"When I was young it was more important.
Pain more painful, the laughter much louder, yeah."
When I Was Young. (The Animals)
Congratulations on following my trail of breadcrumbs to get here. This
page came about by accident. I initially put it together when I
couldn't upload the Grove Park school photo to the Friends Reunited site
because it exceeded their size quota. I guess size does matter after
all. So, I decided to put it on my own site instead.
Then they deleted my entries
from their Memories section
not the saccharin-sweet kind of memories they want I
suppose so I added
those here too and the page just kind of grew.
So here they are, a couple of school photos and a few random recollections.
What is so surprising to me is how many of the kids from both photos have
kicked the bucket. I didn't think I was that old. Those of you who still have a pulse may be able to find yourselves in the
photos and remember some of these things.
Many thanks to those who have written to me and helped me fill in some of
the blanks and gave me additional information. A special thanks goes
to John Tait, who has been a big help in this regard.
Also, here is a link to another Grove Park site created by someone with a
differing point of view:
I almost forgot that I went to this school. I attended it briefly
at a very young age before I moved to Gwenfro and don't remember much about it.
One thing I do remember is that I couldn't pronounce the name. I
found that "ddu" sound impossible. Still do. It was the kind of
a sound you might make just before throwing up. First, I used to say
Rhos-dee but that caused the teachers, who were all Welsh speakers, to freak
out. Then I changed it to Rhos-thee, which they accepted as an attempt at least to get it right.
There were a couple of old bags that worked there. I think they
were some kind of supervisors and not teachers. There was a hall where
we used to eat lunch and many times I had my knuckles rapped for holding the
knife and fork in the wrong hands.
I have a vague recollection of a disturbing incident involving the
aforementioned bags. I seem to remember some kind of a stage at one
end of the hall and they hauled a very young boy up there to chastise him
for some misdeed. They removed his trousers and underwear and tapped him on
the butt with some kind of a stick. Everyone laughed.
Another thing I remember was the outside boys' toilets. It was
basically just a brick wall at the bottom of the schoolyard with a gutter in
the ground running along it. There was no roof or door, just a wall. One day I went in there (hey, when you've gotta go, you've gotta go) and
was witness to three boys engaged in a competition to see who could pee the
highest up the wall.
They were all worthy competitors but one boy was clearly an overachiever.
In his effort to outdo the others, he miscalculated the trajectory and
managed to spout his bodily fluid straight up in the air like a fountain.
It was an excellent performance and I would
give him extra points for artistic style but, unfortunately, what goes up must come
down and it landed in his face! Gotta love it.
The funny thing is that a few years later my grandmother told me she saw some boys doing the very same thing when she looked out of her window
one day. She could barely control her laughter as she described it to
me. I guess this must be either a territory-marking thing or some kind
of deep-seated male-bonding ritual.
Either way, I have this uneasy feeling that I missed out on something somewhere along the way
and that my life is incomplete because of it.
In this dirty old part of the city
Where the sun refused to shine
People tell me there ain't no use in tryin'
We Gotta Get Out of the
Place (The Animals)
Move the mouse over the pictures to see the descriptions and click on
them to view them full size.
Gwenfro school is situated in the bowels of Queens Park (now Caia Park) near the
River Gwenfro, which is presumably where it got its name. I attended "Gwenny"
until I was 11 years old.
I was taught by Mr. Glyn
Jones, the only really good teacher I ever had.
He would enthrall us with
tales from Greek and Roman mythology and show us how to make electromagnets
from bits of wire and paper tubes. When we were 10, me and my friend
would make those magnets and hook them up to the transformers that came with
our electric train sets and lift nails up and down in the tubes.
Mr. Jones told us how he made steam engines out of old single-cylinder motorbike engines.
Being the ultimate skeptic, I didn't believe him. So he brought in two
of his creations, loaded them with water and methylated spirits, lit the
fires and got those babies chugging away. It takes a lot to impress me
but that demonstration just blew me away those engines were cool.
Then he explained to us how they worked. What a great lesson
One day he needed a bit of wire for something so he removed the public
address speaker from the wall and took out some of the wire from inside.
When he was finished he put it back again. Once again I was impressed
by his attitude and creativity. Sadly, I heard that he died a couple
of years ago.
I remember an old map of the world on the wall. Major portions of it were
colored pink, which indicated that the country was part of the British
Empire. Those countries included North America, Australia, India and
parts of Africa ah, the good old days. Well, at
least we left our legacy on the world by making those foreign blighters speak English
and saving us the hassle of having to learn their languages. Jolly good show I
say, what! However, I regret to say that we also inflicted cricket on them and
for that I feel
really bad. I think Britain should formally apologize to them.
I remember, too, Mr. Rudyard. He was a formidable character and,
fortunately, I didn't have too much to do with him. Legend had it that
he knew his eighteen times table! We were in awe. One day he had
to look after us when the regular teacher was away.
There was no "Good morning, children" from him. He came storming
into the classroom and bellowed "Shut up, you horrible lot
or I'll split your skulls!". Split our skulls!!!?
No one had ever spoken to us like that before. We all went into shock
and shut up.
The headmaster, Mr. Charles, was a right bastard. I think
he put the fear of god into every kid in school. I know I was
petrified of him. He was a stern-faced man, thin with a ruddy
complexion. His very appearance alone was enough to intimidate us.
He was like something you might see in a horror film.
I remember one day at morning assembly he called a boy of about 9 or 10
years old to come up to the front of the hall. In front of the
whole school, he yelled at him and berated him for playing truant (we called it
"wagging off" or "playing the wag"). When he
had finished screaming, he grabbed the boy by the scruff of his neck and
frog-marched him down the entire length of the hall, caning him as hard as
he could all the way down. The look on his face was demonic. He must have hit him at least 20 times.
