Almanac Life: Elizabeth South Primary, Grade 7, 1972.

 

 

 

If I had a better year than 1972, Mrs Swish will probably remind me of it. If there’s a better time than your final year of primary school, unencumbered by the world’s worries, let me know.

 

First up, I was a member of the starting nine for the Central Districts Baseball Club Little League (Under 13s) side having spent the pre-Christmas part of the season permanently warming the bench and annoying coach, scorer and teammate alike. We were coached by Clyde Williamson, who was also my teacher in the previous two years (Grades Five and Six) at Elizabeth South Primary School. We had our moments during those two years so I think that it was no coincidence that “Mr Willy” waited until he moved to Payneham Demonstration School before having to deal with me both in the classroom and on the diamond. I remember the thrill of lining up at leftfield on the Philip Highway side of Ridley Road Reserve, wearing the old old grey fifties style baseball uniform with the seventies style stirrup socks. Maybe my Most Improved 1971/72 trophy was deserved, maybe not, but it certainly made me proud (possibly too proud).

 

 

Eleven of the Australian XII v World XI, Adelaide 1972 (Source: Australian Cricket Yearbook 1972)

 

The hastily assembled Rest Of The World tour played its final “Test” at Adelaide Oval as the summer school holidays drew to a close. I’m not sure which day I went, so I don’t remember if I saw Tony Greig take 6/30 in Australia’s first innings, John Benaud’s 99 coming in at number four, Ian Chappell’s lone stand of 111 out of 201, Graham Pollock’s smashing 136 or Bishen Bedi and Intikhab Alam cleaning up the home side in tandem. But I went at least once, after a summer of playing park cricket most weekdays.

 

Holidays over and Grade 7, my final year of Primary School, saw me in Mr G’s class at Elizabeth South. He was a bearded, long haired, hippy-ish, slightly paunchy thirty-something, a template for my future High School teachers, but a contrast to his long-white shirt and black-tie-wearing slightly older colleagues at ESPS.

 

School at this stage was never a concern for me as it was all so easy. I never had to try very hard, which became a problem for the rest of my life as I never even knew how to try and allowed myself to be either the distractee or more often the distractor. When everyone else had learned to knuckle down when things got serious, I didn’t.

 

I finally made the school cricket team. With openers such as future Australian one-day player Glenn Bishop and the super-talented Bruce Ramsay, I was never required to bat or bowl. I surprised all comers (especially coach Mr Maurie Dow) by holding onto a hard flat flick to mid-wicket from Elizabeth East’s stylish left-hander Maurice O’Keeffe early in the season. I can still see that shiny red compo ball held firmly in my baby-sized hands. My fielding was enough to hold my spot on Friday afternoons and more importantly in the team photo.

 

I was now a walk-up start in the school baseball team, but I was well down the pecking order with state junior players such as Darren Roberts and Mick Gillen in the side, plus cameos from Bish and Bruce when cricket commitments allowed. Darren’s brother Leigh was coach, now that Mr Willy was off to that posh school filled with East Torrens players. If only I could find that team photo.

 

Mr G held a regular Friday morning lesson or two on Music Appreciation. Lacking older siblings or other close relatives, I only knew about what was played on 5AD or 5KA. Mr G introduced us to the likes of America’s ‘Horse With No Name’ or Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Motorcycle Song’. ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ got a regular airing too, but we never could work out what her name was. I know that his intentions were good, but nothing really grabbed me until later in the year when he gave Garry Glitter’s ‘Rock and Roll Part 1’ a run past our impressionable ears. Sad but true. Bowie would have to wait until 1973.

 

I was just as inattentive when he started regular readings from some crap called Lord Of The Rings and I mentally told him to shove his Bilbo up his Baggins. Couldn’t he read from Time Tunnel or Lost In Space or Batman or Randall And Hopkirk Deceased instead of this dribble? No-one would care about this Gollum stuff in thirty years, mark my words, I mused.

 

I was mortified when the same Mr Dow overlooked my sublime left foot opportunist talents when the footy team was picked. How could I not be in the best twenty? As it turned out, I was probably in the best twenty one because when Randy Deverson left Elizabeth South for the comforts of Dernancourt, I got to don the treasured blue jumper with gold collar and cuffs for the rest of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

This coincided with ESPS’s turn to represent Centrals in the Mini-League early in the SANFL season against whatever school Woodville assigned to the Round 4 fixture at Elizabeth Oval. We smashed the mob from Little Chicago, and I’m sure that my second half handball made all the difference.

