Reflecting on school days: Wagging adventures and academic triumphs of a boomer era

Jun 23, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

We are all getting older, Father Time. I think I am there, or here! Before I even attended primary school in the late 1950s, my mother used to walk us regularly to the general store on the corner. My younger sister was in the pram, I was clinging to its handle, and my older sister kept pace, clutching a string bag.

In this parade to the shops, mothers met and greeted each other, admiring the latest addition to our baby boomer friends in the old hometown. Other mothers who had sons did have some fun with lively young boys.

Some of them had their toddlers and under-five lads in a harness, with shoulder straps, attached by a leash to their mother or the ubiquitous pram. Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? But those were the pre-Doctor Spock days, it was quite an acceptable child control and restraint, putting leads on kids. That way, they did not nick off from their busy yummy mummies.

Maybe my sisters and I were ‘good little girls’, really quite well-behaved. Mother did not need to have leashes on us, like human greyhounds, she could be really intimidating. Having achieved primary school status, I walked to education with my big sister, each holding a little case, with a picture pasted on it. Inside lay our readers, soon decoded, our ‘play lunch’, and we were expected to walk home for lunch.

We all ascended through the grades, I even skipped a couple. My younger sister came tagging along. Winters seemed colder then, I usually had some form of a respiratory infection or earache. I must say I soon found I could dramatise my coughing in front of mum. I spent happy childhood hours on the couch, in front of the cosy briquette heater, under a rug, reading Superman comics.

As I sipped plain lemonade, a great cure in those days, I enjoyed those breaks from my stern teachers and the classroom. I had many an excuse to stay home, and am still a homebody. Works for me. These days, children’s experts would classify this tendency as ‘school refusal’. I did later become a teacher myself, and had to rescue lads of a certain age who went through a stage of ‘school phobia’. I did relate to their reluctance and habit of disappearing to their homes. I aimed to engage them by appointing them as monitors of answering the door or being the lunch order monitor. It made them feel needed in class. They were promoted to secondary school, a new stage.

Even longer ago than that, with my boomer bloomers on, I too entered secondary school. That was our stage once. My quality friends would welcome me at the gate of our high school. Before 9 am, we wandered to the other side of the grounds. Not one teacher, engaged in their smoking ceremonies of nicotine in the staffroom, asked us where we were going. Their job description only went so far. From there, some of us teenagers casually strolled through the adjoining primary school, to the nearby milk bar.

There we purchased our own cigarettes, no questions asked. We hid in the bushland, a patch of suburbia. We spent happy hours blowing smoke rings, planning all the great things we could do, once we passed through teenage academics.

Surprisingly, we succeeded, despite our days of wagging. We achieved scholarships to ‘yewni’! Somehow, for some children today, their biggest problem is still being in a classroom. I do understand the struggles that continue for disengaged students.

Did you ever wag school, and what did you do in your leisure time? It is amazing, how well we all did!

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