JRGS News Archive Page 17
JRGS Alumni Society

Archived News/Activities

- Page 17 - July thru November 2004 -

JRGS Alumni Society


Lack of space prevents our including the following items on the main News Page, but here are some interesting
events/comments from the past several months.


 Brian Thorogood (JRGS 1951-56) remembers Mr. “Vic” Gee, school art master ...

Mr. Gee pictured in 1950... ... and in 1964

I did like Mr. Gee. He had a laid-back personality and treated us fifth and sixth formers like young adults.
   Our first lessons took place in a shed-like building a shortish distance from the Tamworth Road school. We were obliged to wear aprons to protect our school clothing. I wore a white laboratory coat, although most pupils made-up aprons. The very first lesson in 1951, Mr. Gee allowed us to draw what we liked, as a means, I presume, to determine if there were any budding Renoirs amongst us. I felt I was more advanced – drawing a country landscape scene, whilst others “cartooned”.
   Mr. Gee gave only two or three lessons during these formative years - instruction in perspective was obvious – which does have to be taught. The other was italic handwriting, with special pens, which we purchased. On another occasion we had to observe the rooftops outside for five minutes, then come inside and paint the scene from memory.
   He only gave one demonstration of his own skills. I was suitably impressed by his control over his brushes, which he swept in motion, to the floor.
   He did not take any extra-curricular activity like other masters, but was responsible for the design and layout of the school magazines, the scenery back drops for the school plays, and I remember he designed the new school tie when we moved to the new school in Shirley.
   I thought he had rather an easy time as a master, apart from the three instructive lessons aforementioned. He would just suggest a subject and let us get on with it, the practice being all-important.
   He drove to work in his small 1930s Austin 7 car. On one occasion, for a prank, some boys wedged his car between the school chemistry lab and the back of the main building. An Austin 7 could easily be lifted by half a dozen strong boys.
   We had very little homework, but were encouraged to view the Croydon Art Society’s annual exhibition which took place in Allders High Street shop.
   There was a Van Gogh “Auvers” landscape on the half-landing at the old school, and during the O-Level GCE exams, all framed pictures were turned to face the wall, presumably to prevent pupils copying or getting ideas. We had two papers: a daffodil still life in pencil, and a choice of painting. I painted an estuary scene with little children paddling.
   As we progressed, one or two boys of senior years talked about “painting with a pencil” which was taboo! I would not grasp the importance of this, that is “drawing the shadow”, until studying at Kennington City and Guilds School of Art some years later, so just a few boys were very advanced for their age. The boy who came top in the O-Level mock exam painted a farm building scene, of perhaps limited proportion, but Mr. Gee recognized his ability and observational skills.
   On another occasion, Cowlem organized a séance in the Art Room. We were all holding hands sitting in a circle. When he came in, Mr. Gee, with his usual good-naturedness, asked if we had summoned up the dead.
   Other memories include Christmas card design for school funds and how impressed I was of older boys’ work.
   I was subsequently to work as an Art Therapist at a major psychiatric hospital in Essex, and as part of my career to hold half a dozen one-man shows, work as a design draughtsman, and understand the “symbol” in Jungian terms for my faith and philosophy. Mr. Gee did have a lasting influence on my life and was a favourite master. Next to Mathematics, Art was my best subject, and to him I remain very grateful.
   Incidentally, have any old boys any news of the whereabouts and subsequent life of Roy Scott? The last news I have was that he was running a public house in Norbury.

Brian (Bone) V Thorogood, Willowbank, Wick, Scotland KW1 4NZ. November 2004.

Mr. Gee joined JRGS in April 1945 and, as far as we can determine, left the staff some time after May 1971 - ML.

Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) adds: The Art Shed was located in Wandle Park, I seem to remember. Looking at an electronic map it does seem quite a long way from Tamworth Road [the school's original location in West Croydon] and across the other side of a major highway now. Maybe Wandle Park has shrunk in later years.
   PS: I was never any good at art, then or now. But I do remember frequently sketching sailing galleons, but this was in any other class than art!