I had nightmares for weeks after that.
"Did it hurt?", we asked the boy afterwards.
"No, it tickled.", he said.
They grew them tough in
All the other memories on this page are from Grove Park.
Grove Park Grammar School for Boys
When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It's a wonder
I can think at all
"All in all you're just another brick in the wall."
Move the mouse over the pictures to see the descriptions and click on
them to view them full size. Thanks to Sue for figuring out how to scan that photo,
which is more than six times as wide as our scanner.
What a perfectly dreadful place this was!
Just unbelievable! I
have fond memories of some of the people I knew back then and we had some
great times together. But the school itself was extremely oppressive
and some of its teachers were absolutely horrendous. Someone described
it to me as a survival course, which I think is pretty accurate. Like
the book says, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.
We had to pass the 11+ exam in order to get
in here and, because most kids did not pass the exam, it was
considered something of an achievement. I felt pretty chuffed when I
was one of only two in my junior school class to have passed. Little
did I know what I had let myself in for.
Grove Park once had a reputation for being quite a prestigious place of
learning but it was very much in decline from its former glory days when I
was there. Some of the teachers were OK I suppose but others were worse than
bloody useless. On average, I would give them a C minus grade
did not try hard enough could do
Soon after I left, Grovie became part of the comprehensive
school system, which of course lowered the standard forever.
Apparently, the "comprehensive-isation" was so complete that all the old
school photos that lined the walls were ordered to be destroyed on the
grounds that they represented elitism.
In their infinite wisdom, the powers-that-be decreed that Grove Park
should be segregated into two separate schools on opposite sides of the road; one
for the boys and one for the girls. I suppose the intent was that we
should not be distracted by members of the opposite sex
as we studied
monk-like in our cloistered environment. No, that would never do.
Heaven forbid the thought.
had to wear a school uniform, complete with a black blazer, striped tie and
an extremely silly little cap with a red star in the middle. This is a
picture of the school prefects' cap, which has the colors reversed to
indicate their superior status.
We were supposed to wear the caps anytime we were off the school premises
and kept them folded in our blazer pockets so they were always available to
us. They looked especially silly when worn by the older, taller kids. That picture, above, of a Welsh dragon in a shield (minus the brick wall)
was the Grove Park badge that we wore on our blazers. You can also
just about make it out on the front of the cap.
Most of the teachers wore long black gowns that made them look like
batman, especially when they rushed to investigate some incident with their
gowns flowing in the air behind them. Sometimes, at events such as
speech day, they even wore mortarboards, which were even sillier than our
The teachers were not called teachers, they were called masters and we
used to have to address them as Sir.
Yes sir! No sir!
Three bags full sir! They called us by our surnames.
If you had the same name as someone else, they would append your initials to
your name, e.g. Smith JR, and that would become your new name.
Eventually, these people would be known only by their initials.
Someone wrote to me and told me that there were seven Williamses in one of
his classes and he rejoiced under the name of Willy 4! I heard
of another boy whose name was Darling. I would love to have been there
when the teacher called his name.
Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.
That's probably a little unfair but I believe it is absolutely true of
some of these. So here they are: the good, the bad and the ugly:
Omo (PE) O. M. Edwards.
it is fair to say that we were not exactly at the top of each other's Christmas card
lists. I remember him saying to one kid "You're not trying your grandmother could have done better
than that!". To which he replied, "I'll bring her along next time."
I thought that was a pretty good comeback but Omo was not amused and whacked
the kid for his insolence.
Ernie (history) Eric Earnshaw.
He used to march to school down Park Avenue in the middle of the road.
Rabdosh (Latin and Greek) F. C. Rowlands.
Rabdosh used to carry a cane secreted within the folds of his gown.
His nickname is derived from the Greek word "rhabdos", which means "a rod
with which one is beaten". Ah, trust those wacky scholarly types
to come up with that one. More on Rabdosh.
Shannon (science) resembled Brains from
Thunderbirds. Famous quote #1: "One day you will look back and
remember what that nice Mr. Shannon said." I guess he was right.
He also thought we were a bunch of wusses. Famous quote #2: He told us about the
inner-city kids he used to teach in Birmingham or somewhere and said, "You think you are so tough those kids would eat you for breakfast."
Mrs. Dilley (Latin)
Changed her hair color often. Would get us to translate "Whiter Shade of Pale"
into Latin. Ugh!
Her efforts were not totally in vain I
remember this graffiti in the toilets: The caption read "Kilroe
L. H. Jones. Lemmy was OK. I remember once when he was reading me the riot act for
some infraction on my part, my friend was standing behind him and swinging
his arm in the manner in which you would cane someone. Over and over
he would swing his arm, and mouth the word "WHACK!" with a
big grin on his face. It was all
I could do to prevent myself from bursting out laughing. That would
have been highly inappropriate. Lemmy died in 2002.
Told us to rinse out the metal pots we had been using to mix some chemicals
together. He omitted to tell us that the water would cause a chemical
reaction that would generate enough heat to burn our fingers!
Ken (French) Farrell.
I remember he used a very unhelpful audio-visual aid called Tavoraids or something like that. It showed stick figures and uttered
mysterious and completely nonsensical phrases like "Eel yon aye oon". I
could not figure it out at all.
Jimmy Johnson (art). He liked the Dan Dare artwork in the Eagle
comics, so I guess he wasn't all bad.
Goodwin (art). Famous quote:
"It's always the system isn't it it's never you."
Clew (metalwork and
woodwork) Lloyd Hughes.
We put a dead bee on his chair once and he sat on it.
More on Clew.
Chisel Chops or Chiz (woodwork)
E. L. Jones. Looked like Desperate Dan.
Chew der cud (music) Tudor Davis.
