MEMORABILIA

Index to the Articles submitted.
(Click on the Notebook to go directly to an article on this page).

  Pam Hayes - "The 1951 - 1953 Period. ".
  Tony Warr - "Asks: Where are they now?".
  Gordon Coggan - "An ACS Head Boy reflects".
  Mike McMullan - "Ahem ! get it right !".
  Michael Ross - "An email precise yet concise".
  Val Surch - "Typing her way through life".
  Laraine Eden - "Cats R Us - Down under !".
  Tom Fearns - "Memories of Mord and more !".
  Keith Oddy - "What was that girl's name ?".
  Joan Burnett nee Stevenson - "I can name that photo.".
  Martin Hudson - "Life's a Beach - Mord !".
  Jon Fox - "A Run-in with Mord !".
  Dr. Graham Beards - "The Last Time I saw Mr. Normington-Mitchell".
  Charles Ralph Mordecai
  Book Prize for Mathematics 1901
  Aston Commercial 1943-45. (Betty Fraemohs White)
  Aston Commercial 1947-50. (Ken Callow).
  Who knew my father ? (Mehjabin Ulfat).
  A Tram ride to School. (Ken Callow).
  1963 Intake (Paul Bennett).
  A Beating from Taff ! (Peter Dykes).
  Pecker's Revenge ! (Peter Dykes).
  Holte Grammar 1965-70. (Michael Malin).
  School Photograph 1939. (Chris Lilley).
  Hey, that's my Dad ! (Pat Barber).
  Experiences at A.C.S. (Barrie Christian).
 

RETURN

Pam Hayes
Pam Hayes (nee Newton) wrote to me in March 2011. Here's what she has to say:
Dear Dennis

I was at Aston for 3 years. I remember Dr Flack,Trevor Lewis, Ben Towel, Mr Jenkins, Miss Haylett, Mrs Courtney Miss Chaffer (deputy head I think), Mr Woodward and Mrs Hare who taught science and R.E. I remember Mrs Hare's idea of teaching RE was to get us to memorise Chapter 13 Corinthians "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity......." I did not manage the whole chapter and was declared lazy by Mrs Hare.

Mr Lewis terrified the living daylights out of us with the mental arithmetic tests every 3 weeks. He threatened us that we'd be in trouble if we didn't get at least 20 out of 24. The book we worked with was written by Dr Flack. Miss Haylett taught shorthand and bookeeping and wore those half moon specs. She was strict but an excellent teacher. Mr Jenkins was a lovely gentle man and I think had I had him for maths permanently, I would have been better. I almost got to understanding logarithms. Dr Flack's teaching of the slide rule continued to puzzle me. Moira Redmond taught English, Geography and History. History was such an interesting subject with her as a teacher. I went to school camp twice which was a wonderful experience.I still have a couple of editions of the AXE.

I have so many happy memories about Aston Commercial. There didn't appear to be too many mentions of the 1951-1953 period. Through the excellent teaching I have never been short of work and did some part time medical secretarial work up to August 2009.

Pam Hayes (Nee Newton)


 

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Martin Hudson
Martin Hudson wrote to me in April 2005 with this tale of a beach encounter !.
Imagine, lying on a sun drenched beach in Menorca, sleeping off the previous night?s hangover but being awoken by an all too familiar coughing and spluttering. In a daze and blinded by sunlight, I shifted from the horizontal position and staggered towards the source of the cough. It had been eight years since I had left Holte as Head Boy and nine years since I last heard this familiar respiratorally congested sound but were my ears deceiving me? Should I have had that last drink? There it was again, so I homed in on the sound and still with the sun in my eyes I uttered the words ?Is that you Mr. Mordecai?? The response from the man in the deckchair with the sunshine all around him instead of his gown was ?Yes Hudson, it is. What are you doing here?? What an amazing guy. That was in 1980 and was nine years on and yet he still remembered my name. It has to be said that I only ever caught the rough edge of his tongue and not the cane but either way, it never did me any harm. We had an interesting chat there on the beach; it was great to see him. Many schools would benefit from staff like him today. Happy days! I started at Holte GCS in September of 1965 and stayed for all seven forms through to July 1972 and was Head Boy in my final year. I'm sure I still have the long photos from 66, 68 and 70 somewhere, as well as every Axe that was issued during my time at Holte. I think there was then a cheap and cheerful magazine created by Ken Palmer (of Woodwork fame) called AXIS and they must be somewhere around. I'm still in touch with many of the folks I went through school with - there is talk of a re-union but that takes some organising.

