This is my entry for Irene’s monthly Times Past writing challenge.
Baby Boomer: Australia-Suburban
I actually started my school life in England but I don’t recall a lot about the playground activities. I was a bit of a loner even then and preferred my own company but well-meaning teachers sometimes asked groups of girls to let me play with them. It was usually skipping or chasey but in one school I was at there was a group that used to dance the Hokey Pokey at lunchtime. I liked watching them and did join in on one occasion I remember.
Then we came to Australia. It is as if every child growing up in suburban Australia in the sixties was at the same school. We had the asphalt yard where we had Assembly, playing fields where the kids could play ball games and netball hoops. Our classrooms were brick but the overflow of students were accommodated in “Transportable” classrooms. We ate our lunch sitting on the bench in the corridor outside the classroom and then went outside to play. I must say that the first time I heard the school siren I was quite scared. In England we were summoned by a bell and I associated sirens with mum’s stories of air raids during the war.
At Primary School the kids were separated by age not sex, your play area was the bit closest to your classroom. Assembly was held in a big asphalt square we called the quadrangle. It had painted white dots in lines to indicate where we should line up; there were 1,066 dots in that yard. No, I did not count them, a senior teacher was fond of telling us that was how many students the school had when it first opened. He was also fond of mentioning the Battle of Hastings.
There was a small wooden rostrum and from there the Headmaster or one of his deputies would conduct the Assembly. We had the Oath of Allegiance which we said in time to a kid beating a bass drum. “I am an Australian” (BOOM) “I love my country” (BOOM) “I honour her Queen” (BOOM). I can still hear that drum. We sang “God Save The Queen”, still our anthem then and may have sung “The Song of Australia” sometimes. That was probably a South Australian thing as the song was written there. We marched off to Sousa booming from the PA system. Sometimes they made us do fancy marching with one line snaking round another. We couldn’t just turn around and go back to class. I think that some of the younger teachers thought it was a bit silly. I hated assembly in summer. I never fainted or got a nosebleed like some kids but my feet in my regulation black or brown lace up shoes felt like they were on fire. Standing in the midday sun would often start me off sneezing. That still happens to me now, fifty years later. Our classrooms were hot too, they were not air-conditioned but at least we were away from the burning sun. There was not a lot of shade, a few gum trees, a couple of veranda’s and later on the school built a “shelter shed”. I think this was more to shelter us from rain than sun. It was three-sided brick and concrete and I am pretty sure it had a galvanised iron roof. It did keep us out of direct sunlight, at least the older kids who played in that area.
Games, I was still not a joiner but occasionally joined in with games like “Red Rover All Over”, “What’s The Time Mr Wolf” and other chasey games, boys played football and cricket on an asphalt pitch. For years I thought cricket pitches were supposed to look like that. Both boys and girls played hand tennis on painted courts. We were often lectured about not throwing balls against walls. Yo Yos were popular from time to time. Every year someone from the local Coca Cola factory would visit the school with their Yo Yos and show us tricks like “Around the World” and “Walking the Dog”. Girls had skipping and French Elastic or you could borrow a hula hoop from the sports equipment cupboard. I was bad at all of these but occasionally played.
By the time I reached grade seven I was often taking a book to read at breaks or I would sit on the wooden rostrum in the quadrangle with two other girls, Penny and Gillian who were also readers, and we would chat about different things including our love of “Star Trek” on television. It was there that we agreed that when we went to high school the following year we would meet up and keep each other company.