In a verbal comment on yesterday's post "A Sandwich in the Sun" a reader is surprised that I should have been so frightened by an irate teacher ticking off "litterers" as to descend into tears. It doesn't sound very courageous, no, but I was unprepared for primary-school reality after two blissful years in a kindergarten where no one ever said a harsh word and the two female teachers were kindness itself. Mrs Boxshall was the senior; a handsome lady with the embonpoint of Hattie Jacques who lived in a big house across the road from St Agnes', the Anglican church in the Melbourne suburb of Glenhuntly in whose parish hall the kindergarten was conducted. Her assistant was Miss Ellis, who played the piano. The curriculum was stories, sacred and secular, songs, finger-painting and games. I was unaware of any imposition of discipline, except on the occasions when Mrs Boxshall - the two ladies were gifted entertainers - put Miss Ellis over her knee for an imaginary misdemeanour and spanked her. We loved it and laughed and cheered, a reaction which would be unlikely to be shared by Social Services and the rest of our arbiters of correctness today. Would they have disapproved too of the Vicar, kindly Mr Harwood, shuffling lamely into the hall to pat some of us on the head and call us his "chickies"? How would that be construed by a contemporary child-welfare worker? I don't know what became of any of my fellow alumni of St Agnes', but at least none of them has emerged from the woodwork in later age to sour those happy memories of an age of innocence with accusations of "abuse".
28 January 2012