Martin Hudson - Ex pupil Holte Grammar Commercial School
 

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Jon Fox
Jon Fox wrote to me in September 2004 with this tale of terror !.
I remember well my days at Aston Commercial School in the late 1950s,at the helm was C Normington Mitchell, ably assisted by Mr Mordecai and Mrs Chatwin. Just their looks were enough to intimidate any but the bravest pupils. Mordecai in particular had a ferocious temper and when he was angry he would fly around the corridors with his gown blowing around him like a demon caped crusader. I had been appointed form captain on several occasions so thought I was a reasonably well behaved lad except for my almost daily lunchtime trips with others to the Rock n Roll sessions at the Casino in Birmingham town centre. In our defence I stress we were always back on time to register for afternoon lessons. One day I decided to shirk school uniform a little in order to make myself more cool and ready for the lunchtime bop session. I put on a tie that had a music motif painted on it with different coloured glass stones sewn into it. I was very careful to cover my tie by pulling my lapel across it whenever a member of staff walked past me. After a while I began to feel confident that I was going to get away with it (bad move). I became a little too sure of myself and while swaggering down the corridor near the entrance to the hall I encountered Mordecai. 'Come here that boy' resonated through the school 'Yes you boy' about six boys stopped and looked but I knew he meant me. He came at me his gown flowing like Dracula in full flight and his curly hair standing on end. 'What do you call this' he bellowed grabbing my tie and pulling me towards him with it? 'A tie sir' I whimpered 'this is not school uniform is it?' he snarled pulling tighter at the tie. Regrettably he had only got hold of the end of the tie that tightens it and while he avidly embarked on a tirade of numerous reasons why I should not be wearing it, was slowly pulling the thing tighter round my neck. I had to try to stop him as he was beginning to choke me and since I could not get a word in edgeways I gave him an almighty push backwards. He was so surprised at this his eyes became as big as saucers and he could not speak for a moment, he had however let go of the tie. He blustered incomprehensible sentences at me and after a few seconds when the shock wore off barked 'the principals study now'!!!!. I was frog-marched up to Normington Mitchell and told to wait outside while Mordecai went in. After about ten minutes (or ten years) I was summoned in. Mitch who was a very refined and learned gentleman, said that I had used violence on a master and that could result in possible expulsion so what had I to say in my defence. I confessed that I was doing wrong by wearing the tie so admitted it was my fault but I did not intend any violence on Mordecai but I could not tell him he was choking me. I was asked if that was all and then told to wait outside while they discussed the matter. I stood outside petrified of what my parents would think if I was 'sacked,' a voice called 'Fox come in' I sidled in to the study wondering what was in store for me and Mitch told me that after some thought he had decided that I would not suffer expulsion but my punishment was six strokes of the slipper, I was to go and get my gym shorts on and return. I retorted 'Yes, sir' I then turned to Mordecai and 'Sir I am very sorry for what happened I did not mean to be violent towards you.' He stared back at me and turned to Mitch and said 'I think we can dispense with punishment on this boy and now consider the matter closed.' I could not believe my ears Mordecai was really human after all. For my remaining years at Aston Commercial School I had enormous respect for him, I had seen his sense of justice at first hand and his humanity had shone through that fierce exterior. It transpired that he lived not far from me and would travel home on the same bus some evenings. I would even see him in the locally at the shops or out walking. Mordecai was an institution in himself he was a true educationalist (if there is such a word) and his bluster was just that, the cunning disguise of a caring and professional man of his day. I pay homage to his memory

Jon Fox - Ex pupil ACS
 

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Dr. Graham Beards
Graham Beards wrote to me in July 2004 with this account.
Dear Dennis
Thanks again for the Holte Website - it is superb. I have written a short essay about my last meeting with Mr. Mitchell. If you deem it worthy, you might want to post it on your site.
For the record, the boys in my class, 1 Alpha 1963-64 were:
Geoffrey Adams(emigrated to Oz in 1967, but came back - Mr. Mitchell sexed-up his school report to ease his emigration)
Alan Arnold(genius and prize-winner)
Graham Beards
Paul Bennett(a really nice guy now living in Perth OZ)
Michael Buckley(form clown - very popular with the girls)
Graham Burbridge(form clown's understudy and a great penny polisher - seriously !)
Martin Burke(became head boy in 1969 - always quietly deep in thought)
Stephen Clarke(always the best looking one)
John Cullen(popular Form Captain - left to join the army in 1967)
Alan Dennis(great chess player)
Norman Donnelly(I won't let a bad word to be said about him)
Alan Dudley(the baby of the class, had Alan been born a couple of weeks earlier he would have been in year 1964-65, he was a good friend - his mum once gave Mr. Hind a hand-bagging)
Duggins(He only survived one term)
Robert Fern(musical maestro - introduced me to the Pink Floyd, I was sure Rob was going to become a rock legend)

The Last Time I Saw Mr. Normington-Mitchell.
I attended Holte from 1963 to 1968. I loved Mr. Mitchell and he liked me, but some years later I realised that he liked all his pupils. At the time he was by far the most distinguished man I had ever met. He had such charisma and diginity. I kept in touch with him for a couple of years after I, reluctantly, left Holte in 1968 (my dad would not allow me to stay on) and he encouraged me to retake a couple of O levels that I had failed, which I did. I passed them both, with quite good grades (I think a 2 and a 3) and I remember he was more pleased than I was when I told him.
In 1971 I started my career as a biomedical scientist at The General Hospital, (now The Childrens Hospital), in Steelhouse Lane. In the Spring of 1973 I saw him sitting in the outpatients clinic. I told my senior and I asked her if I could have a short break in order to say hello to him. She very, very kindly agreed; we were terribly busy that day. Mr. Mitchell remembered me and even addressed me by my first name. Thinking back, this was wonderful of him, since he must have known so very many boys and girls over the years. I asked him how he was, but this was rather stupid of me, he looked me straight in the eye and said that he was not at all well. Then quickly changing the subject, he asked me if I had seen the new school. I said I hadn't, to which he replied, "It looks like a factory" ! He added that he felt the time had come for him to consider retirement and that Mr. Mordecai was of a similar mind. Then after a short silence he exclaimed, "My goodness, I haven't offered you a cup of tea" ! (We were in the outpatients clinic remember).
I offered to get them but he insisted, and who was I to argue with Mr. Mitchell. Five minutes later, he returned with tea in two plastic disposable cups. "I'm awfully sorry about the cups" he said. We continued to chat for twenty minutes, about school, about how Mrs. Chatwin was getting on, about who had done well in their exams and so on and so forth, until his appointment was called.
"Please keep in touch Graham", he said as he walked towards the impatient nurse. I'm sad to say I didn' t. I heard the news of his passing a year or so later(?1975) and I was truly sad. I would have loved to have told him that I had finally made it to University, which had much to do with his encouraging me to continue my education at night-school.
Mr. Mitchell was a quiet man, a real intellectual, but he made me feel important and interesting when, I now know, I was neither. What a great man.

