We were having dinner at My Auntie Wendy's place on Saturday night (superbly roasted beef, fresh veges from her garden, gravy, vintage red wine and home-made pavlova topped with fresh cream, kiwi-fruit and strawberries, if you want to know) and somehow the story of how my little brother Dave made a break for freedom from the Murray Bridge Town Hall was mentioned.
In the 1970s, the standard child innoculations seemed to be regularly undertaken in huge numbers in the town halls. To this day, some of my fellow Generation Xers avoid going into such places in case those fearful memories of needles, inescapable queues and no free lollipops are relived again.
For someone as pathologically afraid of spiders as I am, having an injection was never been a big deal as a child or as an adult. I was a regular 'guinea pig' at the Adelaide University School of medicine and had all sorts of injections, catheters, up nose/down stomach pipes and leads in the name of tax-free beer money and in furthering health science discoveries. By 1989, after three years of volunteering for the cause of medical history, my veins became recalcitrant. More than once I had to flex both fists, jog up and down a flight or two of stairs and have my arms slapped with hot towels before my blood was prepared to exit for a worthy cause.
In fact, since being diagnosed with a pituitary prolactinoma (a non-cancerous, pesky little brain tumour that lives behind my eyeballs at the base of my brain) in 1995, I've had more than my share of jabs. I can tell you which arm is the best to use and what vein is not worth a cracker. I can even watch as the doctor or nurse plunges the needle into my skin and be fascinated watching the glorious, black-red elixir of life reluctantly and slowly seep into the tiny test tube.
Not so for young David Andrew in 1976. One second he was entering the slightly dusty-smelling wooden auditorium with Mum and me before clapping his anxious little brown eyes on Dr Haines emerging from behind a portable divider with an empty syringe in his hand. In the next second he was up the street, running towards the Flour Mills as fast as his skinny, stick-like legs and asthmatic pair of lungs would take him. Despite his physical frailties, he was nearly half way home before he was caught, pinioned down, injected, pinioned down again, comforted, bribed with all manner of jelly beans, free medical samples and coca cola yo-yos and taken home, screaming.
All of the above led to a story by Wendy, who recalled her younger sister Jill, pointing to the Norwood Town Hall in about 1950 or so and saying, "There's the prick house." I'm pretty sure that some of the pavlova I snorted is still in my nose somewhere.