Mr Fitzgerald was the head master at Upwey state school. An arrogant and pompous man, full of his own importance. Now if you deduce from the introduction that I did not like the man, your right and I must say he never liked me. It was a mutual dislike of each other from the very first meeting. My first close association with Fitzy was when, for some reason he took grades two, three and four for a combined nature class (Fitzy usually took grades five and six only). I was in grade three at the time, the nature study was of autumn and autumn leaves. We were all sitting outside on a bitumen strip beside the High school building. The class had just begun and Grace Manton (grade two) put her hand up, wanting to go to the toilet. It was evident to all, the way she was jumping around, that she should go. But Fitzy, a bit of a sadist too, would not let the poor girl go. About five minutes later a puddle appeared under Grace and ran about ten feet into the gutter. Fitzy made her stand up and humiliated that little girl in front of the whole class. There were titters and giggling from a few that fawned around the teachers but on the whole, I think most were not at all happy about it. I was embarrassed and felt really sorry for little Grace. After class, it was afternoon recess. I was glad to see a group of grade four girls put their arms around Grace and lead her away. So you can see why I was not all that keen on the man.
But his not liking me was mainly Reg's and moms fault. We must go back two years here, Reg was in grade five and after doing something wrong, Fitzy gave him the strap. But instead of across the hand as was usual, Fitzy strapped Reg right up his arm to the bicep, leaving a big red raised wound, and wound it was because the skin was broken in places. But ten out of ten for Reg, he did not cry until he got home. According to Tony, Reg ran home quickly, straight after school and showed mom. Only then he had a little sniff, while trying to tell mom what he did wrong.
'I donít care what you did wrong', mom said. 'No one does this to one of my boys.'
Then, according to Reg, she grabbed him by the arm and dragged him back to the school. Reg had never seen mom so upset before, she was red in the face and nearly crying with rage. She burst into the staff room. All the teachers were having a cup of tea while winding down after the day, either standing or sitting at the table. Fitzy was sitting facing the door, a biscuit in his mouth and a cup of tea in his hand. Then the Oliver tornado burst in. She pulled Reg forward, grabbed his arm and showed everyone there. Then leaning forward across the table, eye to eye with a now very nervous Fitzy, proceeded to tell him graphically what she would do with him and then, where she would put his strap if he ever ever did that to any of her boys again. Then she turned and left, still dragging Reg behind her. Iíll bet not much was said after that so I suppose they had a relaxing cupper after that.
So you can see that perhaps Fitzy wasnít all that keen to learn that I was another one of those pesky Oliverís, come to annoy him. But it was indelibly imprinted on his brain that he should be very careful when strapping Oliverís in future. I did get the strap a few times but I think Fitzy was only in second gear. I must say I did not mind that at all. Isnít there a saying, we salute those that go before us, good old Reg.
If Fitzy found any girls chewing gum, he would rub it into their hair. I havenít had gum in my hair but I think it would be very hard to get out. One morning very early, some uncouth lay about set off a humdinger of a rotten egg gas bomb in the girls toilet. What a smell, you couldnít get within one hundred yards of the place without a gas mask. Fitzy had some very harsh words with the high school head over it all (the state and high schools were side by side without even a fence between). Of course, this was high school technology here (Fitzy). So no state schoolboys were ever suspected. It was a big surprise to me when Alan told me it was one of his experiments with a little help from Brother Jim. The girls had to troop over to the high school dunny for the day. Next was a double, state and high girls dunnies together (Alan was a busy lad). This wasnít so good because boys and girls had to have alternate use of the boys dunny. An hour on an hour off so to speak.
With Guy Fawkes night coming up soon, every boy and girl had been saving as much money as possible for crackers, rockets, etc. Much talk and debate on the explosive powers of the different crackers was very important. Alan and I were talking of the merits of penny bungers (they were the biggest we could get). How they would go in a confined space? One thing led to another and Alan reckoned a trial run in the school incinerator would be a good test but because of the size of the incinerator (a 44-gallon drum with a piece of tin on top), it was important to get this right because this was big money we were dealing with here. We twisted the wicks of three bungers together, so they would go off simultaneously. A boy the same age as Alan and I, Johnny Roberts, emptied the rubbish bins into the incinerator on Wednesday and on Friday he lit it up. I must say that setting off the incinerator wasnít supposed to frighten Johnny Roberts. He would not be there when they went off, we thought. Johnny had the writing in his book of life smudged a little and was a bit unpredictable at times. On the big day, he had already lit up and was walking away. Then for some reason he suddenly turned around and lifted the lid. Boom! A big cloud of burning paper erupted from the top of the incinerator. Poor Johnny staggered back and sat down with the cloud of burning paper wafting down around him. It was spectacular to see but then Johnny hotfooted it to the staff room (sorry about that) upset and crying a bit. In comes Fitzy. 'Who did this terrible thing?' No one is admitting anything.
But then Jane Gray puts up her hand.
'Please sir, I saw Alan Manton and Robert Oliver playing in the incinerator at lunch time.'
So Fitzy gets the first opportunity in his softly softly policy of strapping an Oliver - me. Alan and I learned a big lesson, don't show anyone what you are doing, or thinking.
I heard a rumour that a couple of boys were going to put a box full of Grey Huntsmen spiders in Fitzyís desk. It was all planned, the only thing that stopped us, err, them, was the thought of all the spiders that probably would be killed. That would be a waste. Fitzy had three stories that he told over and over to illustrate some point he was making.
Number one was about personal hygiene.
Fitzy: A very good friend of mine slipped on the steps of the Post office and broke his ankle. He was taken to the Ferntree Gully hospital and stayed overnight.
I (Fitzy) went down to see him and on the way out the matron took me aside and told me (shock-horror) that he had holes in his socks but worse still he had dirty feet. All the boys in class were looking very uneasy at this stage and were shuffling around. All would have been pleased that there was no check on their socks or feet. But Fitzy goes on, so you can see that personal cleanliness is important at all times.
Fitzy again. I was having dinner last night and discovered we had a cracked plate. I immediately broke the plate and threw it in the rubbish bin. Now half a dozen hands go up, all girls, funny people girls.
'Please sir, we had a cracked plate at home and my mother broke it straight away.'
'Very good Jane, your mother knows that chips and cracks can harbour germs that make you very sick, or can kill you.' (I can see now that the Oliverís have only a very limited time on this earth, we have a very good collection of chipped or cracked crockery. There is no way my mother is going to break any of them).
Fitzy 'If someone sneezes, they are spreading millions of germs to anyone near or far. So instead of saying.
'Bless you', you should be saying curse you.'
I tried that one out at home once and got the quickest belt in the ear that I have ever had. So much for Fitzy.