When an extra bedroom and more living space was added to our 3-bedroom house in around 1986 my Mum insisted on tacking on a storeroom. The builders were baffled. You must understand – this was before storage areas were standard, before walk-in wardrobes were even a thing.
Mum got her way and we got a small purpose-built room lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves which looped around to form an ‘L’ shape. It housed the ironing board, the ironing basket, many of our toys, 7 years worth of tax receipts and, most importantly, lots and lots of primary school memories.
A few months back Mum had a bit of a clear-out and brought round a large box of goodies simply labelled ‘Bec’. In the midst of kiddie-chaos, I smiled my thanks (secretly thinking she was slightly mad for keeping a random collection of my belongings) and shoved it in the bottom of my wardrobe.
Then last Thursday my copy of Mrs Woog’s brand new book, Primary School Confidential arrived in the mail. In typical Mrs Woog style, it’s a rollicking good read of hilarious anecdotes peppered with occasional blinding insight. I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy if you’ve ever been to primary school, taught in a primary school or sent your kid to a primary school.
Buoyed by happy memories of neighbourhood cricket matches – during which we regularly lost tennis balls down the sloping storm drain and then got yelled at for causing floods by boarding up said sloping drain – and 1 cent carob buds and 2 cent musk sticks from the local milk bar, I decided to venture into the box to see what Mum had deemed worthy of preservation after all these years.
Here are a few of the stand-out gems.
1. My Brownie Guide hat
I promise to do my best to do my duty to God, to serve my Queen and my country and to keep the Brownie Guide laws.
I was a Tintookie. Every week we would trundle along to the local school hall, bedecked in our brown tunics, yellow shirts and brown hats with the brim tweaked at the back, just so.
Every week we had to recite our motto, which meant very little to girls raised under a non-denominational functional democracy, and face inspection of our badges – were they Silvo-ed to perfection?; our shoes – were they polished to standard?; and sometimes even our underpants – which were required to be prescription brown.
While we worked towards our sewing badge, housework badge and reading badge, the boys over at Cubs got fancy toggles and ties, along with instruction on how to find their way around the bush and set fire to stuff.
This was the mid-1980s. A couple of other revolutionaries and I smouldered and fantasised about joining the Cubs so we could do fun stuff too. Except that boys were smelly and horrible. So we stuck to terrorising our leaders instead.
2. My marbles
Tom bowlers, galaxy marbles and all sorts of other labels that are just dim jumbles of letters in my sleep-deprived brain.
I do, however, remember very clearly getting down on the gravelly asphalt just far enough to be able to aim properly – and not lose the black marble with gorgeous coloured chips (a ‘galaxy’ marble) that I had just bet – but not so far that the boys would try to peek up my skirt or my knees would actually come into contact with the ground, thereby losing several layers of skin.
Clearly things became a little too competitive in the junior betting rings, because I also remember marbles being banned from the school grounds.
3. Illicit Queensland shells
I’m sure it must be illegal these days to sell a dozen or so seashells in little baskets on the Queensland coast. Back in January 1987, when I was on my very first on-a-plane holiday to the steamy Gold Coast all the way from sunny Melbourne, this was exactly what they sold at gift shops at Sanctuary Cove.
I’d been so chuffed with my souvenir that I’d even left the wrapping and label on. These shells have been left in pristine condition for nearly 30 years.
Yes, I’m that old.
4. Matryushka dolls
I spent hours as a kid twisting these open, taking out the nesting dolls, and twisting them back together so the details matched up exactly – not a millimetre out of sync – and lined them up in a row – equally spaced and all facing in exactly the same direction.
I found it soothing.
You can understand how much anguish it caused, therefore, to watch my 3-year-old pull them all apart and scatter the pieces to the four corners of the house.
5. Irrefutable proof that I’ve always wanted to be a writer
Mum kept my stories. The ones I wrote for school assignments. The ones I wrote for myself. The ones that were more diary entries than stories, but it’s hard to tell when you’re 7 years old and the line between truth and fantasy is still a little blurred.
She even kept the really seriously crappy romance ‘chapter book’ (it goes for about 7 pages) I wrote in late primary school when boys started to look interesting. I blame Degrassi Junior High for romanticising teen pregnancy.
Thanks Mum, and your wonderfully neat, tidy and categorically labelled storeroom (can’t tell we’re related much, can you?).
Okay, your turn – tell me a random primary school memory in the comments.
Have you read Mrs Woog’s #PrimarySchoolConfidential? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?
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