Sunday 11 October 2020

Fwd: OWT108 October 2020

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     OCTOBER 2020

FROM BRIAN STEVENSON  (EXACT DATES UNKNOWN)   Many thanks for the OWT's, they are always full of interest.   As I have found previously, it is possible to be a contemporary of a contributor without being able to remember a single thing about them - in this case Kenneth Ward.  Yet I do remember those he mentions, except for Mr Twiddly Dee Twiddly Dum - a nickname that must have passed me by.

FROM JOHN (JAKE) BLAIKIE  1955-62   (This was written July 15th - Ed)  Hello from locked-down Melbourne.  With regard to opening Wyvernians to post 1976 pupils I don't have any direct objection.  But I suspect it would lead to a large amount of input which would have almost zero-interest to the vast majority of current readers  (A declining number anyway, as age wearies us)  Maybe you could find an enterprising post-1976-er to run a parallel universe version?

FROM DAVE POSTLES  1960-67   The criteria for school selection in the last issue (This was written July 16th - Ed)  were interesting.  I had not considered the sartorial aspect - the attractiveness of the uniform.  In my year cohort  at Ovo Road (Overton Road, but latterly Merrydale - an oxymoron) four kids succeeded at the 11+, two of whom were boys.  The other lad progressed to Alderman Newton which had, I think, a splendid uniform.  In my family's perception - perhaps more widely shared - there was a hierarchy of grammar schools by disparate attributes.  Wyggeston was considered to be middle to upper-middle class and thus not suitable 'for the likes of us,' though later my sister attended Wyggeston Girls.  At Alderman Newton they played rugby.  CBS was assured because football was the sport (I was goalkeeper at Overton Road)  Languishing at the bottom in our perception was Gateway which, whilst soccer was played there, did not have a reputation commensurate with CBS. 
Some stimulating editorial comment included the notion that some boys were always destined for Oxbridge, or other universities.  I'm sure that was a significant aspect.  On the other hand some changes did occur throughout the years, and some advanced where others regressed.  How marginal were those aspects I don't know. 
Back to the uniform.  Caps were mentioned.  They were to be avoided as far as possible.  Accordingly, I would cycle along Victoria Road East in the morning, head uncovered.  But at the junction with Uppingham Road at the Shaz (Shaftesbury cinema) it was necessary to don the cap in case Grit Whitbread was encountered on his bicycle.  Lunch and afternoons were a different matter, you could cycle home with impunity.  Finally a brief greeting is directed at Steve Mellor, who was a mucker of mine. 

FROM KENNETH WARD  1959-66  Second year at the former Gateway Girls' School, Elbow Lane.  My academic record took a big blow when I was demoted from 1A to 2B, whereas some of my friends jumped a year and went direct to 3 Alpha.  The 'new' school was walled all round and we were not allowed out.  Our classroom was on the first floor, just off the gym, which did make concentration a bit difficult at times.  I still have a photo of the class.  There are only a few names I can't remember.  And I was still in short trousers!
I recall Mr Alexander, the maths teacher.  On occasion he would sit cross-legged, very relaxed, on the table, but he was very good.  Unfortunately he left after my second year and was never seen again.  Although we were separated from the main school we did have to go across town for certain activities.  One I joined was fencing.  For some reason the teacher let us carry our foils across town.  Crazy man.  Demented or what.  One day three of us decided to play at being the Three Musketeers in St Margaret's bus station.   Some busybody reported us, and we were banned from the club after only three lessons.  I still think I could have been as good as Crouch or Dart (?)
The Elbow Lane dinners were, on reflection, not too good.  But at the time I did not know much better than to realise my mum was a good cook.  A lot of liver was served, or stuffed hearts, kidneys and stews with loads of mashed potatoes, cabbage and gravy.  Considering the amount of offal, dinner time was more like a biology lesson!  A main event was the tuck shop, manned by third-year prefects.  Unfortunately some people (they will remain anonymous) ran up a tab, but that came to an end once the teachers got wind of it.  Given the meagre amount of pocket money I received the tabs seemed enormous.
Another maths teacher was Mr Mercer.  He was very good.  As it turns out, all my maths teachers made a big impact on me.  At the time.our French story book had a Monsieur Mercier as the key character.  Funny how you remember these weird facts fifty years on.  There was a boy called Manger, who wanted to know the name of the teacher on playground duty.  We said it was Jasper, though failed to mention that was his nickname.  It was rumoured that Manger received one hundred lines as a result!  It was good to see Jasper at the only reunion I have attended, in 1998?  (That was at The Harrow, Thurmaston - Ed)  He didn't look a day older.  One of Mr Mercer's quirks was a lead weight sewn into the bottom of his gown.  If he spotted an error whilst patrolling the classroom he would playfully land the weight on the back of one's head.  No words were spoken, none were necessary.
During a French lesson with Bill Sykes, Newcombe hid in the cupboard behind the teacher's desk.  I can't remember how long he stayed in there, but do recall him keep popping his head out and making us laugh.  He closed the door before Bill could see him.  That was a classic schoolboy activity which made our school days special, even if it distracted from the real reason for being there.
Can't remember why, but some of us decided to do some boxing in the gym.  Boogie Gibson and Tony Robotham were two of the five or six boys who set up a makeshift ring, and donned very large boxing gloves.  I had a bit of experience, with my dad teaching me the basics of the Queensbury rules.  I was ready to use everyone as a punch bag, friend or not.  This event was unsupervised - where was the H & S Executive?  Things went well until Boogie caught me with an uppercut and the lights went out, just as I was thinking I was invincible!  It never happened again.  I knew how to pick my battles, especially as everyone was taller than me.
Wally Wardle took us for Geography.  Not sure if it was his only, or favourite, subject.  I was one of those kids who had an answer to everything, or I should say was capable of giving a spontaneous answer with little thought.  The following incident is an example.  The subject was Australia.  Wally said, 'The ostrich is a native of Australia, and it can be dangerous.  Can anyone tell me where you should not stand when close to one?'  I thought this was a trick question, and being quite small replied, 'Underneath it, sir.'  The class went into hysterics, I felt rather an idiot.  Wally would not let it go.  'Tell me, Ward.  Why is that?'  My quick wit replied with, 'Well, sir, it might want to sit down.'  This resulted in a further bout of hysterics.  I hope Wally enjoyed the moment as much as the class.