Dr. Graham Beards
 

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Charles Ralph Mordecai
Martin Mordecai wrote me with the following in June 2004.
Dear ?
Well it’s surprising what you find on Google – a whole web page dedicated to my father!! 
(Charles) Ralph Mordecai as I recall went on to be that last Head of Holte Grammar School when it went Comprehensive and moved sites around 1971(?). C Normington Mitchell (Mitch) moved and was Head of the new school before retiring and dying shortly after, around 1975.
At the time you recall my impression was that dad needed to be something of a martinet to shore up Mitchell. In his last years Dad did most of the admin, timetable construction and only taught a little – A level Stats for example. He once told me a story of how he was explaining the intracies of odds on double, trebles, yankees etc on horse races. At the end of the class he was approached by two painters who were doing some decorating outside. They claimed it was the most interesting school lesson they had ever had.
The Woodbines were actually home rolled – an original mixture of pipe and virginia tobacco.
Dad did serve in the war – he volunteered in May 1939 (at the age of 34) joined first the RMP and then Royal Signals and Intelligence Corps on cypher work (code making rather than breaking). He was based in Washington from 1942-44 and rose from Private to CSM.
The fags could not have done too much harm, he died in 1997 at the age of 92. After retirement he spent much of his time doing crosswords, watching Warwicks CC and looking after my mum. He never left the home his parents had moved into in the 1920‘s. He was a regular guest at a dinner held every two years or so by the Aston Commercial School class of 47 !
I hope he did not leave too many scars with his punishments – it was a different era then, I remember PGD Robbins (oxford, Moseley, Coventry, England and the Lions) wielding the slipper (Excalibur!) to good effect at King Edwards in the 60s.
Best wishes

Martin Mordecai
Here's a follow-up from Martin Mordecai post my June 2004 Newsletter ("Ed.")
Dear Dennis,
Thanks for your emails, apologies for not replying earlier. It was only after I emailed you that I explored the rest of the website and realised the extent of interest. From the comments on my father, it seems he was feared but respected by those he didn't teach, and liked and respected by those he did teach. Sounds about right for a senior master.
I was guilty of a peculiar brummy elitism in my email - "King Edwards" meant the posh school in Edgbaston, which in my time you could get in for free. Many of my friends from primary school (Yenton) went to KEGS Aston, and maybe it would have been better if I had gone there too, instead of having to travel across the city twice a day.
Incidentally, in case there are any sports quiz anoraks on your distribution, I checked and Pete Robbins never actually made it on to a Lions tour. He was picked but broke a leg, rumour had it after jumping into an empty swimming pool at Penarth on a Barbarians tour. (In fact it was while playing for Barbarians against Newport, but some say he missed a Babarians tour to Canada after a swimming pool incident).
As regard you queries, I know my father was friends with Ray Morris, and Colin Russell. He exchanged Christmas cards with Ray up to my father's death in 1997 the last address I have is "Two Rivers", 5, Back Lane, Hemmingbrough, Selby, N Yorks, YO8 7QP. I should have kept in touch. He also exchanged cards with Roger Poole (English) and Vera Fishwick (nee Chatwin, deputy head before Dad). Dad had a special ally in Stan Beesley, school caretaker, and he and his wife kept in touch and did a lot for my parents in their later years. Stan moved to a school at Birches Green before retiring.
I seem to remember my Dad did have a complete set of The AXE in his office. These have disappeared but for some reason I have a copy of no 40, Summer 1969. I also have three copies of AXIS (1,3, and 6) a sort of samizdat school mag. My father was also sent the first school magazine produced by "Holte School" in 1975, a very poor production compared with the AXE. It records Mitchell's death. Are these of interest? I can send them to you.
There was an "Old Asconians Society" run I think by a Ron Kirby (1951). They held dinner/dances I think every three years my father made a speech at each one into his eighties. The last one I remember must have been 1991 or 1994 at a golf club in Sutton.
ACS/Holte was of course a type of school that doesn't exist any more. I can see all the arguments against selection at 11, but I am not sure that the system we have now of neighbourhood comprehensives and selection by wealth or postcode is a great deal better.
Best wishes
Martin Mordecai
Ps My father thought the school song was awful.
 

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Book Prize for Mathematics - 1901
Here is an email sent in February 2004 by Mr. Justin Coombs regarding an acquisition of his

I own a book entitled "Hood's Poetical Works" published in 1895. In 1901 this copy was awarded to a pupil for First Stage Mathematics.The inside front cover has a certificate pasted to it.

I presume that Aston Manor Technical School on Whitehead road is the old name for Aston Commercial / Holte Grammar Comercial School.

I would be interested in returning this book to it's winner (unlikely) or a relative of Ms. Silvester's as I am sure it would be much appriciated. Perhaps during the course of building your website, you may find the opportunity to mention this.