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-65) adds: I have nothing particular to add to Brian Thorogood's comprehensive memoir of Mr. "Vic" Gee, especially as I did not continue with Art as a subject at school after the third form.
   However, he popped up again when I was in the sixth form. This was the mid-60s, and bridging the art/science (Leavis/Snow) divide must have been one of the motivations behind the school's sixth form non-exam General Studies course. I think the feeling was that it would produce more rounded individuals, and I'm sure that Mr. "Joe" Lowe felt that it might give us that vital edge in university interviews. Senior staff took small groups in mini-courses of about six weeks. For some reason I remember the school canteen being used.
   We got the distinct impression that they were offering up their own pet topics, and very illuminating it was too - about the staff as well as the topics. Mr. Gee was always a thought provoking chap, and technically perfect. I can still remember him insisting that "function is more important than form" when it comes to design. Every time I come across a fancy teapot that drips I remember this. (Yes, here's one Brit that still uses a tea pot.) Also, a story that VG told about an artist (Leonardo?) seeking a lucrative post in Venice or somewhere. On being asked to show what he could do, he simply stepped forward and in front of the assembled doges and bishops, drew a large and perfect freehand circle on the canvas. He got the job.
   Mr. "Rhino" Rees was also rolled out [for General Studies] to teach us budding scientists (did arts students take this course too?) about Greek philosophy; Mr. Alan Murray outlined the growth of ancient Chinese Civilization when western Europe was a primitive place; Mr. Lowe himself took his sessions in his own office, and conducted an in-depth study of "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" as well as boring us to death with the life and work of John Ruskin himself, though sadly he missed out the bits about Ruskin's sex life that would have made it so much more memorable to us!
   I feel that Mr. "Sam" Chaundy would probably have done a stint too, but I cannot remember it.
   There must have been more, and I would love to hear what others remember.

Roger Fuller (JRGS 1951-56) adds: Interesting to read Brian Thorogood's piece on Mr. "Vic" Gee. No Renoir myself, I remember art lessons mainly for the trip to the shed-like building that Brian refers to. It provided the opportunity for a mid-distance running race each week that was invariably headed by Vic Bivand, myself or a classmate named Gould.

   Due to business visits to USA and South Africa, I failed to respond to Brian's earlier reference to my efforts as a sprinter (slowest of four in the school relay team) and James Dean-style hair cut. Both are, of course, a part of the past not the present.

   Brian failed to mention that he was responsible for introducing me to Brigitte Bardot - sadly not in the flesh. However, he was the first person of my acquaintance to see the film "Doctor at Sea" starring Dirk Bogarde and a then red-haired B.B. He did go on about her. Quite reasonable I'd say.

   Did Brian learn more on the whereabouts of Roy Scott?

   Incidentally, Mr. "Chico" Culcheth's nickname originated when as a new teacher he first took the class in our "brat" year. Vic Bivand and I sat next to each other and immediately and simultaneously noted the resemblance of his gargantuan quiff to that worn by the cartoon character Chico who appeared, I believe, in The Eagle. All other suggestions are, I promise you, merely fanciful.


 Roger Fuller (JRGS 1951-56) identifies his Fifties schoolmates...

Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) offers: I have just had an email from an old student, Roger Fuller, who comments on an image I provided to The Mill. The photograph left shows me rather presumptuously (and prophetically) standing by the blackboard in front of a class of students. I am hiding my school blazer badge, as if I were the teacher. Roger gives many names of the lads in the classroom.

   He also provides a name to one of the teachers in the teacher's group photograph outside the new school, shown right. I must say though that the name he suggests does not ring any bells with me at the moment. Click on either image to access a full-size version.

As Roger Fuller writes: I think I may be able to add one name to the teacher's picture. Is it Mr. Culcheth, possibly nicknamed "Chico," standing next to Mr. Hancock. I rather fancy he took history and economics.

   However, I can certainly provide names for the classroom picture. If it was taken during Spring term 1955 then it is a Fourth year group as I left after the Fifth at end of school year 1956.
   I remember that I sat at a desk by window; standing in front of window in front of me is unknown; standing by window nearest to blackboard is Mick Hoskins; at back of class middle row is Richard Carter; in front and to his right is ??? Neil; at the rear of the class on the right is Terry Sewell (back of his head only); closest to Mike Marsh at front is Vic Bivand; between Vic Bivand and Terry Sewell - and only just in picture - is Mick Denning. Mick Hoskins and Terry Sewell were the best sprinters of their year and Vic Bivand the best soccer player.

   A very strange experience to find this photograph and be blasted back to the past!

