Old School

I wrote the following for a publication celebrating my primary schools 150th year. Gladstone Central Primary school is a small school at the bottom of Auckland hill, when my mum went there the harbor came right up to the school fence, you could go fishing in the lunch break! Now all that is reclaimed for the port and there are railway tracks and silos but it was a great primary school to attend, small enough that you knew just about everyone. Three generations of my family attended there and while it's very unlikely that my kids will attend, I'm very glad that just down the road from us is a very 'Central' like school.

Most of my mates were in the year below me in primary school. That made it very easy for my parents to take me off traveling for a year and let me start high school with them. It was a good deal. When I returned and went off to my new school everything had changed. Not my mates, rather the way we spent our lunch hours. For some reason we were all suddenly too cool to play sport during the lunch hour.

Sport is what I remember the most from my days at Central. There was those innocent first two years up in the top playground where you just ran around chasing each other. What you really wanted was to go down to the oval. Where the big kids played. You always had a try, but the small school defeated you every time as the teacher always knew where you should be. Year three therefore, was a big step, you got to get onto the main oval and play sport.

The year was divided up into three sections. Summer of course was cricket. There would be games on the basketball court before school. The good players brought their own bats and everyone would bring a tennis ball, as quite a few would make it on to the nearby railway tracks. Lunchtimes would see multiple games, usually in year groups, using the trees along Auckland Street as stumps. I seem to remember one tree being particularly ours, at least until year seven, when the school managed the previously unthought of luxury of a kanga cricket stumps set. We could then set up shop in the middle of the oval and imagine the MCG or Gabba.

Imagination and sport went hand in hand. Being the eighties we all imitated the West Indies bowlers and Dean Jones batting. When winter came it was soccer and rugby league. Of course at origin time both teams were mostly stacked with Alfie Langer clones, unless you were from NSW and were weird. We would always push the boundaries and try and play tackle, each successive hit up becoming more tackle than 'hold', before a teacher would come and warn us and we practiced our innocent looks.

One of the biggest questions of my school life at Central was when you actually changed sports. There was always boys that liked one more than the other so would start bringing the bat or footy to school, setting up the stumps or piling the bags into try lines. We sorted this tense situation out with diplomacy that would not be out of place in the middle east, by playing a third sport called Sandwich, or more succinctly, Kill.

It was a game breathtaking in it's simplicity. Throw a ball into the air and watch 30 odd boys run like made to be first to get it. If you got the ball, you were fair game and you ran like hell until you thought your life was in danger at which point you threw the ball as high as you could into the air. Fear and self preservation usually kept the ball moving but occasionally you'd misjudge and find yourself at the bottom of a scrum of blokes, with latecomers doing swan dives onto the pile. It was usually at this point that the teacher of the day would politely suggest that perhaps we could find some other form of entertainment.

The worst thing that could happen to you at Central was forgetting your hat. Lunch, you could do without but to miss cricket or soccer at lunchtime was a tragedy. I'm sure Shakespeare first got in the mood for Hamlet by missing out on a game of cricket.

Every time I return to Gladstone I'll drive past that oval and instantly remember the times running around that green oval, wolfing down lunch so I could fit another oval or kick in, turning up early at school for just one more game.

- Lantanaland from my iPad.


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