Your Webmaster recalls his first day at the school six decades ago...
As I mentioned in a recent
email to The Alumni, I started at JRGS in September, 1959 - almost 60
years ago. And what a terrifying experience it was. I was weedy for my
age and, with a birthday in August, younger than most of the incoming
boys in 1M. Also, the sixth-form lads were larger and more fierce-looking
than I was used to at my mixed junior school. Also the all-male
teachers, with their black gowns, were much more intimidating, I recall.
I was so spooked after that first day's lunch-time experience and the intimidating atmosphere in the playground - hazing of "Brats" was pretty commonplace, I discovered - that I persuaded my Mother to travel into Croydon on Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtime. We met a the Black&White Café next to Kennard's department store on both days. The experience calmed my nerves to a certain extent. I soon learned that the older boys were simply continuing the school transition of keeping new, younger entrants firmly in their place.
I had also made a friend in 1M of Ian "Iggy" Green, whose brother David was in the sixth form and hence provided some degree of protection for his younger brother. That umbrella was extended to Ian's pals, I learned, and hence my subsequent days at the school were less intimidating. I soon settled into a routine and began to enjoy the new subjects to which we were exposed in that academic environment, including - surprisingly!- Latin, Geography, RI, History and Mathematics, plus Biology, Physics and Chemistry.
I consider those six years spent at JRGS in Shirley to be the most formative experience of my life, and one that set me on the road to an interesting and - so far - rewarding career.
How about others? I invited contributions from anybody regarding their first impressions of either the Tamworth Road or Upper Shirley Road locations.
Mel Lambert, Burbank, USA; May2019 Email
Colin Taylor (JRGS 1959-64) adds: I also started at Ruskin in '59 and I'm sure I was in the same class as our webmaster: 1M with Mr. Kenneth Maggs. I was also terribly skinny in those days - I grew up with very little appetite for food. I remember people like Derek Powis and Roger Holcombe who seemed very beefy to me. Also "Robbo" Robertson. I thought Ken Maggs was a lovely guy. (Incidentally I heard he lost his hand during the war when the field gun he was on got hit by a German shell.) I was very much into football in those days but my pathetic body didn't get me very far. I was always a defender and recall usually playing left back with Martin Loveday playing right back. Fond memories.
(JRGS 1955-60) adds: My one overriding memory of that first
day arriving at the new school on Shirley Hills in 1956 was of being
corralled by older boys, who tied my shoe laces to the railings. It was
impossible to untie them so I had to snap the laces and walk around with
loose shoes! Then there was the threat of the dreaded foaming “lurgy”in
the tanks outside the kitchens.
Character forming?!? Happy days!
Geoffrey Farmer (JRGS 1959-64) adds: Thanks to our webmaster
for forwarding all the emails relating to the class photos; I was busy
moving house at the time and never got round to responding. However, the
current correspondence was a welcome distraction at a stressful time.
As to my first impressions of the school in 1959, like our webmaster I was overawed by the masters in their gowns and the size of the building. One thing that comes to mind is the sorry state of most of the text books we were issued, and then instructed to cover with brown paper. I had expected better quality books. I was also taken aback by the intensity of the lessons across all subjects. Other shocks to the system were the amount of homework, discipline, and the high standards expected of us.
I was very impressed with the organ in the main hall and looked forward to the recitals after assembly, particularly those played with relish by Mr. Field. I didn’t enjoy the sports lessons in the winter months, having to change in those freezing changing rooms at the end of Oaks Lane.
Considering that we were from differing backgrounds, and most of us had not met each other before the first day, I think we jelled well as a group fairly quickly. I would not have had such a successful and rewarding career had it not been for the education, in its broadest sense, that I received at Ruskin, but I didn’t appreciate it at the time. One other thing that comes to mind is that Mr. Smith’s classroom was the only one in which the desks were not covered in ink and graffiti.
Bob Hyslop (JRGS 1953-60) adds: I have three memories of my first day at Tamworth Road in September 1953:
1. I felt VERY lonely and miserable in a corner of playground dominated by much larger boys charging about in front of a rather bleak and unwelcoming building.
2. I cheered up tremendously when I secured my place in the back row next to a large window. So? I quickly realised I could look down at the site of the murder in November 1952 of a policeman by Christopher Craig. Even then the case had already leaped into notoriety. Craig (16) pulled the trigger but it was his partner, Derek Bentley. who hanged in January 1953. Why? Nobody under 18 could be hanged then, but anyone involved in the crime ran that risk. The case caused controversy for nearly 50 years, producing several books and a film, Let Him Have It.
3. I nearly forgot. Just in front of me sat Pete Grey, and we've been friends for nearly 70 years.
Quite a day, I would say.
Bob Wane (JRGS 1945-53) adds: Here are some of my
recollections of early days at JRGS.
After five+ years of war not knowing whether the next bomb was going to be yours, whether your father would return from fighting, rationing of everything still in full swing - a banana, what is that? Orange, a colour in a book? - we survived to become the first year of the school with a newly enhanced [grammar school] status of what was to be JRGS in 1945.
I passed my 11-Plus in Sheffield, where I was having some respite. Clad in our new school uniform from Hewitt's (perhaps they were coupon free) we assembled in the playground at the front of the school awaiting our form master/mistress. I seem to remember short trousers were still being worn!
Early recollections that stand out include Mr. Chinnock trying to teach us the rudiments of woodworking with exercises in making dovetail joints. and Mr. Gee patiently inducting us into the world of art painting using copious amounts of poster paint. School lunches in the Gym were possibly the main meal for some; not bad value at 6d.
In today’s age, it is difficult to properly describe the anxiety and deprivation that many of us had experienced at that time. I am sure were very grateful to have had this opportunity to regain an orderly, if disciplined, routine that JRGS provided.
Peter Baron (JRGS 1959-66) adds:
I too started at Ruskin in September 1959 and was in 1G with the art
teacher Mr. "Vic" Gee. (What did he do all day? I don’t
recall Art being high on the agenda of learning at Ruskin!)
I remember we were seated in alphabetical order and as far as I recall it started something like this: Baron, Boyes, Brigden, Bush, Byford, Charles, Chiswick, Dyer, Ead, Gerlach, Graham, Hollidge, Horner ... That’s where the memory dries up! Would be interested to know if any other 1G alumni could correct or add to the list.
I also recall first encounter with the fearsome Mr. Smith by The Windmill when we were all us first formers were gathered together, and our names called out by "Smut" to see if we had played football at primary school. Weren’t we known as “Brats” to the second years upwards?