Choose any high school at random, and the staff will be a mixed bunch. Choose a Catholic high school, and there's much more room for weirdness and general insanity. After all, anyone actually wanting to teach at a Catholic school must be a bit screwed up to start with. St Francis Xavier's was no exception. A few of the staff were reasonable, rational human beings. More were petty autocrats, revelling in their power over the students. The majority however were so weird as to defy description.
This chapter will cover a few of the stranger teachers, their habitats, their behaviour, and what we did to them in retaliation for the tortures they inflicted upon us.
As King of the Geeks, I had major problems with physical activities. Unfortunately at St Francis's you got two sessions of exercise each week in some kind of attempt at keeping the student body fit. One of these, called "Sports" involved the entire year in pointless physical exertion. The other was "PE" or Physical Education, which only required the participation of twenty or so. In fact your PE class was exactly the same as your "RE" or Religious Education class. Whether the staff saw some kind of link between religious propaganda and physical fitness I don't know. Perhaps it was just because of the acronyms. In years 11 and 12 Sport was done away with to make more room for spoon feeding of the knowledge required for the tertiary enterance exams.
The sports facilities at St Francis's were a bit limited, so there was never enough equipment to go around. This was particularly the case during "Sports" when around a hundred participants had to be supplied. Inevitably part of the group would be forced into doing "Running", which was jogging round and round the oval until you dropped. Of course the staff would never run, they'd just stand in the middle with a whistle and stopwatch, screaming at anyone who was lagging behind. When they were really out of ideas the entire class would be bused down to the river (a distance of about three kilometres), and made to run back to the school (uphill). To discourage laggers, waggers, smokers and solvent abusers the staff would tear around the suburban streets in the bus at breakneck speed, yelling incomprehensibly through a loudhailer at any students they passed.
In the winter soccer was quite popular, mainly because it gave the Athletics a chance to roll around in the mud then compare the sizes of their genitalia in the communal showers. We Geeks played anti-soccer, the object of which was to stay as far away from the ball as possible while still staying on the field. It took a fair bit of skill, because you had to look like you were trying to take part in the game. If you didn't, the Staff would yell at you, and the Athletics would threaten to beat you up. Mind you the Athletics would threaten to beat you up if you got anywhere near the ball anyway. You also had to avoid falling over, otherwise you'd have to join them in the shower block.
There were four full time sports teachers at St Francis's. They lived in a small hole knocked into the side of the gym (judging by the architecture, with sledgehammers). There was some kind of storeroom behind this where the Candyman liked to take his girlfriends for "recreation", but I was never fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to get a look inside. Other members of staff would be roped in to help with sports as needed, particularly during the "Sports" sessions where the entire year had to be controlled, but the four definitely held the reins of power. They were Mr Donaldson, Mr Galley, Miss Di Franco, and The Candyman.
Mr Donaldson was the most senior sports teacher, and head of the Physical Education department. He was a typical Athletic, big and muscley with the mental acuity of an anteater. He stood about six foot tall with a bushy moustache that looked like something had died on his upper lip, and was never seen without a sports whistle dangling from a shoelace tied around his neck. His florrid face, bald head, and ridiculously deep voice suggested he was suffering from a serious testosterone surplus. When he yelled, you could hear it from one end of the school to the other, and he tended to yell a lot.
In summer he wore obscenly tight running shorts, which displayed his hideous legs much more than was neccesary. In winter he wore happy pants, even after happy pants went out of style. In a bizzare peice of synchronicity he looked exactly like the illustration of the sports teacher in a satirical field guide to humans in the school library. The book was eventually removed from circulation when the page became unreadable due to various comments like FUCK YOU DONALDSON! scribbled all over it in black texta.
Donaldson couldn't talk without accompanying himself on the hands. Every word, sentence and sylable was punctuated with an associated gesture from the Neandertal sign language lexicon. Among the favorites were the smashing of the fist into the palm, and the famous "it was this big" gesture. You could judge Donaldson's mood by the size of the fish. A blue fin tuna meant he was feeling happy and magniminous, a sardine meant he'd brought a ticket for the train to hell, and was taking you with him.
