‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students! – Cup of Tea Tales
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students!
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Ashworth’s Sweet-Shop, Harehills. Sweets, Victory V Lozenges, Sweet Cigarettes and Other Delights We Have Lost Over The Years.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A’ Levels, the Final Year at High School, Planning to Leave Home, Getting into College and Growing Older if Not Wiser.
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 5
- ‘Cup Of Tea Tales’- Remember, Remember the Fifth of November – Bonfire Night Shenanigans! Not Fun for Everyone!
In 1966, there wasn’t much fanfare when you left school. There were no fancy balls or special ceremonies, just a clearing out of your desks, a few words from Mr Kelly and then goodbyes with classmates and the usual walk home. There really wasn’t much more to it than that. The summer holidays beckoned, and that was more pressing than starting high school. When you are eleven years old, time is very much in the present, whereas now time seems to fly by quicker with each passing year. Waiting a week or two for something to arrive is no big deal, but when young, the time would seem endless.
After receiving notification that I was to attend Roundhay School for my secondary education, there was a period where nothing really happened. Summer was approaching and, from memory, it was one of those real summers when the weather was hot and rain was infrequent. This was the summer of 1966 and I remember my parents receiving a package of information regarding my attendance at Roundhay School. There was a list of uniform that was required and it named the shops in Leeds that could provide it. There were two main ones: Rawcliffe’s (corner of Duncan Street) and I can’t remember the name of the other.
This was an exciting time for me. Harehills CP School had no uniform apart from a choir one, and so I was intrigued about what I needed. The letter informed me I was allocated to Kelvin House. Again, Harehills only had colours and a house with a name was something new. With this letter came the first real recognition that my life was to change. For one thing, there was a whole range of new subjects that were studied: science, in proper laboratories, woodwork and metalwork, foreign languages. This was real learning, or so I thought.
Real sport was something I longed for. Cross-country, rugby, cricket and athletics were on the list and I hoped I would be good at something. The uniform list showed that I required a blue (house colour) rugby shirt with a white band sewn on the inside. This caused my mother no end of stress, as she wasn’t handy with the sewing needle.
The day arrived when we went shopping at Rawcliffe’s in Leeds. I seem to remember that we had to go upstairs into a large room where a man assisted. He checked the list and started to collect the things required. He measured me up with an experienced eye and reappeared with the standard tie. He pulled out a tape measure, encircled my head and returned with the green and black cap, six and seven eighths. It was placed on my head and it felt strange. I was impressed that it had a shiny enamelled badge with the words Virtutem Petamus. A matching cloth badge followed. Much to my mother’s horror, she had to sew the badge onto the blazer. The blazer then appeared, and I slipped my arms into it. The salesman encouraged my mother to get one at least a size or two bigger. “It will last longer and allow him to grow into it,” he told her. My mother didn’t need much encouraging as money was quite tight. So it was that I was provided with a blazer that would probably still be too large for me now, but I was overcome by all the fuss that was happening around me and more and more items were gathering on the counter. I was to wear grey shorts and so I avoided the need for any inside leg measurement, which was a relief to me, but I needed knee-length socks with coloured stripes where they turned down at the top. Rugby also required special striped socks and black shorts. Very dashing! The final items were a gabardine raincoat and a leather satchel. My satchel was fairly basic, unlike some boys who had very flash ones with their initials in gold lettering.
“Now remember that every item has to be named,” the man told my mother, “We have a service to make name labels. Would you like to order some?” I think my mother was getting overcome with the whole process at this point, so she readily agreed. I am not sure that this would have been the case if she had understood that she had to sew each label into each item of uniform.
The labels were delivered later, but we left the store with quite a collection and headed home on the bus. I became quite nervous at this point. This was the moment I realised it was for real. There were only a few weeks to go before the next chapter of my life and growing up. Looking back, this was probably the first time I suffered from anxiety. Within the school information pack were the dates for the next school year, the times of the day, and information on corporal punishment and detentions. The school had Saturday morning detentions at this time and there were also prefect detentions. This struck me as barbaric and went against my sense of fair play. If I was getting stressed, this was nothing in comparison to my mother. She was struggling to sew the badge neatly onto the blazer, and had several attempts to get it straight and the stitches neat and invisible. I discovered later that the other store, more expensive, had the badges already sewn on. I think my mum would have paid any price if she had known.
A week or two later, the labels arrived, and further anguish for my mother followed. Each label had to be sewn into socks, shirts, blazer, and sports equipment and she tormented herself as she completed the task. She couldn’t be seen as the one mother in the school who failed to get the labels neat and level. Finally, I was just about kitted out. The remaining items were a fountain pen, medium nib, a bottle of blue-black Quink Ink and a geometry set.
It was with pride that I was told to don my uniform for a photograph. Out into the garden I went, and a photo was taken in a blazer and cap and then another in a rugby shirt. What a splendid sight! My mother was ecstatic that the sewing was completed and that her number two son would not be let down on his first day. It was the only time that the uniform would look pristine, as the first day was ‘open season’ on new boys’ uniforms. This was a tradition that the older boys took to with a passion!