Regards,

Justin

Tel:07802 297 931
Office hours email:jcoombes@lombard.co.uk

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Hi Dennis,

I passed a test and was sent to Aston Commercial School when I was thirteen in 1943. It so happened that my uncle who raised me, had attended this school when he was a young boy. It had a turret at each end of the building, which housed the head mistress of girls (Miss Chaffee) in one, and the headmaster of boys (Mr. Lewis) in the other. Dr. Flack was the headmaster over the whole school. Most mornings boys would be lined up Mr. Lewis' curving staircase to the "turret" for a probable caning. Girls were not caned, but still might be lined up Miss. Chaffee's stairway for a punishment of some sort, probably extra homework. I remember there was a balcony, which overlooked the main hall. It was made of beautiful wood and as "first year" students, we could stand and overlook the older students when there was a special school function, to which we were not invited.  As we progressed to the higher forms, we were allowed to attend.   I remember we played hockey in the winter (I can still hear Miss Wooldridge yelling at me to "get up the field" (I was a wing). Swimming and tennis were taught in the summer, for which I was grateful. I still keep in contact with one of the girls - Vivienne Smith, now Chettleburgh, who lives in Abergele, North Wales, and through my cousin, Iris Webb Cotter, I know the whereabouts of some of the others, and hopefully will meet up with them on one of my visits. 
During the years that I attended Aston, (1943-1945) it was wartime and due to the shortage of men away in the forces, there were Landgirls to work the farms.  During our summer school holidays, it was arranged that we students should be sent to camp for a month, mostly to work in the fields to help the farmers gather their crops and also to do some school work. We were sent to Bidford, near Stratford on Avon. Big army bell tents were set up housing eight students in each tent, some on the left side of the field was for the girls and some on the right side of the field for the boys, and the teachers' tents were along the middle. Tents set up for schoolwork and one for First Aid.  I was selected with a boy (Michael Ross) to be the first firstaiders. I could handle splinters etc., which together with blisters, was the main "first aiding" we had to cope with. Our lessons were great, as we went on field trips to old Norman churches and studied the architecture; went to the Shakespearean Theatre at Stratford and saw King Lear. Typing was done (on manual machines, of course) and we learned to draw pictures or names - instead of the old humdrum typing of letters etc. After lunch, we would all change into old clothes and off to the farms we would go in big trucks. The first field I worked on was picking strawberries. The farmer said we could eat as many we liked. Strawberries were a luxury for wartime "city" kids, so of course we ate as many as we could, and the lines of strawberries were so long, we could hardly see the end of the row. Needless to say, it didn't take us long to be sick of eating strawberries, and it took me many years to face another. It was an adventure and for some reason, we had no bombing in that area, even though it was not that far from Birmingham, which had lots of bombing.

Betty Fraemohs White
December 2003.

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Dennis
 I was thinking what I recalled about the associations and the effects of and with the old school and I speculated on what contributions the subscribers to your website might have wished to be included in any Newsletter or available material.
In a moment of reflection I have doodled with the attached piece. It might jog a few memories. If it has no place in what is the core purpose of the site..............throw it away. We will all be different generations and it will mean different things and recall different memories.
 Much regards

The Aston Commercial (Holte Grammar) School

Does anyone remember…………….
The years of final education 1947 to 1950, well, in my case anyway.

Perhaps I am one of, or the, oldest member of the celebrated Old Acsonians now transferred to the Internet. Is there anyone out there who remembers or shared those days with me?  I wonder.    Whatever, I am very pleased, after such a long time, and journey, to be among you (again?).  Even if you all, or most of you,  followed me through the “majestic” portals in Whitehead Road.

Dr Flack ,the then Head Master, at the head of a departing group of pupils sitting around a lengthy table in the “canteen”  in 1950 (It must have been). If you remember, the canteen was situated at the bottom of the flight of stone stairs. We used to run down, these stone stairs that led from the entrance hall, on the left, down to the chemistry lab and the gymnasium.  They seemed long then.  When I returned a few years ago…they somehow seemed shorter but more difficult to negotiate going down, a little disquieting, dull grey, hard and unforgiving if you stepped down at the wrong speed or in a shiny  place.  I found myself placing a hand against the wall. Coming up was easier, safer ………………….slower.

The school was, and more than likely, is peopled by  youngsters of Pakistani origin. They seemed as unruly and effervescent as we had ever been (without the war time experiences).  From my travelling I am comfortable with Islam and nothing felt out of place. 
"The superiority of the learned over the devout  is like that of the moon on the night when it is full over the rest of the stars."              To quote the  Quran

The last time I was in the canteen at the school, along with the dreaded Mr Lewis and  the Head Mistress whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, a grey haired gentle lady,  Dr Flack sat at the head of the long table we used to use for lunch.  The one time that I had returned the “canteen” had been filled with chairs and stuff.   Fifty odd years ago it was our last afternoon at the School.  He addressed us, after a discourse on learning and our futures.

Ladies, Gentlemen……………you may smoke.

Almost as one the now ex pupils reached into inside pockets and handbags at the side of chairs and took out cigarettes and cigarette cases and lit up.  Senior Service, Players duMaurier, Black Cat, Gold Flake……endless brands.   Unthinkable now. I smoked for forty years after that. I receive regular treatment from an excellent physician. I attach no blame. 

At the end of this little gathering we all walked away. Some up and some down Whitehead Road, it was Winter, the days were short, and we “vaporised”  one by one into the dimness of that early Winter evening. We caught trams and buses to who knows where.

I never saw any one of them again……………….!!  Over fifty years on  perhaps we reassemble. What is the silly expression…. “in Cyberspace”?

Cyberspace.  I first encountered computers at the old Airship base in Cardington configured under the eye of an august organisation named Bedford Computing Services in the late fifties the creators of the device were all clearly quite mad.  I had been on the base earlier in the decade in the Royal Air Force. The main attribute of the computer was that it could produce a tune reminiscent of  “I’ll take the High Road”. Some years later with English Electric along with LEO and Marconi  much more useful attributes were available and everybody “spoke” Fortran. 

The journey to and from the school by tram was always interesting.

