A familiar face
The other day an old bloke got on the train at Spencer Street. He looked vaguely familiar. A station or two later I worked out who I thought it was. Major Grigsby! Griggers. My old year 12 co-ordinator*, probably long-since retired. I wasn’t sure until a few stops later when some kids from my old school got on the train. His eyes narrowed to the teacher’s glare, observing intently. Yep, it was him. Still a teacher at heart.
(*Actually he might have been senior co-ordinator, in charge of years 11 and 12. Not sure. Something like that, anyway.)
I never had Griggers as a teacher myself, which is why I didn’t say hello (besides, the novel I was reading was at a critical juncture). But his presence brought back memories of my only memorable interaction with him, on the occasion of the last day of year 12. A small group of us had formed a SWAT team to perform a last day prank.
Our target was the school hall, during a school concert rehearsal for the juniors (years 9 and 10). The conspirators met up outside the main school building, armed with water pistols and two big packets of bean bag beans. We synchronised watches, and then team A moved off around to the back of the school to gain access to the hall stage. I was in team B, and we took a route along the top floor corridor towards the hall balcony.
We were waiting in a vacant classroom until the allotted time when we heard a roar of the juniors in the hall. Team A had attacked early. Damn their lack of precision, jeopardising the whole operation. We sprinted down the corridor and ran into the hall balcony to perform our mission: a few squirts of the pistol, and a bag of beans dumped over the teacher there, the unfortunate Mr Rush, as amiable a teacher as you’d ever encounter. He didn’t see us coming because he was watching with amazement the sight down on stage of the music teacher also getting covered in beans.
Then we ran, back along our pre-planned escape route. Along the top floor corridor, out the northern entrance of the school, and down the cliff-face steps out to Alexandra Avenue. Down the road and across the bridge spanning the nearby river, and there we waited at the agreed post-operation rendezvous. What next? Stay clear for a few hours? Maybe jump on a 77 tram to the city?
While we pondered, we saw the sight of the (rather more rotund in those days, as I recall) Griggers striding across the bridge. Damn. Rumbled.
He’d spotted us, and followed. We surrendered and went back to school to face the music. One of the other co-ordinators was ranting about the prank, but Griggers simply set us to work cleaning up the mess with a vaccuum-cleaner and a broom and some rubbish bags. It took ages. The beans kept moving about — they’re very difficult to sweep up.
We heard a rumour later that Griggers thought it was a pretty good prank. No real harm done, and amusing enough to those who witnessed it.
When everything was tidied up, he dismissed us. No other punishment, no letter home to parents. Didn’t even confiscate the water guns. We celebrated by drawing military-badge-style “HALLBUSTERS” logos in texta on the shoulders of our shirts, and at the end of the day we departed school for the last time, heading for the pub.