Thursday 30 November 2023

Fwd: OWT


   Following on from the closure of Wyvernians in March, there was a feeling it would be a shame if our world-wide organisation vanished almost completely.  Admittedly we still had Brian's twice -yearly lunches, but realistically they could only cater for those living in and around Leicester.  OWT seemed a way of keeping in touch, but after well over 0ne hundred issues contributions had all but dried up.  But an appeal for material has brought forth enough to make this online version worthwhile, and hopefully will stir more memories.  This new version will only appear online, you will not receive it via email.  Send contributions to Dennis (click/tap HERE for email address)

   The passing of the late Bobby Charlton prompted a memory of my own.

Being a member of the chess team, I was entered into an all-schools chess congress during Easter 1960.  I won my group of six contestants, so on Saturday evening I, along with other group winners against a local county champion. 

I was doing alright, and might have achieved a draw, but I looked at the clock and realised I had to leave.  So, to the amazement of the other player, I deliberately made a losing move.  I said I was late for an appointment and had to leave.

The appointment?  Match of the Day.  England 1 - Scotland 0, and a diving header by none other than Bobby Charlton.

Sometimes you just have to get your priorities right!

OBITUARIES Alan Mercer recently passed away after a long illness.  Alan taught at CBS for around four years in the early sixties.  He was much younger than the other teachers, and less harsh in his treatment of pupils.  He was my favourite teacher, and I attended his lunchtime sessions of The Crusaders, a sort of semi-religious club.  At the end of one term he set a competition over the holiday, this being to tell a bible story in one's own words.  I was, and am, ashamed to admit I copied my entry, about Jonah and the whale, from a storybook we had at home.  This won me the prize - a book I still have somewhere.  Shortly before he passed away, Alan emailed me to say his end was near, and this prompted me to tell him about my cheating and ask for his forgiveness.  This Alan gave graciously, and wrote 'Of course I forgive you.'
From Malcolm Savage  1963-70   Great news that OWT is to continue.  This is to advise that my twin brother, Pat (1963-68) passed away on May 1st after a courageous nine month battle with cancer.  He survived four cardiac arrests in 2017, and been battling with Parkinson's Disease since 2018.  He was seventy one years old.  After leaving CBS in 1968 he worked at the E W Brian knitting factory.  Later he set up his own catering business after moving to Welwyn Garden City.
From Peter Knudssen (Nutt)  1950-55   My brother, Jeffrey Joseph Nutt died at the beginning of October 2023.  He was an Old Wyvernian, born December 28th 1929 and was ninety three years old.  Living in Countesthorpe for most of his life, he worked in several roles prior to his National Service.  Much of this was in the Royal Army Dental Corps at Glen Parva.  Most of his working life was with Lloyds bank in Leicester.  Always keen on sport he played football and cricket at local level, but later in life took up race walking at long-distance level.  He participated in a number of London to Brighton, and Leicester to Skegness, races with the Olympian Leicester walker Albert Staines.  In later years he was a long-serving member of Countesthorpe Bowling Club, even playing for them abroad.  Unfortunately Jeff was severely deaf and took early retirement, but loved bird watching, model making and jigsaw puzzles.  Jeff leaves a wife, three daughters, many loving grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He will be sorely missed by his many friends and family.  He did attend a reunion at Clarence House a few years ago

FROM TONY BAXTER   I make this contribution in the hope that OWT will continue to flourish.  I think it's a good idea to continue it, as it helps those friends and colleagues who can't attend the lunches to keep in touch.

At home I have a drawer stuffed with old letters sent before emails and smart phones existed.  It needed sorting so I began to rummage and, of course, read many of them.  Some were from my time as a pupil at CBS, and many more from my early years as a teacher.

When the school was in Humberstone Gate, three teachers made a habit of visiting a small cafe, which I think was in Churchgate.  They were Bob Roberts, John Gimson and Tony Baxter. The lady who served the tasty meals must have thought we were an odd trio, but when we headed back to afternoon school she always uttered a hearty 'Chairy-oh!'

I was reminded of this quirky daily routine by a letter from John Gimson.  This was sent many years after he had left the school and moved to Yorkshire.

