Mr Moloney was feared by all of us.
He’d stand on a rise in front of the shelter shed every morning before nine o’clock assembly awaiting his prey.
Late school kids.
In his hands he would usually brandish his weapon the feel of which across our bare outstretched hands we would dread.
That was our favourite name for the leather strap as it bore down upon our outstretched hand.
Once we’d passed the start of morning assembly and if we were late, watch out.
We were in for it.
Once across the outstretched hand was enough.
A high price to pay for being a few minutes late, I thought.
I never got the strap but I did once in class and it hurt all day and the next.
Of course no school teacher today could do that.
I’m talking about wartime, the end of WWII.
I had a friend who’d always ask me questions in class.
Once in geography class he turned to me to ask a question just at the moment the teacher turned around and caught us.
We were both hauled out of our desks to stand in front of the class, hands outstretched. awaiting the agony of the strap to descend upon us.
It was the only time but enough to taste how it felt.
I made sure I was never late.
I met my next fearful Principal when I was transferred at the start of my third year.
I followed my brother to a different school nearby when he wasn’t able to enrol at my school.
This was a fateful move.
For the better.
He was another hat wearing Principal to be feared, but this time because of his tongue.
Not an instrument of punishment.
But in a kindly way.
He was fair but feared.
With the same name as the American President John F Kennedy he ruled the school like a true president.
The school would later boast having a student named Cate Blanchett the movie actress.
I never met her.
I first got noticed by Mr Kennedy when I started collecting used stamps for charity.
We started a stamp club and I collected them from all the kids.
All due to the stamp club, in Year Six I was chosen by him to take on the school’s electronic system, the music, the school bell, everything needed to run the school and its timetable.
I enjoyed that.
I can’t forget being hauled over the coals for my bad choice of marching music for the girls’ marching squad practice.
I mean, I can only hear Colonal Bogey played so many times and I took it upon myself to change the tune after so many times over.
I fell in love with march composer John Phillip Sousa and his marches.
They’re like mini symphonies.
Every year swallows nested under the eaves of the wash house in the backyard.
Come Monday my mother would tackle the pile of clothes gathering all week on the floor before boiling them in the copper she heated with kindling wood.
There were no washing machines then.
Washing clothes was done by hand which is why this became her Monday morning routine.
And around Year 4 I fell in love with a tiny seaside town called Point Lonsdale at the Heads to the city of Melbourne dominated by an imposing lighthouse.
I fell in love with lighthouses.
Every winter, thanks to the blessing of my champion School Principal, and the kindness of a neighbour returning a favour, me and my family would head for Point Lonsdale for a free two week holiday at an old house with a bull-nosed verandah.
I’d go to sleep every night to the sound of roaring waves breaking on the beach.
Wild nature came to mean a lot then when I was just an impressionable school kid looking for small adventures which remained with me all my life.
I fell in love with Point Lonsdale where I returned to the area many years later to live with my daughters and grand-daughters.
Every year as we drove out to return home I left my heart behind in this magical town beneath the lighthouse.
A little thing at the time that turned out to be the biggest thing in my later life.
Which is where I live now.
Watch out for the little things.
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