Ivor Vincent       Who came in 1951                           07-02-05

RE:  MEMORIES OF WGS : a quibble you are probably fed up with hearing

Page 162      Daily Timetable times.

Did the timing of the 8 periods alter after I left in July 59?  Up until then the timings were:

First bell ie. entry into main building permitted    0850

Assembly 0855


1             0905 – 0945

2             0945 – 1025

3             1025 – 1105

Break      1105 – 1120

4             1120 – 1200

5             1200 – 1240

Lunch      1240 – 1350

6             1350 – 1430

7             1430 – 1510

8             1510 – 1550

[Scrum down for the buses on Broadway]

The duration of period 1 was a lottery, depending on the number of notices in assembly, number of/length of verses in the hymn, and even the length of the Bible reading.  It was rare to get started before 0915 in practice - even for Jake!





In the third term of my first year (1951-2) when Sparky was Form Master for 1b, based in the old Room 7 Music Room – later the Staff room - I had to interrupt one of his classes to get a textbook I had forgotten.  He decided punishment was required, and I was made to bend over in front of the class he was taking so that he could smack my posterior.  He decided to use his hand, and, unfortunately for him, I was at that time in the habit of carrying a pocket-knife in the back pocket of my trousers.........

I can still see him vigorously shaking his very sore fingers, probably trying not to utter expletives, while he demanded to know what on earth I had in my back pocket.  The class, meanwhile, tittering gleefully.  To my surprised relief, he did not demand further retribution, but I had no hesitation in following his instructions to retrieve my book and exit the room at full speed.      





[Iam not sure whether this next story bears retelling : it still makes me smile, but I was there when it was absolutely topical.  If, as an objective reviewer, it doesn't now seem amusing, please feel free to ignore it.]



The year was 1954-5, and we had recently been learning in Geography about Britain's imports/exports, including how financial and insurance services contributed alongside the more widely known manufactured items.  A group of us 4th years were idling away our morning break in the bike sheds, as was our wont, imbibing our free school milk  (now there's a historical nugget!),  when up struts Chris (Chugs) Byles, proudly holding aloft by its handle, the top strip from one of those attaché cases in which we used to bring our cricket whites to school.  This particular artefact had been kicked around for some weeks previously, and all but this top piece had disintegrated.

We all looked at him in puzzlement:  "What are you doing with that Chugs?"

"Oh,"  he replied airily,  "Invisible exports!".      




At some time during the mid 1950's a tremor of incredulous amazement ran through the school when it was learned that a particular lad, when chastised by Jake, instead of gripping fiercely onto the geography room table, colour draining from his face as he ran through the possibilities for the least painful method of suicide, had actually answered him back! or, in the usage of the time, "cheeked him off".  He was immediately hauled before Harold for suitable punishment.  Rumour had it that Harold had great difficulty in keeping a straight face while dealing with said offender.

What, however, most surprised us at the time was that, instead of reacting to the insolence with a typical blistering tirade of the type which left a mere blob of grease where had but recently sat a schoolboy, Jake had taken him to the Headmaster for punishment.  His stock was reduced in many eyes from that day on.  Even so, no report ever emerged that anyone else had risked employing the same tactic.     




Tony (Tut) Steel and I were good friends throughout our teenage years.  He was of a type who would kick over the traces if he felt so inclined, and accept any resulting punishment as a cost worth paying for the notoriety thereby achieved.  In contrast, I tended to stay mostly within bounds and keep my head down:  a clear case of opposites attracting.

In 1953-4 we were both in 3b, and, at the start of one term, Tut decided that English homework was unnecessary to learning the subject,  and that it was perfectly possibly to absorb the required facts without it.  He therefore stopped producing any.  For that term, our entertainment included the recurring sight of Tut's grey–trousered posterior as various masters attacked it with slipper, strip of wood, or whatever was their favoured weapon:  but to no avail.  I cannot be sure, but I suspect that there must also have been at least one interview with Harold during this time, also possibly including physical chastisement.

Come the end of the term, when positions in the class were calculated from the marks achieved in coursework, Tut, naturally, came bottom.  But in the term exams, he came top.

Having thus proved his assertion about homework to his own satisfaction, he returned to normal.   





In September 1951, when I joined the first form at WGS, there were two prefabricated classroom buildings.  Room 15: History with Hobo Cook;   Room 16:  Maths with Charlie Ward;   Room 17:  Maths with Johnny Butler;   Room 18:  French with Buzz Temple.  And, consistently in all these rooms, slow death by freezing on a Winter's morning.

The lower prefab. was of a design which marked it clearly as War Department surplus.  The concept of insulation was unkown; the building's construction of precast concrete slabs, metal-framed windows and corrugated asbestos roof ensuring that any heat produced should not feel constrained to remain within its confines.  The source of this heat in each room was a circular cast iron stove of the type which would have made any Second World War pilot feel immediately at home.  In contemporary war films these brave chaps are often to be seen in their hut, seated around just such a stove, feet stretched out towards its warmth, while they await their next scramble or bombing mission.

We, of course, were not so fortunate as we sat in our desks at a distance from the stove which ensured that none of its warmth might reach and mollycoddle us. Cast into the iron top of these stoves was the outline of a tortoise within a circle, around which was the legend "slow but sure combustion".  The "slow" any pupil would have testified to; the "sure" would never have met current consumer legislation.

The upper prefab. was of slightly more generous proportions, with, to outward appearances, an almost civilised design, although constructed from the same materials.  But its heat retaining properties easily matched those of its companion, while a somewhat higher roof to the classrooms provided more space into which any hot air might the more easily rise away from the shivering pupils below.

In contrast to the rooms in the lower building, Rooms 17 and 18 were furnished with small, box-shaped stoves, encased in enamelled metal, with mica-glazed doors on the front.  One can but speculate that the cast iron stoves of the other rooms had been found, on occasion, to actually emit heat, and action had therefore been taken to ensure such pampering should not recur.  For the combined effects of the enamelled casing with the closed doors, made it absolutely certain that all heat produced was whisked smartly away up the chimney.

As a final twist to the torture, all four classrooms boasted an electric fan heater, mounted high up in the opposite corner to the stove.  There were thus some half-dozen desks at which the fortunate occupants might occasionally feel a tepid zephyr – if the resident Master, standing cosily close to the stove,  had not found its whirring irritating to his slumber and switched it off.  Beyond this small oasis of tepidity, however, the positioning of these fans was such that this tepid air headed directly to the stove, was pulled by its draught up the chimney, and so out to assist in warming the feet of any passing birds.    





In the Winter term of 1951-2, when I was in 1c, our first period on one morning was History, with Hobo Cook, in his room – Room 15 –in the lower prefab.  This particular morning was damp and gloomy, the room was freezing, and the cast iron stove was not co-operating.  It was refusing to draw, and the classroom was filled with a thick fug of evil-smelling fumes, no doubt containing a fair proportion of carbon monoxide.

Unfazed by this, Hobo continued with the lesson as, over the duration of the period, the fug began to clear slightly as the stove started to draw.  It should be  emphasised  that the production of heat was not a part of the equation.

One can only speculate on what a similar situation might provoke nowadays:  lawsuits from every angle?  banner headlines in the local rag?  a question in Parliament?  At that time, I doubt if any of us even thought of mentioning it when we got home.