Jun 18
The Winner Takes It All
icon4 Jun 18th, 2008 | icon2 Memories |

I am not the luckiest of people when it comes to competitions. There are only a few competitions I have ever won, and even these have usually been disappointing in some way.

Do you remember when the Sunday paper’s cartoon section had a weekly colouring-in competition? I used to enter this regularly, sending in my carefully coloured picture. The following week I’d scour the list of winners, searching in vain for my name among the tiny print. And finally, one Sunday morning, after literally years of toil, I found myself in the list! But what would be my prize?

A week or so later I got home from school to find a large package waiting for me. I tore off the wrapping and inside was a large bucket of Lego-like building bricks. I was pretty excited, because I loved Lego, but this was a different, slightly dodgy-looking brand. I forget the name after so many years. It wasn’t Lego, and it wasn’t Duplo. Let’s call it Craplo.

I opened my new bucket of Craplo and poured the contents onto the loungeroom carpet. It looked promising, there were lots of different pieces, and some interesting bits such as hinges and wheels. But the quality was distinctly inferior to Lego. The pieces were made of softer plastic and didn’t lock together as tightly as they should.

My hard won bucket of Craplo was tossed into my wardrobe, only to be uncovered years later by my nephew, while undertaking an archaeological dig for ancient toys.

My next competition win came when I was in Year 5 at primary school. Unbeknownst to me, my mum had bought a ticket in my name in the school’s end-of-year Christmas raffle. I wasn’t even there when it was drawn, but mum got a phone call that I had won. And the first prize was a brand new bike!

It wasn’t until a week or so later that dad picked up my prize. I was incredibly excited. I didn’t have a bike and I was hoping for a shiny BMX like most of my mates had. When dad pulled my new bike out of the ute I was instantly disappointed. It was a red dragster, with a long black seat and high, curved handlebars. I don’t have a picture of it, but it looked similar to this:

This was not a shiny BMX. This was gay. All it was missing was a basket with flowers on it. Nevertheless, it was a bike and with a few modifications I was able to ride it around my suburb without getting called a homo. I beat the shit out of it for a couple of years until I inherited my brother’s racing bike in Year 7. (Of course, now my red dragster would probably be a collector’s item. Funny old world innit?)

Perhaps my greatest competition win came in Year 7. Once again my mum entered in my name without my knowledge (or consent!). This time it was with local Newcastle radio station 2KO. The competition was open only to school students, with the randomly drawn winner to receive a prize of video cassette recorder and television for their school. Let me repeat: the school received the prize!

Of course my name was drawn, with the announcement made one morning at school assembly. Luckily I was home sick that day, so I was spared the embarrassment of having my name read before the entire school. However, worse was to come. Word filtered down to me that I would be accepting the prize at an assembly the following day, in front of 800 of my so-called peers!

Needless to say, I was terrified. I’d only been at high school for a few months and now I had to stand on my hind legs and make a speech before the entire staff and student body. My knees buckled at the thought. That night I rehearsed a brief speech with mum, thanking 2KO for their wonderful gift blah blah blah.

The following morning I was shitting myself. Just before the assembly was due to start I met the dude from 2KO – he was the station’s big announcer at the time, I forget his name. He told me that I would also be receiving a prize (my heart leapt!) of … a transistor radio. Oh well, better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick, as my dad used to say.

The next few minutes are a blur. My name was called and I slithered meekly onto the rostrum. I was confronted by a sea of faces, mostly hostile. I’d never seen so many people. Now I know how Hendrix felt at Woodstock. I stumbled through my pathetic speech, shook hands with 2KO dude (probably the first time in my life I’d shaken hands with anybody), and accepted my little radio. As I was leaving the stage I looked down to see one of my classmates, Lynnette Lazarevski (yes, I name and shame), pissing herself laughing in the front row. At least my moment of agony was over.

Or was it? I was then told I had to go into the library with a photographer from the Newcastle Morning Herald and have my picture taken with the school’s newly acquired audiovisual bounty. The VCR was the size of a suitcase, and looked a little like a Mars Lander. This was 1982 after all.

Try setting up timer record on this fucker

I looked at the TV and saw it had a little silver plaque with my name. Fuck, that would come back to bite me I’m sure. So I was forced to sit there, pretending to be overjoyed, while the photographer snapped away. I guess they didn’t get the picture they were after because it never appeared in the paper. Photogeneity is not my strong suit.

So that’s about it. Three competition wins in as many decades. That is, up until a few months ago when I broke the drought by collecting $100 cash from the Gosford RSL club barrel draw. At last, a prize I actually wanted! And there was no embarrassment, no shame, no sniggering twelve-year-olds. Perhaps my luck is starting to turn at last.

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