Arwyn Treharne Jones. Looked like the bulldog in the Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Used to tell you how to make custard! Died a few years ago.
Arthur Blackwell (English) very bad attitude.
Used to shout a lot and hurl abuse. He would often give out lines
for punishment. Famous quote: one of his favorites was when he caught
someone looking at his watch. That kid would have to write out a few
hundred times "If I want to know the time I must ask a policeman!"
Lithgow (biology) another bad attitude.
Reggie Whale (maths).
Famous quote: "Gerron wif yer misserllaneous examples, or I'll breath on yer".
More on Reggie.
Hovis (history) Edwards.
Famous quote: "Use your loaf", hence the nickname. Slept in class.
Dirty Dai (biology) Had a reputation for being
rude. Told us once how he farted when he got up to make a speech at
a dinner. He went from Grove Park to Stanwell Comp in Penarth where
he became deputy head before going on to Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Rhydfelen,
Pontypridd. He died comparatively young.
SOS (history) H. C. M.
Jones. Save Our Stamps. Not exactly famous
quotes but he did used to say "sort of business"
and "come again" rather a lot.
Jack Crap Marwood. Used to call me a wooly monkey
because of my long hair and bum-fluff on my face.
Natty White The Beak. Arrogant.
Had a powerful caning arm.
Emo Emrys Roberts. The Beak before Natty White.
Love that mortarboard. More on Emo.
Twigger (German) Eric Hargreaves.
Famous quote: "Have ye twigged it yet lad?" He was related to
Emo by marriage. More on Twigger.
Famous quote: "You are the elite
because you go to Grove Park". We all looked around the room at each
other and laughed.
Hank (geography ?) Bob O'Keefe.
Always the comedian.
A kid pulled a knife on one of the teachers one day and I think it was Hank.
I guess that kid had no sense of humor.
Warren Coleman (maths).
Now active in local government. More on Coleman.
See a more recent photo here:
Councillor Warren Coleman, OBE.
(No photo) Herbie (physics) Alun Jenkins. Used to be politically
active Young Liberals, I think. Now he is also a councillor.
See his photo here:
Councillor Alun Jenkins.
(geography) He was also an ex-army boxing champion! Famous quote "Righto
lads, you look at the board and I'll go through it".
Wilce (commerce) used to talk about chocolate
a lot when explaining manufacturing and distribution and it made me hungry
because I love chocolate.
More on Crane.
Instruction) More on Amos.
Broom (Greek and Ancient
History) Eric Room. He was also known as Brush.
Famous quote: would
slam his hand down hard on his desk and shout "Shat ap!"
J. K. Randles (French)
(geography). He amazed me by being able to draw a map of the British
Isles on the blackboard from memory.
Wolfie Wolfenden. Used to ride his bike
everywhere. Someone told me this story (I have no idea if it is
true): Apparently, Wolfie was caught by an angry husband while
dallying with said man's wife, being chased round a field at the point of a
long-handled fork, with few vestments to cover his shame. If anyone
knows whether this story is true or false, please let me know.
Maxie (PE) Freudman.
Seemed like a decent enough chap. Don't know what he was doing in a place like that.
Bunny (Woodwork) G.
Warren. What a great nickname.
- Bill Twice (science) William Williams.
Another great nickname.
- Duhjuhvuh (history) D. J. V. Jones.
Does anyone know if this is the same guy that write those Welsh history
- Stinker (chemistry) Brown
- Watkiss (PE) Brian Watkins. Taught us how to cut our toe nails
so they would not become ingrown.
- R. A. Davis (English)
- A student religious teacher from the USA who
taught us about Daddio, JC and the Spook.
"Hey! Teacher, leave
those kids alone!"
The thing that stands out now when I look back, is what an incredibly
violent and abusive place Grove Park was. Violence, aggression,
bullying these have been problems in many schools,
even to this day. The big difference with Grove Park is that most of
this violent behavior was imparted by the teachers onto the pupils.
Corporal punishment was the order of the day.
The single worst incident I ever saw was at the hands of Mr. Charles at Gwenfro but for sheer volume of physical punishment, Grove Park took the
biscuit. It was an everyday occurrence. What I find amazing now is
how we all accepted it as being normal.
The actions of some of these
"teachers" would land them in jail today.
It did not take much for you to get "The Whack" as
we called it. All you had to do was to not finish your homework on
time and we had a ton of homework too. (When I rule the world, I
will abolish homework.) There was an official cane
and punishment book that was supposed to be used for such occasions and some
"teachers" did follow the rules. I did not think much higher of them for
Others, however, used their own personal weaponry
and their beatings were not recorded. These swine were little more
than sadistic thugs, looking for the slightest of excuses to beat the crap
out of us.
Three strokes of the cane on the
backside was the usual punishment for misdemeanors and
"six of the best" for more serious offences. Some
"teachers" would make you bend over and touch your toes (or as near as you
could reach them) and would thoughtfully adjust the flaps of your blazer to maximize your cane-to-buttocks experience.
Others would hit you so hard that you felt like you were being cut in
two and would be knocked down by the
force of the impact in that position. So they would either bend you over a
chair for support or make you lean forward against a wall, gripping the chair-rail if
there was one.
To ensure total humiliation and degradation, these floggings generally took
place in front of the class with everyone watching. Then you would
have to tough it out, keep a jolly old British stiff upper lip and not make any sounds that
indicated you experienced any pain and, above all else, you did not want to
appear weak by crying. And crying was exactly what you wanted to do.
Make no mistake about it,
the cane was a vicious weapon and being on the receiving end of it was an
painful and often bloody ordeal. Yes, bloody
depending on the "teacher", it was not unusual for the cane to
break the skin, leaving physical as well as emotional scars.
