Dr. Graham Beards - "The Last Time I saw Mr. Normington-Mitchell".
Charles Ralph Mordecai
Book Prize for Mathematics 1901
Aston Commercial 1943-45. (Betty Fraemohs White)
Aston Commercial 1947-50. (Ken Callow).
Who knew my father ? (Mehjabin Ulfat).
A Tram ride to School. (Ken Callow).
1963 Intake (Paul Bennett).
A Beating from Taff ! (Peter Dykes).
Pecker's Revenge ! (Peter Dykes).
Holte Grammar 1965-70. (Michael Malin).
School Photograph 1939. (Chris Lilley).
Hey, that's my Dad ! (Pat Barber).
Experiences at A.C.S. (Barrie Christian).
|Dr. Graham Beards
Graham Beards wrote to me in July 2004 with this account.
Thanks again for the Holte Website - it is superb. I have written a short essay about my last meeting with Mr. Mitchell. If you deem it worthy, you might want to post it on your site.
For the record, the boys in my class, 1 Alpha 1963-64 were:
Geoffrey Adams(emigrated to Oz in 1967, but came back - Mr. Mitchell sexed-up his school report to ease his emigration)
Alan Arnold(genius and prize-winner)
Paul Bennett(a really nice guy now living in Perth OZ)
Michael Buckley(form clown - very popular with the girls)
Graham Burbridge(form clown's understudy and a great penny polisher - seriously !)
Martin Burke(became head boy in 1969 - always quietly deep in thought)
Stephen Clarke(always the best looking one)
John Cullen(popular Form Captain - left to join the army in 1967)
Alan Dennis(great chess player)
Norman Donnelly(I won't let a bad word to be said about him)
Alan Dudley(the baby of the class, had Alan been born a couple of weeks earlier he would have been in year 1964-65, he was a good friend - his mum once gave Mr. Hind a hand-bagging)
Duggins(He only survived one term)
Robert Fern(musical maestro - introduced me to the Pink Floyd, I was sure Rob was going to become a rock legend)
The Last Time I Saw Mr. Normington-Mitchell.
Dr. Graham Beards
|Charles Ralph Mordecai
Martin Mordecai wrote me with the following in June 2004.
Well it’s surprising what you find on Google – a whole web page dedicated to my father!!
(Charles) Ralph Mordecai as I recall went on to be that last Head of Holte Grammar School when it went Comprehensive and moved sites around 1971(?). C Normington Mitchell (Mitch) moved and was Head of the new school before retiring and dying shortly after, around 1975.
At the time you recall my impression was that dad needed to be something of a martinet to shore up Mitchell. In his last years Dad did most of the admin, timetable construction and only taught a little – A level Stats for example. He once told me a story of how he was explaining the intracies of odds on double, trebles, yankees etc on horse races. At the end of the class he was approached by two painters who were doing some decorating outside. They claimed it was the most interesting school lesson they had ever had.
The Woodbines were actually home rolled – an original mixture of pipe and virginia tobacco.
Dad did serve in the war – he volunteered in May 1939 (at the age of 34) joined first the RMP and then Royal Signals and Intelligence Corps on cypher work (code making rather than breaking). He was based in Washington from 1942-44 and rose from Private to CSM.
The fags could not have done too much harm, he died in 1997 at the age of 92. After retirement he spent much of his time doing crosswords, watching Warwicks CC and looking after my mum. He never left the home his parents had moved into in the 1920‘s. He was a regular guest at a dinner held every two years or so by the Aston Commercial School class of 47 !
I hope he did not leave too many scars with his punishments – it was a different era then, I remember PGD Robbins (oxford, Moseley, Coventry, England and the Lions) wielding the slipper (Excalibur!) to good effect at King Edwards in the 60s.
|Book Prize for Mathematics -
Here is an email sent in February 2004 by Mr. Justin Coombs regarding an acquisition of his.
I own a book entitled "Hood's Poetical Works" published in 1895. In 1901 this copy was awarded to a pupil for First Stage Mathematics.The inside front cover has a certificate pasted to it.
I presume that Aston Manor Technical School on Whitehead road is the old name for Aston Commercial / Holte Grammar Comercial School.
I would be interested in returning this book to it's winner (unlikely) or a relative of Ms. Silvester's as I am sure it would be much appriciated. Perhaps during the course of building your website, you may find the opportunity to mention this.