 

Centrals supplied the umpires for our Friday arvo inter-school matches. One week Bulldogs’ leviathan Dean Farnham lobbed at our tiny Chivell Street oval to officiate. He was 6’ 9”, I was probably about 4’ ½” and I drew a hearty laugh from him before the game when I asked him whether he was going to throw the ball up at the centre or just drop it instead. He must have thought that this was pretty funny as a couple of weeks later, this story turned up in the Advertiser, although by the time it was published I was apparently a 4’ 6” ruckman. High on my bucket list is a trip to the State Library to track down the evidence of this story.

 

It was around this time that my smart-assery got me in big trouble but it should also have landed Mr G in the sort of substance that the Bolivar Treatment Works dealt with. Mr G made a spelling mistake on the blackboard and after I pointed this out I followed up with “I don’t know how you got a job as a teacher”. Mr G’s faced turned a shade of purple that I only previously seen on the vestments of Father Murphy (from St Mary Magdalene’s Elizabeth Grove). Then he began foaming at the mouth like a rabid (and tautological) Centrals supporter before collaring me and hurling me against the nature cabinet several times before ejecting me from the classroom. Cunningly, he didn’t send me to the Headmaster Mr Newell’s office, leaving the incident behind us both, never to be spoken of again (although in my case, I haven’t really let go).

 

Centrals were having a very good season in the SANFL and I kept up my home game streak whilst attending most away games on the Supporters Bus or staying at home and watching the Colts and Thirds, maybe doing the scoreboard and often with a 26oz bottle of Coke nearby. Weekends were bliss, unless I had to go crabbing with the family.

 

There were other people apart from myself in Class 7G, some of them female. We had at least one social but I remember this as yet another opportunity to rehearse for my future profession as a permanent wallflower at the Old Lion Disco in about a decade. I was so immature, teasing kids who didn’t deserve to be teased (especially by me) whilst crying inwardly at the first sign of something coming back at me. I vividly recall one recess time where my classmates managed to fit me headfirst into one of the heavy iron bins that dotted the school yard, forcing the lid on and sitting on top of the bin for what seemed like forever. Of course I deserved it.

 

We had a new kid join us mid-year. He was a Scottish kid named Alan Barnes, who had just moved into the area. We got along quite well and for some reason one of our recess time games (when we weren’t playing mixed gender Red Rover) involved pinching the knitted beanies from girls in our class in a primitive form of keepies-off. It was only in recent years that I confirmed that Alan and his sister Lisa were younger siblings of Jimmy Barnes. Alan and Lisa disappeared after a term or so and it was harrowing to read about bits of their childhood through Jimmy’s (sometimes exaggerated) books.

 

I was still going around with Central Juniors on a Saturday morning fresh from a flag-winning Under 11s season. As a bottom aged, bottom percentile player in Under 13s, appearances on the field were rare, kept to easybeat opponents such as St Augustine’s, Salisbury West and Westfields.

 

The 1972 Ashes was a brilliant time, most nights tucked under the blue chenille bedspread listening to the radio call.

 

For some reason, my family allowed us to have a billet from the Riverland footy team during the annual Country Schools Carnival held for a school week in August at the Railways Oval. Those kids could really play. My billet Ken Fielke (older brother of Grantley) from Taldra could really, really play and he made the SAPSASA state team. That rainy week was heaven on a sticky oval as about half a dozen of the ESPS kids got to make the trip to the big smoke each day, watching the footy and attending such dream destinations as City Bowl in Hindley Street and the Cox Foys Rooftop Funfair – during schooltime.

 

It was interesting to note the difference between country kids and us satellite city urchins. I recall Ken saying hello to each of the neighbours as we strode along Underdown Road on the way to the South Shops, people that I’d never spoken to so far in my six years there.

 

I teared up badly when it was time for the Riverland kids to go home. Ken wrote me a couple of letters when he was on state duty, but we never heard from each other again.

 

For some unknown reason, I was in the school choir. Each Friday morning, the versatile choirmaster Mr Dow took us through long-forgotten numbers, accompanied by pianist Mrs Mc, mother of classmate HKMc who was one of the school’s gun netballers and softballers. This was in preparation for a big concert where all the local school choirs performed as one. When I arrived at the Shedley Octagon Theatre on the big night, I was promptly sent home. I was supposed to be wearing black trousers and a white shirt, but the closest that we could muster was maroon cords and a yellow skivvy and I was banished. I don’t think that I was missed. I was about to turn twelve and who knows what my voice may have done in front of a full house, especially since I’d recently detected some curly hairs peeking out from the top of my Jockettes (which turned out to be washing machine lint anyway).