In later years Donaldson would get all friendly and try to talk to the senior students as rational adults. This was doomed to failure. Half of the seniors were immature idiots. The other half were far more adult and rational than Donaldson would ever be. I don't have any more fascinating stories about Donaldson because I regarded him as a freakish genetic throwback and avoided him as much as possible.
Mr Galley was a short little gnome with a beer gut. He may have been an Athletic many years ago, but his muscles had wasted, his hair had gone grey and fallen out, and his belly had grown. His face was covered in shattered veins, and all in all he resembled an alcoholic hobbit. His chief role was to drive the school buses, which he did with questionable skill.
There were two buses at St Francis's. The larger and older of the two was a diesel burner built in the late 1950's, and had suffered years of abuse from the general public before being picked up cheap by the school. It then suffered years of abuse from the students. It's suspension was as dodgy as hell, and it was a favorite game of the rebel class to stand in the aisle, swinging from side to side in an attempt to tip it over. They never suceeded because the creaking and rocking this kind of thing produced was far too scary for even them. The body of the bus had rusted through in numerous locations, all patched with sheets of tin or plywood fastened over the hole with pop rivets and chewing gum. The floor readily absorbed spills.
An attempt at giving the vehicle some aura of respectability was made by painting it off white with a racing stripe down the side in school colours. This worked for distances over 20 metres. Any closer than that and the criminaly delipidated nature of the vehicle became apparent.
The other bus utilised by the school was much more modern (circa 1982), about half the size, and was colloqualy known as the Moonmobile. I think this was because it looked like the space shuttle when compared to the old bus. Either that or it's larger windows gave much more oportunity for flashing your arse at passers by.
Both buses were kept in the busbay at the rear of the school, next to the back oval until 1991 when a new busbay was constructed behind the gym. This destroyed a large patch of scrub occupied at the time by the Geek Underclass. Needless to say we weren't very happy.
Exactly how Mr Galley maintained a bus driver's liscence was beyond everyone. Not a week would go by without an incident of some kind. Breakdowns, skids, near misses, that kind of thing. I was privilaged to be on the old bus when Mr Galley actually did crash it, running it into the rear of a small red hatchback at a set of traffic lights. As if this wasn't embarrasing enough he had to exchange details with the other driver in front of a bus full of cheering, clapping and hooting students, most of whom were hanging out the windows and yelling "ONYA GALLEY!'.
As a memorial to Mr Galley's driving ability the Geek Underclass composed a rap based on the central portion of the KLF's Justified and Ancient which was in the charts at the time.
He's uncertified, He's ancient
He's ancient and uncertified
Rockin' all around in Mr Galley's bus
He's got the map and the keys
But he don't know where to go to
Which means a lot of waiting round for us
He's on his way to Beebeezak
Who knows where the hell that is?
Looking at the time
It's allready 3:09
Get down on the floor and kneel
Wishing you'll get out with your life
Mr Galley is apparently still at St Francis's, and still drives the buses. May God have mercy on all who travel with him.
Miss Di Franco was the only female sports teacher. She was tall, thin and had a quite wacky sense of humour. Nonetheless she didn't like me much. I was in her P.E. class for a year, and by the end of it she'd given up trying to get me to take part in any effective way, just hissing and scowling whenever I passed by. My younger brother and his friends got on fine with her though.
On one memorable occasion my P.E. class was being forced to play Volleyball in the gym. To do this you cordened off one end of the basketball court, set up a badminton net, and dug out the school's single, aging volleyball. A few minutes work with a bicycle pump usualy got it to a state where it was usable, at least for ten minutes, and play began.
One of the defining characteristics of the Geek is a morbid fear of flying sports equipment. Javalins, shotputs, discii and their associated airborn ilk. Balls however are the worse. From the skull cracking hardness of the baseball, to the rubberised terror of the basketball, flying (or rather plumeting) round objects are among the worst nightmares of the Geek. So naturaly when I detected the leather sphere of plumeting death known as the volleyball heading my way, my every instict was to let out a small yelp, cover my head with my arms, and run for the hills. Which I did. Repeatedly.
After a few such performances Miss Di Franco let out a snort of disgust and dragged me out into the gym foyer. She handed me a basketball, and instructed me to hit it against the wall, volleyball style until I got the hang of it. When I was willing to play the game properly, she informed me, I could come back into the gym and take part. Then she left.
