(This is part of a yarn I am working on... and surprise, surprise, its a SHOE post.)
When I was a child – last century, before cordless telephones, vehicular air-conditioning, VCRs and the internet – I went to the toughest school in Central Queensland. Sandfly Flats.
In those days, we never wore shoes to school. At all.
Sure, our mother – and probably one or two of the other mothers of our classmates – ensured we were shod when we left the house at the beginning of the day. But when I first started at Sandfly Flats, not one student foot was impeded with footwear while actually at the school.
Did I mention we were the toughest school in Central Queensland?
We prided ourselves on how resilient our soles were. We would walk across midday bitumen during summer without flinching. We would run across patches of bindiis – you know, those really old patches that have several generations of dried prickles just waiting for the brush of a new host? – we would run across with complete disregard to any pain or suffering. We would skid on the cement basketball court and laugh at the chalk-marks our heels left behind.
THAT is the Sandfly Flats level of toughness.
Sports Day was always a big thing – then even more than now.
Sport was a socialising factor in our sparsley populated region. And as Sandfly Flats had the joy of being equidistant to two larger centres, it was afforded the opportunity to participate in twice as many Sports Days. Twice as much fun.
We truly lived in a magical place in a magical time.
On Sports Day, the rule was that shoes were to be worn - at least for the March Past. And that rule went even further to say that these shoes were to be sandshoes, and the sandshoes were to be White Dunlop Volleys. And that meant WHITE DUNLOP VOLLEYS - none of your new-fangled high-faluting fancy coloured stripes think-you-can-get-away-with-it-missy shoes either.
Before Sports Day, it was YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to clean them. This could mean anything from whitening them through to the full scrub and cycle of the washing machine - generally dependent on the time since the last Sports Day and whether it had rained. But to at least freshen up the whitening - this was the mandatory duty of every child.
The product that we were required to use was a jar of white liquid with a sponge on a stick rubber-banded to the side. (If anyone can give me the name of that product, you get bonus points this round)
As you painted it on to your White Dunlop Volleys, you had to ensure that you didn’t paint yourself. The stuff was impossible to remove without taking off some skin.
Once that was done, you had to pray like crazy that it wouldn’t rain and there would be enough time for it to dry before going to the Sports Day, as there is nothing worse than standing in the pre-dawn light in mid-Winter waiting for March Past to begin - with damp feet in soggy shoes and a parent lecturing you on planning and preparation.
Now, you have to note that rumour was a device with irrational logic in Sandfly Flats.
And rumour had it that none of the Wheeler boys ever had White Dunlop Volleys. Rumour has it that the Wheeler boys stood in line with painted feet to undertake the March Past.
I often wonder how this could be so, given that later in the day each of those boys undertook athletic feats in bare feet that had no line of demarcation - or indeed recent scrubbing - at all.