 

 

 

 

Back to Centrals, who finished fourth in the Minor Round. Unbelievably and also shamefully, the win in the First Semi-Final against Norwood was the only finals win by Centrals that I have witnessed first-hand, despite their nine flags during the 2000-2010 era (living in Melbourne since 1994 is no excuse Swish). We were home for all money at the final change in the Prelim, but Port, bloody Port, came again and gained a futile attempt to topple the eventual Champions of Australia in North Adelaide. All Centrals would have needed to do was put Beefy Andrews on Barrie Robran and a breakthrough flag would have been delivered to the Ponderosa. If only. (I’ve also stood with Mr Willy at every Centrals home game I’ve been to since the 80s, 2021 being the most recent).

 

ESPS lost the footy Grand Final to Elizabeth Vale in a low scoring affair at Mofflin Road, umpired by Bulldog Shane Burton. If only I had been able to get near the Ross Faulkner, I’m sure that I could have made a difference from the forward pocket. I vainly scour Facebook for that team photo.

 

Another life highlight was my selection as one of four CDBC junior players to attend a baseball camp at Mylor. Over three days the cream of SA’s junior baseballers, plus myself were given expert tuition by baseball luminaries such as Clackers Clark, Wally Marks and Noel Gully. The Munich Olympics were on at the time, so the off-field tragedies that unfolded there were a portent to the adult world that I would be duly entering.

 

The final of our three terms (as it was back then) saw the completion of the school cricket and baseball seasons. We lost the cricket Grand Final to Elizabeth Grove, who surprised us by claiming the prize scalps of Bishop and Ramsay early. I was padded up at number ten when Mark Venables (who lived next to HKMc – small world) was struck plumb in front first ball but was inexplicably given not out by Maurie Dow, who probably remembered my recent efforts in the nets. I reckon I was denied a quick-fire three but instead numbers seven and nine ground out a six run partnership over the remaining 2.7 overs. The Grove had no trouble passing our meagre total and my competitive cricket career was over and I never again held a Slazenger Polyarmour in anger.

 

There was a school softball comp played on Saturday mornings at Ridley Road and I somehow wangled the job of scoring for that team, which included many of my classmates. It became the starting point of about a decade of involvement with softball.

 

Baseball was a different story. As a now elder statesman of the Centrals Under 13s, we were under the tutelage of Russell Abbey as Mr Willy was now doing the Under 15s. Steve Conry and Ronnie Murphy went on to be pillars of the CDBC and Peter ‘Hamo’ Hamilton had a crack at baseball too. Parental support was very thin and it was not unusual for all nine of us, plus our scorer Sharon to be squeezed into the coach’s VW bug for away games. As the two smallest players, future Accountants drummer Andy Steel and I were often closely nestled at the bottom of the pile in the rear of the Volksy, just on top of the under the pump engine. I was now the team catcher and I reckon that I went alright too. I never had too much trouble hitting the ball, but plenty of trouble hitting it to where the fielders weren’t. I tried out for the State Under 13s as did Steve Conry, we didn’t make the final cut, but we lasted until the final week of trials. If only I’d been good enough. (I did make a state team of sorts in the early eighties, but since I was also a selector, my being the first ever catcher for a SA Men’s Softball side probably shouldn’t count).

 

ESPS won the district baseball Grand Final against Elizabeth Vale which sent us to the Chrysler Cup, where the best eight teams in the state played in a knockout comp in the West Parklands on Saturday mornings. The South was a very good baseball school and had won the CC a couple of years earlier. We won the first week comfortably and despite Leigh Roberts letting me play catcher in the second week, we made the final against Westbourne Park (whose Mini-League team is also shown above). Unfortunately we were forewarned too much about the abilities of our opponent’s pitcher, State junior Robin Hollis and were beaten before we started. We couldn’t get wood on leather and went down 7-0 (from memory). This game was such a big deal that the ABC sent down a camera crew and I was seen on the news that night deftly taking a throw from right field but failing to tag the runner in time. It’s astonishing to think that this was ABC-newsworthy on the same day that Gough Whitlam came to power. The following two years, I coached the ESPS team and we made the second round of the Chrysler Cup in 1974 thanks to jet pitcher Vacellie Mendrin. Yes, I was coaching my old school side at the age of twelve.

