AN OLD GRAMMARIAN LOOKS BACK 1933-1939
Immediate Source: Stratton, Don, (1990) Wellingborough Grammar School 1930-1975 Old Grammarians
|Pupil view 1939-45|
In the School magazine of the summer term of 1957 there appeared a fascinating article by a previous prefect of the School, Bert Catlin, which gave an insight into the very early days of the School. Bert entered the School in the summer term of 1933 and by 1939 was captain of rugby and the senior prefect. He left the School in 1940 to enter Bede College, Durham University but soon joined the RAF and was on operational flying duties for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His article was entitled:
I REMEMBER, I REMEMBER
What was it like in those early days? What were they like the pupils, the staff and the buildings some 25 years ago when Wellingborough Grammar School was barely three years old? No VIth form, and the school certificate yet to enforce a silence alongside the Hall, and higher certificate was a terror unknown. The paint was hardly dry, the desks as yet bore no marks of those wishing to record their initials for posterity, and text books were actually in one piece.
We were a small family in those days; some 200 boys, the headmaster and eight members of staff. In those days, I believe, there was an easy chair for each member of the staff and there was no danger of continually running into strangers in the staff room. Small though it was, this staff could produce a satisfactory blue ‘fug’ to greet nervous juniors who had tapped on that old staff room door, which has given way to room 7 and the new staircase. Two of that 1933 staff are still there to answer the door. More grey hairs have been added to the few which my generation implanted, but I do not doubt that their strong right arms are still functioning with their former vigour.
What of the buildings and the field and grounds? There were, of course, no huts. The Hall windows gave a view of spacious vegetable garden ruled over by a Mr Knight, who, when not engaged in food production was cutting the playing field seated on a very fine ‘Atco’ motor mower, or was occupied in his hut in the bottom corner of the field, a favourite rendevous for some during the dinner hour.
The rooms of the main building were not even numbered, and the front of the building was the only part that boasted two floors. The present music room and the VIth form room were one. It was not until the monastic seclusion of the School was shattered by the advent of female teachers during the war that this modification took place to make a Ladies common room. The present staff room was, believe it or not, the woodwork room, or to use the correct jargon, the manual training room. Many were the watch stands and pipe racks that were fashioned there, and legion were the mortices, tenons and dove-tails that never fitted.
The other rooms were much as they are now; except for room 5 and the various stores under the staircases and at the ends of the upper corridor. Room 5 was the music room; it boasted no desks, just wooden folding chairs. Indeed, it made an ideal room for debates. Yes, numbers were such that there were actually spare rooms. Those store rooms intrigued me. They were something of a mystery, possibly because they were seldom unlocked. The ones at each end of the upper corridor contained what must have been props and scenery for the first plays ever staged by the School.
The room opposite room 14 served as a dark-room. What of the fourth room on the top corridor. Yes, juniors, it was, as now, a place to be shunned the prefects den. I might add that it was more comfortably furnished in the mid-thirties - I wonder what did become of those easy chairs? The organisation and types of transport used in getting them to School was fantastic in the extreme. I do hope the room used as the tuck shop was well scrubbed. The caretakers store was there-soap powders and ‘Vim’ abounding.
Dinner? There was one sitting. The mid-day meal was heralded by a furious striking of a gong by the School’s first caretaker, Mr Tropman. This magnificent gong was to be found hanging at the top of the dining hall staircase. As its signal, dinner boys lined up in Houses around the quad. and filed down to the dining hall. Here were five tables, apart from the cold dinner table - one table for each House and the centre tale rejoicing under the name of the ‘overflow’. House trophies graced the table and I seem to remember that the Stags table claimed most of them. The dinners were cooked by Mrs Tropman, wife of the caretaker. For those whose tummies were somewhat queasy a poached egg was to be had. Any who did not take to the sweet of the day could always have rice pudding.
There was a happy-go-lucky spirit in those early days which it would be difficult and undesirable to recapture. We were small enough for everyone to know everyone: to meet all members of the staff in the form room several times each week. Those were the days of an ‘Under 7 stone’ rugby team, the junior cricket team known as the Scorpions, and the introduction of straw hats, sausage and mash teas after School rugger matches, the beginning of country dancing in the Hall with girls from the High School and film shows in the winter.
These days saw the foundations of the thousand and one things that make a good school. Stupid pranks were played, as I suppose they are now, punishments were handed out and received none too graciously, but as thoughts fly back it is with justifiable proud and gratitude I say, “I went to that School”.
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