Taking the Hard Road-Y

Young Love Amidst the Hate

Annie was in her third year at Roma High School.  She was tolerated but not popular.  Some considered her snobbish, others didn’t think of her at all as she sat quietly in the classrooms, saying little and concentrating even less.  Those who lived at the hostel thought her stuck-up for leaving to board privately.  The town students dismissed her as from “somewhere else” and thus below their interest level.

One person who adored her was George Caradi.  It began the day his school bag was thrown over the balcony by one of the Roma boys.  Teasing George was a favourite occupation as he was different.  Not only was he Greek – his parents owned the milk bar, but he was a swot.  He continually topped the class in almost every subject. He hated anything to do with sport but  Science, Maths, History and English were his great loves. Now Annie was included on the list.

Annie was below the balcony when it happened.  The flying school bag almost hit her on the head.  She picked it up and refused to give it to the excited, panting boys.  George came rushing down the stairs and only then would she hand it over.

“There doesn’t seem to be any damage.  Those Globites can take some pretty rough handling,” she said as she gave it to him.

He turned to walk home and she kept in step with him. “Maybe if we walk together they’ll leave you alone.  They’re just a bunch of country hicks.  Wouldn’t know what day it was, half the time.”

George waited at the school gate each afternoon for Annie and looked forward to their chats.  They found if they walked along the river it added an extra fifteen minutes to the journey so favoured that route more often than not.

George was full of the future.  His parents wanted him to be a doctor so he was studying hard for his Junior Certificate and hoping to get a scholarship to a private school to complete his Senior.

“What do you want to do, Annie?” he asked.  “Maybe you could be a nurse and work in my hospital!”

“Oh no, think of emptying all those bedpans!” Annie was horrified.  “I suppose I’ll be a dressmaker like my mother.  She has a dream that one day we will own a Frock Shop together.  We’ll have a big back room where we sew the clothes and a special room for measuring ladies when they come and a shop front with dresses on mannequins in the window.”

George looked put out at this.  “I think you should do Commercial Studies, you know, shorthand, typing and bookkeeping.  You could become a secretary or maybe even an accountant.  Then you could run my doctor’s surgery for me.”

In a small town rumours spread quickly and viciously.  George’s parents soon demanded he come straight home from school to study.  Mrs Moss began a program of educating Annie for her future life of domesticity.

“It’s all very well to get an education but no use at all if you can’t run a house.”

Annie found work waiting for her each afternoon when she arrived home from school.  Overflowing baskets of ironing required folding and pressing, the silver collection needed cleaning, the furniture needed dusting and polishing.  What made it worse was Mrs Moss insisting she take no longer than fifteen minutes to get home from school.

“My mother pays good money for my board,” Annie flashed, “and I see no reason why I should be your house cleaner.”

Relations with Mrs Moss became strained so that when Mother arrived shortly before the end of term she felt relief that finally someone would be on her side.  She was sent out for a walk while the adults discussed her behaviour.  Mother also went up to the school to talk to the headmaster about her future.  By now Annie felt she didn’t care what happened.  She just wanted to leave with Mother and never come back to Roma again, even if it meant saying goodbye to George.

Mother sat down on the armchair in Annie’s bedroom and looked at Annie accusingly.

“What has been going on with this Greek boy?  You are only just  15 and yet all I hear about is that you are boy mad.”

Annie blanched at the sting of her words.

“He’s my friend.  That’s all.  We walk home from school together and fight off the enemy.  The other boys here are country bumpkins.”

“I also hear that you refuse to do what Mrs Moss requires.  She says she is trying to train you to be a good housekeeper but you are lazy and uncooperative.”

Annie remained silent.  She decided that to defend herself was beneath her dignity.

“The report from school is not good either.  All the teachers say you daydream, lack concentration in class and don’t apply yourself.”

Again silence.

“What do you want to do Annie?  I know it’s been hard for you but I only want what is best for you.”

“I want to leave Roma.  I hate this place.  I hate the school, I hate Mrs Moss.  I just want to go back to Charleville and be with you.”

“Very well,” Mother picked up her gloves. “We’ll go and make the necessary arrangements now.  And while we’re on the train we’ll talk about your future”.

9 thoughts on “Taking the Hard Road-Y

    1. Greek milk bars opened in just about every country town in the 1930s. They were modelled on American soda bars. A swot is someone who studies a lot and was used in a derogatory way by those who didn’t.

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    1. Australian Language was very much influenced by English expressions, possibly more so than USA. Apparently “swot” came from the Scottish “sweat“. English literature was very popular in Australia at that time and also influenced the language. Saying that, “swot” is an archaic term only recently revived by Boris Johnson.

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