Lettering Book. My projects were always headed with flair. My mum probably still has it somewhere…

    Did your school play marbles? Ours was mad for it, so much so that we had “marble season” – one week a year where they were legal, and the rest of the time they were banned.

    Why do boys always wait, then tell you right at the end? I have a ridiculously long list of last-minute-loves. Idiots.
    The Accidental Housewife recently posted..Pride goeth before the fall

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    Amazing what sticks with you.

    I remember getting yelled a for COUGHING during choir.
    Fiona recently posted..Things I’ve been loving of late

  • http://blackbird17.blogspot.com blackbird

    Gail, who sat in front of me in third grade, had the most beautiful gold pencils and hair like white satin.
    My best friend Caroline and I played with our Barbies and I noticed, even then, that her legs were long and tanned and thinner than mine.
    blackbird recently posted..it’s Friday

    • http://www.allconsuming.com.au allconsuming

      I remember thinking Barbie’s boobs were spectacular. Then I grew my own. Far bigger than hers. I showed her. Not quite as perky though. Shame.

  • http://deminimismater.blogspot.com/ Julie

    I didn’t realise cuisanaire rods were a maths aid until I was about 30. Sally Anne Olsen said that someone ‘threw up’ and Mrs Duncan told her that ‘threw up’ was common and the proper term was ‘vomited’! Lisa, Jennifer and I raised money washing teachers’ cars to buy a gift for our beautiful student teacher who had blonde hair and wore floral print dresses and whose first name was Marguerite – so exotic (second name Jones).
    Julie recently posted..Robot Century

    • http://www.allconsuming.com.au allconsuming

      Weren’t the student teachers always beautiful? BEAUTIFUL!

  • http://denysewhelan.com.au Denyse Whelan

    Kim…your memory is amzing. I’ll bet you get told that allll the time.
    It’s funny the school memories we have. Mine include the smell of the chalk dust wafting from the place where a kid had been told to go and bang it.. NOT THERE I SAID,,,OVER THERE, some kids had NO idea. Then there is the smell of the gas heater & ripe bananas from winter rainy days and the kids never got to escape the room…oh, and in the arvo, the farts.
    My memories are of being a teacher ….
    But before I became a teacher, in 1968 & 1969 we had to LEARN cuisenaire rods, so we could teach it. In the late 1980s schools had so many boxes of rods stacked up in storerooms that we’d send them home to use as firestarters. Now, to buy a set costs a bomb. If only we knew. When the hell are we getting together..when I say, when!?
    Denyse Whelan recently posted..Report Writing Season Is Nigh.

    • http://www.allconsuming.com.au allconsuming

      EUGH – that SMELL in the classroom on a wet day. VILE. You never lose that smell from your nostrils. Ever.

      Mum is still adamant that cuisenaire rods are good for some kids in understanding the basics.

  • trash

    Oh how I wished it was always me how was allowed to go and clean the blackboard erasers.

    • http://www.allconsuming.com.au allconsuming

      Yes, YES! I yearned to be the duster cleaner. Or the bell ringer. Being the bell ringer was AWESOME.