FROM TIM RIGGS  1952-58   Thank you for OWT107.  My career at CBS was similar to yours (See the And Finally section - Ed) and I fell into category 3.  But I started in 1B and stayed in the B stream until 5S, where I managed three 'O' levels in maths, English and art.  I later managed three more, then did 'A' levels at technical college, which was a far nicer experience. 

   (This item was written in July - Ed) 
During lockdown, and at the time of writing this I am in extended lockdown in Leicester, I took the opportunity to read again Andy Marlow's excellent book about the history of the school. But this time I only read the history of the school from 1959 to 1966, the seven years I was at the school.  
I noted three items of interest which obviously passed me by when reading the whole book originally. Firstly, whilst spending my second and third years at Elbow Lane from 1960 to 1962 I do not really have any memory of being escorted in crocodile fashion with a prefect at at the head from Elbow Lane to Clarence House for lessons in the main school building. I am sure it did happen but perhaps not very often. Secondly, the date Thursday, 26 October 1961 is ingrained in my memory. It was the date of that year's annual Founders' Day service held at the cathedral, but that is not the reason for its importance to me! At the time I was in class 3A at Elbow Lane and I was possibly the only pupil in the class where there was no television set at home. I think my parents were becoming increasingly aware I was becoming a bit upset about this so imagine my great surprise when I went home for lunch on the above date and found a set in the living room. My excitement was tempered by my father issuing the immortal words "If it affects your school work it is going back". It was a rented set. He need not have worried. Amazingly, from that time onwards my academic career took off, culminating with me winning the form prize in class 4A the following year. Pure coincidence I suppose. As an aside readers will also recall that the above service was always held on the Thursday afternoon prior to the autumn half term break, which in those days was just two days, the following Friday and Monday, not a full week as it is now. Thirdly, and finally I hesitate to say but I think I may have found an error but I stand to be corrected! The annual swimming gala in 1965 is stated to have been held on 9 July. Most readers of OWT will recall 1965 was the year when the Leicester industrial holiday fortnight moved from the first two weeks in August to the first two weeks in July and my report for the summer term confirms that it finished on Friday, 2 July. Myself and my parents would have gone away the next day.