Other letters remind me of pupils I taught, or who worked with me on the school drama productions.  Where are Dick Kirby, Andrew Muggleton, M J Rosinger, Neil Darlinson, John Wawby, Andy Hayman, Geoff Litchfield - to name but a few.

I am indebted to Andy Marlow for his remarkable CBS history book.

Does this email trigger memories for other ex-pupils and teachers?

FROM JOHN A HILL  1949-56   (John writes from Chapel Hill, North Carolina)  My parents put CBS as first choice because they considered Wyggy to be too snobbish, and I have always been delighted by that decision.  The teachers were a wonderful cast of characters, and I was very fortunate they put up with me.  To them, and their patience, I owe the fortunate life I have enjoyed.

Although placed in 1 Alpha I was not well-behaved, and in the three terms I received five, five and seventeen detentions.  That was not well-received, and I was threatened with expulsion.  To make up for the lost house points I was forced by the De Montfort seniors to enter the swimming sports day, and was placed last in the beginners' width.  I survived and improved, but still collected detentions like stamps.  In 4 Alpha my house seniors forced me to enter the athletics on sports day, and not being quick on my feet I entered the 880 yards under-fifteen race.  To my amazement I finished third!  It was a lucky discovery, because in my final two years I won both the 880 yards and the one mile races.

During my first year I used to travel home on the No 31 bus from Charles Street.  On one occasion it had just left, and was stopped at the traffic lights outside Woolworths.  I caught up and jumped on, went upstairs and found a seat at the front.  Then DING!  The bus stopped, the conductor came upstairs and escorted me off the bus with a suitable admonishment.  I then ran to the next stop, by the police HQ,where I reboarded and returned to the same seat.  I received a rousing cheer and round of applause.  That felt really good to a twelve-year-old.

We had Bull Smith for chemistry in 3 Alpha, and I well remember his 'Boy - fetch beakers one in number' or 'Go find flasks, two in number.'

In the first year, 1949-50, several of us would go to the bakery on Charles Street (Bayliss's?) at lunch time and buy stale meringues at 1d each.  Sometimes we went to Lewis's, where we ran up and down the escalators.

In 3 Alpha we were taught German by Mr Hantusch, a Czech I believe.  He had the habit of sitting on the corner of the desk on the front row, with his foot on the seat next to the leg of the boy sitting there.  He often wore black shoes, and on a couple of occasions when he was concentrating on the lesson the boy concerned - I think it was Neil - carefully drew a swastika in white chalk on the toecap of the right shoe.  He was never caught!

For some of the less severe teachers a board duster might have a match inserted between the layers of material and, if done well, it would light up when the duster was used.  It was not uncommon for pieces of chalk, paper balls or even paper aeroplanes to be flying around while a relatively lax teacher was writing on the blackboard.

On the second level was a classroom which overlooked Hill Street.  On the last day of term before the Easter holiday, 1950 or 1951, some of us were walking down Hill Street at lunchtime and found a kipper on the floor.  One boy was sent to the aforementioned classroom, and after he had opened the window the kipper was thrown up.  It was later deposited in Ron Gutteridge's desk and the smell was awful.  But to my knowledge that was the last we heard about it.

I am sure the lunches have been much discussed in OWT, but I will never forget being on Flash Gordon's table and being forced to eat inedible potatoes, almost colourless cabbage and what looked like frogspawn!  Slaps round the head from Flash were almost as hard as those of Bill Sykes, but less frequent.

In the last few weeks of my final year we were lucky to have the prefects' room, and we spent many hilarious afternoons there.  I will always remember Bob Gregory telling shaggy dog stories, because they would usually go on for ten or fifteen minutes before the (usually useless) punchline was reached to everyone's relief.

Finally a note on careers advice.I have always loved maps and geography, so thought a career involving maps would suit.  After choosing the science track into 5S, and after 'O' levels, we had to choose three main subjects for 'A' levels.  This presented a challenge, as I did not know which to take besides geography.  So one afternoon I knocked on the staff room door to ask for advice.  I think it was Mr Remington who emerged from the smoke-filled room.  What follows is as near to the conversation that I can manage.

Me:  I would like to concentrate on geography, but don't know what else to study.

Mr R:  Well, we don't really teach anything on the science side that fits with geography.

Me:  So what can I do?

Mr R:  Well, what else are you good at?

Me:  Nothing particularly.

