We were the Number Ones in our primary schools in 1969, but some of us were Number Twos. I was.
I was the second child in the family. My elder sister, Margaret, had spent 1969 as a Grade Eight student at Sunnybank State high School, and every afternoon, she came home on the bus and was full of stories about schoolfriends, teachers, activities, lessons, sports events and all kinds of exciting news. I remember that she raved about her English teacher, Miss Hanson
Now, I was enjoying my final year at Park Ridge Primary (where, for the first time in my career I didn’t have a big sister supervising me and I could get into all kinds of mischief), but I was also looking forward to the glories of high school. Sunnybank sounded such a totally wonderful place, and the sooner I got my hands on a Bunsen burner and a double bunger, the better.
High school would mean more than just a change of school. At Park Ridge, I walked home with schoolmates, including my younger brother. Sometimes we would “trot” the two or three kilometres home in the fierce Queensland sun. Other times we would dawdle, play in creeks, climb embankments, fossick for returnable glass bottles on the roadside, fight with other kids and generally arrive home just in time for dinner. Sometimes I wonder how my mother survived parenthood with her faculties intact. But she did.
If it was raining, we might take the Greyhound bus at enormous expense, but like as not recent rain merely increased the playtime opportunities of the walk home. Happy days!
The primary school was reasonably local, but high school was a different matter. Sunnybank was the nearest high school, and that was half an hour’s drive away. Some of my classmates elected to go to Beaudesert High, an even longer distance in the other direction.
A contractor by the name of Danny drove the school bus for the education department, ferrying remote area kids into Sunnybank each morning, and returning us home about four o’clock. Along the way he collected students graduated from Calamvale Primary, Park Ridge’s bitter rivals in sports and government funding. They had more pupils, teachers, classrooms and resources, so victories against them in any field were rare for we kids from the back blocks.
They would, of course, now become comrades. Sunnybank seemed like the inner city to kids living on farms. The high school was huge, with over a thousand students, and most of the students would have come from the two local primary schools of Sunnybank and Runcorn. Whole class groups would transfer, more or less intact, from primary school to high, and what chance would we few country kids have against platoons of friends from birth?
It all seemed a bit scary, not to mention a whole new slew of teachers and buildings and ways of doing things.
But big sister Margaret was proof that it wasn’t that bad. She loved Sunnybank High. She would have seen it as a new opportunity. Always the schoolroom star, teachers loved her, praised her and loaded her down with new challenges and resources. She thrived at primary school, and then went on to excel at high school and university, where she gained a doctorate and became a lecturer.
In the mean time, my primary school days were over. My grey shorts and shirts were passed onto my younger brother, and I was taken into Sunnybank to buy a new school uniform. Grey shorts, same as before, but we wore a green shirt of a particularly unfortunate deep lime colour. The girls got dark green skirts and white tops and looked fresh and bright and fabulous, but we boys just collected sorrowful looks from outsiders.
Not that any of us cared. The big thing about the uniform was that it had lots of pockets to put things. Pens, hankies, a few coins, a sandwich, a packet of stamps for the album, last week’s folded up school newsletter, a cicada husk, bubble gum…
The six week summer holidays dragged past, with games of backyard cricket, weekends away down the coast to visit relatives, long games of Monopoly, forced labour in Mum’s vegetable patch, black and white daytime movies: Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers…
Eventually it all came to an end with the Australia Day public holiday at the end of January, and I went to bed that night, dreaming of a new chapter in my life.
