You know how people say that school is the best time of your life? Well we all know that’s mostly bullshit brought on by nostalgia and the realisation that you are running out of time, however I can say that my primary school years were the most fun I ever had in school, and that includes my college years.
I have tried and mostly succeeded in repressing 9/10ths of my high school years, and can only remember a couple of fun times and a handful of really embarrassing moments (of course). But primary school is very different, I have vivid memories of a couple of incidents in kindergarten, my teacher Mrs B. had a very piercing voice and she used to yell a lot, but she did teach me how to tie my shoelaces, and was almost as pleased as I was, and she used to let me read at my own pace, which was good, because I could already read.
I don’t remember with any clarity grades one and two, no teachers names have stuck in my mind, same with most of grade three, though one incident has stayed with me all this time, my first kiss, I was eight and sitting outside in the reading area in the corridor, when out of the blue Neville K. kissed me, in front of the two Amandas and a TEACHER.
Well of course it didn’t take long for THAT bit of gossip to spread around the entire school and I remember being really really embarrassed and a little bit thrilled at the same time, though I had a crush on someone else at that time, (hi Tim, Tim is on FB) from that day forward our names were linked in the eyes of our peers and to my extreme embarrassment, the teachers all thought it was cute.
Neville of course was dreadfully unfaithful and vacillated between several girls over the course of our remaining years in primary school, a whole group of us hung out together and the place where we reigned supreme was the two large concrete pipes at the bottom of the big playground. Neville, Tim, Amanda C (who was my bestest friend in the whole world) Amanda F, Andrew and Sean.
We spent all recess and lunchtime there and even after school for a while, it was great fun and definitely something I look back on fondly, grade four I liked bits and pieces of, I liked my teacher Mr Mac, didn’t like sharing a class with my eldest sister (hi Chris) because she was a bully and liked to either hurt or humiliate me 😁. I do remember one time I was about to sit down at the table and she pulled the chair out from under me, I hit the floor with a thud and it hurt so I started to cry, and she just laughed until she realised that Mr Mac had seen the whole thing, and he was quite angry, told her that she could have hurt me quite badly, and then he went and got Mum (who was a cleaner at the school) and Mum was angry too, I think Chris had to spend time in the withdrawal room as punishment. Incidentally grade four was the last time until grade 7 that I had a proper math lesson (yay for open plan learning, not).
Grade 5 was my absolutely most favourite grade of all, and that was definitely due to the teachers Mrs H and Miss Mc, Mrs H had absolutely brilliant ideas about things to study and do. We went to the museum lots, we learnt what passed for Tasmanian history at that point in time, which included a very whitewashed retelling of what happened to the Indigenous population, which basically amounted to the story that they all ran to Flinders Island very happily, and absolutely loved it. Learnt a lot about Abel Tasman, Matthew Flinders, Sir Richard Dry and Battery Point and Kelly’s Steps. We went on a very memorable school camp to Maria Island, where the boys tried to scare the girls by banging on the windows of the hall late at night, after we’d listened to ghost stories.
The absolute pinnacle of grade five in my eyes was when Mrs H announced that were going to be studying Ancient Egypt, and in particular the life and times of Tutankhamen, armed with a glorious full colour Life book about the treasures that were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, with a most spectacular picture of the death mask, it was decided that the main attraction was going to be a full body papier mache and plaster of Paris recreation of Tutankhamen’s death mask and mummy.
Mr Pross and my Mum partitioned off a big section of the classroom with folding screens, making corridors which we transformed into the tunnels and tomb of Tutankhamen using copious quantities of crêpe and tissue paper as well as hessian and big sheets of butchers paper, upon which the more artistically inclined painted stones and hieroglyphics, we had the tomb of Tutankhamen looking really really good, all that remained was the mummy.
I am not to sure how we decided who was going to be the sucker who got plastered, as I can’t imagine that the boys were lining up begging to stripped to their undies, slathered in vaseline, including their face and then covered with papier mache and plaster. However it was decided our Tutankhamen was going to be Shaun W, Shaun was a grade 6 boy, his younger brother Campbell was in our grade. At that point in time just about all the girls in both grades had the biggest crush on Shaun, he was tallish, with blue eyes and startlingly blonde almost white hair, so there was no shortage of girls who were willing to cut up hundreds of strips of newspaper and slather vaseline all over his bare skin.
That sort of stuff would not fly today, in fact I’m not sure how it managed to fly then, not just for near nakedness, but for the whole covering him in papier mache and plaster, I mean Shaun’s parents signed the permission slip, and the Principal signed off on it too, but I was sure glad it was him and not me, I suspect I would have found out I was claustrophobic the moment they started covering my face with papier mache, which would not have boded well for King Tut.
So we laid Shaun out on the big art table on a big plastic sheet and a whole bunch of us including the teachers covered every single inch of Shaun in a very thick layer of vaseline, the idea being that it would make it easy to lift the plaster cast off his body, then we started covering him in a thin layer of papier mache, enough to make a shell, he had a straw in his mouth and his nose was blocked off as we covered his face with the papier mache. He then had to lay there long enough for that to dry, then Mr Pross put the wooden frame around him so the plaster wouldn’t leak out.
Then we mixed up the plaster and poured it over him by the bucketful, making sure it was as bubble free as possible, if I’d been Shaun I would have been screaming in horror the whole time, it only took about three hours, including about 30 minutes of heater and hair dryer treatment to speed up drying out, then came the bit where we found out if we used enough vaseline, i.e was the papier mache going to stick to his skin and break, thus ruining the whole mummy effect.
I’m pretty sure that Shaun would not have volunteered for a second go round of mummy modelling, so it was great that apart from a little bit of edge crumbling of the plaster, it lifted off his body quite easily except for his face, in particular his eyebrows, there obviously hadn’t been enough vaseline on his eyebrows, when we got it off his face poor Shaun was missing more than half of his eyebrows, but we had a magnificent Tutankhamen mummy.
Our Ancient Egyptian display was a great success, all the other teachers brought around their classes to see what we’d done, and Shaun became quite proud of his missing eyebrows, though I have often wondered that if in the night sometimes Shaun wakes up in a cold sweat, feeling like he’s being smothered and can’t breathe properly, or if he has what seems to be an irrational dislike of all things Ancient Egyptian.