Roger Fuller, August 2004 email

Les Peagam (JRGS 1951-56) adds: Hey, what a surprise I got when I saw the latest email linking to the photo in the mid-Fifties of some JRGS pupils in a Maths lesson. I was able to recognise some of those already identified, but I have a suspicion that I may be the one with my back to the camera on the left side of the centre front two, pictured left.
   Unfortunately, I have missed many of the previous exchanges as it is only now that I can once again concentrate on things such as this, following a life-saving lung transplant late last year. It is surprising what becomes important when your life is hanging in the balance. But now things seem to be going along fine and I am able to enjoy life again - who knows, I may even be able to get back to England (from Australia where we have been living for the past 18 years) some time next year when the ban on my flying comes off. [Please join me in wishing Les a speedy recovery - ML]
   Regards to all ex-JRGS pupils. [Memories]

Brian (Bone) V Thorogood (JRGS 1951-56) adds: Roger Fuller was "spot-on" in recognizing the fourth formers from 4P in 1955. He was able to detect Terry Sewell from the back by his small v-shape neckline at the nape. Roger himself is not yet sporting his full James Dean-style hair cut; that would come later in the 5th form. Needless to say, he had the best "trendy" haircut in the school, and I remember he was an able sprinter himself in the 100 yards. Vic Bivand went on to play professionally with Crystal Palace FC, albeit only for a short season - before making a good career in the Post Office.

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-65) adds: On page 8 of the Dec 1956 school mag, there is a list of the form that Brian Thorogood and others were in. I guess some may have left at the end of the fourth year and others gained no O-levels in 1956. Most, though maybe not all, were in 4P (1954-55) and 2C (1952-53).

   5W (1955-56): Vic P Bivand; R E Carter; John C Costello; M A Denning; G P Feeney; G P Forbath; S L Frier
Roger J Fuller; P L Goff; A D Gould; K S Harrow; D S Jackson; B L Kitchener; D R Laban; B J Maguire; Les A J Peagam; D W Putnam; R C Rowe; R M Scott; Terry E Sewell; B P M Taylor; Brian V Thorogood; K (Ken?) E Woodhams.

  Any others? Maybe this list might jog memories about other identities.

Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) adds: Regarding the source of these images, the one of me in class 4P, shown above, is a Keystone Press Agency (Fleet Street) picture, reference 10753-12.

  The picture of Mr. Alexander shown left is, I believe, one of mine. I seem to remember taking it having asked him to write something impressive up on the board. (Maybe it was taken because he was leaving?) It was taken in a different room to the other one of 4P, shown above, and there is a different set of maths on the blackboard.

   Regarding the age difference spotted by a recent correspondent, although I may have been two years older than the other boys I was, in fact, only one year ahead in class terms since I did two years in the Fifth. Why was I there in the 4P classroom? My guess is that it was lunch time and there were not too many people around. That ties in with it possibly being a posed picture, and the photographer "rounding up" some extras to fill the class room!

   I have just been browsing through some of the JRGS school magazines. It was interesting to note that the average class size in the Fifties was 24-25. Not at all bad by later standards.

Roger Fuller replies: Please convey my best wishes to Les Peagam, and my hopes that his recovery continues.
   I believe he is correct regarding his position in the class photo, shown above.


 Peter Oxlade (JRCS 1940-44) recalls the 1943/4 First XI football team...

This was the John Ruskin Central School First XI football team from 1943/4. The sports master was Mr. C. E. Smith and the headmaster Mr. McLeod.

I am unable to remember why there were only 10 of us in this picture!

Can anybody name any of those pictured - where are they now?

Upper row (left-to-right): Bill Petty, unknownStevensunknown, unknown.
Bottom row: D. Hambridge, Brown, unknown, Peter Oxlade, Tyler.

   If my memory is correct, the photo was taken in 1943 in the main playground that fronted onto Tamworth Road.

Click on either image to access a full-size version.

I also have a photo of the Second XI for the same period, shown lower-left. Players were in short supply at the time and I had to double up in both teams! Note the size of those boots and the varied socks. Economy Britain.

  I can identify Gibb (top row, extreme left); Pilcher (top row, extreme right) and Oxlade (bottom row; fourth from left)

   I am writing my memories of those days and of the teachers we were privileged to have - I will submit these to you soon.

I also became a member of the Board of Governors for a time in the 1990s - from pupil to Governor!

