(A story from my school days, of long ago)
When my Year Five school year arrived, in horror I discovered that the dreaded Miss Lamrock was to be my teacher. The tales of her (mis)treatment of girls unlucky enough to be snared in her class, were known to all and I trembled at the thought of a year spent in a room with this harridan.
So much for the happy anticipation of finally having legitimate access to the Victorian Readers’ “Fifth Book”, with all its wonderful tales of Australian life. Despite the inclusion of some of the poetry from the Grade Five Reader, the stories of adventure were largely ignored by Miss Lamrock and we studied, instead, a tedious book, entitled “Lad, a Dog”. The story may have been quite a good one, but all I recall is the boring way in which we read snippets, (mostly aloud, in turn
- another reason to squirm). There would be questions on what had been read and then the book was put away until “next time”.
Certainly not my idea of how to read a book.
Miss Lamrock was a strict disciplinarian.
We were not allowed to utter so much as a squeak or move a muscle, without her directing us. Our times tables had to be known perfectly and we were tested on them regularly. Oral spelling bees were a feature and misspelling a word was tantamount to committing murder.
We were classified into groups, tactlessly (her cruelty coming to the fore) labelled “flowers” and “weeds”.
I was terrified of Miss Lamrock.
The classroom was part of a very old building; draughty, dusty and uncomfortable. There was no heating.
In the very cold winter months, we were instructed to bring along small rugs to place over our knees. As for our teacher, she kept a large hot water bottle under her breasts, resting on her abdomen and thighs as she sat behind her desk.
When safely out of ear-shot, we joked about the probability of Miss Lamrock being able to stand up and keep her hot water bottle securely in place, anchored by the weight of her pendulous breasts.
During that particularly cold winter of my Year Five, Mum bought me some warm grey woollen socks. They were actually boys’ socks - thick, ribbed and long, reaching to my knees and held up with home-made elastic “garters”.
I was fairly sure that they were not “regulation” school wear, but I couldn’t not wear them. They were socks on which my mother had spent precious shillings and had gone to great lengths to find.
As we lined up outside our classroom on that first new-sock morning, I shifted from one foot to another, anxious to get inside the classroom before the socks were noticed.
Suddenly, “Come out the front, Dianna,” Miss Lamrock ordered. My heart thumped with terror as I complied with the order.
“Everyone, look at Dianna’s socks.”
They all looked.
My head shrank further into my trembling shoulders.
I waited for the axe to fall.
But, “These are the sort of socks you should all be wearing.”
I could hardly believe my ears. She thought my socks were alright. Miss Lamrock went on to sing the praises of “such sensible, warm socks” and advised the girls to request their mothers to seek out similar ones for them.
Of course, they wouldn't and they didn’t.
My socks were already not the “in” socks preferred by most other girls and now that Miss Lamrock had placed her seal of approval on them, they had become even less desirable for every other girl in Grade Five.
In fact they may as well have had “idiot” in red embroidery up their sides.