After a little incident concerning stink-bombs in the cafeteria during
one lunchtime, I can personally attest to the fact that Natty White could
make your bum bleed. As if that was not bad enough, being made to sit
down afterwards in the cloakroom by a pervert of a teacher, who wanted to know how much it hurt, was a pretty
harrowing experience all by itself.
They say schools like this are responsible for turning out
so many of the sadomasochistic perverts at large in the world today.
Undoubtedly, some of those lowlifes ended up as "teachers" in Grove Park.
Historian George Ryley Scott writes in The History of Corporal Punishment:
"In many cases, the avowed disciplinary value of flagellation in schools
and colleges was a mere pretense to enable sadists to secure sexual
titillation." (1974) I am pretty convinced that at least some of
the Grove Park "teachers" got their jollies in this manner.
Talking of despicable lowlifes, I remember one particularly nasty piece of
work. I was 11 years old, and a small 11 at that, and I was working on my
woodwork project. The kid working at the bench next to me complained
that he had a chip of wood caught in his plane and did not know how to
remove it. I reached over and flicked out the wood chip with the
pencil I happened to have in my hand at the time. "There!" I grinned
Next thing I knew, I was being grabbed by the tie from the other side of
the bench by this scumbag.
(Why we were wearing ties in a machine
room is another baffling issue.) Because I was small, this pathetic
excuse for a teacher and a man lifted me
up easily by my neck and dragged me right across the bench until his ugly face was
just a few inches away from mine.
"What do you think you are doing boy?!", he
screamed, with his eyes almost popping out of his skull. It was a
very traumatic moment for me. The crazed, maniacal look on his face is
something I will never forget. That guy was seriously disturbed.
It's a tough
to choose between them but I think the biggest psychopath
of them all was probably...
well, I'll just call him Vicious Bastard. If you were there, you know who I
mean. He was in a league all of his own and he, more than any other,
epitomized everything that was wrong with the system.
The nasty son-of-a-bitch carried around a heavy chair leg that he used as a truncheon,
or nightstick (we
called it his cosh), to hit us on the back and on the legs. If you
were a first-former wearing short trousers and your socks were not pulled up
properly, Vicious Bastard would hit you across the back of the legs with the
cosh. I think his maxim was "Speak loudly and carry a big stick".
I expect he carried a big stick to compensate for his little weener.
Remember that awful scene of the Taliban thug in Afghanistan beating a
woman with a stick because her veil had slipped? When I saw that, I
was instantly transported back more than 30 years and remembered the time
Vicious Bastard charged a group of boys, who were foolish enough to be standing in a
place that he decided they should not be standing. He swung his
cosh wildly at them like a demented lunatic, hitting them hard until they moved back over the invisible
line that they had crossed.
He would also hurl blackboard erasers with wooden handles across the
classroom and strike you on the head with them. He was one sick puppy.
Today, he would have to face criminal charges and civil lawsuits. If
he was over here, there is a good chance that some kid would blow him away.
carried around his own personal cane hidden in the folds of his gown and
would use it often.
Jack Crap used
piece of wood that he referred to as the "Board of Education".
Other teachers must have thought they were being creative and would whack us with items associated
with their particular subject:
Omo (PE) Sneaker.
Jimmy Johnson (art) A part that came from a
- Bill Twice (science) Bunsen burner hose.
- Herbie (physics) Meter rule. Not so much of a whack really, more of
poke or a slap but very annoying.
Twigger often came back from lunch
smelling of beer and had a tendency to become emotionally charged.
I remember one day he gave a couple of boys a right bollocking. He
had seen them in town at lunchtime and their crimes were many. First,
they should not have been in town. Second, they were not wearing their
school caps. Tsk, tsk! But their worst offence by far was that they were
eating chips! Ohmygod!!!
Chips, for the benefit of any Americans reading this, are French fries. Not the
tiny McDonalds shoestring kind but the big, fat, greasy kind. In those
pre-cholesterol-aware days they were greasy too
and tasted oh-so-good. To really
savor and enjoy chips the
way nature intended, you did not sit down to eat them. In fact most
chip shops did not even have anywhere to sit down. No, you had to eat
them out of a bag with your fingers as you walked around. And this is
what Twigger saw those boys doing.
He went ballistic
I mean, he really freaked out.
He was from the old school (literally) when being
at Grove Park really meant something. He thought eating chips was an
absolute disgrace to the school uniform. He was so upset that there
were tears in his eyes.
There was a Christmas carol about him that went something like this:
Good King Twigger once looked out,
On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone his head that night,
Tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
And grabbed him by his too oo l.
Twigger is no longer with us and had rather a sad end to
his life. His wife died in 1979 and they had no children He
suffered a mild stroke and was whisked off to live with his late wife's
relatives in Abercegir, Nr. Machynllech. Twigger was rather fond of
beer but the village had no pub and the relatives were abstainers.
He suffered another stroke and a few weeks later, a fatal
heart attack, dying in 1981. One of the great things that upset him in those
last months was the physiotherapist who was assigned to him to treat the
after-affects of the first stroke. She was German and discovered that he
used to work for RAF intelligence during the war; he was given a hard time.
Someone wrote to me with this tale:
Explanation first: Lloyd Hughes, who had a good sense of humour, was
aware of our mimicking of his Welsh Valleys pronunciation of "clue", which
came out as "cleuw" (the nearest phonetic spelling I can manage). In
one woodwork lesson, he contrived the immortal statement "Right lads, today
we're going to do screuws and screuwing because I haven't a cleuw where the
Of course, we didn't laugh.
Clew left Grove Park about four years after the introduction of
comprehensive education and moved to Tregaron to teach in a "decent school".