There were two trams from the top of Villa Road. The ten to nine and the five to nine. The earlier tram had an open balcony and in the Summer you could sit out in the air as the tram made its discordant and rattly way down Villa Road and onto Lozells road. Past the remains of the blitzed Lozells Cinema and down through Six Ways. The five to nine tram was different, it was enclosed in that elegant Edwardian wooden framed, varnished  style. Much more refined. They had a unique and distinctive smell those trams. Wood and ozone perhaps would describe it best. The passengers seemed to prefer to travel backwards by flipping over the seat back. Never seemed to be anybody on them. Just us as students.

On the return journey home I would get off at the Villa Cross cinema and buy my copy of “The Motorcycle”. I was already beginning to learn to ride a 1936 Norton 350.  I have a Honda four hundred four parked outside of the office as I write. I steal rides from time to time, when the weather is favourable, before it gets beyond me and I will be told I will have to give it up.   Like alcohol and sugar and confectionery and white bread and  biscuits and ……………smiling at pretty girls……….. 

I make up for it with model aeroplanes and work and a beautiful and forbearing wife of forty - four years

We are enduring and consistent, us Acsonians, if nothing else. 

Ken Callow
 July 2003

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Hello Dennis,

I'm not a former pupil of Holte, although I attended Holte Comprehensive on Wheeler street, Newtown.  My father attended Holte Grammar in the mid 60s, although I still have much work to do to extract some information from him! His name is Tazeeb Khan, if you can find out something about him that would be great! 

I was browsing your site and I think You've done an excellent job. I've thoroughly enjoyed looking at old photos and funny tales of teachers. I couldn't help noticing that the school building looks so much like Broadway school on Whitehead Road,Aston. Is it the same building by any chance? I've just completed a three week undergraduate placement at Broadway and the building is the same from the front with the mock gothic style of archetecture.

I've also noticed that the school badge is exactly the same as Holte Comp's and that the 'Exaltanit Humiles' is to be found under the coat of arms in Aston Hall not far from Whitehead Road. I worked at Aston Hall last summer, so I've had time to find out a bit about the original 17th century owner's attitude to life. The links here are so fasciniating. I'm reading History at Birmingham University, so these interesting facts are even more significant for me.

I hope you can reply to me in order to confirm my suspicians regarding the school building. Once again, You've done a wonderful job with the web site. I shall be recommending it to my friends.

Bye for now,
Mehjabin Ulfat
July 2003

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Whoever I am addressing, is it David Moody perhaps or Deborah?? (No, it's Dennis actually Ken, but I've been called worse).

I was educated at the Aston Commercial School (as we knew it) it seems long before your other contributors. I found it amazing that the old school had a web site. I am afraid that my documents and memories go back to just after WWII and those distant days of austerity. You will perceive that I am still at work (you can guess at my age) and still using the basic skills that "the school" taught me (us). There can't be many of us left. I still have a copy of THE AXE, from 1947 (I believe).
I do have two school photographs from the post war period and I can remember some of the names of my fellow pupils. I will recount these while they are fresh.  You might be able to locate a few.

Edwin Parkes
Derek Mallet
Derek Houghton
Eunice Bonnelle
Norman Cleare

Sorry..    that's about it

The Headmaster was Dr Flack
The Asst Headmaster was a Mr Lewis
Gym Master   Mr Woodward...(The Pecker)

Four Houses   Brook Grange  Hall and Park

We, most of us, went to the school on the tram, I have a model of that vehicle behind me on the shelf. It was not an easy time.  We had all just come through the war with all that that meant. It still hurts.........a bit.

Take care
Ken Callow
July 2003

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Dennis
Good work mate. I joined in 1963 in Alpha (which I'm sure was based in alphabetical). Fellow classmates were Alan Dennis, Graham Beards, Mickey Buckley, John Cullen, Graham Burbidge, Alan Donnelly, Clive Hayes etc. etc.
I'm not sure that I was actually wagging the day of the photo (I truly rarely did) but after the 'O' Levels most of the Fifth year took a break until the last week of school. That's my story anyway !
Keep up the good work.
Regards
Paul Bennett
(July 2003)

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A Beating From Taff
by Peter Dykes

I hadn't done my English homework for Mr Thomas. I was in for it. First period after lunch, with the nose of an Exocet, Taff spotted me. "Where's your homework Ivor Dyke?" he boomed out across 4 Alpha. The classroom was to the left of the tuck shop, but I can't remember the room number. "Why didn't you do it last night?" He persisted. I made some excuse, but he wanted his pound of humiliation. "You could have done it lunchtime," he suggested, putting me even further on the defensive. "I had to go home for lunch sir," I replied hesitantly. "Typical," he spat out the word.  "Meat and two veg man, that's our Ivor. See me in my office after the lesson."
 A nervous English lesson and one hour later, I dutifully arrived at his office in the library on the bottom floor.
Going in, I was greeted by the sympathetic smiles of the female librarians, many of whom were in my form.
I knocked on the door of his office and was ordered to enter by the command, "Come, boy." Taff got up from his chair and went to close the door except he didn't. He went to great pains to show me he was deliberately leaving it open so the people in the library would be able to hear every word. I could imagine them grouped around the door on the other side of the wall, waiting to hear my agony.

He asked me again for my homework and I told him I didn't have it ready. "We always punish," he said and motioned me to bend over his desk. He then picked up a telephone directory and, holding it high above his head, said "Every time this strikes, you will scream." "Yes sir," I said under my breath, fearing the worst. "WON'T YOU BOY?" he screamed at me, face all red with rage. "Yes sir, yes sir!" I replied, knowing that my end had come.

He then lifted the book as high as he could, bought it crashing down on the edge of the desk and immediately gave me one of his most ferocious stares, followed by a smile and a nod in my direction. OOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW," I yelled. He struck the desk with the directory again, this time smiling and nodding vigorously. "OOOOWWWWW," I repeated, getting the hang of it. In this way, he gave me six of the 'best' and just when I thought he was on my side, he glowered once more, threw open the door so everyone could see me bent over the desk and shouted, "Now get out of here and let that be a lesson to you."

