Random thoughts and recollections – Barry Capon 1947-1955

School caps  They had to be worn at the time of entering the school gates. If not worn then there were consequences – detention or lines I think. If in later years you were elevated to being a prefect you wore a yellow hooped cap and if you were school captain or deputy school captain the cap had a yellow or blue tassel hanging from it. There were other caps of varied design relevant to sporting matters.

Sweets were rationed for most of my years in the school. (It was repealed on February 5th, 1953). This led to much chewing in class. Whether you were rebuked or not depended on who was taking the class. The coupons for sweet buying were much valued.

Mr Pelham (“Percy”) was the senior English Master. He walked with a stick as he had a bad leg (I am not sure if it was an injury or even whether it was a prosthetic). He was most strict about the rule that running in the corridor was forbidden. If a boy were so unwise as to run past Mr Pelham in the corridor he might be rapidly restrained by the curved handle of the walking stick around the neck. Somehow I think it might not be allowed today as reasonable and necessary restraint. Mr Pelham’s son was in my class. A very clever, likeable boy. I think he became a Doctor.

Mr Norman Siviter (“Norman”) was an English master – a great extrovert, noisy but fun. He had been a prisoner of war in the Far East but beware asking him about it. He got very cross if anyone did ask. He was a good cricketer in the staff team and prided himself on how accurately he could throw the blackboard duster (the one with the hard wooden back) at any boy misbehaving so that it just missed. One erring youth thought he would be clever and tried to evade the flight only to move into the flight path and get a sound blow from the missile. He got no sympathy, only a telling off for being “so stupid”.

Mr O’Brien (“Mobby”) a Maths master. Also a good cricketer in the staff team (a spin bowler I think). He was quiet and relaxed and had no problems with any boy in the class. It was strange, you were not told so but knew that it would be unwise to make Mobby cross. I have no idea what would have happened as I never saw him cross! (Editor’s note: Mobby confessed his method at a School reunion many years later. He simply chose a boy at random from his first class on day one of the new school year. This unfortunate lad would be dragged from his place and ejected into the corridor with dire threats of a caning from the Headmaster if his bad behaviour were repeated. This had a salutary effect both because of the brutality of the move and the clear evidence that the boy was innocent. It worked as Barry has so well described here).

Mr Marwood, a Chemistry master – I cannot recall his nickname. He was quite flamboyant and was the chief producer of the school plays. If you misbehaved in the laboratory you would be summoned to the front bench where he sat. He would then call “Squeegee” in a loud voice. The gleeful lad who had it near him was expected to deliver it to Mr Marwood who would then use it on the rear of the offending boy.

Mr Fox (“Foxy”) a Physics master. It is amazing how cruel boys can be to a master who had little or no ability to control a class. Mr Fox was quiet and shy and we took no notice of what he said. We made his life a misery and he really should not have been a teacher at all, poor man. He should have been a research scientist far away from any unruly boys.

Mr Bassett (“Bertie”- because of the liquorice allsorts). He was the Religious Knowledge (RK) master. For some reason which I did not know we kept watch to see when he was approaching the classroom and as he got nearer we all sang “Rule Britannia….” Much to his consternation. One day he told us it was his birthday and when asked he said he was 30. We were I recall 11 or 12 at the time and we all remarked on how old it was to be 30. He was quite taken aback. I hope it did not spoil his special day.(Editor’s note. He lived on and nearly reached his century).

Physical Education (PE).  We did our gym work in bare feet. I am sure that would not be allowed nowadays.

Mr Watson was the Deputy Headmaster and head of Art. I do not know how many times in the summer I tried to draw the cathedral spire from the playing field. I was hopeless but enjoyed the sunshine. He was also the master in charge of discipline and administered the cane for those boys selected for it either by the staff or at the behest of the “Prefects’ Court” – a kind of medieval Star Chamber chaired by the school captain. Mr Watson kept the canes in a glass-fronted bookcase in his room and the victim could, I am told choose either a thin or a thick cane!

School meals. These were eaten at long tables in the main hall and we sat on benches with collapsible legs. You had to try not to sit at the end of a bench for if you were so placed your fellows would make the bench move rapidly away and back again pinching your rear or legs in a vicious grip which made a lasting imprint. The lady in charge of school meals was I recall very good looking and I had a certain penchant for her. However, I never said anything out of order to her, and had I done so I am certain it would not have been well received!

School plays. These were splendid productions well attended by parents and were fully rehearsed. I only had a few walk-on parts as I had no acting ability and no wish to show it!

Mr K D Anderson. When Mr Anderson came as the new Headmaster he quite soon suggested to the Prefects that it would be a good idea for them to wear Boaters instead of caps. The prefects were of one voice namely they did not want any such thing. They felt that they would be the laughing stock of the Town if they wore them – tho’ I did not say that to Mr Anderson when I told him that they declined his kind offer.

Heating. In the “temporary” classrooms put up when the school leaving age was raised the heating was by a pot-bellied boiler in one corner of the room. When in full blast in midwinter it glowed red. If you were near you were boiled, if you were at the back you froze.

21 March 2017