Peter Oxlade, August 2004 email

Dudley Wolf (JRGS  1943-47) comments: It is good to see that there is still someone around who went to Ruskin during my era! I look forward to seeing your memoirs of the period - complete, I assume, with doodlebugs and/or V2 rockets!
   Everyone seems to have been scared or upset by "Smithie," the PE and maths teacher. My own memories of Mr. Charles Smith are of a very positive man who praised achievement when it was deserved, but who set darned-nigh impossible standards. In the first lesson he took, it may have been the very first of my sojourn at Ruskin, he lectured us on behaviour in the street. His theory was that we only needed a space of four inches (width) to walk along the pavement, and that we should always make room for others.
   Maybe he took a fancy to me, but I remember him often selecting me to be the "Green" team front man in the gym. Mind you, I was a very fit youngster who was a cycling enthusiast, but I never reached the giddy heights of any school football team. (I do remember being able to climb the ropes in the gym using arms only. 'Bet you couldn't do that!)

   There was the occasional use of the knotted "cat" with which he would encourage speed around the gym, but if you were caught by that, hard luck, you were too slow! I'm sure it was more tongue-in-cheek than pain-on-backside, and always because he cared greatly about high standards. Today, I'm sure that he would be sacked immediately because he would be charged with child abuse or some other "politically incorrect" misdemeanour.

   Mr. McLeod was a head of the "old school", often sitting in on - or taking - lessons. When he retired he gave me the picture that hung outside his office. It is a reproduction of a Turner watercolour, a "colotype" I believe.

   Good luck with your memoirs, Peter; if I can aid your memory or help confirm anything, please let me know. (Mind you, my own impressions of the Ruskin period are pretty hazy.)

   Unfortunately I have no photographs to let you have.


 Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) recalls a temporary English teacher...

Good EnglishDuring my days as a schoolboy at JRGS, I remember that at one stage Mr. Cracknell was off sick for an extended period - possibly around 1951 - and we had a temporary English teacher to cover for him, a Mr. G. H. Vallins. I remember thinking at the time that we were very privileged to have Mr. Vallins teach us because he had written books published by Pan Books and that he must have been a famous person! There are only a few other Alumni members who were at school the same time as I was, and who would therefore have come across him. I did have a couple of his books at one time, but no longer, although I found this picture of one of them on the Internet, shown right.

Mike Marsh, Great Cornard, Sudbury, Suffolk, July 2004 email

John Byford (JRGS 1959-66) adds: The British Library [where JB works as Head of Legal Deposit Strategy - ML] has 49 books by G. H. Vallins, a most prolific author. His first publication appears to be "Kent Ways: A collection of verse" (1923) and the last "The Best English" - a 1979 reprint of a 1960 publication.
   Typical of his publications are "Selections from Bunyan," published in 1927 (i.e. edited selections from model writers) and school text books such as "Fifty Précis Exercises for Matriculation and School Certificate," often written in conjunction with others.

   Plenty of his books are on the secondhand market but nothing about him...


 Phillip Tidd (JRGS 1964-71) recalls teaching staff, particularly Mr. Charles Smith...

This is an interesting site. It's strange how things come back from the memories of others.

   I had forgotten some of the teachers, but it all comes back. I was terrified of Mr. "Rhino" Rees, and I remember how he used to "charge", and pull boys up by  the hair, when particularly irritated. Wouldn't happen now etc., etc. I was even more terrified of Mr. "Smutty" (Smuts) Smith, whose only tool was deep sarcasm, but that really did hurt. Mr. Smith took me for Maths, not for PE, and he had a razor sharp mind.

   I felt very sorry for those staff at JRGS, when the grammar school ethos so quickly evaporated at the end of my time. Most of them really did not know how to cope with either co-ed, or lack of respect. A different style was then called for.

    I only experienced the first two terms of crossover in my Third-year Sixth, but I thought it was grim. It was the loss of an academic atmosphere carefully fostered for years that upset me, but then this is not important to most people, and has little necessary connection with either intelligence, or later success in life.

   A email from an earlier Alumnus talks of class consciousness at Ruskin, but I never experienced that sense of things (my father was a factory worker) but then the Sixties had broken in my time. The new youth culture rather disguised class issues, and modified the starchiness of the grammar school system.

   As history was my subject, Alan Murray "pushed" me (the least pushy man!) into his old Cambridge college - and at Cambridge there really were class issues, although everyone was awfully "nice" in that English kind of way. The Dean used to do impersonations of me at his private parties, as a working class "oik".

