SOL2015 March 25 The Terrible Terrors -a memoir piece

Sometimes the tiniest reference can spark a strong memory. It comes rocketing back to the present on the most tenuous of connections. A conversation yesterday with some Grade 5/6 students about childhood memories lead me to this memoir piece today…

At the ripe old age of eleven I formed a gang. This was not a gang in the sense that we stole old ladies handbags, smoked cigarettes , or terrorized the neighbourhood writing graffiti on walls and fences. Oh no. This was a gang in the form of a secret society. We thought we were something like an undercover agency. We had secret oaths written in blood and initiation ceremonies, we held secret meetings held in what we considered a secret headquarters. We gave ourselves the name –terrible Terrors. Now, it all sounds rather exciting. However, the reality was a lot more ho hum.

Our secret headquarters was in fact an unused chicken pen in my parent’s backyard. The secret oaths we designed were actually written in red indelible pencil. Spilling blood would have been taking things a little too far,  and costs a fortune in bandaids, so we substituted pencil that looked as close to blood as we could find.

Our initiation ceremonies involved climbing on the roof of the old pen and promising to keep the Terrible Terrors a secret from the outside world. It was all derring-do stuff at that age. We met regularly and discussed matters of significance such as potential threats from perceived enemies. The only problem was there were no actual threats. Our small home town, Monbulk presented as a somewhat benign community when it came to dangers from other groups and organizations. Our fertile imaginations did not allow reality to get in the way however of what we saw as, clear and imminent dangers.

I wonder what Pastor Will Hocking would have thought of his children Gwyneth and Ronald being part of a gang?  Other members of our secret organization included Greg and David Murphy, who lived next door and my sister, Jeanette. Jeanette’s initiation to the gang went quite smoothly at first. She managed to climb onto the chicken shed roof with comparative ease. She uttered her vows to those assembled below, and we listened with a sense of occasion.

It was at this point the real fun began. Jeanette appeared to experience what we would now characterize as a panic attack. She suddenly began  a sobbing  noise which rapidly developed into a fully blown scream. She appeared to be doing her best impersonation of an early morning rooster. ‘I can’t get down!’  she crowed to the heavens. The rest of us ran about below trying to coax her down. We were like wasps in a bottle.  All attempts to get the screamer off the roof were resisted with wailing, both loud and alarming. Because the Methodist Parsonage was situated directly next to our house and the shed was right next to the adjoining fence, Jeanette was in both aural and visual range of the Hocking household.


Like a hero in a movie, Pastor Hocking came striding out the back door and across the backyard. As an adult, and a recognised figure of authority his appearance immediately provided succour to those of us floundering with the screaming girl stranded on the roof frightening the angels.  The man of god, coaxed the wailing girl from the chicken shed roof and some form of normality was briefly restored.

Not surprisingly, the Terrible Terrors faded out of existence in time. Like kids everywhere our attention turned elsewhere and we couldn't afford to risk any more screaming like we heard that day.


  1. Love this memory! Some things are just etched into your mind forever. What vivid descriptions: "We were like wasps in a bottle, frightening the angels" are only a few that were notable. I hope you shared this with those students.

  2. Love the details and the memory! The past time of some many - the neighborhood "gang". Makes me remember the small one we had as well. Thanks for sharing.


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