Bruno: A Gobby in the Lobby

Main picture: The statue of Bruno with his gobby ball was commissioned by the Std 5 class of 1970 and has pride of place in the lobby of Herbert Hurd Primary

This is an obscure memorial, a semi private one. It is a memorial to a dog that meant so much to so many children from Newton Park in the late 60’s and early 70’s. In the words of Theo Rjis, Bruno seemed to belong to nobody but belonged to every pupil in the school and Gary Williams who struggled with schooling, “He was my school Prozac.”

Wow. Actually, bow-wow, not that Bruno said anything. He was the strong silent type as Staffies are wont to be.

This is the story of Bruno, a brindle Staffie, who was memorialized by the Std 5’s of 1970 and still lies guarding his gobby in the lobby of Herbert Hurd Primary School – my school.

The statue of Bruno with his gobby ball was commissioned by the Std 5 class of 1970 and has pride of place in the lobby of Herbert Hurd Primary
Bruno didn’t know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as he was only in primary school, and even if he did, they were all taken care of. By night he lived with the Roberts, his part-time owners, on the corner of Hudson Street and 5th Avenue and by day he lived at our school. If his owners didn’t feed him interesting stuff, then there were more than 500 kids clamoring to see to his needs. If the Roberts weren’t loving enough there was always Mr Presley, the school caretaker who pampered him, not mention those 500 kids. And as for sex, well the Roberts had taken care of that for him.

Bruno’s only need, nay addiction, that he struggled with throughout his life was the need to chase a gobby ball. If it did sometimes happen that he was ball-less when Mr Presley, the caretaker, had run out old cricket balls or the kids were being stingy, then a half brick would suffice. I was also told that when he was caught short during school holidays, he would become a shoplifter. He would tootle over to Hill’s Chemist on the corner of 3rd Ave and Cape Road and steal a used tennis ball out of the basket where they were loosely kept – needs must and all that.

I suppose that there are many other stories, but I personally know of two:
It was around 1968 and Bruno was by now solidly in his middle age. One day, a white bull terrier – the kind with the bullet nose and who say nothing but just take your name down – appeared on the grounds during break. HKGK. Before we knew it, the two were having a rort . They went for each other as only dogs of those breeds can do, with Australian subtitles since they were on mute as these breeds are wont to be. It was a cage fight of the most vicious kind with us forming the cage. When someone eventually managed to part them, Bruno was beaten and slunk bloodily away. We were distraught.

This new dog became king of the school, but not for us. We missed our happy, friendly Bruno and this young pretender with pink eyes did not cut it for us. Unbeknownst to us Bruno was at home licking his wounds, thinking to himself, “I’ll be back.” A long week went by and then Bruno returned. They had a massive rort again with Afrikaans subtitles thrown into the mix this time. Bruno saw off the pretender and was never challenged again. Order in the Universe had been restored.

On another occasion we came out at first break to find Bruno furiously digging around the concrete base of a post or pole that had long since disappeared. This was on the Willet Street side, about half way down the rugby field. That day we forwent our ritual games of Cops and Robbers as we munched our wax paper wrapped peanut butter sammies while curiously watching him. It was like a rort and we boys formed a rowdy circle around Bruno and his protagonist – The Rock. We shouted encouragement and advice but he didn’t need any, he knew what he was doing. Bruno, with his stiff little tail wagging enthusiastically in the air as he scrambled with his forepaws, was trying to dig around the side of this lump of concrete. Eventually the bell went and we trudged bemused back to the classroom wondering what second break would bring. Second break came and we eagerly rushed outside to see what progress had been made. There was Bruno proudly standing next to his lump of concrete which was about half his size and which was now out of the hole. His nose was all bloodied from nudging at the lump but his smile was bigger than ever.

Plaque on statue to Bruno

The plaque says it all:

A friend who gave so much pleasure to so many for so long while visiting this school.

[1] We used the word rort to describe a fight.  Why, I don’t know but there is a dated Australian usage that means a wild party.  Seems reasonably apt to me. 

[2] “I’ll be back” are the immortal words spoken by the robot played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1984 science fiction film, The Terminator.

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