He died suddenly a few years ago at the age of 61. On entering his house
(it was immaculate), it was discovered that there was no trace of family
records. The police eventually traced relatives somewhere in South Wales.
They had almost forgotten his existence, apparently.
It was also discovered that in all the years that we knew him, and
beyond, that he had been helping look after a severely disabled relative
(sister?) who lived in Bow Street, near Aberystwyth - a long way from
Wrexham when you have somebody to look after. Most of Clew's money had
apparently been spent on this sister, who had pre-deceased him.
One day it was rigged that a boy kept asking for help with his maths.
Every time Reggie went to the boy's desk, the lad behind carefully added
detail, using chalk, to a large whale, complete with spout, on the back of
Reggie's cloak. Amazingly, Reggie never felt it and he left the lesson for
the staff room at mid-morning break with the work of art sticking out like a
He returned shortly thereafter, minus cloak, before the class had time to
vacate the room, incandescent with rage. He had worked out how it had
happened and the two lads had very sore bottoms for the next couple of days.
Someone told me this story that I thought was interesting. These
are his words:
For some reason, my class was split in half - one half took Latin with
Charlie Hammond and the other with Rabdosh. This arrangement persisted
from 2nd to 5th year and enabled the most wonderful ruse for doing Latin
Rabdosh never left his desk during a lesson and this meant he never saw
our books in class. So when it came to translating Latin - English or vice
versa, homework was split up into sentences and everyone in the class agreed
to work on one sentence, or more. Rabdosh's homework was extensive.
The resulting translations were then numbered and written on to 14 strips
of paper (a manageable number) for distribution before the next lesson and
subsequent copying into exercise books. Frequently, the copying was not
carried out in time and boys would hold a pile of paper strips, hidden from
the view of Rabdosh, which they then used, when called at random, to read
the translation in class.
Rabdosh never found out (or chose to ignore it) and I never learnt any
Crane was one of the few who did not use the cane
at least I never saw him use it. Sardonic humor, delivered with
a deadpan expression, was his weapon of choice.
Someone was always tapping on his desk with his fingers to some
unknown song that only he could hear. Crane would always scowl at
him and say the same thing: "The only good drummer is a dead drummer!".
Crane taught maths but was also the form room master for some of us, who
got to know him better than the others when we would all be together for a
A favorite form of amusement for us was when an unsuspecting boy would
ask if he could leave the room.
"Please sir, can I leave the room to go to the toilet?", he would ask.
"Certainly", Crane would reply.
We waited in eager anticipation because we knew what was coming.
The boy would get up, walk over to the door and, just as he opened it, Crane
would say to him "...at the end of the lesson!". We just howled
never failed to amuse us. The boy would have to slink back to his desk
and sit cross-legged for the rest of the lesson.
Another one I saw a few times was when someone fell off their chair.
That happened a lot. In those days we had many chairs that were
not attached to the desks and it was common for people to sit back, balancing
them on their back legs. Sooner or later, someone would topple over
with an almighty crash and everyone would laugh at him.
Crane would always go through the same routine:
"Is the chair all right?", he would ask the kid
as he struggled to get up off
"Yes, sir.", he would reply.
"Is the desk all right?"
"Is the floor all right?"
"Good, now let's carry on with the lesson."
He would never ask the boy if he was all right.
The wall in the photo above ran along the schoolyard from the outside gym to
the back of the cafeteria. There were no cars there in my day, only a
few bikes. You can also see part of that wall on the left in the
school photo; the building at the back of the boys is the cafeteria.
When I first started at Grove Park,
that wall had vicious shards of glass from broken bottles embedded in cement
all the way along!
I don't know if the glass was to keep intruders out or to keep us in.
I suspect it was the latter because we were not allowed to leave at any
time and there were always two supervisors guarding the other two possible
exits out of there.
However, it was possible to negotiate that wall, albeit with
some difficulty and with the very real risk of personal injury. At the
top end of the yard, partially obscured by the cafeteria, the wall was not
as high. There was a church on the other side and it was here that
those brave enough (or foolhardy enough) would climb over.
I remember going there one day to learn the ropes and to see how it was
done. I watched a group of four boys climb over ever so gingerly,
placing their hands carefully between the broken glass and vaulting over.
The first three made it OK but the last one snagged his butt on a piece of
glass and ripped his pants.
I can hear him now "I've cut me arse! Me
arse is bleeding!", he cried.
The glass was eventually removed.
D. J. V. Jones, or Duhjuhvuh as he was known to us,
used to shout a lot to try to intimidate us. He was fairly young, had
not yet developed that killer instinct and could never really pull it off
like some of the others.
We used to get quite rowdy in class while waiting for the teachers to
arrive and would post lookouts to let us know when the teacher was on the
way. Then we would settle down by the time he got there.
Duhjuhvuh got upset one day when the lookout told
us he was on his way to the classroom. He stormed in angrily and
bellowed "Who was it that said Duhjuhvuh's coming?!".
I don't think he liked his nickname. He was really
We just fell about laughing.
Speech day April 10, 1965.
Emrys (E. H. Roberts), the beak at the time,
attained his 15 minutes of fame when national newspapers reported that he
attacked those parents who allowed their children to wear "Rolling Stones
corduroy trousers". He said
"It was a disservice to the young if
adults interpreted freedom as a complete disregard for the rules".
"Are you sitting comfort-boldly,
two-square on your botty? Then I'll begin..."
Professor Stanley Unwin
Grove Park had its own language. These are a
few of the things that I remember.
Sly Neptune: Sly dog.
Naff Off!: Walk away in jerky movements!
Soft Melt: Idiot.
Head-the-ball: Soft Melt.
Smart: Very attractive.