   I think the root problem (as seen from The Left) was the state grammar trying to ape the public school system (the only model there was for a long time). I can see that, in the end, this had to bring the system crashing down, because it was regarded as "privilege", not "merit".

   To be blunt, the grammar schools were for the middle classes, and the secondary moderns for the working classes.

   In the UK now, we have Technology Colleges, and Specialist Schools, with enhanced funding, surging ahead of "other" state comprehensives. They really represent the re-emergence of selection (and differential funding!). This time, it is under the banners of "parental choice", "benchmarking" and "centres of excellence". The new selection procedures, however, are as much of the parents, as of the pupils, and I wonder if this is an advance.

Phillip Tidd, July 2004 email

Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) adds: Phillip's mailing reminded me of our own "crossover" period which occurred in 1972. Phillip says, referring to the staff, "Most of them really did not know how to cope with either co-ed, or lack of respect." [Recall that from 1965 Mike was in charge of teaching woodwork at Sudbury Secondary Boys' School in Suffolk, which in the early-Seventies went comprehensive - ML. more]

   In our case there were the Boys' Grammar School, the Girls' High School and the Boys' Secondary Modern School (where I taught) all coming together under one umbrella of an Upper School. The changeover was further complicated by the fact that the three schools were all 11-16/18 year pupils and the Upper was to be 14-18 year olds. Even more complications came from the second Upper School in the area was not yet built, or not completed, when the first one opened in 1972. Add to this the feeder schools in both catchment areas for the original three were being split between the two Uppers and then become Middle Schools themselves.

   Two things happened then. Firstly the one Upper School opened with years four to six instead of three to six. The third years had to stay in their (now) Middle Schools until the next year when the second Upper School should open and we could all start at year three as planned.

   Secondly, as far as the staff were concerned, everything appeared to have been thrown up into the air and see where things fell! In those days the Grammar School was still being run on "traditional' grammar school lines and was populated with the "brighter" boys, the Sec Mod managed quite well with all the rest. So the staff for each school were only used to their particular breed of pupil. The Grammar School teachers only had experience (in the main) of teaching the brighter pupil to A levels, we coped with all the other boys from the town taking them to O-Level and CSE, and of course the Girls' School teachers had only taught girls. Personally, at this stage after 11 years teaching, I had never taught girls nor even had them in a school, not even at Ruskin or at college. The new Upper School head-teacher was the previous Grammar School head and one thing he tried to instigate which went down like a lead balloon was a Prefect scheme. Since these were mostly from the grammar school, the secondary mod boys were having none of that!

   So there we all were in 1972 - the grammar school staff had to cope with the lesser-able and sometimes more unruly pupils; we had to match the "brighter" (and not always better behaved) pupils; and we all had to come to terms with the girls. The Girls' School teachers had been used to a full spread of abilities but had not come across boys. Yes indeed - Most of them really did not know how to cope with either co-ed, or lack of respect.

   We all suddenly had three years to teach a five-year pre-exam course and in that first year only two, since the third years had not arrived. Half the students had not studied my subject at all for their first three years. It was all a big muddle, but somehow we survived probably at the expense of the exam results and some staff sanity levels I suspect!

   It must have taken about five years for the new school to settle down by which time all the original pupils had gone through as well as the head-teacher retiring.

Peter Wilson (JRGS 1956-63) comments: Mr. C. E. Smith was "Mr. Smut", as he put it himself. "One 't' in Smith!"  NOT "Smuts"' and not "Smutt"... and not "Smutty" either!

   He was my form master for three years and took me for Maths, PE and Games, and R.I. [More] I know he married late in life (the rumour was that he'd been jilted as a young man); I think to a lady teacher. And I believe they had two children. I wonder if he is still with us? He would be well into his Nineties. Does anyone know what became of Mr. Smith? [Having retired in July 1978 after 36 years of service at JRGS, including Head of PE Department, Charles Smith is reported to have only recently - within the past five years - given up assisting at Fairfield Halls, Croydon - ML.].

   Also does anyone know where David Treleaven is? He was a couple of years younger than me but also played chess for the school; He also had a 350 AJS motor-cycle at one time (and I think a Jag car soon after he left school). I saw a 350 AJS being worked on by a garage-owner friend in the UK only recently. c1952.

   Apologies - I must get round to replying to emails from Bruce Haithwaite and Ian Macadam.


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