There was a way suburban life was supposed to be. It was displayed, nightly, on television, in advertisements and in family programs, in which the Americans lead the way in striving to set the example. Most popular, and maybe most honest, of the time was Leave It to Beaver, which at least possessed a little boy whose behaviour was less than perfect, although his parents, brother and neighbours were always impeccable. Beaver wasn’t even nearly badly behaved—most of the trivial problems he generated arose more from naivety and misunderstandings, rather than wickedness. Still he did cause the occasional furrow to occur on those handsome brows around him, and if by no means a blot on the streetscape, was at least a very slight smudge.
These sorts of programs I watched with a sense of awe. Although they portrayed life in suburbs not too different from that which I inhabited, there was nothing at all familiar about it. Nothing like the events depicted ever happened in my life, and the outcomes—usually a thoughtful explanation from a parent or authority figure—seemed silly compared to the well-deserved beatings I received from Horrie, teachers and peers on a generally daily basis. I could only conclude that America was a vastly superior civilisation indeed.
The suburb of Moorabbin was by no means as highly developed in those days as it has now become, and although there was a quite acceptable high school within accessible distance, there was no direct public transport available from my parent’s home to its vicinity. On the other hand, a rattling red bus did run at half-hour intervals along South Road from the bus-stop that could actually be seen across the paddocks from the living-room window to the very gate of Moorabbin Technical School.
Moorabbin Tech was an institution devoted to the manufacture of young men as apprentice tradesmen—carpenters, plumbers and the like—or, should a somewhat higher aptitude reveal itself in the pupil, entrance to an Institute of Technology. In that dizzy future there might be obtained qualifications in such things as graphic arts or draftsmanship, or else the paragon, diplomas in Engineering, Electronics, or the mechanical treatment of sewage.