I teach a Year 7 creative writing class and occasionally I write while my students are writing. I was using Andy Griffiths' Swinging on a clothesline and the word 'parka' in one of his pieces sparked my memory.
Parkas were in fashion in 1969. Eventually, I got one, probably after lots of pleading. We bought it one Saturday morning at Victoria Market. This was the only place to get a bargain, or so it seemed, back then. There wasn’t the plethora of markets and shopping precincts that we have now. This was before Highpoint, before the late Moonee Ponds Market, now a sleek overpriced shopping complex. This was way back. Shops closed at 5.30 on Friday nights and at noon on Saturdays. Absolutely no trading on Sunday; a day of rest, church for lots of families, followed by Sunday roasts. So Saturday morning was a bum’s rush of driving from Avondale Heights to North Melbourne through Kensington - no freeway back then - Spanish donuts, sacks of potatoes and spruikers of vegetables. And my mum worked full-time , so this shopping time was precious. It would have been an extra effort to fit in a shop for a parka for her middle daughter, but somehow she managed it.
The thigh length parka was navy blue with criss-cross quilting. It had a zip detachable hood with a white fur edging, side slit pockets and long sleeves. I loved it. It was winter so I wore it to school. I was in Form 2 at high school. An outer overcoat was forbidden over our grey gym tunics, grey jumpers and blazers but nonetheless I was wearing it one recess in the B Block corridor by the grey metal lockers. We were hanging around inside at the end of B Block where the Form 2 girls’ lockers were, outside the needlework room and opposite the laundry where I had my violin lessons. (No dedicated music rooms back then.)
Somehow the girls and I got into some stupidity that involved me tucking the sleeves of my parka inside, making a straight jacket of sorts, and putting the jacket back on and getting back into my jacket with my arms pressed to my sides. One girl then zipped me up to my neck. Still in the mood of hysterics, giggling and teasing, they decided to put me in a coat locker. How small I must have been.
I had ceased enjoying the experience but was trying not to show it. I protested but I was still pushed into the grey metal hole. I was helpless in my straightjacket.
I was distressed, almost crying but trying to play along bravely as if I didn’t care; I felt, well, trapped and humiliated.
Friends were very important and one could be ousted from a group on less than a whim.
I begged to be released. And then the bell sounded. Still laughing, my friends grabbed books and headed to class. We were more afraid of authority in 1969. Lateness was forbidden.
The corridor had cleared a few minutes later, when our young and highly respected history teacher, freed me. She didn’t rebuke me. She didn’t need to. I was a combination of relieved and deeply embarrassed to appear such a fool in front of a teacher I held in such high regard.
I wonder if I would have been so embarrassed had I been a thirteen year old in 2010.