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Raised a Radical - The Englarts in Brisbane 1920-1939
- Vince Englart


I can't remember very much of school days and my relationships with brothers and sisters during those days so the best I can do is to relate my own experiences and to invite my siblings to join me to thrash out our collective memory.

The only matters that seem to stick in my mind from convent days was to sing a Xmas hymen "Hail Queen of Heaven" and I learnt to do very fine cursive writing, every page used to be headed by the date and in big letters "A.M.D.G." which (without disrespect to the religion) the kids used to say it meant "Aunt Mary's Dead Goat". (Cousin Molly said it meant "To the Honour and Glory of God,').

Anything of substance that I learnt at school seemed to happen in the last three years (Grades 5, 6 and 7). It is not to deny the worth of the earlier years in school since I mastered basic reading and number skills that I could build on in the last three years of school - it's just not possible to remember much of our childhood.

By the age of twelve I was masturbating almost nightly and, like -a good Catholic boy, I simultaneous worried like hell with priest's words at the holy confirmation ceremony ringing in my ears - not that I believed "it would fall off" - but just that it was bad, unhealthy, but like Portnoy (Portney's Complaint, by Phillip Roth a very funny read - it was banned in Queensland and I was fined for distributing it, despite knowledgeable experts from the English department from Queensland University who gave expert evidence for me) I was an incurable masturbator.

But associated with the advent of sexual arousal there is a flowering, in both boys and girls, of the creative imagination. I remember in grade seven I fell in with writing of very colourful prose overlayed with excessive adjectives. My teacher, Miss Linton, quite correctly marked my essays down indicating that good expression doesn't require excesses.

I did rather well with what was called Mathematics - it was mostly arithmetic, with a little algebra (mainly the use of formula) and little Euclid and mensuration. I became proud of my ability to not only extract a square root but also the cube root by arithmetic. (I think I can still do them - but why worry in the era of the calculator).

I used also to do good in ratio and proportion, with sums involving "clock problems" where you calculated when the hands will lie together, or at 90 degrees, or in a straight line. Many kids couldn't solve these problems whereas I used to enjoy them.

Miss Web used to conduct singing with the combined classes. Miss Web had a special talent and picked out some kid who had could sing in tune - I must say that I was never so honoured, the Englarts of that generation never were ~ but Miss Web could even inspire the most tone deaf to enjoy the appreciation of music. She taught with passion, and inspired passion, in both music and lyrics.

I still remember the lines of the Welsh "The Men of Harlech" ("Fierce the beacon light is blazing, with it's tongues of fire proclaiming") or the rousing opening of "La Marseillaise" ("Ye sons of France arise to glory, Hark! Hark! What myriads bid you rise") along with Waltzing Matilda and the Song of Australia.

I used to like hearing the school band which has simple instruments - harmonicas, triangles and side drums - and I was inspired to buy a mouth organ (three shillings, thirty cent) and a book "How to play the mouth organ in ten easy lessons" (one shilling or ten cents). I was instructed to blow and suck by numbers but I gave my music lessons up feeling hopeless in my musicality.

My moment of glory came when the headmaster, Mr Hendrickson, in my mind a progressive person, called a gathering of Six and Seven grades (twelve and thirteen year olds) to quiz their knowledge of science. His first question was "to complete the sentence 'Knowledge itself is ..... ". Mine was the only hand up. I replied, "Knowledge is Power" (from Francis Bacon, Of Heresies). Then headmaster asked about the difference between the geographic and magnetic poles. Again, my hand was the only one raised and again I answered correctly.

Then Mr Hendrickson asked a question that most Seven graders ought to have understood because it was in the compulsory Reader in the syllabus - "The Chemistry of the Candle" by Michael Faraday. The question was, "Where is the hottest point in a candle flame?". Again mine was the only hand raised and I earned the praise of Headmaster. My mother was proud when he told Mum that I was University material, but sadly told mum, "You will not be able to afford it", knowing our circumstances.

But I really didn't feel that smart - it was just that by the time the third question was asked the other kids kind of looked to me for the answer. Henceforth, I was nicknamed "Professor". Before that exhibition of my superior mind I was simply known as Big Enkie to distinguish me from Kevin who was Little Enkie (Enkie of course being a contraction for Englart).

I would play the usual boys games - Bedlam, Red Rover, marbles (both 'poison' and the big ring) and cards which you and mates would fling the cards against a wall and those who were closest to the wall takes all. Apart from a little cricket and football on the open fields at home I never took a serious interest in competitive sport.

During these years I loved read boy's adventure stories - my parents subscribed to Triumph, Champion, Boy's Own. Once Miss Linton caught me reading under the desk and sent me to Mr. Hendrickson who admonished me for reading "Deadwood Dicks". I think I got canned.

On entrance to the State school system my parents had finished with religion and insisted that our records should be marked Nil for religious instruction. When the various ministers of religion came to the school we were set to do some other study. The response to our denial of religion differed according to the prejudices of the teachers. Sister Betty came top in her class but was relegated to second place because she couldn't answer religious questions.

By the time I turned fourteen I was in another world most of the time. Unlike girls who might feel sexy they give no noticeable indication, boys unfortunately show by an erection. I was down the back of the class (naturally, with the smart ones) and perving on the very attractive girls in the class from my vantage point. Suddenly, Miss Linton called us to attention and her order was "Stand! From the rear! Quick March!". That meant that I had to lead the class out with my penis at full mast. At that moment I wished that I didn't have such elevated position. If I were a dunce I could have hidden behind the others.

In the 1930's parents put great hope in The Scholarship examination for the future of their children. The really bright ones, especially if the parents had means, did an academic course with an eye to University. Very few working class kids did academic. If you were lucky enough to win a scholarship and you were a girl you opted for Home Science or Commercial, or if a boy you did Industrial. The scholarship paid for your study for the next two years to the Junior exam. I sat for the scholarship in December, 1937, failed and went looking for work and started another phase of life.

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