As a child, I used to look forward to about four things: Christmas, my birthday, the local Book Bus on Fridays, and any event which might grease the proverbial wheels for a decent lolly scramble.
Now. There have been many occasions which have seen me patiently explaining to Australian friends what a lolly scramble actually is, and the best way to sum it up is this: an adult or authoritative teenager with a good arm stands by a decent patch of grass (hopefully) and flings handfuls of wrapped lollies into the air, for children to “scramble” around, trying to attain said lollies.
In my vast experience, there were five recognisably different types of lolly scramble, as follows in order of ascending physical danger:
1. The subdued, school-sanctioned event lolly scramble – whereby if you had managed to procure yourself a couple of Minties already, you had to go and sit down, contentedly eating your well-earned lollies as you watched the slower and fatter kids scramble in the next round.
As an aside, it’s an interesting anthropologic experiment on childhood chubbiness here, because it’s quite the mystery as to how any discerning rotund kid will fare in the almighty lolly scramble. Will the child’s poor fitness levels and abundance of adipose tissue make them an slow and therefore easily beatable opponent on the field? Or will their insatiable love for lollies make them a formidable contestant, using their body weight to easily tackle the scrawny kids out of the path of the hailing lollies? This is definitely something to be pondered and observed at your next local lolly scramble.
2. The “Bring the family, lolly scrambles for the kids!” lolly scramble – this is a special scramble indeed.
This was usually a drawcard to get families to attend events such as daytime horse racing meetings. I have the fondest memories of Wingatui races always advertising on the radio, encouraging parents to make the races a family event, boasting about the abundance of free parking and “free lolly scrambles for the kids!” Now, these scrambles were always quite special because some guy (usually an unpaid friend or family member of someone on the Racing Board) would be standing on the back of a ute or some makeshift stage covered in straw, dressed almost exclusively as a clown or farmer. Boy, how those lollies would fly!!! When they brought out the ute for such an event, it was quite a spectacle. The ute would canter down the grass at a rate of (not many) knots, leaving a trail of lollies and triumphant (or disappointed) children in it’s wake. There’s nothing more exciting than a clown or farmer waving a supermarket bag full of wrapped lollies at you when you are a fat seven year old kid. This was well before the internet, you understand. The whole day in itself was great anyway, because all your parents wanted to do was get nice and pissed while they gambled – which meant that as long as they had a collect and a few shandies or cask wines in the first race or two, you could generally guarantee yourself a crisp ten dollar note. This was solely to be merrily spent on hot dogs, boy/girl specific “lucky dips” and those $2 shiny handheld windmill things that a tripper such as myself would pay a bunch of money for these days, given half a chance.
3. The Christmas lolly scramble. Held exclusively in the month of December, this was a most ethereal scramble because if you were a child, not only did you believe in lollies and the magic of a scramble, you also believed in Santa Claus.
Oh, how you would tremble at the prospect of Santa Claus and his elves leaving the North Pole a couple of weeks early to scatter lollies amongst a crowd of sugar fiends like some kind of goddamn twinkly Christmas bukkake. And let’s be honest; scrambles facilitated by schoolteachers, clowns or farmers just don’t feel right when you are a child rolling the proverbial adolescent crack pipe that is Christmas. The danger of a Christmas scramble would eclipse a Wingatui Races scramble by a nose, due to the desperation in the air coming from the children worrying whether they were going to get the $40 neon in-line skates from The Warehouse that year. Desperate people are statistically more likely to harm others.
4. The North Island lolly scramble. As can be seen in the below video, the children of the North Island are intensely smart velociraptors.
Note how only a few dimwits bother to go for the strewn lollies, whereas the rest adopt a pack mentality and move in on the lolly dealer, until they swarm him and drown him in child desperation like a heroin addict slitting his grandmother’s throat for her last Werther’s Original. Listen carefully as the good-natured chuckles of the “lolly man” are drowned out by angry quarrelling between some of the slower raptors as they furiously come to the conclusion that somebody else might have annexed more lollies than they did. It’s like “The Real Housewives of Scrambleville” up in there, I swear.
5. The elusive utopian lolly scramble. This is heralded as the most dangerous scramble, because if it were to actually happen in real life, it would confuse the scrambler mentally as to whether they have possibly died or transcended the fourth dimension.
If one were to actually come across a scramble of this calibre, there would likely be serious mental and emotional repercussions as they struggle to grip reality, followed by severe depression long after the lollies have been eaten and they realise that real life is never going to measure up to the beauty and serenity of the scramble they have just partaken in.
A proper late 80s/early 90s NZ lolly scramble was an excellent glimpse into a cultural and fashion time capsule. There was always an abundance of Adidas stirrup pants, garish polarfleeces, Alf and Garfield sweatshirts, homemade knitted jumpers and pinafores. Good techniques for successful scrambling involved the dynamic ability required for leaping from a standstill to a quick sprint, and the goalkeeper’s golden talent – the willingness to put your body on the line for the lolly. A seasoned scrambler won’t hesitate to sacrifice their fragile young body for the ultimate reward – they know that by throwing themselves on top of where they believe the good lollies (Milkshakes, not Minties or Mackintoshes) to be scattered, they are covering more ground (and therefore more landed lollies) than their feeble little talons could ever hope to sweep from a crouched position. It’s also important to avoid “Edward Grasserhands Syndrome” – whereby you believe you are snatching up a lolly or three but come away with nothing but a fistful of freshly plucked grass. That’s some disappointing and annoying shit. Moreover, a scrambler should be a gambler. It often pays off nicely if you stand further back from the crowd, so that you have less competition when the lollies are flung. A good scrambler knows that adults (especially drunk ones dressed as clowns or farmers at the races) don’t know their own throwing strength and will often throw past the throng of frothing children swarmed nearby.
Now that you are fully versed in the almighty lolly scramble, I expect to be shown the scrambles on international grounds. Go forth and scramble sweet children.
Love, Chelle xoxoxoxooxoxox
PS I know that I had decided to quit writing and all but I just really felt like writing again and I couldn’t just not discuss lolly scrambles, could I.