Cadets was compulsory in Form 3 and 4 at Monivae College.
I hated cadets.
The first ever Cadet Day in Form 3 was dreadful, I was in tears, for whatever reason going on in my young mind, I was dead-set against being a part of cadets.
I got to school, dreading it. I went to the public phone box on the school grounds, a phone in a small room and called Mum, crying on the phone, telling her that I really didn’t want to do this.
While Mum was trying to reassure me that everything would be OK, she did say she’d ring the school and speak with them and tell them I didn’t want to participate.
I returned to the class room and the guy in charge, Mr. Walsh came and saw me. He asked why I didn’t want to join in. He told me all my friends would be in the cadets and I’d be the odd one out. I thought what a cheap shot that was, I’m a teenager – I get peer pressure and I hate my class mates.
I was made to sit down and write an essay to explain my reasoning.
I don’t think I was able to properly articulate my reasons, the first and possibly only line on the page was “I’m against war”. That was it.
I still don’t really know why I didn’t want to be a part of it. Perhaps I saw it as too military for my liking.
In any case I succumbed, and joined. I probably had little choice. I seem to recall a sort of threat, from the principal, that it was part of the school curriculum and it wasn’t optional. Which to me meant if you want to be at Monivae, you have to be in cadets.
So I dressed up as expected, in my greens, and pretended to be a solider.
I had Scouts, and didn’t see the need for Cadets, which just seemed to be a scaled down version with none of the same systems. I really resented guys my age, or a couple of years older yelling at me. And that’s what it amounted too. It may have given leadership skills to those picked to be in positions of power, but the reality was that they weren’t really getting leadership skills, they were just feeding their desire to be the boss of me. They got to yell and be vindicated for their bullying behaviour, because this was pretend Army and that’s how it worked.
The other thing that I really hated was having to give up my lunch breaks to go and practice marching. Seriously, you want me to march up and down the basketball courts for what reason? Apart from trying to train me up in fancy synchronised wafting about what did you hope to achieve?
So, I’d wag Cadet days, pretend to be sick, lie to Mum, tell her it wasn’t on. Of course, I’d have to go sometimes and I hated it.
Every year we had the big Cadet Presentation Day when some big wig from the Army would arrive and we’d do this strange ceremony of passing over the colours. We would march out onto the oval (hence the reason for lunch time marching) and spend some hours standing there while some wanker walked up and down reviewing a bunch of boys in greens. Complete waste of my Sunday.
I wagged that too. Mr. Walsh told me that I needed a letter from my mum as to why I didn’t attend. I couldn’t get one, because I was too scared to ask Mum. It would reveal the lie I had told. So instead of having to front that lie, I told Mr. Walsh the truth – that I didn’t want to go, so I didn’t. He looked me up and down, probably because he couldn’t work out why I wasn’t scared of him, clearly he didn’t know my mother very well. He smiled, cocked his head on one side and through his good eye, make contact, smiled and told me “You’re strange, Storer”.
That was that, I received no punishment at all for it.