As September approached, I did begin to focus more on my new school. I had walked through Gipton Woods and across the Soldiers’ Fields to get a good look and, I must admit, it was a very imposing building and grounds. Harehills seemed so small and insignificant in comparison. Cricket grounds stretched before the main building and there were intriguing huts to the left and set back a little. It seemed vast. Many classroom windows faced the fields, and the driveway led through the low stone wall and a couple of cars were parked outside the front, even though it was the holidays. I realised the walk was about thirty minutes from my house in Gipton Wood Crescent and, as walks went, it was a delightful one. The wood was magnificent, ever changing with the seasons, and I knew it well from playing there many, many hours since moving to Gipton Wood Crescent. Oakwood had a lovely village feel, which it still has, and it was then just a short walk to school. It was a walk that many would envy and nowadays one that not many children would make. Parents tend to take children to school and drop them off, at least in the first year or two of secondary schooling. I found the walk a good time to gather my thoughts for the new day ahead.
As time to start school approached, I began to get a little anxious. I was excited, optimistic and eager, but also nervous and apprehensive. I was concerned about the rumours I had heard about older boys bullying the first years and I was concerned about prefects. Justice being handed out by older boys struck me as potentially very unfair and, through experience, still does. Some did use their status as an opportunity to make others suffer. Mind you, so did one or two teachers. The start seemed so far off and then, without warning, it was upon me. My mother had suffered her sewing ordeal, my satchel was packed with mathematical instruments, my shoes and my face had been scrubbed to be shiny and new, socks pulled up, blazer spotless and vivid green and, to top it off, my school cap with impressive enamelled badge. I felt sick! I walked out through the back door of our house carrying a kiss from my mum and a message of good luck. I didn’t know anyone else in the street that was going and so I headed off down the road, conspicuous in my pristine uniform. This would be the first and last time I ever looked this way. I can’t say I took much notice of the journey through the woods and past the shops of Oakwood, but I must have passed the newsagents, with the cigarette vending machine outside, Jones of Oakwood, with its electrical goods and the butchers that used to have pheasants hanging from hooks, vile piles of tripe, real lolling cows’ tongues and the occasional rabbit. I crossed the zebra crossing at the Belisha Beacons, past the opticians and crossed over to the Oakwood Clock, and then up the path around the playing fields along Old Park Road to Roundhay School gates. Now, clearly by this point, I was not alone. There were large numbers of boys making their way. Some in groups, chattering like monkeys and some, like me, alone and overawed. The walk through the gates and along the drive seemed endless, and the building just got bigger and bigger as I got nearer.
Now at this point, things get hazy for me. I am not sure how we were sorted into our classes and then led off to our classrooms. I am not sure if it took place in the lower playground or whether we went to the hall. I suspect it was the playground and anyway, I was in class 1C. Now apparently these were not ability grouped at this point, that came later, but I and my fellow class members, were escorted to the room by the class teacher, Holly Joe Pullen. The form room was in the back corner of the main building, just above the boiler room. What made a big impression on me was that the teachers all wore black academic gowns. I had only seen such things on television and in books such as Just William. We followed quietly along and were ushered into the room. It was the RE room and our teacher was the religious education teacher. The room had enormous windows on two sides and the teacher’s desk was a solid, heavy wooden thing, aged and impressive. It sat upon a dais, as all the teachers’ desks in the school did. Behind the desk was a large blackboard, but this one wasn’t black, but green. It was a green, ground-glass board and there was a discussion whether this was because the school colour was green or because green was more restful on the eye. Each class member took a place behind one of the desks. These were old, very worn, with carved graffiti of rock band names, bored holes, gouged lines and screw holes where hasps had been fitted and removed on an annual basis. Mr Pullen informed us we should purchase hasps and padlocks so that we could fit them to the desks so that we could lock our things inside. (This was before lockers became available) Administrative issues were dealt with, the register taken, and we all listened and looked as each name was called out so we could put faces to names. Dining arrangements were explained and money collected and tickets issued, a timetable was written onto the board and I think we had to copy it down by hand. Copying from the board became a very common part of a Roundhay education. I am sure that basic rules, such as not running inside, making sure we got to lessons on time, with the correct books, arriving at the dining rooms and lining up etc. were gone through and some of it must have sunk in.
The next course of action was being taken on a tour of the school. We were shown the dining rooms, the sports changing rooms and gym, woodwork, metalwork and art rooms, the science labs and the music rooms, the library and then a tour of the Mansion. There were the two tarmac playgrounds, the playing fields, with instructions that we were not to cross through the bushes to Roundhay Girls’ School, next door. Fraternisation wasn’t allowed until the sixth form.
Finally, break came, the bell rang and we quietly and relatively timidly went out. This was when the fun started. We stood around in groups and made our introductions. There were some boys from Harehills. Paul Banks and Dick Rodley, I think, were in my class (Not sure if John Sugden was) and we huddled in a group and chatted to some boys we didn’t know. I got talking with Roger Harvey and Chris Mills, and I felt better. From out of nowhere, my cap was snatched off my head. An older boy ran off, made it to the corner of the building and proceeded to beat the cap and, in particular, the enamel badge against the brickwork. I was stunned and, before I could do anything, he ran back laughing and handed it back, saying, ‘Just christened it!’ He ran off chuckling, looking for another victim.
That was the crowning part of my first day and, as I said, I never looked the shiny new boy ever again. If anyone ever inspected the Roundhay caps, I am sure that almost every one had been welcomed in the same way mine had. Luckily, my mother didn’t notice, and I certainly didn’t tell her, as her anger would have just added to my suffering.