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I Remember Kapunda High

I remember Eringa; majestic, homely, inspirational Eringa; our Eringa.

I remember English in the library and Geography in a bedroom and History in the maids’ chambers and Ag with Mr. Stephen Booth in a cellar.

I remember individual school photos in the foyer and given we were teenagers, everybody, absolutely everybody looked ghastly because we had inescapably horrific haircuts.

I remember the lone palm tree on the front lawn by the basketball court and thinking how glamorous and evocative it was of a tropical paradise.

I remember not getting out much as a kid.

Hello, I’m Michael Randall and I’m proud to have attended Kapunda High School from which I matriculated in 1983.

I remember there was no canteen and students dashed after the Masters’ bakery lunch van by the changerooms and before it screeched to a halt fought like crows on a carcass to grab the rear door handles and be first in line.

I remember then wondering what was the greater danger for these van chasers: getting run over, or devouring two pies with sauce, a coke, and a Kitchener bun?

I remember the Year 9 bushwalking camp which finished with two nights at the Pines but eating all of my scroggin before we left the school gates. Okay, just the chocolate. Thanks Mum.

I remember each term finishing with a social at the Parish Hall on Crase Street where we played spin the bottle, heard ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ way too often, did the Military Two-Step to ‘Eight Days a Week’ by the Beatles, and always, always had the last dance to ‘Hotel California.’ Indeed, as the Eagles said, you can check out of Kapunda High any time you like, but you can never leave.

I remember in Year 12 our infinitely lovely English teacher Mrs Mary Schultz chaperoning us through the novels of John Steinbeck and the poetry of GMH – no, not An Ode to a Clapped-Out Commodore – but the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manly Hopkins.

I remember an annual staff versus students footy match when in the middle of a pack a sharp yet widely noticed punch landed on a student’s jaw. Of course, the nameless umpire – who could have been a Ryan – yelled an ironic, ‘Play on!’ If a tribunal now met, the defendant might be allowed to lace up his boots in 2025, decades after his retirement from teaching.

I remember our Year 11 Careers trip and staying at the Goodwood Orphanage. At 4am one morning under Mr. Paul McCarthy’s watchful eye we went to the East End Markets to learn about zucchinis. After, it was time for breakfast. Being led through the front bar of the Producers Hotel towards the dining room we saw all sorts of supernatural faces who either hadn’t quite left the previous night or who’d caught the early bus in to make a start on their dawn Hock. But we’d gone on an official school excursion to the pub! Before sunrise! How great was this?

I remember innovations like vertical homegroups in which Years 8, 9, 10 and 11 were banded together as a happy family or depending on the students, like Yatala inmates.

I remember the PE teacher Mr. Geoff Schell leading the daily fitness revolution starring the Health Hustle which means if I now hear ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ or Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ I involuntarily slide on a pair of Adidas Mexico shorts and launch into some dreadfully uncoordinated star jumps. Of course, this is especially tricky if I’m driving.

I remember the compulsory wearing of a tie and needing to be careful with it in Tech Studies and over the stove in Home Ec. so you didn’t end up in hospital or worse: on the front page of both the Herald and the Leader, doubtless with your name misspelt in exotic and embarrassing ways.

I remember the Moreton Bay Figs by the oval which remain among my favourite trees.

I remember the yearly tradition of Charities Week when classes were suspended, and it was all about fun and fund-raising with go-carts on the tennis court and the Animal House-inspired Toga Tavern and emerging all dusty and dirty of face from the Ghost Tunnel which ran under Eringa and so, so many jars of guess the number of jellybeans.

I remember swimming carnivals and the awesome sight of our History teacher Mr. Michael Krips annihilating everybody in the staff and students race by doing a length of the pool in about six relaxed but massive strokes of freestyle.

I remember at the end of the day getting a ride to the primary school on Rexy Draper’s Hamilton bus to save me a longer walk home.

I remember the anticipation for school magazines and getting these signed during the last week of the year by classmates and teachers. Here’s an extract from the 1981 edition: Kapunda competed in Division 2 of the Interschool Swimming competition against Eudunda and Burra. Kapunda was not very successful at all. The Juniors and Seniors came third. We only had two first places for the night, Leanne Noack in butterfly and backstroke. On behalf of everyone here, thank you Leanne.

