The year is 1986, I'm 8 years old. Pre parents splitting, pre exams, pre crazy hormones, pre getting distracted by girls, pre spots, pre... just about anything complicated. Life was all cartoons, running, hiding, toys, climbing and general young boy tomfoolery.
My school, St Thomas', was run by Sister Mary. A tall efficient silver haired woman with dark eyebrows. She always wore her veil, a white collared dark blue dress tapered at the waist with a belt, white socks that went above her knees and sandals. It was obvious to us all how passionate she was about her role, by the volume of spittle that graced the front row of children at each mornings prayer. But today was different. As Sister Mary marched the line giving thanks to the day - the usual wave of discretely wiped faces following her wake - there seemed little cheer in her voice and the usually present, slightly foamed, smile that accompanied each pause between verses, look horribly forced. Something was bothering the Sister, and I wasn't the only kid that was getting anxious - a feeling that my youth had little dealings with - So put out was the Sister by her burdening thoughts, that before sitting down, stern lipped and rigid, she declared - 'Mr Edwards has a VERY important announcement to make'.
Mr Edwards is the only male representative in the school, and because of such, his words seemed to carried some weight. Smartly dressed in his tweed suit, Brylcreem hair and (of course) brown sandals, he took center stage. His dark, rodent like, eyes swept the room whilst a hand reached inside his jacket. He pulled out a small object and held it high, saying "Let me tell you the truth behind these, Garbage Pail Kid, stickers! It has been brought to my attention that some of you have been collecting these vile things with the view that they are amusing. I can tell you that these are no harmless collectables and that corruption is fueled by the sale of every packet! Did you know that these stickers are made by children your own age, forced into work with little to eat or drink? - wide eyed, as one we shake our heads - Forced to work 12 hours a day by a Colombian drug baron, as rats run around their bare feet! - no way! - Thats right, with every packet you buy, you are directly pushing children into labor to work in filthy sweat shops, whilst the drug baron makes enough money to grow even more drugs! - I wasn't catching everything he was saying, but it sure did sound bad, and I've never seen Mr Edwards look so mad before - These Garbage Pail Kid Stickers are far from harmless fun, they represent a world as sick and frightening as the images they portray! Now I want you to think very carefully about what I've told you, I do not want to see these stickers in this school ever again! Everybody, lets say a prayer for those poor children working in Columbia" We were shocked, some of the younger children near the front were crying. I couldn't believe it, they were just packets of funny cards with a stick of gum. With my head bent in prayer my mind was spinning, the gum never tasted right - then realisation sank in - the gum had drugs in it!
Credit is due to the school, at 8 I had no real concept of what drugs were, but I knew they were bad, and I felt terrible. Needless to say I went home and told my Mum I didn't want any more Garbage Pail Kids, and I threw away all the gum sticks I had been saving. I didn't see the point of throwing away the stickers though, the harm was already done right? And boy was I glad I didn't. As the weeks went by whispers started to filter down from the older kids, apparently the stickers on sale in England, where okay. This was because the children that made the bad stickers spoke Columbian, so as long as ours were written in English, it was fine. But if they were in any other language, you should definitely, 100%, not buy them. My newly discovered conscious relaxed, and for a short time more, I was able to enjoy carefree tomfoolery*
Before leaving St Thomas' for senior school, I was witness to another of Mr Edwards life lessons. In an attempt to control some of the more energetic kids he told them that, whilst jumping and running can be fun, "you should always be careful as you never know what could happen, in fact, you see that slight dip in the playing field? If too many people jump in that area, then the earth will crumble beneath you and you'll fall to the centre of the world and no one will ever find you'. By now - the ripe old age of 10 - I was fairly sure that this probably wasn't true, so whilst I didn't take care to avoid the dip in the playing field like some of the younger kids, I was certainly never seen jumping in it :)
I never did manage to collect all the stickers, but I recently managed to track down some low-res scans which I've collected together below. It was whilst looking through these that I remembered Mr Edwards. A memory that will always make me smile, and do not worry, I have already checked, all of these are in English (p.s if you want a higher res copy let me now)
*which to a large extent has never really left me