State-on: Not smart, e.g., She was
a right state-on.
Trophy or troph: Something good.
Bezzie: Something really good.
Bezzie-troph: Something really, really good.
burble: Stanley Unwinstyle
replacement word ending, e.g., I apologize
apologaburble, congratulations congratuburble.
Yuh bum: Sentence suffix suitable for any
occasion, e.g., "Let me copy your homework, yuh bum" or "Who was that girl I
saw you with yesterday, yuh bum?".
"It's deciduous innit?", was a general purpose
phrase that was used when you couldn't think of a clever response to
something someone said. It was sort of like Basil Fawlty saying
about Manuel, "It's all right, he's from Barcelona", like that explains everything.
Nowadays, you might greet someone
with "How are you?". A common form of greeting back then was
"How are you off for
lard?". It was more than just a few words, it was an entire ritual
that involved contorting one's face into something not dissimilar to Plug's
from The Beano's The Bash Street Kids. (Remember the Beano and
the Dandy?) Then you had to deliver the line in a silly
voice, reminiscent of Emo Philips.
How did the "How are you off for lard?" routine originate?
I don't know
it's deciduous innit?
There was a very popular joke going around
at the time. You would say to someone,
"I've got a joke for you how
high does a mouse spin?"
The person would give you a stupefied look
their shoulders and mumble something like "I give up, how high does a mouse
Then you would reply, with barely controlled
laughter, "The faster, the fewer get it? the faster the fewer. Hee!,
Then you would see if the person would pretend to
get the joke and laugh.
This thing was so silly that it actually became funny. Ah, yes, that was a bezzie-troph.
Back to Top
One day I was walking past the beak's office when
Emrys came out and saw me. He had a look of horror on his face and put
his hands over his eyes as if shielding them from the sun. It was my
socks. They were bright red instead of the regulation grey. He
was totally appalled .
As punishment for my brazen effrontery, he made me
get a chair and sit in the hallway for an hour. He wanted everyone
to see my socks and to send a message that such disrespect for the school
uniform would not be tolerated.
The hall was a very busy thoroughfare; you had to
pass that way to get to the music room, gym, woodwork, metalwork and GED.
Imagine sitting on a chair in the street in Piccadilly Circus or Times
Square. People I didn't know would just stare at me without saying a
word. People I knew wanted to know what I was doing.
"Hey, Stan! What the hell are you doing?",
asked one. I explained the whole sorry story.
"Why are you sitting on a chair in the middle of
the hall?", asked another. Once again I explained the tale of my
"What's going on?", asked yet another. This
was getting tedious so I simply replied "Socks!" and pointed to the
offending articles of clothing. "Oh, I see", he said.
Word must have spread because someone else came by
and said "Socks?"
"Socks.", I nodded.
We had to use fountain pens for all our writing. Ballpoint pens
were absolutely forbidden. Many of the desks even had inkwells in
them, although they were no longer used. We used either bottles of ink or
cartridges. Nibs would wear out or break and had to be replaced, ink
would be spilled and writing would be smudged on the paper.
It was generally a very messy process all around and you would often end
up with ink all over your hands. We carried around blotting paper to
try to minimize the mess.
However, the pens provided some boys with the means of exacting revenge
of sorts on some of the teachers. As the teachers walked up and down
the classroom to see what we were
doing, some boys would flick ink on their backs as they passed by.
Perhaps this is why so many teachers wore gowns.
I am told that Reggie Whale's rather ample posterior also made an
excellent target for the ink-flickers when he bent over someone's desk to help him.
One of the boys in my class lived on a farm and they
apparently had a lot of cockroaches there. One day he brought in a big
jar full of them (live) and proceeded to put them in kids' desks and down
their necks! I don't think I have ever seen so much pandemonium in the
school as there was on that day.
Most of us had probably seen the occasional cockroach but we had never
seen anything like this. They were big ones too, or at least they
seemed big to us. These creatures instilled fear in just about
everyone. Even some of the supposed tough guys in the class (we
used to call them "hard knocks") panicked
when they came into contact with
these repulsive insects.
Of course, he put several of them in the teacher's desk. Fate
decreed that Mrs. Stokes would be the unfortunate teacher and she gave out a
very satisfying shriek when she discovered them. "Get those vile,
disgusting things out of here!", she screamed as she recoiled in horror.
Yes, the entire episode was vile and disgusting
and absolutely hilarious!
The boys' school used to have a playing field on Park Avenue and, to get
there, we had to walk past the girls school. As we paraded past them
in our little shorts and rugby shirts, we would often be
wolf-whistled by girls hanging
out the windows of their science block (shown in the photo above).
Sometimes we would go on cross-country runs (the only sports event that I
was any good at) that took us around Acton
Park and we would pass the girls' school playing field. We would often
see them out there running and jumping
with their skirts tucked into
their regulation navy blue knickers.
The Wrexhamian was the annual school rag-mag.
I have long since lost my copies and I don't remember too much of what was
in there except that it was not very interesting.
I can remember one gem though, that appeared in at least two editions:
the adventures of Gow Bond. They were humorous stories, written in the
style of Spike Milligan. I loved the Goons and Milligan's writings and I thought
Gow Bond was very similar and very funny.
It contained lines like "He acted on a hunch. He normally used a
stage but..." and "The message read Une chose. That could only
mean one thing, thought Bond". I love that wordplay stuff.
I don't know who wrote them or how he managed to get them included in
such a staid publication.
A popular pastime was putting two nails in the electric socket; one in
the positive side and the other in the negative side. Then we would
rest a third nail on top of them both.
The fun part came when we flipped the switch with a ruler. It made
a hell of bang and the loose nail would fly across the classroom. Then
we would inspect the nails and marvel at how the metal had melted.