I remember a Freeling student baking a cake in Home Ec and being told by Mrs. Wendy Trinne that he’d forgotten to include an egg, so what did our pupil do? He flung down the oven door and just on top of the nearly done sponge cracked open one large bum nut.

I remember staff and students cricket matches, when batting at the Gundry’s Hill end, the occasion would finally arrive, and a certain teacher would flick it off middle stump, over the spotty fielders, over the boundary, over the school fence, over West Terrace, over the dusty footpath, over a neighbour’s front yard, and onto the roof of a white-washed cottage. Like a depth charge in a submarine movie. We all waited for it. He always delivered.

I remember PE classes doing archery on the oval.

I remember sitting in the Art Room and the roof rattling with arrows from a PE class doing archery on the oval.

I remember having a lunchtime disagreement on the croquet lawn with a Year 12 classmate when at the height of our quarrel, to her delight and my dismay, onto the slender shoulder of my grey Midford school shirt a passing bird dropped a warm, yoghurt-like blob.

I remember losing that argument to my dear friend Trisha Helbers.

But I remember my joy in April of last year when on that very same croquet lawn I married my wife Claire.

I remember being scared on my first day in Year 8 and in Year 12 being sad on my last.

I remember hearing a teacher interviewed on the radio years ago and the announcer saying thank you because you create lives.

And I remember thinking how very true this is for those of us fortunate enough to attend Kapunda High School.

Thank you.

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The Blanchetown pub: a pea and corn salad celebration

Weather permitting I take my workday lunch on a bench. It’s a chance for some fresh air and sunlight but is devoid of ceremony and any broader meaning. It’s entirely functional and that’s fine. Across the calendar other meals are invested with ritual and expectation.

Lunch at the pub on the October long weekend is one of those. It’s among my favourite occasions of the year. It’s about tradition and nostalgia with people who knew you when you were young and ridiculous.

Mozz and Kath had organised a small bus and driven it from Pinnaroo. Named the ‘Okey Chokey’ payment takes the form of whisky. Rattling into the pub carpark at noon there were already eight or ten vehicles, almost all large, lumbering 4WD.

The pub is the oldest in the Riverland (est. 1858) and is close and low of ceiling which gives it an intimate, historical atmosphere, completely unlike modern, suburban taverns that possess less charisma than a K Mart. Whitewashed walls add to this ambience. None of our party had been to the pub previously and this was a rare first.

Our table was on the expansive front deck and this was also hosting a 50th party. Just as our meals arrived so did the guest of honour and the cheers and her reaction made it clear that it was all a surprise. I hope they enjoyed their celebration.

Mozz and I each assembled a personal betting portfolio for the day courtesy of the in-pub TAB and I must report that both of these were wildly, spectacularly unsuccessful. But even this, given the afternoon’s deeper magic, was a triumph. A horse I’d selected is called ‘The Astrologist’ and it ran fourth. Surely, if it was any type of fortune-teller, it would’ve seen this coming and scratched itself that morning, saving both equine animal and sad human some heartache.

Claire had a local red from Burk Salter and as a cabernet merlot it was acceptable if not spectacular. The beers were cold and fresh and that’s as simple and complicated as they should really be.

Our meals were mixed with the boys having meat-lovers’ pizza that was pretty good and my beef schnitzel was excellent and although I was initially disappointed with the portion of chips a quick phone call to my heart surgeon confirmed that this was not, indeed, a bad thing.

We had spoken around the kitchen table the night before of the cultural and social significance of pea and corn salad. At country cricket clubs across the country Thursday night, post-training barbeques would witness an oversupply of these, lovingly organised and presented in blue ice-cream containers by multiple late-order batting bachelors.

Imagine our shared joy when my lunch arrived with this green and gold nourishment. It was a culinary highlight. I doubt a salad has ever been received with such communal delight. I’m pleased I gave peas (and corn) a chance.

Claire and I popped back into the dining room to chat again with Kapunda folk R. Lewis and P and A. Schultz about their weekend at the shack and the forthcoming Kapunda High School celebration of one hundred years of Sir Sidney Kidman’s bequeathing of ‘Eringa’ to the education department.

Then it was time for ‘Okey Chokey’ to be steered back home via the agricultural, frequently pot-holed route through Morgan. We had a balcony and a riverbank and an obligation to commence some serious relaxing.

Just as ritual and happy history demanded.