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Skool Daze

"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: www.oldwrexhamians.co.uk.

Memories

Rhosddu Gwenfro Grove Park
Rogues Gallery Punishment Twigger
Crane-isms Broken Glass Duhjuhvuh
Corduroy Trousers Clew The Non-Joke
Red Socks Pen and Ink Cockroaches
Playing Fields The Wrexhamian Stupid Stunt #1
Stupid Stunt #2 Stupid Stunt #3 School Wars
Fights No Pooftas! Skeleton
April Fools Day Playing with Matches Religious Instruction
Reggie Whale Rabdosh A Book Wot I Writ
Grove Park Speak Other People & Places  

 


Rhosddu Junior School

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.

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Gwenfro Junior School

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)
 

Gwenfro Junior School around about 1961.    Me in the Gwenfro photo.

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 that was.

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 Queens Park.

All the other memories on this page are from Grove Park.

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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
–
Kodachrome (Paul Simon)
 

"All in all you're just another brick in the wall."
– Pink Floyd

Grove Park Boys Grammar School, May 1967.    Me in the Grove Park photo.

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 better.

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.

We 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 caps! 

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.

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Rogues Gallery

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.  I think 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 hic erat!".

Lemmy (GED).   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.

Benji (chemistry) –  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.

Butch (English) – 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.

Saunders (French) – 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.

D.A. 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.

Crane (maths)  More on Crane.

Amos (Religious Instruction)  More on Amos.

Broom (Greek and Ancient History) – Eric Room.  He was also known as Brush.

? (History) – Famous quote: would slam his hand down hard on his desk and shout "Shat ap!"

J. K. Randles (French)

  Walden (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.

Dolben?  Physics?

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 books?
  • 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.
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Punishment

"Hey!  Teacher, leave those kids alone!"
 – Pink Floyd

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 it though.

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 excruciatingly 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 proudly.

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.

Rabdosh  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 guillotine.

  • 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.
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Twigger

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.

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Clew

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 gleuw is".

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.

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Reggie Whale

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 sore thumb.

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.

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Rabdosh

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 homework.

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 Latin

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Crane-isms

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 maths lesson.

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 , that 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 the floor.

"Yes, sir.", he would reply.

"Is the desk all right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is the floor all right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good, now let's carry on with the lesson."

He would never ask the boy if he was all right.

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Broken Glass

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.

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Duhjuhvuh

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 mad. 

We just fell about laughing.

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Corduroy Trousers

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".

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Grove Park Speak

"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.

Ride-a-bike: Head-the-ball.

Smart: Very attractive.

State-on: Not smart, e.g., She was a right state-on.

Bogs: Toilets.

Trophy or troph: Something good.

Bezzie: Something really good.

Bezzie-troph: Something really, really good.

–burble: Stanley Unwin–style 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?

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The Non-Joke

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 , shrug their shoulders and mumble something like "I give up, how high does a mouse spin?"

Then you would reply, with barely controlled laughter, "The faster, the fewer – get it? – the faster the fewer.  Hee!, 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.

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Red Socks

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 plight.

"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.

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Pen and Ink

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.

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Cockroaches

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!

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Playing Fields

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.

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The Wrexhamian

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.

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Stupid Stunt #1

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 dark.

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.    Wrong!

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Stupid Stunt #2

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.

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Stupid Stunt #3

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

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School Wars

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 day.

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Fights

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.

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No Pooftas!

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.

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Skeleton

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 be seen.

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April Fools Day

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.

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Playing with Matches

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 silver paper). 

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 submarine wolf-pack.  You would say to the person, "How did the ship manage to escape from the submarines?"

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 flames.

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Religious Instruction

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 life.

"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!'

Arrrrggggghhhhhhhh!

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Other People & Places

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 around town.
  • 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 in Acton.
  • Sam's – Sam Jones' Milk Bar up by the Four Dogs pub in Acton, where a lot of greasers used to hang out.
  • 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.

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A Book Wot I Writ

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.

If you would like to read it, click on the book.

 

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This page was last updated 03/02/08