There are two supermarkets, each about the same distance from my house. I didn’t consciously choose one of them to be my go-to grocery shop. It’s not that I’ll never set foot in the other shop. Whenever I have a craving for a ham and salad roll for lunch, it’s off to the other shop because I prefer the brand of cold cuts and lunch meats in their delicatessen. But I’ll leave only with the ham, and go to my grocery shop for the rest of the ham salad roll fixings; the lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, cucumber, and grated carrot. Whenever I stand in front of the deli counter trying to decide between the Black Forest, Maple Glazed, Boneless Smoked, or Smoked Virginia ham I think back to buying lunch at Williamstown Tech.
There was a process to buying lunch at school; and I’m sure the Victorian Education Department had the same process in all of it’s Technical schools. At the start of the second class period you’d tick off on a lunch bag what you wanted for lunch; a sandwich or a roll, a pie or pasty, or a sausage roll. The form’s lunch monitor took the lunch bags, and the form’s lunch tray to the canteen. The school canteen lunch ladies made the lunches and put them into their correct lunch bags. Ten minutes before the lunch bell the lunch monitor collected the form’s lunch tray with the filled lunch bags and brought it back to the classroom. I always struggled over what to buy for lunch; I’d stare down at my printed lunch bag and be wracked with indecision. My lunch bag was always the last lunch bag into the form’s lunch tray. The lunch monitor would start pacing the front of the classroom. He was eager to head off to the canteen; it meant more time out of the classroom hanging out with the other lunch monitors. I toiled over what to order every time mum gave me the rare privilege of buying lunch; a salad roll or sandwich, a pie or pasty, or a sausage roll. I always chose a salad roll; a bread roll filled with shredded lettuce, grated carrots, sliced beetroot and tomato, and cucumber.
The traditional Australian salad sandwich or roll never had slices of meat in it; and the Willy Tech canteen ladies adhered to that standard. I don’t know when, or why, I started to add a few slices of meat to my home made salad rolls.
A few days ago I had a craving for a ham and salad roll. As soon as I stepped into my grocery shop I headed for the delicatessen; I was half way down the aisle when I came face to face with an associate pushing a shopping trolley and holding what looked like a deadly next generation Buck Rogers ray gun. I didn’t even pretend to be shopping so I could surreptitiously spy; I stood in front of her and blatantly watched. She took an item from the shelf, aimed the ray gun at it’s barcode, and then put it in her shopping trolley; she pushed the trolley down the aisle a bit, and repeated the process. I followed her down several different aisles; she continued to take items from the shelves and point the ray gun at them. I approached the associate.
Supermarket Associate: Hello; and what brings you in to see us?
Me: Just getting some ham for a salad roll. I’m a bit of a sticky beak so I wondered what you were doing
Supermarket Associate: I’m shopping for a customer; it’s our online grocery service. You go online and add what you want to your cart. When you’ve finished shopping you just click on checkout
Me: Crikey; just like filling out my lunch order at Willy Tech and the lunch monitor taking it to the canteen ladies
Supermarket Associate: Ah right. Your shopping list is displayed on my hand held scanner screen
Me: Blimey!!!!! you’re a shopping monitor
Supermarket Associate: If that’s what you want to call it
Me: Great; Were you ever a milk monitor or an ink monitor?
Supermarket Associate: (Looking at me as if I’ve got a few roos loose in the top paddock) Enjoy your salad roll
Grades at the Victorian Education Department’s Technical schools were called Forms; there were about twenty students in a form. The first year students at a Technical school were in Form1; the first form in Form 1 was Form1A, the second form Form1B, and so on. A teacher was assigned as a mentor to each form, and they became that form’s Form Teacher. The Form Lunch Monitor was a highly sought after job. It helped your chances of the Form Teacher assigning you as the lunch monitor immensely if you you had been a Milk Monitor, a Blackboard Monitor, or an Ink Monitor in Primary School; previous experience as a monitor always impressed the Form Teacher. Some boys resorted to the most obsequious sucking up to the Form Teacher to be chosen for the position of Lunch Monitor.