Australian Top 40 for 1 January 1970
|1.||(2)||Suspicious Minds||Elvis Presley||7|
|2.||(1)||SOMETHING/COME TOGETHER||The Beatles||9|
|3.||(3)||Penny Arcade||Roy Orbison||11|
|4.||(4)||Picking Up Pebbles||Matt Flinders||13|
|5.||(5)||And When I Die||Blood Sweat & Tears||5|
|6.||(7)||Take A Letter, Maria||R.B. Greaves||5|
|7.||(10)||Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head||Johnny Farnham||4|
|8.||(6)||I’ll Never Fall In Love Again||Bobbie Gentry||10|
|9.||(11)||Tracy||The Cuff Links||7|
|10.||(12)||Try A Little Kindness||Glen Campbell||5|
|11.||(28)||Holly Holy||Neil Diamond||2|
|13.||(18)||Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son||Creedence Clearwater Revival||3|
|14.||(9)||The Star||Ross D. Wyllie||13|
|15.||(16)||Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday||Stevie Wonder||4|
|16.||(14)||Jesus Is A Soul Man||Lawrence Reynolds||6|
|17.||(21)||Hey, Western Union Man||Max Merritt & The Meteors||4|
|18.||(15)||Good Clean Fun/Mommy And Daddy||The Monkees||5|
|20.||(20)||Wedding Bell Blues||The Fifth Dimension||7|
|21.||(17)||He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother||The Hollies||6|
|22.||(22)||Sacha||Hank B. Marvin||6|
|23.||(31)||COLD TURKEY||Plastic Ono Band||2|
|24.||(19)||RUBEN JAMES||Kenny Rogers And The First Edition||8|
|26.||(34)||Oh Well||Fleetwood Mac||3|
|27.||(32)||SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN||Ray Stevens||3|
|28.||(23)||LITTLE WOMAN||Bobby Sherman||8|
|29.||(33)||SILVER THREADS AND GOLDEN NEEDLES||The Cowsills||3|
|30.||(36)||RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD||B. J. Thomas||2|
|31.||(38)||CARROLL COUNTY ACCIDENT||Bobby And Laurie||2|
|32.||(26)||SOUNDS OF GOODBYE||Kamahl||12|
|33.||(-)||YOU’RE EVERYTHING||Don Lane||1|
|34.||(25)||WITHOUT YOU/HAIR||Doug Parkinson In Focus||14|
|35.||(37)||You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling||Dionne Warwick||4|
|36.||(-)||KATY JANE||Ronnie Charles||1|
|37.||(24)||Sweet Caroline||Neil Diamond||15|
|38.||(-)||THE HUNTER||Pacific Gas And Electric||1|
|39.||(30)||SO GOOD TOGETHER||Andy Kim||5|
|40.||(-)||NOBODY’S CHILD||Karen Young||1|
I’m rarely going to post up the whole Top 40 each week. More like the Top 10. The Carroll County Accident never made it past number 28, so it will drop away in weeks to come, but it was the song running through my head when I took this picture. Not to mention Arkansas Grass – a double whammy blast into my middle age from out of my teens.
Bob Ferguson wrote this song, inspired by passing through Carroll County in Tennessee, according to the Wikipedia article. He also noted seeing another Carroll County in Mississippi. The sign above is on the Arkansas/Missouri line, so there must be a third one.
Carroll County’s pointed out as kind of square,
The biggest thing that happens is the county fair.
Kind of pentagonal, in the photo. In many ways the Carroll County of the song sounded very much like the Beaudesert Shire of my youth. Rural, conservative, insular. I guess, now that they’ve excised Logan City out of the territory, it still is.
I went to the Beaudesert Show one year. Very country and hokey compared to the Ekka, but it was interesting enough, as such things always are to a teenager. Dad was running some sort of Polaroid picture booth as a sideline to his normal job selling electrical appliances. You and your girlfriend stuck your head through holes in a painted scene and you were jolly sailors or bronzed beachgoers or whatever, smiling as Dad snapped you, and you left with the instant Polaroid picture to take home and show your wife how much fun you’d had at the county fair. There were Dagwood dogs and fairy floss and laughing clowns and displays of craft and the farmers with their prize goats: beards neatly trimmed, kids running around.
The wreck was on the highway, just inside the line…
And there I was, on a highway, just inside the state and county line, in a landscape that didn’t seem to have changed much since the Sixties. Or the Depression, or the Civil War, give or take a few satellite dishes. It was a backwoods kind of highway, a pleasant change from the interstates that look much the same all over the world. Here people’s driveways and front yards opened right onto the road, and you could pull over at a corner store or a Sonic diner, where they brought the coffee and fries right out to your car once you’d ordered from the microphone/speaker arrangement at every slot in the parking lot.
In some ways, it was a vast distance from Park Ridge, but in others, it was very close to home. Too close to home, maybe, and as I thought on the song with its accident, deaths and hinted adultery, I resolved to drive even more carefully, at least until we were out of Carroll County, and back on an anonymous interstate, where I could set the cruise control and never move the steering wheel on my genuine Yank tank for ten or twenty miles at a stretch.
A long way from home, a long way from that gawky, geeky teenager listening to a song on a transistor radio, but he’s still there inside somewhere. The songs are no longer new and exotic – they are the comfort music I put on the iPhone in this strange science fiction world I now live in.