I remember grade one. Clear as day.
My class room was the fancy one because we had a TV. A big heavy television with switches and a dial to turn it on and off. It was kept on a tall, heavy trolley with wheels and the teacher rolled it out on the rare occasions when it was needed.
I remember my grade one teacher. She gave out lollies for correct answers. Peach and green apple flavours, wrapped in clear plastic with the ends twisted tight. And she gave out stamps, perfect red smiley face stamps that bled into the tissue thin paper of our worksheets.
I remember the huge blackboards. Where the teacher would write her name in white chalk on the first day. Where they would draw amazing pictures and colour them in with the luxury coloured chalk. I remember raising my hand to answer questions and getting to go up the front to write the answer to 2 + 3 on the blackboard. I remember some blackboards were better than others. Some were fixed to the walls, some were free standing in big, heavy timber frames, some were on wheels and some spun around to magically reveal another side. Some were very black, the chalk from the big box (like the box in Shop 16) writing on them beautifully, all creamy and white. Others had a green tinge to them and the chalk didn’t stick. It scratched, making a horrid sound.
I remember on the second day of grade one my best friend and I caught the bus home with our older brothers. The bus fare was 20 cents. Then 40c, then 50c, then 70c. By the time I finished grade seven the fare home was $1.20.
I remember grade one every time I smell Clag glue. The smell of new books and the strong, distinctive smell of the purple ink from the hand cranked copy machine. Grade one still smells like those green apple lollies and it still tastes like brown bread Vegemite sandwiches.
Grade one feels like the rough little plastic chairs and the smoothness of the fake timber laminate desks which had a little groove across the top for your pencils. Watch out because when the black cover strip around the edge broke off, it was sharp! Grade one is cavernous bag racks and water bubblers low to the ground. It is hearing the foreign sound of the bell that would become the clock for the next 12 years.
Grade one is the hugeness of the playground and the soaring height of the witches hat. The hopscotch and murals painted on the concrete and the brick walls. I remember the smell of freshly cut grass on the oval, the dirt and playing house in the trees. It was finding a 1 cent coin and knowing that with it you could buy two choc buds from the tuckshop, wrapped up in greaseproof paper. It was lining up with 15 cents to buy a funny face or Burger Men, Bacon Crips and cream buns. It was Big Lunch and Little Lunch with frozen water bottles wrapped in washers held in place with elastic bands.
I remember the knife used to sharpen pencils and to carve out a space for our names on the ends of our HBs. I remember bandaids used as name labels and the sick room where they put Mercurochrome on your grazes and sprayed Sting Goes on your bites. Backpacks with reflector clips and clasps, hair ribbons, brown socks and sandals – worn with or without the brown socks.
Grade one was learning God Save the Queen and Advance Australia Fair. Grade one was when the principal was a huge, tall man who stood with his hands behind his back and rocked up onto his toes when he spoke to us at assembly. It was the library with Meg and Mog and the luxury of reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar whenever I wanted.
Grade one was learning to read and write.
I remember it as clear as day.