I left the office feeling about six inches tall. All the girls were laughing at me and I felt totally crushed. Looking back, I think he was a brilliant teacher. He punished me in the most effective possible way, by humiliating me, without ever laying a finger on me. After that, I always did my English homework. What a great guy.

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Hi Dennis,
Ere ya go mate, the big secret. I think its a lovely story and I never tire of telling it.
Regards
Peter

"At least half a dozen people know this story, by only I know how it ended. And so, for the first
time ever, I'll spill the beans, but I do so in loving memory of a brilliant headmaster.

As I recall, it happened about two weeks before I left , which would probably make it the summer of
1967. But you know what they say about the sixties, so I could be wrong. Anyway, about six of us had
been bunking off fields for the best part of a year. Fields was, in the Five Alpha, a double period
last thing on Friday afternoon and as Bob Boyce's house in Prestbury Road was on the way, some of us
used to nip in there for a game of pool or a few twangs on his electric guitar instead. Some others
just went home early.

I can't remember why it happened but a couple of weeks before we were due to leave school, we had to
go to fields on a different day and when we arrived and Pekker saw us, he realised we'd been missing
his lessons for a very long time. He was furious and the next day hauled us in front of The Beak.
The only other person, apart from Pekker and Bob Boyce I can remember being there was Dave Tonks
who, when asked by The Beak why he hadn't gone to Fields, said his motorbike wouldn't start. When
Normington-Mitchell asked him if he would have gone had his bike started, he replied, "No sir, I was
going to go home." Suppressed titters all round.

Pekker demanded we were all caned not only for bunking off Fields, but also for being dishonest.
Normington-Mitchell had a better idea. He said, "Mr Woodward, I have a much worse punishment for
these boys. I will put their names in the Holte Grammar School book of records and so far as this
school is concerned, their names will forever be blackened."

Honour satisfied, Pekker agreed. One by one, The Beak asked our names and with a very serious
expression on his face, solemnly wrote our names down in a huge leather-bound tome he held in one
hand. When he'd entered the last name he dismissed us all and we left feeling chastened, but also
that we'd got off a bit lightly.  Pekker seemed satisfied though, so that seemed to be the end of
the matter.

I was last out of The Beak's office and I was just closing the door behind me when I realised I had
left my back pack on the floor. Committing the cardinal sin, I went back into his office without
knocking and, reaching for my bag, I saw him take a piece of plain paper with some writing on it
from between the pages of a volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica, screw it up and throw it into the
bin.

Suddenly noticing me, he looked at me with an expression I'd never seen on his face before. Stern,
dark and very aggressive. Narrowing his eyes and glaring at me, he said in a whisper through his
teeth, "If you breathe a word of this to anyone Dykes, I'll break both your bloody legs." Then he
gave me a really nice smile and said, "Be gone."

Sorry CNM, the secret's out. You were a very nice guy".

 

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Hello Dennis,
A great idea to start a site on the old school.
I was at Holte Grammar from 1965 to 1970. The only pupils that I can recall from your class list were Kenny Lawrance and James Durcan. Mr Woodward (Pecker) told us that they were the best players in the school cricket team that won the Docker Shield. Later I believe it may have been the same Kenny Lawrance that I saw playing for the Villa reserves before that player went to Kidderminster Harriers.
I was in form 1b, 2b, etc and I was also in Park, who in my time never won anything. Our Form teacher was Mr Simpson, and the other teachers that I can recall and are not mentioned in your  staff list are: Mr Hirons (Maths), Mr Butt (Geography), Mr Sawyer (Art), Mr Goel (Maths), Miss Heath (French), Mr Simler (German) and Mr Simonite (Science). In my time Mr 'Ken' Palmer taught woodwork and TD. I think Miss Heath was 
also a pupil of the school in the fifties. The most memorable teacher was Mr Thomas who was very strict and ran the English class along somewhat nautical lines by barking out orders like 'Tommy, get two of the ratings to clean the decks'. The strict and severe teaching style was more than compensated for by his great sense of humour. Even now I can remember a couple of very amusing incidents.

I can remember quite a few pupil names from the class of 1965;  here is what I can remember off the top of my head:
Boys: Michael Malin, Alan Matthew, Martin Webster, John Strong, Robert Wall, Lesley Tyrell, Peter Sutton, Tommy Russell, Michael Scott, Mark McManus, Robert Stuart, Paul Edwards, Gerry Archer, Tony Allen, Peter Duffy, Paul Ford, Eddie Cox, ? Brotherage, ? Crowton, ? Clune, ? Cashmore, ? Conor, ?Harrison, ? Cattel, Barry Elliot, Eric Hodges, ? Fitzgibbon, John Knott, ? Lynch, Martin Hudson, Paul Huxley.
Girls: Georgina Simpson, Sumon Wall, Elaine Warner, Judith Taylor 1, Judith Taylor 2, Glenda Wort, Denise Sykes, Angela Sime, Angela Adams, Christine Swinnerton, Gillian Aston, Deborah Garner, Susan Walton, Denise Murden.
I'll let you know if I recall anymore.

Michael Malin.
Nov. 2002

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Chris Lilley writes about the 1939 School Photograph which he supplied:-

My father, Ronald William Lilley, is in the second row, 5th from the right. He was born May 6th 1926 but altered his birth certificate to 1925 in order to join the RASC early. He landed in Normandy as a driver and remained in the army, serving in Egypt, Palestine and the Korean war. He was invalided out in 1953, married and started work for Austin Motors as coach painter. His health improved sufficiently for him to rejoin the army in 1959 and he continued to serve in the RASC - RCT until his death on 12 Feb 1971.
I was never at Holte I afraid, most of my early education was in British
Forces schools overseas and at Ashington County Grammar in Northumberland. I found your site while searching for information on the school photo.

