Title: Coal Flat

Author: Bill Pearson

Publication details: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Paul Millar

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Coal Flat



Sid Raynes kept a stationery and confectionery shop next to the post office. Rogers called in the following afternoon. He bought twenty Players which Sid produced from under the counter.

‘Sid,’ he said. ‘I wish you wouldn’t stock these comics.’

Sid was about thirty-five. He was just beginning to get fat. He had always worked in the shop which was his mother’s. Now she had retired and he can it, and knew he would inherit it when she died.

‘Why? What’s wrong with them?’ he said.

Rogers picked one from a pile. He opened at a page with strips of war scenes full of explosions. He pointed to a close-up view of a bayonet plunging into a man’s stomach.

‘Well, you wouldn’t call that healthy, would you?’

‘Arh, it’s only pictures.’

‘These pictures have an effect on kids. That’s how Nazi children were recruited, reared on war propaganda.’

‘Oh, garn. You political blokes read too much into everything. I’ve never took no interest in politics.’

‘Would you like your own kids to read this poison?’

‘They do already. Doesn’t do them no harm. I ought to know. I see them every day.’

‘Well, it’s having a bad effect on at least one boy in my class.’


‘I’m not mentioning names.’

‘Well, what d’ya expect me to do about it?’

‘You could stop selling them.’

‘You’ve got a blimmin’ cheek, haven’t you? Expect me to give up me own trade?’

‘You don’t want to trade on doing violence to children’s minds, do you?’

‘Oh, garn! Whatcha talking about? Kids like excitement. It doesn’t do them no harm. Look at the gangster films.’

page 109

‘Well, if I had my way I’d cut them out too.’

‘You’re just a bloody spoil-sport, that’s what you are. A bloody killjoy. Weren’t you a kid yourself once? I used to read comics and Deadwood Dicks myself. I bet you did too.’

‘The comics I read were different from these. They were like Sunday school picnics compared with this. Sunbeam and Tiger Tim and those. These are gruesome.’

‘You don’t know much about kids for a teacher. You oughta know kids ha’ got stronger stomachs than us. They lap it up. It doesn’t hurt them.’

‘Well, I know it does. It can’t help hurting them.’

‘Well, look, as far as I’m concerned, the argument’s closed. Ya want me to throw away one of my most profitable lines. I don’t come along to you and tell you not to do this and not to do that at your job….’

‘You’d be within your rights, if you had any complaint.’

‘Well, I don’t! You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. That’s the trouble with this world. Too many people minding everyone’s business except their own.’

Next time Rogers went for cigarettes Sid looked bland and said, ‘No Players. Only South African.’ Rogers didn’t buy any. He knew the hotel would have all he wanted.