Naturally I just sat down on the steps and entertained myself by theorising some philosophy while absently dribbling the basketball to produce some sports type noises. Miss Di Franco came back to check on me periodically, but after dragging me to my feet and setting me back to my sisyphean task a few times gave up, and let me do whatever the hell I wanted. As such she was one of the better sports teachers.
The final member of the sports staff was the Candyman. The Candyman was a sallow little creature, with dank black hair, sunken little pig eyes and weirdly shaped ears. General opinion was that he was at least part troll, and he was followed by constant rumours of pedaphilia, bestiality and even worse perversions. He looked as if he was suffering from the aftereffects of any number of unspeakable habits. If the rumours are to be believed he was dating one of my female classmates in 1993. Well not really dating her, just screwing her in the storage room at every opportunity. This was completely illegal to be sure, but a remarkable amount of that kind of thing seemed to go on at St Francis's anyway. Talk about a seamy underbelly.
The Candyman had no time whatsoever for anyone who wasn't interested in sports, which meant that he hated geeks, and persecuted us with a vengence. In retaliation we made up a little song about him...
Who can take a classroom, and turn it into hell?
Who can wreck your day and make the changerooms smell?
The Candyman can! The Candyman can 'cause he fills it full of crap
And makes PE no good
We wrote another song, and by pulling a few strings we got it sung out on a local radio station while the Candyman was away on holidays. We used the Candyman's real name, and I dread to think what would have happened if any of the staff had heard about it and traced it back to us. For those interested in such things, it was written for and may be sung to the tune of Advance Australia Fair.
Sports students all let us rejoice, for -----'s gone away
He's gone off to Malaysia where he can get a screw a day
For ----- is a peadophile, he looks down the girls shirts
And when he's given half a chance, his hand slips up their skirts
Beneath that sickly grinning smile there lurks a deviant mind,
For ----- likes to prey upon all teenaged girls he finds,
We're not sure if it's only with the girls that ----- toys,
We also think it's probable he's interested in boys,
He runs around in real tight shorts and think's he's really great,
Then ducks into the boy's changerooms and has a masturbate,
So if you see him lying there buck naked on the grass,
Don't turn around to run away, he'll get you up the arse,
(For the record the last line was actually broadcast as Don't turn around to run away, he'll get you up... something fairly preditable)
To the best of my knowledge the Candyman is still at St Fancis's. He still teaches sports in between molesting cattle and running a high stakes cock fighting syndicate*.
Good Lord, where do I start. Mrs Founder was not only the strangest teacher I have ever met, but also the strangest person. I would go as far to say that she was suffering from any number of well known and well defined mental disorders. How she managed to hold onto a teaching job, let alone a husband is a mystery up there with the Nazca lines and the disapearance of Ambrose Bierce.
Mrs Founder taught Food and Nutrition. This is what the school called cooking, they had a thing about long winded and pompus subject names. She was a withered up old crone, who quite possibly suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The first time I met her I realised right away that we'd have problems. She started the class by raving on about a staff meeting the day before, complaining bitterly that the slices of bread in the sandwiches weren't aligned properly. Apparently this made the sandwiches taste horrible. As a dedicated follower of the "Function over Style" school of philosophy, this seriously worried me. My fears soon turned out to be justified.
To take part in the Food and Nutrition class you had to wear an apron. This had to be taken home and washed on a weekly basis. The aprons also had to be a particular type, purchased from a particular store, presumably to conform with the school uniform. All of this was fair enough, but Mrs Founder used it as the base on which to build a truly remarkable obsession.
According to Mrs Founder, you could only bring your apron to school on the day of your class. You had to take it home again that night. Keeping it in your locker overnight, or even in your PAG room was completely out of the question. She would wander the school in between classes, looking for people with aprons. She had memorised her class lists, and knew who had Food and Nutrition on which day. If she saw you with an apron on a day when you didn't have a class, she'd pounce on you and write out a white card with all the zeal of a New York parking inspector.