Hoping to be Lunch Monitor: Good Afternoon Mr Baldwin. Sir, you may think that I’m not very good at English and Solid Geometry, and that’s because I think I was born to be a Lunch Monitor. I was the best ink monitor that North Williamstown State School ever had; the ink wells never ran dry. Thank you for considering me, Sir
It had to be grade three in Primary school when I started to use an ink pen instead of a pencil to do school work. The ink pens were a piece of wood with a metal sleeve on one end to hold a replaceable steel nib. We sat two to a desk, and at the top center of each desk was a small hole that held a shared ink well. We dipped the nib into the small ceramic ink well to load it up with ink; it held just enough blue ink to write about three words in cursive.
I think I was an Ink Monitor; or maybe it’s just wishful remembering. Each morning before Writing or Arithmetic the ink monitors filled the ink wells. A large glass bottle of blue ink was in a cupboard at the front of the room. Two glass tubes poked out of a cork stopper in the neck of the bottle; one bent at a right angle from the stopper, and the other sticking straight up. The ink wells were filled by angling the large ink bottle over the ink well so the curved glass tube was just above the small nib dipping hole. Skilled ink monitors controlled the flow of ink by putting their small index finger over the end of the long straight tube and slowly raising, or moving it, to vary the air pressure. And they filled the ink wells just to the top of the nib dipping opening; without leaving a hint of ink on the rim of the well, or on the wooden desk top. All skilled ink monitors when they were filling the last ink well would smear a little ink on the inside of their index finger to wear as a sign of ink greatness.
Two grades later pens that sucked up and stored ink appeared; we wrote more than three words in cursive script and solved arithmetic problems with three numbers without dipping our pens in the ink well. It was the passing of the ink monitor.
When I went to North Williamstown State School the Australian government provided every Primary schools student with a daily allowance of milk. We all had to drink our third of a pint of school milk from a small glass bottle before morning recess. The milkman delivered the small glass bottles in metal crates, and stacked them in the shelter sheds. The school year was divided into three terms, and the teacher of the fifth and sixth grades assigned two milk monitors for each grade for a term. I had the privilege, and honour to be chosen as a Milk Monitor. My job was to carry the class’s milk crate from the shelter shed to the classroom with the other monitor; and to then carry it back to the shelter shed with the empty milk bottles. Being a milk monitor was a coveted, prestigious job; you got out of class for fifteen minutes each morning, and if there was left over milk you got to drink it. But being a milk monitor in the summer months before and after the Christmas holidays was less than coveted. On those hot summer mornings the milk sat in the shelter sheds in ninety degree heat for over an hour. The metal crates were hot to the touch and always seemed heavier; maybe because the milk had thickened and the bottles were filled with floating biological blobs. The extra bottles of hot milk were hard to swap with classmates for favors, and no milk monitor was ever known to thirst for the summer’s left over milk.
To a youthful boy in Primary school it seemed as if the front of the classroom was covered with a blackboard; and it most likely was. The blackboard had areas reserved for permanent material; a cursive alphabet, counting numbers, multiplication tables, or the names of exotic animals, but the rest of the board was for the teachers daily chalk talk. Each day the teacher surrounded themselves in chalk dust as they filled their blackboard with new enlightenment’s for their class of young unripe minds. And because they wanted to start the next day with a clean blackboard; so became the blackboard monitor. The blackboard monitor’s job was to clean away the teacher’s wisdom with a duster before the end of the school day. Every couple of days the dusters were taken into the school yard to be cleaned of chalk dust; the monitor held it in one hand and smacked it with a ruler until it was free of chalk. Inventive blackboard monitors, at the risk of being caught, would bang the duster on a wall; leaving an anonymous, shapeless film of dusty chalk for other students to admire. And if other blackboard monitors were cleaning dusters there was nothing better than a full fledged duster fight; with dusters thrown at each other and flying through the air.
I think I should moderate a Monitor’s Blog. Retired monitors would share monitor tips and tricks, their stories, and our love of being a monitor; and as such, the blog would serve as an inspiration to aspiring Shopping Monitors, as well as a resource for new emerging monitor jobs. The first posting could be “I was a quintessential corridor monitor in Primary school”.