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.

Onya Griggers.

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9 thoughts on “A familiar face

  1. Obligatory touristy question, not relevant to anything. You know that white arch bridge that goes across the Yarra somewhere in/near Melbourne? Does it have a name?

  2. Some teachers do have a heart! It’s cool that he realised that it was a harmless prank and didn’t go ahead with any punishment or parent tattletelling.
    What a great tale. One for the grandkids.

  3. Oh THAT bridge. I don’t think it has a name, it’s just the pedestrian bridge from Flinders Street station to Southbank. The repository of all Melbourne geographic information (The Melway) doesn’t show a name for it. Next time I’m walking around down there I’ll look out for a name.

  4. Thanks, I appreciate that.
    But how can this bridge not have a name? I mean, this is a great looking piece of architecture! Only thing lacking about it is size! Otherwise, I think it would clearly rival if not surpass the coathanger.

  5. Great story Daniel. If you’re ever interested in reading a great book that reminisces about fun times in school, pick up a copy of Chris Daffey’s “A girl, a smock and a simple plan.” He tells his story of life in Grade 6 at Templestowe Heights Primary School, and his efforts to win over the heart of his beloved Jenny. I bought my copy at Border’s, butyou can probably also get it at Dymocks or Angus & Robertson too. It was the last book I’ve read that made me laugh out loud in public. Check out his website if you want to learn more: http://www.chrisdaffey.com

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