One day we blew a fuse and the whole ground floor went
I don't know how we didn't get killed doing that. Crane told us
about one kid that did get killed in that same room and at that same outlet.
It was an old building and the electric wires ran down the outside of the
wall instead of being buried behind them. Apparently this kid decided
to cut through the wire with a penknife. He must have thought it was a
pretty damn good idea.
The classrooms used to have fairly large wastepaper baskets. One
day a group of the bigger kids decided it would be funny to grab one of the
smaller kids and sit him in the basket with his arms and legs sticking out
over the top.
Not content with that, they then hoisted him onto a window sill, which
was about four or five feet off the ground. These were old buildings
with high ceilings and windows. The window sill was wide enough to
accommodate about three-quarters of the basket's base.
Precariously perched in a state of unstable equilibrium, the boy did not
dare move a muscle for fear of falling off that ledge. The big kids
loved it, they thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen.
But still that was not enough. There were cords for opening and
closing the higher windows. One of them thought it would be a good
idea to tie the end of the cord around the kid's neck as he sat up there.
They kept him there for about five minutes and I think the only reason
they took him down was because they were afraid a teacher would walk in and
they would get into trouble.
The cafeteria was on two floors and some boys liked to slide down the
banister on the way out from the upper floor. This was quite dangerous
because there was a big drop over the side down to the floor below.
One day the inevitable happened and someone fell over. The buzz was
that he landed on his face and that he was seriously injured. Our
investigative reporters were unable to verify the accuracy of these rumors.
In any event, a day or two later raised bolts appeared in the rail to
prevent anyone else from attempting to slide down them
There used to be a coffee bar above the Wimpy. One day a group of
Grove Park boys went there and encountered a group from Yale, or "the tech"
as we used to call it.
Words must have been exchanged
with one thing leading to another and a big fight broke out. Some of
the boys were in my class and they came back with tales of how it was like a
barroom brawl in an old western movie. The fight spilled down the
stairs and into the street.
The cops were called but
everyone took off before they arrived. It was reported in the Leader
and became something of a scandal.
A few days later at lunch time I was standing in the schoolyard when
about fifty boys from Yale appeared outside the gate. Everyone just
looked at them wondering what they were going to do. We thought it was
some kind of revenge mission and expected them to come into the yard and
start fighting. But they didn't they
just stood there staring right back at us. Eventually, they disbursed
without any incident.
A day or two later, two greebos showed up. They were about 19 or 20
years old with long, unkempt hair, leather jackets and dirty old jeans.
These two were not going to wait outside the gate. They meant business
and came swaggering into the yard.
I don't know what their intentions were but they looked like they were
going to beat-up someone. As
luck would have it, they picked the wrong day to do that. A school
prefect was in the yard and he went up to them to ask them what they wanted.
I think we all assumed there was some kind of connection with the Yale boys.
An altercation ensued between the greebos and the prefect and it looked
like that prefect must have been a boxer or something. Big surprise for
them! It took him about 15 seconds to send both of them scurrying from
the yard with their tails between their legs.
I never liked the prefects but that one certainly earned my respect that
Every so often, a fight would break out in the schoolyard.
Someone would yell
"Scrap!!!" and all the boys within earshot would come running to
watch the spectacle.
Then a curious thing would occur. We would all engage in a strange
and inexplicable ritual. "Oy! Oy! Oy! Oy! Oy! ...", we would all
chant, over and over, as the two opponents pummeled each other. We did
not know why we did this, we just knew that we had to. It was a
tradition, passed on through the generations.
The noise would be like a homing beacon and draw boys from the furthest
most reaches of the school. Soon they too would be adding their
"Oy! Oy! Oys!" to the racket.
This commotion would of course attract the attention of a teacher who
would feel compelled to break up the fight and spoil our entertainment.
Then he would haul the two combatants off for another round of
violence, this time on the wrong end of a cane.
Back to Top
Remember Monty Python's "Bruces" sketch with the Australian philosophers
all called Bruce? They had a set of rules:
Rule 1 - No pooftas!
Rule 2 - No member of the faculty is to maltreat the Abbos in any way at all
... if there's anybody watching.
Rule 3 - No pooftas!
Rule 4 - Now this term, I don't want to catch anybody not drinking.
Rule 5 - No pooftas!
Rule 6 - There is no rule six.
Rule 7 - No pooftas!
That's a bit like what Grove Park was like, at least as far as the "No
Pooftas!" rule was concerned.
In those intolerant and politically incorrect days, being a poofta was
considered to be a very bad thing indeed and no one would ever dare to admit
to being one. But we could always tell who the pooftas were
(even if they hadn't quite figured
it out themselves yet) and we observed a special protocol
whenever we passed by one.
On first sighting a poofta, you would immediately feign a look of fear
and cover your butt with your hands or books or whatever you were carrying.
Then, as you passed the poofta, you would turn so that you were facing him
at all times. At no point would you ever turn your back on the poofta
until you were at a safe distance from him.
If you encountered a poofta in a corridor, you would place your back
against the wall and slide along it as you passed by him.
Back to Top
There was a skeleton hanging up in the corner of the biology lab.
He had a name like Charlie or George or something.
The War Memorial Hospital was on the other side of the street and one day
they sent a complaint to the school. Some of the patients were able to
see the skeleton from their windows. Being very sick, even to the
point of being at Death's door, it unnerved them
to see a skull
looking back at them.
I guess some people just can't take a joke.
The skeleton was moved to the other side of the room where it could not
Back to Top
One April Fools Day, we rigged the classroom door
so that a whole pile of stuff would fall on Coleman's head when he entered.
For some reason, he failed to see the humor in
that and proceeded to write out a line on the board that we were all to copy
a few hundred times. (He was another one I never saw use the cane.)