 

As the year wrapped up, we realised that there were many of us who wouldn’t see much of each other again. The more academic of us went on to the co-ed Elizabeth High, while those seeking a trade or equivalent went to either the Boys’ or Girls’ Techs and these forks in the road had a large bearing on our futures.

 

In my final report from Grade 7, Mr G wrote

 

Mark has a fine intellect and knows how to use it. He is often frustrated I am sure by being so far ahead. I hope secondary school will provide him with a satisfying challenge. He has matured socially but still needs to curb his feelings for slower or less capable children.

 

I’d sort myself out in High School, I thought.

 

If only.

 

More from Swish can be read Here.

 

 

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About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right

Comments

  1. Barry Nicholls says

    Good piece!
    Nice memories.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Wonderful piece Swish, even if the subtleties of life in Elizabeth are foreign to me. I was inspired to comment by seeing your reference to coaching the school side, aged 12. I understand that Ange Postecoglou was playing coach of his High School side in suburban Melbourne (was it Prahran), when he was a first former, including boys two or three years older than himself. I reckon that you could a been a contender – although I can’t identify the baseball equivalent of the Mighty Celtic (Redsox?).

  3. Superb Swish I admit I’m jealous that you have so many memories of your primary school years I’d struggle to write 1 article let alone how many you have done over the years !

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Barry.

    Thanks Peter. I was coach of my former primary school during my first two years of high school. Not quite in Ange’s league.

    Ta ‘Book. I need a good memory, but as I wrote it I realised that this one stitched together many other past threads.

  5. roger lowrey says

    Well played Swish.

    Two standouts for me. First, the Dean Farnham umpiring exchange puts a whole new slant on “dropping the ball”. Mind you, I can see why he thought it was funny enough to warrant a newspaper yarn.

    Secondly, Mr G’s reference to “Mark” rather than “Swish” prompted me to think of other famous people much better known by their subsequent monikers. Think here, Graeme Farmer, Ian Meldrum, Graeme Ronald Strachan, Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Darren Dawson et al.

    RDL

    RDL

  6. extraordinary memories Swish. You either haven’t taken enough recreational drugs or been concussed enough during your footy career! Great read cheers

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Ta RDL RDL. I wasn’t ‘Swish’ until Chocka Bloch labelled me thus in 1982 at AUFC, so no-one that I went to school with knows me as that. “Other” famous people – ha ha.

    Correct on both counts, thanks Ian. Although yesterday I left a saucepan full of apples stewing on the stove while I popped upstairs for just a minute. Do you know what I can use to remove baked on cinnamon sugar?

  8. Peter Crossing says

    Great memories McSwish.
    “I mentally told him to shove his Bilbo up his Baggins”. Brilliant.

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks PC – I think I may have also added “sideways”

  10. Wonderful read Swish. Agree with you about drawing threads together.

    Recently I had cause to look at photos of Brisbane and Adelaide from the mid-70s. Fascinating. Old cars. Not a lot of traffic. Distance between trees. Classic 60s architecture.

    I can so imagine ESPS. And those teachers. A where-are-they-now piece would be fascinating. And it was different experience for me: almost everyone from Oakey PS in 1974 went on the Oakey State High School in 1975. And were joined by the busloads from the surrounding tiny towns.

  11. Outstanding, Swish.
    More nuggets than a McDonald’s drive-through.
    Smart-assery(!)

    Memory is another mystery. Who can ever know for sure? Love this.

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks JTH – Not sure about the where-are-they-now, Some things are best left alone. Have a look at “Elizabeth That Was” on youtube, you’ll be enlightened.

    Ta E.r – I could be making this all up, but I’m probably not that imaginative.

  13. I was 17 in 1972 doing my Matriculation at Kadina Memorial High School. My only sporting memories of the year are breaking my arm in the first quarter and playing until half time (hard to separate ‘uncoordinated’ from ‘disabled’ for some of us). Played on Wallaroo’s gun CHF Gary Borlace and heeded our coach’s plea to ‘show some ticker’. Giving him an open hand face slap was the best ‘mongrel’ I could manage. He laughed contemptuously and kicked another 6.
    I think we both remember obscure details so clearly because there was nothing notable to distract us. Time to dust off the Tony Giles pic for what Ralph McTell called a “medley of my greatest hit”.
    I thought we were friends until I realised you were still indulging your feelings for the slower and less capable children. (How did you avoid the priestly calling?)

