Living up Sidlaw Street, meant, to go anywhere, we had to ride the bus that on weekdays weaved its way up and around and back down the Strathmore hills. At the shops at the bottom we then caught one of the trams running back and forth from town. On weekends when the hill buses didn’t run we were stuck with ‘Shanks Pony’, Nana’s funny name for walking.
My sister who was now old enough to start school, was lucky, because she was young enough to go to the local Strathmore Park one, that only went up to Standard One. All of us kids older than that class had a long daily trek to, Miramar South School, down at the Miramar Junction. Because she wasn’t able to talk her words proper yet, my sister also went to special speech lessons.
Every morning, rain, hail or shine, we began our school journey, downhill, from the top of Sidlaw, which was the most difficult part because it was so steep. Our numbers kept swelling as we gathered up the kids pouring out of the new state houses mushrooming over the hillsides. During our long trudge, we always stopped at the red phone-box on a corner halfway down, to catch our breath and egg on the younger kids, always calling out ‘wait up yous’. We usually settled the bun-fight about who got to duck inside the phone-box and give the coin box buttons a rattle, hoping for forgotten pennies using, one potato, two potato. Sometimes we got lucky and found a penny, but usually it was, ‘nothing today.’
One especially frosty morning at our phone-box stop-over, we were all grossed out by a kid who broke off a slab of ice covering a big puddle and started licking it. While tossing up about, if we would catch germs or not, if we were game enough to copy him, we got distracted by a boy lucky enough to have a two wheeler bike who went whizzing past. All our green with envy eyes, locked on him, as he went full steam ahead around the horse-shoe bend. Suddenly the bike slid on the icy road, spun out of control and sent him airborne to crash-land in a heap in the gutter.
This spectacle dismissing out of our minds all thoughts of school for the time being. We perched along the edge of the gutter to get a good gawk. Neighbors in nearby houses emerged, looking to see what the big noise they had heard was about, and tried to help. Then we heard, the sound of the Ambulance’s wah-wah-wah siren getting louder and closer as it climbed up Sidlaw. We watched them load up to cart off to the hospital before coming to our senses. Running late, we had to put on a big spurt to reach the flat bit where the large green trees bordered Scot’s College. Us kids had named it, ‘Snots College’, because we thought the kids who went there, dressed in fancy uniforms, must be snotty rich kids.
Passing by Snots’, in a big hurry, some boys called out to us to come and talk. I saw the Greek boy, whose father owned the milk-bar where mum now worked. When he called out ‘Hi’, to me, I did a skite to the other kids that he was my boyfriend. I also noticed their school caretaker and his big scary, Alsation dog. Every day, when we passed by, they were both always standing outside together in the garden of his house, beside the school gate.
Picking up the pace again, it was a short fast run around the corner into Broadway, on our last lap now. Hurrying past the side by side row of little, look-a-like, rough-cast concrete houses, I thought that they reminded me of the thatched roofed cottages in flower filled gardens on Nana’s English calendar. It was just in the nick of time that we raced through the gates of the school. Collapsing in the hall where we hung coats and bags to catch our breaths before class. We were the centre of attenion with our exciting bit of news, the bike accident, at our morning tea break.
Retracing the homeward path after school, took our tired feet ages. After dawdling slowly along Broadway trailing our bags and clobber, we paused at the bottom of the hill for a rest near the Scott’s, caretaker in his garden. When he called out for us to, ‘come in for bickies and milk’, any delay to the uphill climb was welcome.
After introductions to the big Alsatian, we stood awkwardly around inside his sitting room while he handed out afternoon tea, before he sat down in his big armchair. Then he asked me to come and sit on his knee, I thought that was a bit weird, but not sure why, instead went and stood beside him. After a bit more talk, he then asked me to give him a kiss, with no-one in our family ever kissing this put the wind up me. Stuffing bickie in all at once, I squeaked out, ‘time to go kids’ and bolted for the door.
Suddenly energized, everyone got in a big squash trying to squeeze out his door all at once. Then scarpering flat out up the hill we collapsed, puffing and clasping our sides stabbing with the stitch on the grass at the red phone box. After rolling around on the grass with lungs desperately gasping for air, until we could breath again. We reckoned he was creepy and agreed to not ever go in his house again, another dumb thing to not tell mum.