However, the chalk had been fiendishly hollowed
out with a compass, a match placed inside and covered-up with chalk dust. When he
started to write, it lit up like a candle. He stood there looking at
it burning in his hand with a big grin on his face.
He was so tickled
by it, that he forgave us our sins and we didn't have to do the lines.
I started, and also quit, smoking when I was 14. A lot of us used to smoke because it made us look so cool
(or so we thought at the time). With
those uniforms and silly caps, we needed all the help we could get.
Cigarettes were called fags and in those days you could say "Can I bum a
fag?" without getting a queer look.
Some boys had their own lighters (how cool was that!) but the rest of us
had to make do with boxes of matches, which meant there were always plenty
of matches around. There are lots of fun things you can do with
matches apart from putting them in sticks of chalk.
There's that old one where you ask someone if they have seen a match burn
twice. Well, you know how that one goes.
I liked making cannons. You take two matches, place them
head-to-head and wrap the heads together with metal foil. The stuff
that the cigarettes were packaged in was good for that (we used to call it
You hold one match in your hand, light another match and place the flame
under the foil. After a second or two, the other two matches ignite
and cause a mini explosion inside the foil. There is a little flame
and a nice whooshing sound as the match you are not holding takes off like a
missile. They can travel a long way too.
Another fun thing to do was to ask someone to hold their hand in a fist
and then place three matches between their fingers. Then you would
light the matches and, as the boy stood there looking nervously at the matches burning
towards his fingers,
the gathered throng would all sing "Happy Birthday" to him.
Another good joke was to ask someone to lend you their box of matches so
that you could show them a trick. You would remove four of the matches
from the box, close the box, place it on the ground and arrange the four
matches around the matchbox
You would give a little story about how the matchbox represented a
British battleship during the war and the four matches were a German
You would say to the person, "How did the ship manage to escape from the
He would think about it for a while and say, "I don't know how?"
Then you would say, "The ship didn't escape it
got blown to bits!" and
with that you would stamp on the matchbox, which caused it to erupt in
Back to Top
There was no separation of church and state way back then. We had
to say prayers, sing hymns and attend R.I., where we were force-fed lessons about God and all that Jesus
stuff, regardless of our own personal beliefs.
I was taught
R.I. by Amos . He seemed to be
in a state of perpetual exasperation with us. Sometimes he would lose
his cool and stammer "B..bother!" That was so funny
coming from someone so pious who obviously just wanted to say @#$%. He
might just as well have said it because we knew that was what he really
meant. We always got a chuckle out of that.
My friend was a jew and he once had the audacity to question the
teachings. In those days this was an incredibly shocking thing to do.
If you did not subscribe to the Christian beliefs, you were considered to be
a very heinous individual indeed.
He asked Amos how he knew the stories about Jesus were true. Amos
almost choked in disbelief at the question.
"Because it's written in the Bible!', he exclaimed in a manner that
indicated it was the most stupid question he had ever heard in his entire
"But how do you know that what the Bible says is true?", said Chris.
He was really pushing his luck.
"Because it's The Bible!", cried Amos. I thought he was
going to throw an apoplectic fit.
I had my own questions and doubts and by now had come to the inescapable
conclusion that this was all a load of old cobblers.
I dared to ask the unspeakable. "How do you know there is a god?", I asked in all seriousness.
The look said it all. Amos glared at me like I was the most stupid
and evil person that ever walked the face of the Earth and that I was
obviously going to go straight to hell for my utterances.
"Just look around you", he said incredulously, "Look at the planet and
all the plants and animals! Don't you think that it is wondrous?
Do you think that all of creation could just come into being all by itself?
Obviously it could not be unless God created it."
"Yes, it is amazing", I conceded, "and I cannot explain it. But the
same argument holds true for God. God would have to be so much more advanced
than anything we can comprehend how did He
come into being?"
He gave me that Dirty Harry go-ahead-punk-make-my-day look and said "God
is, God always has been and God always will be!'
Back to Top
Although not part of the school, there were local people and places that
existed on the periphery that contributed to the overall Grove Park
experience. Some things I remember:
- Bess the woman who was always seen
walking everywhere around town at very high speed. She wore short
pants and short socks.
- The man with one leg that used to insult people. He was usually drunk
and had a particular distain for teenage boys.
- Squire Simon York who used to dress like a tramp and ride his bike
- Jackie Isaacs also looked like a tramp and
always had an entourage of young boys in tow. Know what I mean?
Nudge, nudge! Wink, wink! Say no more.
- The man who walked backwards. He walked forwards too and then he
would stop suddenly and go into reverse. He did not look where he
was going either. If he encountered a telephone pole, he would go
round it backwards.
- Abby Lowe who had a shop on Charles Street. He used to sell us
fireworks (bangers and jacky-jumpers).
- Frothy coffee at The Coffee Bar in King Street. Run by Mary who lived
- Sam's Sam Jones' Milk Bar up by the Four Dogs pub in Acton, where a lot of greasers used to
- Saturday night dances at the Memo (Memorial Hall).
- Meeting under the clock at number 1 bus stand on King Street.
There was also a kiosk there that was handy for packs of five Woodbines.
- The sweet shop on King Street where we would buy Midget Gems.
The black ones tasted foul so we would throw them at each other or, if the
sun was out, melt them with a magnifying glass.
- The Croft at the back of the guildhall near the blind gardens where
boys would meet to fight after school.
- Tin Lizzie and the rest of the M. A. Evans fleet of Ma-busses.
Back to Top
I engaged in a
little extracurricular activity while at Grove Park.
This is a poetry book I
co-authored with a friend. I'm a poet and you didn't know it.
you would like to read it, click on the book.