Isaac has reached grade 6, top of the heap at primary school. The grade 6ers get to wear special shirts and jumpers, and get School Leader status for a term.
In my year of grade 6 at Ripponlea PS in 1982, I was flag monitor, with my friend Mark. On the first day, we initially hung the flag upside-down, but after that it was okay.
I also got to work the mid-lunchtime bell sometimes. The bell was next to the school office, and worked by a button on the wall. Next to it was an ancient radiogram that was piped through the school intercom once a week so we could listen to “Let’s All Sing”. It also played records, which were also played in the playground to warn that lunchtime/recess was coming to an end.
The mid-lunchtime bell signified the library was opening. By the time I was in grade 6, the big hit attraction at the library was the wireless headphone system, which was connected up to a tape deck in the librarian’s office. Raoul and I used to bring in Beatles tapes to play, as I recall. I seem to remember we also played poker in the library — possibly an odd way to use the facilities. When the library chucked out some books, I claimed a couple: I still have that copy of The Goodies Book of Records, and I think an old copy of Fungus The Bogeyman is around somewhere too.
Apart from lunchtimes in the library, there was time in the yard playing mock tennis with tennis balls in the painted squares on the ashphalt; swinging around on the monkeybars; brandy (officially banned — when I got hit in the eye with a tennis ball, I told the teacher we’d been playing cricket); British Bulldog, and whatever that game is where you try and keep the tennis ball in play by hitting it towards the ground, then the wall, then back to you again. By grade 6 I think we’d grown out of running spy clubs. Oh and of course there was just walking around talking about Really Serious Stuff.
I was deemed by the teachers to be responsible enough to help with school newsletter distribution. Not so much folding and production, but making sure all the classrooms got enough of them. It felt a teensy bit special to be authorised to be roaming the school while other students were confined to their classes. I suppose giving kids these sorts of responsibilities isn’t just child labour, it’s also a way of helping them grow up.