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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 11 (March 1, 1929)



But even we of thwarted ambition have our memories to support us in the twilight of our blighted lives. The Sunday-school bun-baiting banquets in which we were implicated, in the days before we cultivated a misplaced eye-brow on our upper lip and dabbled in matrimony, is an instance. Two hundred youthful misprints of humanity, fermenting like a tub of homebrew, each with the gastronomic potentialities of a diabetic hyena, had a mug lashed round his neck. There were tin mugs; enamel mugs; china mugs, branded indelibly with “For Harold”; purloined moustache cups; and discarded examples of the potter's art from the kitchen dresser—all swinging clashing and jingling like the impedimenta of a galloping pie cart.

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And the hats! We recollect the boy with the hunted look in his eye and the rabbit teeth who tempted Providence with a sailor thatch-cover bearing the device “H.M.S. Terrible.” on the band; how it took unto itself the wings of a dove and was claimed by the telegraph wires. We have painful memories of the pseudo sun-hat that mother constructed out of half a yard of bucram and an old sheet, but which proved to be without form and void, like an unbaked pie crust. We recollect the straw hats which took on the semblance of mangled dog biscuits at the end of the day. There were hats to burn, to bowl, to batter, and to use as nosebags at the feast.

“Headed by the Superintendent.”

“Headed by the Superintendent.”

It seemed but yesterday when we all formed up in double column and—headed by the superintendent in a long black coat, streamline whiskers, and a bun hat—set off on the long trek to the railway station—for there were no tram-cars to speak of in those days.

Ah!. The emotional uplift engendered by the spectacle of the two horse-expresses which rattled ahead of us, loaded with milk cans; suggestive looking hampers, and fruit cases; how we cheered them and how the inspiring sight imbued us with fresh vigour. How our spirits soared as we neared the railway station, and how they crashed when we heard a shrill blast from the engine. Despair! The train had gone without us. The ranks wavered, broke, and disintegrated into a wild charge which swept the superintendent's feet from under him and converted his hat into something resembling a mess of pottage. How the lady teachers screamed and tried to run, with their long skirts leg-roping them at every little leap. How, once aboard the train, we all stuck our heads out of the windows and made unfriendly noises at a rival picnic across the platform.

“The spectacle of the two horse-expresses.”

“The spectacle of the two horse-expresses.”

Oh, what a day!

The lemonade tub persists in our memory. We were not children—we were unfillable receptacles for liquid refreshment. We remember how the tub was placed under a tap. The suspicion still lurks that it was placed so with felonious intent. Sodden as we were, we noticed that the flavour of lemons became decreasingly distinctive as the day wore to a close.

Then the races! When the superintendent removed his long black coat and displayed a pair of braces of a passionate hue. Somehow the fact that he wore braces reduced him to zero in our estimation—made him one of the boys. I fear that we treated him accordingly until he was obliged to conceal the stigma of human frailty beneath his coat.

And the lollie scrambles! The clashing of mugs as we all got down to it, and the spectacle of devastation in the crockery department when we rose again—only handles swaying on their captive tapes, and a litter of fragments on the grass.

The girls! How we pelted them with bits of bun when we had become surfeited with that staple viand of Sunday-school riots.

The fights down in the scrub, and the boy with the large stiff collar who (to all intents and purposes), fell into the creek, and crawled out looking like a drowned chameleon with a limp ruffle.

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Last, the homecoming, when we wrestled on the floor of the carriage, swung back and forth on the luggage racks, threw the girls' bunches of clematis out of the windows, and finished the day with tooth-ache—and other aches unspecified.

Ah! Memory, Memory!