By my fourth year in 1973, I had come to terms with the fact that I was absolutely hopeless at art as a subject, finding it a tedious and pointless waste of time. The only good thing about art was the art aprons, which when rolled into a small tight bundle on the end of long waist-strings made excellent weapons for tormenting or fighting with. They could also be whirled around and flung over great distances, and it was a popular sport to snatch an unsuspecting classmate's apron, swing it round and hurl it over several of the hut roofs. It was not unknown to spot an apron sailing past overhead, or see one biff an unsuspecting bystander in the ear after being launched from somewhere in the vicinity of the chemistry labs.
Like most other boys of my age I was in the grip of a hormone-fuelled crisis of identity, and spent far too much lesson time wondering whether a certain girl liked me enough to "go with me," or whether I would ever get to see a girl with no clothes on. Imagine, then, the disruptive effect it had on a class full of hot blooded boys (and horrified girls), when we arrived for Art one day to find amongst the display of paintings mounted on the wall, a very lifelike pencil drawing of a topless girl posing. And not just any old anonymous girl; it very soon transpired that the drawing had been done by our very own (female) Art teacher in after-school Art Club, and the subject was identified by a few as a certain sixth-form girl in, I believe, Winchester. After spending an entire lesson with the said teacher (unsuccessfully) trying to explain the aesthetic and wholesome place of the nude throughout art history, and without exception having our pleading applications to join the Art Club turned down, we spent the rest of the week hanging around Winchester, hoping to catch a glimpse of this vision of schoolboy fantasy. News of the picture spread like wildfire, but apparently it was quickly removed and the teacher in question strongly reprimanded - not surprisingly. WyCol was not ready for such liberalism, although rumours persisted that Wolsey had kept it and it could be seen by anyone summoned to his office.
Despite this unexpected incentive to do better at art, I failed to improve and dropped the subject before 'O'-level, although my art apron warrior skills improved considerably. I have long forgotten the names of both the teacher and her subject - does anybody recall?
I cannot claim to be one of the very first batch of students in 1951, but I was one of the second, starting in September 1952 after taking the 'scholarship' as the 11+ was then known and gaining a place there starting in the Technical School Form 1B. I was there for 5 years (it seemed like a prison sentence at the time) and graduated with 6 'O' Levels out of the 8 that I sat. I remember that when I took my 8 subjects, this was the maximum amount that one was allowed to take in one go. Now, 11-13 subjects seem to be quite the norm. Do the powers that be feel that today's pupils are 1.5 times as brainy as they were in the 1950s?
I have [provided a list of] the names of all my fellow first year contemporaries that I can call to mind and what form (i.e. stream) they were in in 1952. From year to year this worked a bit like the football league. One could be 'promoted' to an A from a B or relegated to a C. For instance, at the end of year 2, I and three other pupils came joint top of 2B, however it seemed only two could go up and I was not one of them, so I remained in the B stream until I left at the end of the fifth year. Sometimes pupils were transferred straight from a C form to A or vice-versa, but only at the start of a new school year, and hinged upon class-work position and examination results at end of term/year.
A strange idiosyncrasy was in force regarding languages; all of 1A had to take German and the rest could choose between German and French (I chose French). But initially, due to an administrative error, Robert Mapes was, for the first few days, a member of 1B. He also chose French, but then he was assigned to 1A. By then he had, along with the rest of the first year French class, had got started on the basics so he ended up, as I remember, being the only member of Form 1A who was studying French. The rest of his class-mates were learning German!
The gym teachers we had (Mr Littlechild followed by Mr Norton) were very, very strict. The changing rooms/showers were set apart from the gym itself and, whether it be mid-winter or mid-summer, we had to make our way from one to the other in the open air, dressed only in shorts and plimsolls. I had never been so cold in my life. Also, we had the occasional 7 mile cross-country run, in which myself and a few other stragglers invariably brought up the rear! We did have shirts on for this. I was OK on short sprint distances on the athletics field up to 220 yards maximum.
I remember that on one occasion, when we were in the preliminary process of attaining a qualifying standard in the 220 yards, in order to be eligible to compete on Sports Day between the four different school Houses (probably in 1954) I suddenly realised that I had left my running plimsolls back in the dormitory shoe room. I was not allowed to run in ordinary shoes, so I simply took them off and ran in socks. Incredibly, I won the heat yards in front of the rest. We had seven standards to try and achieve. The only one I could not manage, because of the distance, was the 440 yards. I simply got out of breath halfway round the circuit. The other six were 100 yards, 220 yards, long jump, high jump, discus and shot putt.
Afternoon games sessions were compulsory, either football or cricket, neither of which I had any inclination or aptitude for. I remember many a disagreeable afternoon on the 'playing field,' which was little more than a meadow down Golf Links Road, shivering in what must at times have been close to sub-zero temperatures and wishing that I had the option of going into the school library so that I could at least keep warm! Then, horror of horrors, Mr Metcalfe declared himself to be a rugby fanatic, so football went off the curriculum and we all had to learn to play rugby. For me, that meant learning to be as inconspicuous as possible, since I loathed rugby even more than football. I feel that we should, at least, have been given the opportunity for one or the other.
Missing from the teachers' row in the 1954 Technical School photograph was Miss Charters, who became our Geography teacher and was very stern and strict. You didn't muck around in her class, or you were really for it! You wouldn't get a token 100 lines like 'I must be well behaved in future,' but tough mathematical sums to solve which, looking back on it, was a much better system of concentrating the mind. Many of us became quite proficient in long division, since the pocket calculator was then many years into the future. A book of logarithm tables was about the limit of school technology at the time. It is of course possible that Miss Charters did not join the College staff until after the 1954 photograph was taken.
Speaking of technology, I once remember Mr Goman mentioning a timepiece called a chronometer, which might only gain a second in a year! Who would have imagined that almost everyone in the 21st Century would be wearing a wristwatch that could easily beat the chronometer for accuracy, using a quartz crystal movement?
When I was in the second or third form (1968 or 1969) it was generally decided that what some of the pupils needed was handwriting lessons, because of the general lack of standard among some of us. This did not bother me because my handwriting was, and still is, so bad that I must have been a certainty to go for the extra lessons.
How would you decide who needed handwriting lessons? 1) Look at a sample of people's writing in their exercise books. 2) Ask the teachers. 3) Hold a test. And the answer is (of course) 3.
What then happened was a farce in itself. I managed to avoid the lessons by printing and writing in large letters. One boy who had copper-plate writing had to go to handwriting lessons. When he took his test the nib of his pen broke and the teacher would not allow him to retake the test.
From memory I believe Bob Mullenger was the one who took the lessons, but obviously I have no knowledge of their contents.
Wymondham College Remembered