Mr R:  In which subject were you placed highest in your class?

Me:  I was fourth in chemistry.

Mr R:  So why don't you do chemistry then?  Chemistry, physics and maths go well together.

Me:  OK, thank you.

So a discussion lasting less than one minute was the only career advice I received, and it set me on a career in chemistry instead of my beloved geography.  It must have been good advice, because I ended up with a Ph D in organic chemistry and worked in chemistry for most of my working life in the UK, USA and finally for a company in China.

FROM ROB WILLSON  1964-72   In the spring og 1968 we were invited to take part in a two-week 'educational' cruise around the eastern Mediterranean aboard the SS Uganda.  I think the total cost, including flights and meals, was around £65 per boy.  This represented three weeks wages for my dad, so I was very fortunate my parents allowed me to go.  The SS Uganda was used as a hospital ship during the 1982 Falklands war. 

We flew from Gatwick to Genoa, where we boarded the ship, then travelled to Malta, Egypt, Turkey and Venice.  We slept in dormitories on board.  There were boys and girls from all areas of the country.  I don't recall a lot of formal education, and everyone - including the teachers - had a great time. 

One incident in Egypt stands out.  We visited Cairo, the Sphynx and the pyramids.  Some of us purchased souvenirs from market traders.  It was a novelty to haggle, and the most popular items were stuffed camels.  During the following night our slumbers were disturbed by itching and scratching.  It transpired that the camels were infested with fleas, because they had been stuffed with camel dung!  Needless to say the teachers demanded that all the souvenirs purchased in Egypt be handed in, and they were unceremoniously dumped overboard.

FROM RAY HARROLD  1952-56   I live in Australia, south-west of Sydney.  I joined CBS in the second year (1952) having completed my first year at Derby Grammar School.

In 1956 I completed six GCE 'O' levels and left school to become a student electrical apprentice at Leicester power station.  With a family like mine it was what one did, there being no thought of the sixth form or university. 

I am pleased to say I picked up a bachelors and masters degrees in my thirties, having served eleven years in the Royal Navy.   After working in electrical/electronic engineering for a number of years I finished my working life as a university lecturer.

In summary, CBS gave me an excellent basic education that stood me in good stead throughout my life.  I strongly believe it is the type of education that should be used today.

It is very unlikely I will be attending any reunion lunches.  All of my classmates are in their mid-eighties or dead!

FROM DAVE PALMER  1957-64   One amusing event I often recall took place in my first year at CBS when we were in the Lee Circle huts.  Mr Gould took us for English, and on the first morning gave duties to various boys in the class.  He told us he was a lover of fresh air, and I was given the task of making sure all the windows were open before he arrived.

They were old buildings, and I think some of the windows had never been opened.  One in particular was very stiff, so I gave it a good thump with the palm of my hand.  But I missed the frame and hit the glass, which smashed just as Mr Gould arrived.  He was not very happy, but fortunately I did not have any cuts.

After that I never got on very well with English - in fact I had to have two goes to achieve my 'O' level!

AND FINALLY...   I have related this tale many years ago, but it is one of my favourites so am repeating it.  Here in Welshpool Stephanie and I occasionally come across a crocodile of school children on their was to who knows where!  All the kids wear high-vis jackets, and are accompanied by an army of teachers and classroom assistants.  How different to the sixties, in particular the exceptionally severe winter of 1962/63.  Normal games activities were out of the question, which more than suited me, but life had to go on.  So around once per week we were bussed to Grace Road, and walked back into town along Aylestone Road.  I think we were usually accompanied by only two teachers, Jock Gilman and Bill Mann, who spent their time at the head of the crocodile chatting to each other.  At the time my family lived in South Wigston, on the new Fairfield Estate, and it so happened that the No 87 Corporation bus - my transport home - went past Grace Road.  So I could not see the point of walking all the way into town, only to return on the same route, and occasionally I had the opportunity to take advantage of the situation.  If I could make sure the teachers were somewhere near the front of the crocodile, and I could manage to become the back marker, I would nip into one of the large front gardens until the crocodile was some distance away.  Then it was a simple matter to wait for the No 87 at the nearby stop.  I probably only attempted it two or three times, but always got away with it and thought myself to be very clever.

Dennis J Duggan  1959-64