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Hi Dennis, 
Just had a look at the 1939 school photo and my dad is sitting on the front row, 5th boy from the left, sitting cross-legged, He's got black hair and I'm just like him!! Dad is still Ok, just a bit old, well he is 78. I'm going to try and print it for him to have a look at. I just thought I'd browse to see if he was on and I was so surprised to see him. He was born in 1924 so would have been about 15 when it was taken.

Pat Perry (nee Barber).
December 2002.

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Barrie Christian "surfed in" to the site and has provided us with an account of his early days at the school when it was still Aston Commercial. Do have a look at Chapter 22 of his online book, which you can navigate to directly by clicking on the link below !
Spotted your neat web site on Virtual Brum. I was there slightly before your time, leaving at the end of 1958. You may (or may not) be interested in my personal web site which gives an account of my own experience at ACS. If you want to take a look, the add. is: 

www.morningserial.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/newstorylines/Ep22.html

     Yours,
    Barrie Christian

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Hello to a fellow Old Acsonian, 
When I was at Aston Commercial School in the early 1950's, Mr Mordecai was my Maths and Science teacher. Although he had acquired quite a reputation for his mood swings, I quite liked the man. I will always have memories of the time that we had quite an animated discussion about the feasability of constructing a device that could shoot projectiles in almost total silence. By using a moving belt, driven by a small electric motor, with magnets attached to it, the magnets moved at very high speed below short sections of piano wire and thus created a rippling effect that transported the projectile at very high speed rom one end to the other. God forbid that we didn't use six-inch nails as projectiles! I still have vivid memories of Arthur Johnson, who taught Gregg Shorthand and Typing, Henry Myer, who taught French, Tom Jenkins who taught History, Viv Woodward, who was responsible for Physical Education. In the 5th and 6th Forms, Dr Flack taught us the use of sliderules. I also remember Ms Hilda Roberts who had the unenviable task of converting my Scottish accent into something that remotely resembled English! One had to admire her efforts since I played a bit part in the School Play entitled The Housemaster. Michael Horton played the lead part. Many years later, Hilda was to become my sister's Headmistress at Sheldon Heath School in the 1960's. By all accounts, she told my sister that she still remembered me from the early 1950's, which just goes to show - Once Seen, Never Forgotten!! I also have quite clear memories of Edward (Teddy) Fieldhouse and his sidekick, Brian Eccles. Teddy and I had connections to when we attended Stratford Road School in Sparkbrook towards the end of World War II. I left that school when my younger brother died suddenly and the family returned to Scotland for a few years. Although times were tough in those days, I still regard them as some of the happiest days of my life. I am more than happy to communicate with anyone from the same era even though I now live in Victoria, Australia. Kind Regards, Tom Fearns

In a second Email, Tom writes:

I was lucky enough to find Peter Kiff's A.C.S. Scrap Book Pages from 1951, and scanning it, the years melted back to my time at A.C.S. The first picture that I saw was of Dr Flack, Trevor Lewis and my old Housemaster, Tom Jenkins. On the next page was a picture containing a pretty good image of one of my old classmates, Tony Saunders. On the next picture I found a photo of myself. Middle row, extreme right. In front of me was another classmate, John Newman, who was a pretty good football player. I went on to become Captain of Hall House. Upon completing my military service I was a member of the Birmingham City Police Force, (P.C.A.80) based at Steelhouse Lane. Imagine my surprise when I took an examination that was supervised by none other than Tom Jenkins. The sound education that I received at A.C.S. sttod me in good stead so that when I entered the manufacturing environment, I became a Materials Manager, Production Controller, Project Manager and eventually a Manufacturing Consultant with one of the world's largest computer company's. Computerised Manufacturing Applications became my area of expertise and I flew out to Australia in November, 1981 for talks with yet another computer company. They wished to employ me and offered me an excellent employment package. I accepted the position, and my family and I emigrated to Australia in May, 1982. I became South Pacific Regional Consultant, which proved to be an interesting job, but one that involved travelling to many places around the world. My last trip involved flying out to New Zealand, the United States, England and Ireland. My wife and I returned to the U.K. in August, 2006, for a holiday, which we thoroughly enjoyed, staying at an early 15th Century black and white timbered house near Bridgnorth in Shropshire. We live on the Mornington Peninsula in the State of Victoria, Australia, and live a very quiet life. Our two daughters, Debbie and Andrea, live fairly close to us and we see them on a regular basis. I would be delighted to communicate with any member of the A.C.S. from the early 1950's. Kind Regards, Tom Fearns.

Thomas Fearns.
June 2007.

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Keith Oddy writes 
Just found the site. Was a pupil from approx 1959. Stayed onto the sixth form. Was Hall House Captain during the sixth Form. Geoffrey Pearce was the Head Boy, cannot remember off hand who was the head girl. I should remember her name as we dated for a number of months. Oh well, this would make my leaving date 1966 I think. Found me on the 1961 photo. Found one girls name that I recognise on the 1961 list Jacqueline Allen. Apart from that I am struggling to tune in.

Keith Oddy
June 2007.