  14. Excellent stuff, Swishster

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Ta PB, I was a Sundays only a Mick until I was able to make up my own mind (which was the year before this memoir was set).

    Aw shucks Smokie.

  16. Mark Duffett says

    Don’t tell me you missed the recording session for this, Swish – would have been another team photo to track down! https://www.discogs.com/ru/release/15113663-Combined-Choirs-Of-Salisbury-Elizabeth-Choral-Festival-Salisbury-Elizabeth-Choral-Festival-August-19

    I don’t know if that venue was the Shedley, though – do you recognise it?

    I’m pretty sure either my mum or her sister owned the 1974 edition of this LP (and still do for all I know).

  17. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Oh wow Mark – that was it for sure, but I don’t remember all of those songs. It was Alan Farwell that gave me my marching orders. And well fact checked, it was indeed next door at the Octagon, not the Shedley. At least I got Maurie Dow’s name correct.

  18. Daryl Schramm says

    Gold Swish. I can just imagine you upside down in that steel rubbish bin.

  19. Just caught up with this Swish. Magnificent but the phrase I enjoyed most was one I’ve not heard for years- compo ball! Hugely evocative of my youth too.

    I’m sure we’ve spoken of Beefy being the original HJ franchisee in Whyalla, and that he was my wife’s principal for a stint. A charismatic chap, for sure.

    And it always amuses me that Philip Highway was the preferred nomenclature over Philip Road, Elizabeth. Those would’ve been fun planning meetings.

    Thanks. Like all great memoir it reminded me of much from my own life.

  20. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks DS, unfortunately so can I.

    Ta Mickey, if I recall correctly, the compo ball had two versions, the one made out of rubberised cork with a thin smear of red paint (these ones weren’t suited to concrete pitches). School matches used the type that had a compo core with a hardish plastic outer that tended to soften quickly. Both versions had manufactured “seams”.

    Beefy read this on the weekend and shot me through a recent picture of himself with Dean Farnham and Spider Everitt. You can’t make this up.

  21. Colin Ritchie says

    Cracking read Swish, it made me reflect on my primary school days which I enjoyed thoroughly. Ahhh, those were the days!

  22. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Col. Only seems like fifty years ago.

  23. Being placed in bins must have been a thing (as the young ones say these days) in the 1970s. Numerous tiny Grade 8s (including me) did bin time at Oakey SHS. Thankfully I avoided the ultimate trauma – being flushed by the 10B2s. Many weren’t so lucky.

  24. Ripper piece Swish.

    A lot of what you described from primary school in 1972 still held true in country SA in the late 70’s – early 80’s.
    Loved your description of Mr G – the Teachers College must have had a production line churning out these blokes as they were everywhere in my school years!
    Another big man from that Centrals team of 1971, John Spaans, was one of my high school teachers in the 80’s.

    A shout out to Peter B for whacking the bloke from Wallaroo! The wharfies were the roughest mob I ever came across in both footy and cricket. I can’t believe that people go to that joint on their summer holidays now.

  25. Mark ‘Swish’ Schwerdt says

    Not sure how we would’ve gone getting out of a wheelie-bin JTH.

    Thanks Greg. John Spaans (along with Beefy Andrews and Kevin Johns) played seniors for CDBC around this time too.

  26. Frank Taylor says

    Nice one Swish.
    A ripper.

  27. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Frank, glad you enjoyed it.

  28. Robert Laidlaw says

    Interesting and enjoyable read. Well done Mark. Cheers

  29. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Robert. And thanks in return for your regular baseball and softball roundups on FB.

  30. A very enjoyable read thanks Mark. I also love your descriptions, as other guys above have pointed out. I had to look up compo ball tho. Lol.. I came across this as I was browsing Facebook posts following Nellie Jarman’s funeral today (held at CDFC) and hearing a lot of familiar names from my early memories of CDFC players (not so much Elizabeth South – tho my dad had the butcher shop there until they demolished the old shopping centre) and SCC. I can totally relate to teacher descriptions as I was in Grade 6 in 1972. I never made state sides etc in my sporting ‘career’ in netball and basketball, but played into my 40s. Cheers ??

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