October AUE Column

In the old days, school canteens sold big cream buns spurting ruby-red jam and kids used to stuff long white bread rolls with Twisties or chips for lunch.

Mum made my lunch every night before school right up until I finished HSC.  But I did get 50cents every Friday to buy my lunch at the canteen and boy, did I knock myself out on those cream buns.

It’s not healthy, smart or PC for schools to sell junk food these days but some things, like heartbreak and wanting to fit in, never change.

I first got dumped in Year 8.

When did he do it?’ asked my best friend in Science Period 4.

‘Lunch time’, I said.

‘Spewin,’ she said.

I was an arty-surfie-type, although such nomenclatures weren’t always straightforward. Sometimes the mean, cool girls were just clever, unhappy girls in-hiding, and girls like me into drama and International Women’s Day were the ones binge drinking on weekends and fooling around with boys. There was dope too, but I preferred the Styvos I’d occasionally steal from Mum.

The second time I got dumped it broke my adolescent heart into so many miserable shards; I’m still trying to recover the pieces. He was a ‘skatie’, the asphalt equivalent of a ‘surfie’, and his 16-year-old insouciance was confusing.

Before social networking, texting, sexting, on-line porn and mandatory bike helmets, Livin’ in the 70s was just an outer suburb of Melbourne, not a hyper-connected global village like today.

When Elvis died and Gough was sacked, our mobiles didn’t tell us, we had to wait until we got home from school to hear about it.

We girls hitched up our uniforms and converted loose, grey school jumpers into tiny tight cardies. If we went out – I wasn’t allowed after dark but sometimes I escaped – we wore high-waist flares, cork-wedgies and halter necks. We wore op shop dresses and sandals called Treads.

School-life-conflict was dealt with in the girls ‘dunnies’, and where you hung out at recess or sat on the tram going home, signaled your place in the pecking order.

Adolescence was, and still is for the most part, sadly, a world of stark and unforgiving binaries: you’re in or out, hot or not, smart or struggling, sporty or nerdy, etc.


By Form 5 we knew that a third of us would leave school to get a job or go to the local tech and only the rich kids went to private schools. Today heaps of my leftie middle-aged mates are sending their kids to private schools and this touchy hypocrisy has replaced religion as the no-go-zone conversation subject at dinner parties.

Last weekend while wondering around a small regional Victorian town, I spotted a tray of those magnificent cream buns in the window of an old-fashioned kind of cake shop. I stopped and stared and salivated.

If there hadn’t been a Back in 5 mins sign on the door, I would have succumbed to politically incorrect nostalgia for sure.