If you forgot to bring your apron, you weren't allowed to participate in the class. Instead you had to sit on the floor in silence for the entire two periods. And what's more, it didn't matter if you'd managed to procure a replacement apron. This in fact made your crime against public decency worse. You had to wear your apron. Your apron, and no other apron would suffice. Attempting to fool Mrs Founder with someone else's apron would get you a white card.
Inevitably people forgot to bring their aprons, so there was quite a bit of swapping and borrowing going on behind the scenes. Exchanges had to be done quickly and discretely, otherwise Mrs Founder would find out. I think she had a spy network or something. She probably kept them loyal with all the food she confiscated.
If you'd forgotten your apron, and had no one to borrow one off, there was one last option available. Mrs Harrison the biology and science teacher couldn't stand Mrs Founder, and if you were on good terms with her she might lend you a biology apron for a couple of periods, then pretend it never happened. The aprons used in biology were the same as those used for Food and Nutrition, and a good supply of them could be found in the back of room 12, the main Biology lab.
Wearing a Biology apron in Food and Nutrition was the worst thing you could ever do. To the best of my knowledge the aprons were washed and sterilised on a weekly basis, but Mrs Founder would completly blow a gasket, and halt the entire class if she found out anyone was using one. Everyone would have to hand in their half cooked food, then sit on the floor in silence for the rest of the period. The offender would be issued with a white card, and be sent to see Mr Gardner immediately.
Mrs Founder and I never got on very well. My approach to cooking has always been fairly fuzzy. Throw in a handfull of this, a pinch of that, a few of those. I'd been messing around in the kitchen for years by the time I hit Food and Nutrition, and while my methods might be a bit slapdash, they worked. This wasn't good enough for Mrs Founder. As far as she was concerned it had to be two heaped cups exactly. Or three and a half tablespoons. Or 22.5 grams. She would regularly let out screeches of horror at the site of me "guestimating" amounts of flour or rice, then come over and yell for a few minutes before confiscating my food and making me sit on the floor in silence for the rest of the period.
The other members of my family also had their run ins with Mrs Founder. When my brother Scott did Food and Nutrition, his class had to grow their own mung bean sprouts for use in a recipe. These were cultivated in jars on the window sill, one jar to every four students. On the day of the harvest, a member of another group accidently took sprouts from Scott's jar. This caused a bit of confusion, but the two groups soon sorted out a compromise where Scott's group would take sprouts from the other group's jar to compensate. They were in the process of doing this when Mrs Founder noticed and demanded an explanation. On learning that the two groups had swapped a handfull of sprouts, she had a screaming fit, confiscated everyone's food, and made the entire class sit on the floor in silence for the rest of the period. The only rational explantion I can come up with was that she was doing a double-blind drug trial on the students via the sprouts, and the swap had messed up her statistics. Of course Mrs Founder never actually needed a rational explanation.
Even my mother had a run in with Mrs Founder. She had been press ganged to supervise the year 12 final exams in 1992, and one of the students had come down with a case of nervous hiccups. We have an old family cure for said condition involving a spoon, vinegar and sugar, so my mother dragged the student over to the Food and Nutrition block where she dug out the requisite materials and fixed him up. She sent him back to the exam room, and restored the kitchen to order, including cleaning up the few grains of spilled sugar.
Later on that week she ran into Mrs Founder and mentioned what she'd done. Mrs Founder glowered at her darkly and hissed "I KNEW someone had been in my room. My spoons were out of order!"
At the end of the Food and Nutrition course we had to sit an exam. This was all about weights and measurements, which are essentially mathematics. Naturally, being a Geek I blitzed it. This really confused Mrs Founder. At the Parent/Teacher night she tried to convince me to take Food and Nutrition as one of my options the next year. She couldn't understand how someone who got an A+ on the test could be such a "bad" cook. I picked up her subtext immediately, that I was to be a lab rat under intensive study. Naturally I refused.
There were many other strange teachers at St Francis's. Mr Cruell the Cromwellian Religious Education co-ordinator. Mr Feverson the macroencephalic art teacher. Ms Blanche the radical feminist. Mr Fische the pyromaniac. Alas however my patience is at an end, and they and their similarly maladjusted kin shall have to wait until I compose another chapter.
*In the interests of legal clarity I should state here that this is what is known in the writing business as a lie.