Mr. Roberts

Mr Roberts was our Sunday School teacher, kind and gentle.

One Sunday, us Year 6 and 7 boys from the Gladstone Methodist Church trooped out to the demountable behind the church, and were confronted by the largest huntsman you've ever seen. It was sitting on the blackboard and uncomfortably close for anyone planning to enter the room. We stood in a bunch in the doorway. Eddie McEvoy said, "I'll fix it, Mr. Roberts!" He hurled a blackboard duster at the spider, missing it by exactly .5 of a millimetre. There was a communal squawk as it fell off and skittered across the room. This was followed by a shocked, gesticulating silence on the part of us boys.

Mr Roberts looked back at us. "What?"

A couple of us managed to gasp out, "It went up your trousers!"

He made a disbelieving noise but then concluded from our horrified faces that nobody was kidding. He was a very tall man, and had what seemed to be Ian Thorpe sized feet, but managed to whip off his trousers over his shoes almost instantly.

Let me be clear: This was 1967. We were farmer's sons. If we saw our father in underwear, it was blue Y-fronts.  Mr Roberts had the longest snow-white legs any of us had ever seen, and they were covered with dense black hair.  But most momentous of all that was revealed, were a pair of mid-calf long-johns.

A ruckus of disbelief mixed with fascination began to erupt in the room, and it exploded in shrieks of laughter and terror as the spider popped out the end of one trouser leg as Mr Roberts was peering into it. He dropped his trousers... again.

The room next door was ruled by Mrs Pierce, known for a strict Methodism which refused even to eat port-wine flavoured jelly, and strong opinions about almost everything. She had the Year Six and Seven girls. Her voice, querulous and terrifying, silenced the lot of us. "What's going on in there?" We could hear footsteps.

Mr Roberts' face turned whiter than his legs. "Don't let her in," he begged. And out of fear of consequence, not any care for him, a couple of us threw themselves against the door to block her entry. Someone managed to convince her that all was under control, and Mr Roberts was able to restore his trousers, if not his dignity.

In all this, the spider made its escape. And after we had escaped Sunday School, each little boy told his parents on the way home.

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