Who stole the cookies? [The Mike Lamprill Incident]

At primary school, a boy whose real name I won’t reveal (I’ll call him Mike Lamprill) took our collective seven-year-old understanding of honesty to a new echelon during a game of Who Stole the Cookies From the Cookie Jar.

For those who don’t know the game, it goes something like this:

Kiddies sit in a circle and create a beat by clapping their hands then slapping their knees in unison – hands-knees, hands-knees, hands-knees, etc. The teacher then gets the game started in earnest by singing “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?” followed by “Li stole the cookies from the cookie jar.” This brings that child into the game, and their response to the accusation must be “Who me?” which is immediately followed by the whole group baying for blood: “Yes you!”, then back to the accused who pleads their innocence with “Couldn’t be!”, then back to the group of shockingly fickle accusers who, instead of broadening their line of enquiry just give up, and together ask “Then who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”, which gives the now-innocent child the chance to make their own evidence-free allegation: “DAVID stole the cookies from the cookie jar!” And so on and so forth.

If you’re still not sure what the hell I’m talking about, I highly recommend Wikipedia’s description, which includes a superlative use of the word “apocryphal”.

Who Stole the Cookies had a chequered history at my primary school. There were rumours that in the mid 1980s a girl who had indeed thieved baked goods just prior to a round of the game began to  hyperventilate during the song and collapsed when she was inevitably accused. A few years later, so the primary school lore said, a racist teacher had tried to casually introduce the words Who Shot the Coolie in the Coolie Bar into the game. In the early 1990s a young boy now sometimes known as Haught decided to attempt some paradigm shifting and demanded that the song be Australianised – Who Stole the Bikkies From the Bikkie Tin didn’t manage to capture the imagination of his NBA-worshipping, Nike-wearing, Disney-obsessed peers. And then there was the Mike Lamprill Incident.

I remember it vividly. So vividly that I fear I may have unconsciously darned the holes in my memory that time had worn into existence, and darned them so well that the story I’m about to tell you, which I honestly believe to be true down to the very last detail, is in fact mostly fabrication.

I was in Grade 2. My class gathered in the little room beside the Marble Tree (whole ‘nother story there) for Music and the Music teacher told us as soon as we’d entered to form a circle. There were excited murmurs. The teacher waited until everyone was seated with legs crossed before asking for guesses as to what we might be singing. Sally Atkins put up her hand and guessed ‘Crocodile Rock’. Nobody laughed because our Music teacher was a goddamn trailblazer and regularly asked five year olds to smash out some Elton John. The teacher said it was a good guess but not the right answer. James Prendergast put up his hand and guessed ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo‘. Everybody laughed because he had a lisp and couldn’t have chosen three worse words to pronounce. The teacher told us to be quiet and again praised the guess. Steven Bellis put his hand up, tried ‘Botty Botty Cuttlefish Toilet Bum’ and brought the house down.

The teacher, above the hysterics, yelled “NO! NO! SILLY! NOT FUNNY AT ALL! QUIET!” but with only limited success. Through my tears I noticed that Mike Lamprill had stopped laughing and put his hand up. Hoping that he might be considering one-upping Steven’s work of genius, I watched intently and saw the teacher wave his hand away while she continued to yell things like “EXCUSE ME!” and the archetypal teacher’s “UUUH!” Mike kept his hand up and as the laughter from the rest of the class abated, I thought he might get his chance, but the teacher dismissed him once and for all: “NO MIKE! HAND DOWN! Silly Steven has ruined it for everyone.”

Mike looked understandably distressed.

The teacher told us that we were playing Who Stole the Cookies. There was an exact fifty-fifty split between disgusted groans and overenthusiastic YES!es (accompanied by obligatory fist pumps).

The teacher got things started – hands-knees, hands-knees, hands-knees “Grade Twos. I was looking in my pantry this morning. And do you know what I found? I found that someone had stolen some cookies from my cookie jar. So, I’ve got a very important question I need to ask you all. Grade Twos… Whooo stole the cookies from the cookie jar? Ahmed stole the cookies from the cookie jar.”

“Who me?” asked ultra-reliable Ahmed Massri, knee-hand rhythm remaining impeccable the whole time.

“Yes you!” yelled the few members of the class who had managed to get into the swing of things and weren’t distracted by their own nostrils, or their immediate neighbour’s hair, or the vestigial hilarity of that magical cuttlefish line.

“Couldn’t be,” Ahmed assured us.

“Then who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”

“SARAH stole the cookies from the cookie jar,” Ahmed suggested.

“Who me?”

“Yes you!”

“Couldn’t be!”

“Then who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”

“STEVEN stole the – ”

At this point the teacher intervened, out of tune “NO! Steven didn’t steal the cookies. I think …” and then returning to the pattern of the song said “Wei stole the cookies from the cookie jar.”

“Who me?”

“Yes you!”

“Couldn’t be!”

“Then who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”

“MIKE stole the cookies from the cookie jar.”

“Who me?” Mike asked, back straight, hands meeting then falling to his knees in a regimented fashion, face suggesting something was terribly wrong.

“Yes you!”

“Couldn’t be!” Mike managed, still keeping time, but looking as if professions of innocence were the furthest thing from his mind.

“Then who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”

Suddenly facially relaxed, still keeping the hands-knees, hands-knees, hands-knees beat going, Mike departed radically from the script, while valiantly attempting to retain the song’s meter: “I’ve got two poos inside my tracksuit pants.”

And he did.

From that moment on, certainly for as long as I was at primary school, Who Stole the Cookies was a write-off. I remember emergency teachers coming in and innocently setting up a game (and being visibly cheered by the positive response it received from the students) only to become mouth-agape horrified when the class clown  flung in Mike’s now-legendary line like a gigantic purple dildo at a Boy Scout’s meeting.

Is it immortal? I sometimes think I should return to the school pretending to be a social researcher and find out whether it became a rock-solid cultural institution like “No way! Get fucked! Fuck off!” in ‘Am I ever gunna see your face again’ or whether it’s a moment from another time, the only evidence left being the darned recollections of a childish blogger.


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  1. Haught, my amateur editing skills – having been honed over many a fevered hour bent like the Pixar lamp over desk and laptop in service to my mother’s fledging cookbook empire – immediately recognised the sort of typograpical errors that blight my every day. Not only did you erroneously, wantonly and with uncharacteristc abandon hit the space bar twice between the words ‘to’ and ‘hyperventilate’ during your anecdote about the biscuit burgling girl, but the line “Who Shot the Coolie” actually had the balls to contain THREE spaces between the words ‘who’ and ‘shot.’ I have every mind to write a very stern, expertly typed and edited letter outlining my disappointment, and publish the thing in a blog dedicted to humourous complaints. I will call it…’Haughty’

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