FROM JOHN OFFORD  1958-63  (This item was written in July - Ed)  I was interested to read Alan Pykett's comments about short trousers and how we ended up at City Boys School.  Looking through my photographs I found one of the Junior School Choir in 1960 (yes I could sing and was Head Choirboy at my local church) and you can see me and five others on the front row wearing short trousers. Move on one year and the 3A class photo shows everybody in long trousers. I suppose short trousers at age 13 were not very attractive to the opposite sex, although my legs have always been in good shape ! Nowadays I am in shorts whenever possible.
I remember the main criteria my parents and I used for choosing City of Leicester Boys was football and it was our first choice. Having played for Caldecote Road Junior School  and scoring 36 goals in their 1958 League title-winning side and runners-up in the Rice Bowl Cup final  I desperately wanted to continue in a football-playing school. Also City of Leicester Boys School sounded much better than the names of the other schools. It could easily be identified to a place. The place where I was born and bred. The others could have been anywhere.  In my final year at Caldecote Road I was in Class 1 along with 17 other boys and 25 girls. We all passed the 11 plus and three boys ended up at City of Leicester Boys. Another two went from Class 2.   Despite my wish to play football for the school I found it difficult to get into the team. Clearly I was not the only one to choose City of Leicester Boys for that reason and it turned out there were some good players.
I was eventually selected for Mr Alexander's 2nd year team in 1959/60 and the team photo shows me wearing glasses, with real glass in those days. I had already experienced a visit to hospital to have glass taken out of one eye after a stone hit my glasses whilst on holiday, so I knew I was taking a risk playing football.  I had never considered running . However, I managed to win the 1st year school cross country race over the Rushey Fields course. This led to being selected for the cross country team , but I still wanted to play football. One of the inter schools races held at Rushey Fields on our games day clashed with a form football match at Grace Road. I decided, without informing the Team Manager, to play the football match. During the first half the match was temporarily halted and I was told to leave the field and take no further part as I should have been at Rushey Fields. I never did find out how they managed to get a message to Grace Road and I wasn't in a position to ask too many questions. Fortunately no further action was take   .I continued to play in glasses for Mr Mann's 1960/61 Junior XI and the following season for Mr Lawson.
At this point Mr Lawson changed my sporting life. Although the school did not have a Health and Safety policy about playing football in glasses, he thought I was putting myself at risk and should only play football without them. I tried it for the next game, against Linwood School, who also played in gold and black. I then realised I couldn't go on playing football . Mr Lawson knew I would be disappointe , but he felt I should concentrate on running and so I started to train properly.  From our conversation he had clearly taken an interest in my school cross country and sports day results and I have always been very grateful for his advice. 
After leaving school in December 1963 I went on to break the British Junior 6 miles record in 1965, represent Great Britain Juniors as a 2000m steeplechaser in 1967, run for England as a Senior 3000m steeplechaser in 1973, represent the Midland Counties and Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) and then after 1982 for Great Britain in numerous international marathons around the world. I was never quite good enough to be selected for a major championship . However, in 1984 I  had the consolation of achieving the Olympic Qualifying time for the Los Angeles Olympics, but only three could be selected. My time of 2hours 13mins and 52secs was the 10th fastest in Britain that year and is still the County record.
It is interesting to note that on my final school report Mr Bell wrote " A great pity he is leaving. I would have liked to have seen him earn a Blue for running."  I like to think I achieved better than a Blue, but it was nice of him to believe I could have made it to Oxford or Cambridge, even if I didn't at the time.
In " And Finally" in OWT 107 I think Dennis has got in spot on about there being three groups after the first year. I would put myself in his second group. In 1958 I found myself starting in 1 Alpha (Mr Gould), finishing 23rd out of 28 after term one. I improved slightly to 18th the next ter , but my final term was a disaster. I bombed in the yearly exam order to 29th out of 30!  Moving down to 2A (Mr Freeman) for the second year was a blessing in disguise as I started enjoy the work and my exam position was 5th. 3A (Mr Newton) was even better. This was the year Chemistry and Physics were introduced and when I moved to 4A (Mr Gimson ), and along with Maths , English and German, I started to do well in these subjects.  They were the 5 GCEs  I obtained before leaving after only one term in the sixth form (Mr Lawrence). I was only academically average and did not consider myself as University material. After five years of study and exams I wanted to find a job. My qualifications allowed me to take up employment in a bank and four years later move on into local government, where I spent 40 years with the City and County Councils before retiring at age 60.
City of Leicester Boys gave me a good education to set me up for decent employment  and, as a bonus,  a successful career in athletics, of which I am very proud.  Although I left school 57 years ago I still have many happy memories. During the lockdown I have had the chance to go through my collection of schooldays memorabilia of photographs and reports to remind me. Also time to read again The Story of a Grammar School by Andy Marlow. It is a wonderful record of the history of my school. Thanks again Andy.
Thanks must also go to Dennis for being the Wyvernians Founder, Secretary,  OWT Editor and Reunion Organiser. Will we ever meet again at Clarence House ?   Stay safe.

FROM ED FEATHERSTONE  1959-65   Between 1991 and 2019 I was a Partner, then a Director, of Collis Bird and Withey Bookbinders.  When I bought the Andy Marlow book I decided to have it rebound.  It is now in a black quarter-leather binding (Spine and part of the covers in leather, with raised bands and gold lettering) and the rest of the covers in black buckram.  The end papers are also black.  We then made a handsome slip case, to protect the book for posterity.  I want Wyvernians to have it, so the book can be seen at the reunions.  It could be your personal copy.  Lord knows you deserve it!  (I was, of course, delighted and honoured  to accept Ed's generous offer.  If and when we have another reunion it will take pride of place in the display - Dennis)

AND FINALLY...   The recent spell of very wet weather made me think back to our weekly games lessons at Grace Road or Rushey Fields.  I was a less than enthusiastic participant, and had a range of dodges to avoid the torture.  But of course they could not be used every week, so often I had no choice but to take part.  The only hope of salvation lay in the weather, and if it was a wet morning I hoped and prayed it would become worse after lunch so games would be cancelled.  But so far as I recall, that only happened once in my five years at CBS.

Dennis J Duggan  1959-64
October 12th 2020