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Mike points out) 
I READ WITH INTEREST THE ARTICLE BY BETTY FRAEMOHS WHITE ON THE SUBJECT OF ACS FARMING CAMP SCHOOL AT BROOME IN 1945/46 ERA. I AM IN FACT THE MICHAEL ROSS MENTIONED IN HER ARTICLE WHO SHARED THE LIFE SAVING FIRST AID TENT DUTIES. I HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR SOME 55 YEARS TO JEAN ROBERTS ALSO A GIRL AT BROOME. I REMEMBER VIVIENNE SMITH WHO WAS MENTIONED. IN FACT SHE WAS FRIENDS WITH A NEAL/NEIL HASTINGS ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS DURING THIS TIME. I HOPE THIS CAN BE RELAYED TO BETTY. KIND REGARDS. Michael Ross

Michael Ross
January 2008.

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Michael writes 
Peter Kiff's ACS Scrap Book mentions 3 of the 4 characters as Mordecai, Johnson and Woodward this is not the case - the one on the left is Mr Robert Flack who was the Head Teacher until the ACS changed to the Holte Grammar School,at which point the new Head was a Mr Normington Mitchell the next person I believe was a Mr Lewis and next to him is the guy who taught History a Mr Jennings. Not sure who the person on the far right is but he's certainly doesn't look like Mordecai or Johnson he might just possibly be Woodward but looks doubtful to me. Regards Mike McMullan (1953-1956) Dennis, Please correct my original message: My reference to Mr Lewis was to a Mr C Lewis who was Deputy Head and the History Teacher was in fact Tom Jenkins and not Mr Jennings as I've stated Regards Mike

Michael McMullan
January 2008.

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Val Surch writes 
I have just found your site and have enjoyed looking through the various photographs and reading the stories. I attended Aston Commercial School from 1956 - 1958, when Mr Mitchell was Headmaster, Deputy Headmistress Mrs Chatwin and Deputy Headmaster Mr Mordecai. I recall my French teacher, Mrs Checketts (I think) writing in my School Report that "Valerie gives a very good impression of working". In fact, I was better at French than German, where Mr Simpson was the teacher. I did best at Shorthand and Typing with Mrs Woodward, and went on to become a secretary through all my working life, beginning at ICI where I met my future husband, Steve Latham, then TI in Walsall. Off work for 7 years when we had our children, now aged 40 and 38 respectively, with 5 grandchildren. When the children were at school, I returned to work part-time at first, with Midland Bank where I was secretary to the Manager, eventually full-time until I was made redundant in 1997. I then took a couple of jobs until I retired at 60. I remember various friends from School days, Monique Tandy (she went out with my brother, Bob, for a while), Lesley Riley, Jill Mears, Catherine (?) Bury, Graham Bradnack; I think Graham became a butcher. I'd love to hear from anyone who remembers me. Val Latham (nee Surch)

Val Latham nee Surch
March 2008.

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Laraine Eden writes 
Hello! I am so VERY excited to have found your website which is terrific and has brought back floods of memories from my happy school days at Holte Grammar ? I don?t know why I haven?t searched for it before! I attended Holte Grammar between 1961 and 1963 and was in class 3 Alpha when my late father decided to live in Australia so I regrettably had to leave. Mrs Chatwin was head mistress at the time and I attended classes with many of the teachers listed in your 1961 ? 1966 staff record. I recall that I was in either a 1962 or 1963 school photograph and it would give me enormous pleasure to track down a copy of both ? do you know if there are any available, or where I could try and obtain them? I have lived in Australia since 1963 and most recently visited Birmingham for a family reunion in 1999. The only person I had contact with from my school at that time was Susan Goulden who was in 3 Beta in 1963 and my very best friend. Another class mate, Sandra Farley, I believe came to live in Australia ? would anyone know which State she lives in? Look forward to hearing from you and thank you for the happy memories. Kind regards Laraine Eden Cats 'R' Us Pty Ltd

Laraine Eden
March 2008.

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Gordon Coggan writes 
Dennis my name is Gordon Coggan, most dellighted to find the site. I attended the ACS 1953 to 1956 and was Head Boy in 1955. My form master was Ben Towell (a lovely man and much respected). The Headmaster was Dr Flack, succeeded by C Normington-Mitchell. Many of the staff names I vividly remember, they were a grand lot. I made many friends at the school, such as Lance Parker, Ronnie Mullis, Malcolm Dallison and my first girlfriend Janet Adams (a lovely girl). I joined the Navy direct from school as a Junior Seaman, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander at age 55. I live in a village on the South Coast called Stubbington. Any further reunions I would love to attend.

Gordon Coggan
May 2008.

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Joan Burnett has emailed the following, 
I can name the first of the teachers ? Dr. Flack the Headmaster from the 1950 photograph. Also I recognise two of the girls ?again from the 1950 photograph. I have some photographs taken by The Birmingham Gazette in June 1951, when we were at the annual summer camp at Broom. Second and third years went to camp for three weeks at the cost of £1. We picked vegetables in the morning and did a school project in the afternoon. Girls slept in nisson huts and the boys in tents.

Joan Stevenson - Aston Commercial 1948 to 1951
June 2007.

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Tony Warr has emailed the following, 
Hello Dennis, I have written before but felt I would write again today after once again perusing the school site, You have done a wonderful job which I am sure is well appreciated by those who have come across it. I am now 65 and now have the staff that gives me more time for myself. After years of building my business I can now relax and let other people handle the day to day dramas and I just spend the profit ! Whilst reading the site I was saddened to read of the passing of CNM (a wonderful man) and other members of staff. I seem to remember reading in the past of CNM’s death in 1975 but cannot remember where I did see it. Is there a chance that you have time to do another blog on the subject of ‘Where Are They Now’ for the HGCS staff ? It would be great to read of any that are still with us. I did write an entry on the ‘Guest’ page but have not heard from anyone since writing, probably as most people look forward, not back. It would be good to hear from you if anything exciting about pupils of 1959 to 1962 happens. Regards Tony. (See Tony's Website at: www.shipping-people.com)

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