End of School – 1968

This time it’s more a recollection than a poem. As a boy, I loved the onset of summer; as the days lengthened and the weather warmed, it felt like promise. My Primary School butted up against the local shops and for 5 cents you could get a massive piece of watermelon from the Greengrocer – Johnno, who was Italian, so was probably Giovanni. Anyway…….

 

In those days they were just called milk bars. You could get lollies, ice creams, ice blocks, milk shakes, potato chips and maybe sandwiches but not much else. They were stainless steel and laminex shrines. The “Holy of Holies” was behind the counter where the workers used strange tools to dip deep into the stainless refrigerator wells for bulk milk or ice cream, the heavy, thick lids thrown back a thousand times a day to yield their riches. It was child heaven.

I remember afternoons at our local, straight from school, staring through the glass counter at the array of lollies – some of which cost as little as one cent for five – and the little white paper bags which held the treasure. And I remember Sally.

With my back against a gum tree in our school playground, I watched her step out of the milk bar giving her full attention to the raspberry splice she had just bought. A splice was a wonder: creamy vanilla ice cream within a shell of raspberry or lemon/lime ice – all on a stick. The wrappers weren’t as high-tech then and required skill to be able to open one end and blow so that the wrapper filled, like a paper balloon and gently peeled away from the surface of the splice. I watched Sally as she tried twice, finally succeeding. It was all slow motion and a thing of beauty for an eleven year-old boy to see her flick her hair back and lift the splice to her lips. She bit and the ice crumbled into her mouth, revealing the ice cream centre.

I watched as her lips became redder and she licked melting ice cream from her fingers. At one point her eyes flicked up and she saw me and smiled. She quickly turned and danced away. So suddenly, it was over.

I don’t know if that’s when I fell for Sally but we became an “item” for a little while, even though we never kissed or even held hands. They were simpler times.

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