There was the fleeting acquaintance of my mate, Sharm(an), with whom I passed many an hour after school in the city centre. He left, I understand, because his father was in the military. He was a gas, and we had so much in common. Another friend from the first year was John Thornton, who had the desk in the adjacent row, across the aisle to the left. I remember Paul Healey (Higgs Healey?(recent contributor). John no doubt stood with the other railway buffs peering over at the Great Central Railway to note the steam trains passing through and the gas turbine engine, a prototype never pursued. The school yard bustled with the multitudes who formed informal sides at football with a tennis ball, focused on Dave Needham. The New Parks boys (such as Geoff May) seemed to dominate the game, but in recompense they missed the evening ramble through the downtown emporium. There was the chess club at lunchtimes, on the first floor, which consumed so much time, a habitat also of the esteemed Andrew Tear, but dominated by the king of the boards, Spud Murphy. The adjacent gym was the occasional venue for five-a-side football ,with benches turned on their sides for goals (no pass or shot above the knee). There was Wally - not only for assembly, but also for geography. I shall not name the person who actually knew in the first year what was a rhea, but he had a pocket watch (the young man, not the rhea)! Then there was the empathetic entrepreneur: the Twist Contest, largely conducted (if I remember correctly) to Joe Brown's Picture of You. Wally presided. The annual show included a Morcambe-and-Wise prequel by Mick Quincy and Colin Desborough, and a very short sketch of The News in Briefs. I first heard the Beatles (not one of my later faves) on the record player on the stage of Elbow Lane - Love Me Do. Alluding to music, the music room was also located on the first floor, off the end of the gym. Those of us with discordant voices were soon eliminated from the singers. Bill Sykes played a note on the piano; if you could not replicate it you were firmly instructed not to attempt to sing. For the remainder of the music 'lessons', you sat or stood in silence. Halcion days.
But this is not what I want to write about... as I said Ken was the guv'nor in that room.... and his stock cupboard at the back was sacrosanct. There was a furore when he realised his supplies were dwindling more swiftly than predicted, and suspecting a villainous pupil running a market stall selling his precious stocks, he decided to set a trap. Arriving early, and silently, for a lesson he heard suspicious sounds from within his store room... stealthy as a leopard on the scent he silently stalked to the door.... silently closed it and locked it, equally silently.... trapping the villain inside Some minutes later the stillness of the lesson was disturbed as the door was violently rattled and shaken from within...a pained voice was heard to cry out and the redoubtable master smiled malevolently... if you were ever taught by Ken Witts, and were the subject of one of his malevolent smiles, you will doubtless be trembling as I am at the thought.... He strode to the door.... opened it with a theatrical flourish and called Come out you.... at which moment his colleague and co-geography teacher Mr Gillyean emerged, red of face and looking flustered... saying he had been preparing materials for a later lesson and seemed to have been locked in by mistake.
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