Friday 15 January 2016

OWT 89 January 2016

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REUNION 2016   So far there has been a very good response to this year's reunion.  Most of you are interested in knowing who will be there, and lists are provided on the day.  This year, if you check the web site or facebook page, you will see the names in advance.  The list will be updated regularly.  Speaker will be ex-teacher Bob Child's, who will continue the theme he developed at last year's event.
FROM DENNIS BIGGS  1949-56    When I first started at the City Boys' School in September 1949, I suppose I had little firm idea of what to expect, as my ideas of school had been coloured by reading the Jennings school stories, the Greyfriars books of Frank Richards with tales of Harry Wharton, Frank Nugent, Hurree Jamset Ram Singh and, of course, Billy Bunter and Tom Brown's School Days, so it was quite an experience to meet up with Spiv Beaumont, the Form Master of 1 Alpha.  He was a smartly-dressed figure of authority with his flowing gown and black swept-back hair so that I at least was somewhat in awe of him. I must admit though that George Franey more resembled the Henry Quelch model of form master I had been expecting.
Spiv Beaumont taught us history and I recall two things especially from his lessons, although these are somewhat trivial matters. He explained to us that in the Middle Ages the citizens used to empty their chamber pots from the bedroom windows into the street, shouting the words Gardez-Loo to warn  the unfortunate passers- by.  He hinted that this was the possible origin of the rather posh euphemism for the WC which we Leicester lads called the lavvy, or bogs. I wonder why that sticks in my mind after more than 60 years ! The other thing was the story of Morton's Fork, which referred to the Lord Chancellor John Morton in the reign of Henry VII who collected the taxes from the rich and poor for the crown. We had a classmate, Graham Morton, and this must have been a bit embarrassing for him at the time.  At home I have always called the fork of our carving set Morton's fork, probably much to the mystification of my children. I know what an embarrassing name is because ever since 1962 many people, strangers and friends around the world, have often called me Ronnie whereas in Leicester it was more usual for masters such as Basher Brewin or Wardle to call me John Biggs. We had in the 5th and 6th forms Ron Smith for our history lessons and to me he was a superb teacher who brought history alive and did not just concentrate on dates and battles, but explained the reasons why events occurred and the consequences for the future. I have been fascinated by historical matters ever since having been inspired by him.
When I think back to George Franey, I recall what an excellent teacher he was and his introduction to Shakespeare in the study of The Merchant of Venice in the first term of English Literaure lessons. I have seen this play on stage a couple of times, once with Donald Sinden in the role of Shylock and more recently the film with Al Pacino, and this brings back pleasant memories of going through this play with George Franey and learning how Shylock wanted to claim his pound of flesh.  I remember the first school play I saw, Captain Brassbound's Conversion, which George produced at the end of our first year. 
I do not remember who taught me maths besides Basher Brewin and Bob Roberts, but they seem to have done a pretty good job as I managed to get an '0' level pass in maths but for the life of me I could not do calculus or logarithms any more. Still I managed to qualify in Accountancy and Statistics, so something must have stuck. Bob Roberts was a genius, but unfortunately he let himself to be played up and I can see him now saying Now look here amidst all the jeering and foot tapping in his classes. How he kept his temper and not swear I will never know.! There was no chance of this happening with Basher Brewin, who had a somewhat sadistic habit of punching people on the arm and saying behave yourself Ducky.
Finally, I would like to report that Cliff Dunkley, Bob Gregory and I visited Bill Brushe and his wife in their care home in Ware, Herts. He seemed in reasonably good health at 92, but is now mainly wheelchair bound and hard of hearing. It was difficult to have much of a conversation with him as he did not have the use of his hearing aid, so we had a rather awkward time trying to communicate with him, especially as the TV was playing loudly and the other in-mates were playing bingo!. As he says it is sad to be in this state, where he no longer reads, spends his days snoozing or watching TV,  waiting for the next meal time. It is a very depressing situation when one recalls him as a dynamic teacher at CBS, but as he says he has outlived nearly everybody. I will go to see him again in the next month or two, and hopefully he will have the batteries for his hearing aid.
OBITUARIES   Brian Burdett (1946-53) passed away 11.10.15 after a short illness.  Trevor Harvey (1941-46) passed away June 2014.   John Herrick  (1955-62) pased away 26.9.14
FROM DAVID LINNELL  (1955-62)     Like Derek Smith (OWT88) I remember the school trip to the 1960 Olympic games in Rome, although as for much of the journey (no bunks, so trying to sleep overnight head-to-feet with Howard Marchant on the seat of the railway carriage) as the games!  I recall the amused reaction of some Italian ladies when I began to descend the steps to the wrong set of toilet facilities (they did redirect me)  Also the dawn, with the Alps coming into view, and breakfast of milky coffee in Switzerland in bowls without handles rather than cups.
FROM JOHN JAKE BLAIKIE  1955-62   I sympathise with the lack of input to OWT, but as I said before there are only so many memories per student and once exhausted you can't manufacture any more.  However in reply to the item by Kristen Dage, whilst her grandfather's time at COLBS was much too early for me I certainly remember Bob Roberts, as I did double maths and physics along with Bruce Adams, Andy Hamilton, Ray James, John Herrick, John Worth, and Spencer Mcmanus.  That is the first time I have actually seen his full name, and how elegant it is. He was a great teacher of mathematics, and as I have aged I more and more realise what a lovely man he was. He lived not far from me along Mere Road in Highfields.  I continue to recognise how lucky I was to attend the school when I did, and what a great education I received.  I was lucky to make so many great and long lasting friends, with whom I still meet and talk over old times whenever I visit Leicester. (notably Mike Clay, Dave Clarke, Ted Dougherty, Brian Cope, and the Neill brothers)  [John lives in Australia - Ed]