Tel:07802 297 931
I passed a test and was sent to Aston Commercial School when I was
thirteen in 1943. It so happened that my uncle who raised me, had attended
this school when he was a young boy. It had a turret at each end of the
building, which housed the head mistress of girls (Miss Chaffee) in one,
and the headmaster of boys (Mr. Lewis) in the other. Dr. Flack was the
headmaster over the whole school. Most mornings boys would be lined up Mr.
Lewis' curving staircase to the "turret" for a probable caning. Girls were
not caned, but still might be lined up Miss. Chaffee's stairway for a
punishment of some sort, probably extra homework. I remember there was a
balcony, which overlooked the main hall. It was made of beautiful wood and
as "first year" students, we could stand and overlook the older students
when there was a special school function, to which we were not
invited. As we progressed to the higher forms, we were allowed to
attend. I remember we played hockey in the winter (I can still
hear Miss Wooldridge yelling at me to "get up the field" (I was a wing).
Swimming and tennis were taught in the summer, for which I was grateful. I
still keep in contact with one of the girls - Vivienne Smith, now
Chettleburgh, who lives in Abergele, North Wales, and through my cousin,
Iris Webb Cotter, I know the whereabouts of some of the others, and
hopefully will meet up with them on one of my visits.
Betty Fraemohs White
I was thinking what I recalled about the associations and the effects of and with the old school and I speculated on what contributions the subscribers to your website might have wished to be included in any Newsletter or available material.
In a moment of reflection I have doodled with the attached piece. It might jog a few memories. If it has no place in what is the core purpose of the site..............throw it away. We will all be different generations and it will mean different things and recall different memories.
The Aston Commercial (Holte Grammar) School
Does anyone remember…………….
Perhaps I am one of, or the, oldest member of the celebrated Old Acsonians now transferred to the Internet. Is there anyone out there who remembers or shared those days with me? I wonder. Whatever, I am very pleased, after such a long time, and journey, to be among you (again?). Even if you all, or most of you, followed me through the “majestic” portals in Whitehead Road.
Dr Flack ,the then Head Master, at the head of a departing group of pupils sitting around a lengthy table in the “canteen” in 1950 (It must have been). If you remember, the canteen was situated at the bottom of the flight of stone stairs. We used to run down, these stone stairs that led from the entrance hall, on the left, down to the chemistry lab and the gymnasium. They seemed long then. When I returned a few years ago…they somehow seemed shorter but more difficult to negotiate going down, a little disquieting, dull grey, hard and unforgiving if you stepped down at the wrong speed or in a shiny place. I found myself placing a hand against the wall. Coming up was easier, safer ………………….slower.
The school was, and more than likely, is peopled
by youngsters of Pakistani origin. They seemed as unruly and
effervescent as we had ever been (without the war time experiences).
From my travelling I am comfortable with Islam and nothing felt out of
The last time I was in the canteen at the school, along with the dreaded Mr Lewis and the Head Mistress whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, a grey haired gentle lady, Dr Flack sat at the head of the long table we used to use for lunch. The one time that I had returned the “canteen” had been filled with chairs and stuff. Fifty odd years ago it was our last afternoon at the School. He addressed us, after a discourse on learning and our futures.
Ladies, Gentlemen……………you may smoke.
Almost as one the now ex pupils reached into inside pockets and handbags at the side of chairs and took out cigarettes and cigarette cases and lit up. Senior Service, Players duMaurier, Black Cat, Gold Flake……endless brands. Unthinkable now. I smoked for forty years after that. I receive regular treatment from an excellent physician. I attach no blame.
At the end of this little gathering we all walked away. Some up and some down Whitehead Road, it was Winter, the days were short, and we “vaporised” one by one into the dimness of that early Winter evening. We caught trams and buses to who knows where.
I never saw any one of them again……………….!! Over fifty years on perhaps we reassemble. What is the silly expression…. “in Cyberspace”?
Cyberspace. I first encountered computers at the old Airship base in Cardington configured under the eye of an august organisation named Bedford Computing Services in the late fifties the creators of the device were all clearly quite mad. I had been on the base earlier in the decade in the Royal Air Force. The main attribute of the computer was that it could produce a tune reminiscent of “I’ll take the High Road”. Some years later with English Electric along with LEO and Marconi much more useful attributes were available and everybody “spoke” Fortran.