FROM DAVE POSTLES  1960-67   Eulogy to Elbow Lane.  I'm a late-comer to Old Wyves Tales. I would, nevertheless, regret its demise, so feel compelled to make an offering.  I intend not to be autobiographical, but to try to evoke some of the ethos of the times and invoke those memories. My ruminations will, inevitably, have some very personal elements.  My focus is on the first year at Elbow Lane, for afterwards it all went pear-shaped for me.  After school, walking up Church Gate through the town was de rigueur. In the early evening, it was an emporium of delights, especially when illuminated in the winter months.  Since I had to walk to Rutland Street to catch the 39, I had the opportunity to visit all the outlets of the emporia. On Church Gate was the record shop (Brees) and across the road the basement of British Home Stores.  There was nothing remotely of interest in the latter (mostly domestic lighting), but the subterranean passage just heightened the sensation. It felt like being a juvenile flâneur (circumflex over the a; note that from your heavenly perch Bill Sykes), an inadvertent Walter Benjamin of the Arcades project.  Then the choices began. Should you traverse Gallowtree Gate/GranbyStreet and through Woollies or track directly through Humberstone Gate and Lewis's? How did you negotiate the Clock Tower (constructed in 1868 not only to commemorate its four notables, but also as the entrance to the main sewerage system)? Before all the delights of the city, of course, was the surreal experience of crossing the new inner ring road. It looked then like a formidable dual carriageway, but oddly with no traffic. It bemused the imagination: fraught with danger, but actually benign.  Many moments return, some to provoke warm memories, others to embarrass.  They are listed here seriatim in no particular order of significance.
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.
FROM MARK HAYLER  1956-64   I think it was when John (Dan) Gurney and myself were in the third or fourth years; that we devised a little get-rich scheme which involved nipping out of school at break time (forbidden) and buying stale cakes from Baylis's on Charles Street for a penny or so a time and reselling them in the playground for two pence. All was going well until one day, when charging  back to school, we ran past Ken Witts who promptly gave us both a detention.  An abrupt end to our business venture.  Later, when I made it to prefect, despite winkle chisel-pickers, sideboards and a DA hairstyle, Roger Povoas and I were providing coffee, I think at a price, in the prefects room.  Roger brought a kettle to the partnership and I provide the makings from the Home and Colonial on Cheapside, where I had a Saturday job. Milk of course came free in those days.
FROM RICH WAKEFIELD  1961-68   It's another of those cold wet days when I cast my thoughts back to schooldays, and trawl the rambling corridors of my memory for some more tales and memories to share... and as the years amble by, it does get harder.   My first year at the new and now-gone Downing Drive site saw me in form 5F, based in an upstairs room in the Science block, designated the Geography Room.  The redoubtable Ken Witts held sway in that room, although I don't think he was the form master, though I don't recall who was! He was a unique fellow who kept abreast of modern thinking and was a fine teacher - one of the best. Certainly not one of the hapless masters you could play up... Who, however, could resist a chuckle when he swept majestically into the room and, before settling at his desk, had boomed out the immortal phrase take out your Horrocks.... Let me explain for those who didn't do geography, that was the designation of his bible... the approved text book on the subject.  This indomitable teacher also had another quirk, well, it always grated on me; we all know of Mount Everest and the mountain range in which it can be found - the Himalayas.  But he always pronounced it as Him - are -lee -aahs
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.
AND FINALLY...   Reading Dave Postles' account of his walk from Elbow Lane to Rutland Street reminded me of my own routes.  For the first year I was at Humberstone Gate, and my bus home to the Eyres Monsell estate (everyone referred to it as The Monsell) left from Welford Place.  Exiting the school I crossed Humberstone Gate and entered Lewis's department store.  It was always interesting to look at the counters as I passed (and nice and warm in winter)  By crossing the store diagonally it was possible to come out in Fox Lane, opposite the back entrance of Marks & Spencer, and thus into Gallowtree Gate.  From there it was into Horsefair Street, past a little tobacconist on the corner with Cheapside (I think) and the Home & Colonial, which always had a very distinctive aroma.  On past the Leicester Permanent Building Society, crossing Bowling Green Street and Market Street, then left into Pocklingtons Walk which led to the John Biggs statue at Welford Place.
From Elbow lane it was across the new ring road, as Dave says, and across a large car park.  There was a garage on the far side of the car park, and one day it caught fire.  It must have happened shortly before I arrived, the place was well-alight.  I remember the sad sight of a black Rover P4 in flames.  Then I walked up (I think) East Bond Street and Union Street, across High Street into a road which had different names for each section.  One was Friar Lane, offhand I can't recall the others, but the last section was Pocklingtons Walk.  Around 1963  a new bus station was built off Newarke Street, and at the same time the Phoenix Theatre was built.  Happy days.  Unlike today, when schools seem to shut at the slightest hint of bad weather, we always went to school.  Who remembers the notorious winter of 1962/63??  That didn't stop us.
Dennis J Duggan
January 15th 2016

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