The journey to and from the school by tram was always interesting.
There were two trams from the top of Villa Road. The ten to nine and the five to nine. The earlier tram had an open balcony and in the Summer you could sit out in the air as the tram made its discordant and rattly way down Villa Road and onto Lozells road. Past the remains of the blitzed Lozells Cinema and down through Six Ways. The five to nine tram was different, it was enclosed in that elegant Edwardian wooden framed, varnished style. Much more refined. They had a unique and distinctive smell those trams. Wood and ozone perhaps would describe it best. The passengers seemed to prefer to travel backwards by flipping over the seat back. Never seemed to be anybody on them. Just us as students.
On the return journey home I would get off at the Villa Cross cinema and buy my copy of “The Motorcycle”. I was already beginning to learn to ride a 1936 Norton 350. I have a Honda four hundred four parked outside of the office as I write. I steal rides from time to time, when the weather is favourable, before it gets beyond me and I will be told I will have to give it up. Like alcohol and sugar and confectionery and white bread and biscuits and ……………smiling at pretty girls………..
I make up for it with model aeroplanes and work and a beautiful and forbearing wife of forty - four years
We are enduring and consistent, us Acsonians, if nothing else.
I'm not a former pupil of Holte, although I attended Holte Comprehensive on Wheeler street, Newtown. My father attended Holte Grammar in the mid 60s, although I still have much work to do to extract some information from him! His name is Tazeeb Khan, if you can find out something about him that would be great!
I was browsing your site and I think You've done an excellent job. I've thoroughly enjoyed looking at old photos and funny tales of teachers. I couldn't help noticing that the school building looks so much like Broadway school on Whitehead Road,Aston. Is it the same building by any chance? I've just completed a three week undergraduate placement at Broadway and the building is the same from the front with the mock gothic style of archetecture.
I've also noticed that the school badge is exactly the same as Holte Comp's and that the 'Exaltanit Humiles' is to be found under the coat of arms in Aston Hall not far from Whitehead Road. I worked at Aston Hall last summer, so I've had time to find out a bit about the original 17th century owner's attitude to life. The links here are so fasciniating. I'm reading History at Birmingham University, so these interesting facts are even more significant for me.
I hope you can reply to me in order to confirm my suspicians regarding the school building. Once again, You've done a wonderful job with the web site. I shall be recommending it to my friends.
Bye for now,
|Whoever I am addressing, is it David Moody
perhaps or Deborah?? (No, it's Dennis actually
Ken, but I've been called worse).
I was educated at the Aston Commercial School (as we knew it) it
seems long before your other contributors. I found it amazing that the old
school had a web site. I am afraid that my documents and memories go back
to just after WWII and those distant days of austerity. You will perceive
that I am still at work (you can guess at my age) and still using the
basic skills that "the school" taught me (us). There can't be many of us
left. I still have a copy of THE AXE, from 1947 (I believe).
Sorry.. that's about it
The Headmaster was Dr Flack
Four Houses Brook Grange Hall and Park
We, most of us, went to the school on the tram, I have a model of that vehicle behind me on the shelf. It was not an easy time. We had all just come through the war with all that that meant. It still hurts.........a bit.
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Good work mate. I joined in 1963 in Alpha (which I'm sure was based in alphabetical). Fellow classmates were Alan Dennis, Graham Beards, Mickey Buckley, John Cullen, Graham Burbidge, Alan Donnelly, Clive Hayes etc. etc.
I'm not sure that I was actually wagging the day of the photo (I truly rarely did) but after the 'O' Levels most of the Fifth year took a break until the last week of school. That's my story anyway !
Keep up the good work.
|A Beating From Taff |
by Peter Dykes
I hadn't done my English homework for Mr Thomas. I was in for it.
First period after lunch, with the nose of an Exocet, Taff spotted me.
"Where's your homework Ivor Dyke?" he boomed out across 4 Alpha. The
classroom was to the left of the tuck shop, but I can't remember the room
number. "Why didn't you do it last night?" He persisted. I made some
excuse, but he wanted his pound of humiliation. "You could have done it
lunchtime," he suggested, putting me even further on the defensive. "I had
to go home for lunch sir," I replied hesitantly. "Typical," he spat out
the word. "Meat and two veg man, that's our Ivor. See me in my
office after the lesson."
He asked me again for my homework and I told him I didn't have it ready. "We always punish," he said and motioned me to bend over his desk. He then picked up a telephone directory and, holding it high above his head, said "Every time this strikes, you will scream." "Yes sir," I said under my breath, fearing the worst. "WON'T YOU BOY?" he screamed at me, face all red with rage. "Yes sir, yes sir!" I replied, knowing that my end had come.
He then lifted the book as high as he could, bought it crashing down on the edge of the desk and immediately gave me one of his most ferocious stares, followed by a smile and a nod in my direction. OOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW," I yelled. He struck the desk with the directory again, this time smiling and nodding vigorously. "OOOOWWWWW," I repeated, getting the hang of it. In this way, he gave me six of the 'best' and just when I thought he was on my side, he glowered once more, threw open the door so everyone could see me bent over the desk and shouted, "Now get out of here and let that be a lesson to you."
I left the office feeling about six inches tall. All the girls were laughing at me and I felt totally crushed. Looking back, I think he was a brilliant teacher. He punished me in the most effective possible way, by humiliating me, without ever laying a finger on me. After that, I always did my English homework. What a great guy.
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|Hi Dennis, |
Ere ya go mate, the big secret. I think its a lovely story and I never tire of telling it.
"At least half a dozen people know this story, by only I know how it
ended. And so, for the first
As I recall, it happened about two weeks before I left , which would
probably make it the summer of
I can't remember why it happened but a couple of weeks before we
were due to leave school, we had to
Pekker demanded we were all caned not only for bunking off Fields,
but also for being dishonest.
Honour satisfied, Pekker agreed. One by one, The Beak asked our
names and with a very serious
I was last out of The Beak's office and I was just closing the door
behind me when I realised I had
Suddenly noticing me, he looked at me with an expression I'd never
seen on his face before. Stern,
Sorry CNM, the secret's out. You were a very nice guy".
|Hello Dennis, |
A great idea to start a site on the old school.
I was at Holte Grammar from 1965 to 1970. The only pupils that I can recall from your class list were Kenny Lawrance and James Durcan. Mr Woodward (Pecker) told us that they were the best players in the school cricket team that won the Docker Shield. Later I believe it may have been the same Kenny Lawrance that I saw playing for the Villa reserves before that player went to Kidderminster Harriers.
I was in form 1b, 2b, etc and I was also in Park, who in my time never won anything. Our Form teacher was Mr Simpson, and the other teachers that I can recall and are not mentioned in your staff list are: Mr Hirons (Maths), Mr Butt (Geography), Mr Sawyer (Art), Mr Goel (Maths), Miss Heath (French), Mr Simler (German) and Mr Simonite (Science). In my time Mr 'Ken' Palmer taught woodwork and TD. I think Miss Heath was
also a pupil of the school in the fifties. The most memorable teacher was Mr Thomas who was very strict and ran the English class along somewhat nautical lines by barking out orders like 'Tommy, get two of the ratings to clean the decks'. The strict and severe teaching style was more than compensated for by his great sense of humour. Even now I can remember a couple of very amusing incidents.
I can remember quite a few pupil names from the class of 1965;
here is what I can remember off the top of my head:
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|Chris Lilley writes about the 1939 School Photograph which he
My father, Ronald William Lilley, is in the second row, 5th from the
right. He was born May 6th 1926 but altered his birth certificate to 1925
in order to join the RASC early. He landed in Normandy as a driver and
remained in the army, serving in Egypt, Palestine and the Korean war. He
was invalided out in 1953, married and started work for Austin Motors as
coach painter. His health improved sufficiently for him to rejoin the army
in 1959 and he continued to serve in the RASC - RCT until his death on 12
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|Hi Dennis, |
Just had a look at the 1939 school photo and my dad is sitting on the front row, 5th boy from the left, sitting cross-legged, He's got black hair and I'm just like him!! Dad is still Ok, just a bit old, well he is 78. I'm going to try and print it for him to have a look at. I just thought I'd browse to see if he was on and I was so surprised to see him. He was born in 1924 so would have been about 15 when it was taken.
Pat Perry (nee Barber).
|Barrie Christian "surfed in" to the site and has provided us
with an account of his early days at the school when it was still Aston
Commercial. Do have a look at Chapter 22 of his online book, which you can
navigate to directly by clicking on the link below !