By Malcolm Knight (September 1949 - July 1954. Infants and Junior School)
Many of my friends at F.G.S. had, like me, graduated from Cove Junior, Fernhill Road where Mr. Grigg was the unloved tyrant of a headmaster. I cannot pretend to remember much detail about my time there but a few snippets of memory remain.
School was only a five minute walk from Minley Estate where I lived though there were three diversionary attractions en-route which could make it longer. I and many other young urchins had dug tunnels and a cave among some tree roots in a wood between Broomhill Road and the Secondary Modern school. We could sit under ground by the light of matches or candles singing songs and thinking we were very clever oblivious to the danger of roof falls. Another diversion was a deep hollow in the ground, possibly some sort of bomb crater which filled with water and was home to newts and frogs. Newts and lizards could be made to race over a distance of a yard or so but without, so far as I can remember so much as a penny changing hands. A seasonal attraction was an apple orchard in a bungalow opposite the school. I and others were caught one day and stood in a quaking line while we were told off by a policeman. Apart from that the only attraction was the sky which was quite well filled with Spitfires, Lanacasters and the occasional Canberra or Meteor jet plane, the airfield at Farnborough being not much more than a mile away.
At school I remember the green van that delivered tins of hot food at lunchtime, the soft brick of the school building which was well etched with many names, the girl’s playground from which boys were not entirely excluded and we joined in with skipping games, the outside smelly toilets, the ink made by the caretaker in the boiler room, giving rise to the belief that ink was made of soot. There were games of marbles around drain gullies the object being to knock your opponent’s marble down the drain. These games would take place alongside flick games involving projecting cigarette cards or cardboard milk bottle tops over the longest possible distance. When we tired of that the energetic playground game of tag (which we called ‘he’) was popular as was British Bulldog in the playing field. Most disputes and choices were settled by rhymes of the one potato, two potato; variety.
Organised games seemed to revolve (please excuse the unintentional pun) only around Maypoles and ribbons but football was obviously available to those so inclined; which excluded me.
My earliest classroom memories are of the IQ test which was used for segregation purposes and the desktop acabus and chalk boards. No pen or paper in the earliest classes. Im no believer in the IQ test, my number came out ridiculously high, I remember the number but modesty stops me from mentioning it. It was obviously wrong but it caused me to be catapulted into a higher class which meant I lost a years schooling and I still think that was a mistake. My first Infants school teacher may have been Miss Smith but all I remember of it was not being very keen to be put in the Nativity play. My teacher in Juniors was Ma Henry who didnt like me because my handwriting was poor and my exercise book was covered in blood from the severe eczema which I fortunately grew out of, helped by medical advances, several years later. But she made no allowance for fingers covered in bandages and was always criticising me for untidy work. My mother used to go to school and complain about her which may have made things worse.
The next teacher was Pop Edwards who was much better and I did well in his class. I remember coming top in an end of term arithmetic test but I had misunderstood a question totally and muddled the answer badly and at the end stupidly subtracted a given figure from my answer instead of adding - read the bloody question Malcolm! By some enormous fluke two mistakes made a right and I was given full marks. I didnt own up and Margaret Cooper came second instead of me. I remember Margaret for another reason too. While chasing madly around the air raid shelter in a game of he I unavoidably collided with her face to face and realised what a well developed young lady she was . Shocking thoughts at such a young age!
Next came Miss Goddard, a teacher with no nickname, I doubt she would have stood for that. I got on well with her though maybe not for the right reasons. She had her favourites and arranged her class in order of achievement according to her judgement. Denley Cole and I sat side by side as the class creeps and just in front was Margaret Cooper and John Fouracre and a couple of others whose names Im not absolutely sure about. We all vied with each other to come top of the regular tests. I only wish I could do mental arithmetic now as well as I could back then. But my spelling has never been too bad thanks to Miss Goddard probably. Rhododendron was one of the favourites in the weekly tests. Denley and I used to cheat a bit. I would do some of his arithmetic and he would do some of my English. I would rather have sat in the next column of desks than be next to Denley, not that I didnt like him, we went on regular trains spotting trips together, to Guildford, Reading and even to London Victoria on one occasion. What Denley didnt know about engines wasnt worth knowing. I was a dunce by comparison. But I digress; the next column of desks accommodated one Irenie Backlog who was by far the prettiest girl in the class.
While Miss Goddard was looking after her favourites, I dont think she was fair to some others. One of my friends, Anthony Goddard (no relation) who lived on a farm in Sandy Lane was constantly ill-treated in my opinion. Ten or more years later I received an invitation to Miss Goddards retirement party and Im afraid I declined to go because in a fit of moral indignation I decided she wasnt a truly good teacher, only a good one for the select few. Maybe my decision was wrong and I should have been more forgiving.
Someone I find harder to forgive is the headmaster, Grigg, who was disliked by most of us. We cheered loudly when news broke that he had fallen headlong down the concrete stairs and broken his leg while chasing his next victim who had run from his office in an attempt to escape another caning! Bundles of canes were regularly delivered to his office and left outside the door, presumably as a warning. My recollection was that it was John Bozzoni who ran away but my good friend Lindsey Pratt was an eye-witness. Lin has told me he and John and a lad called Bullock were caught playing too close to the air-raid shelters for which sin Grigg judged a caning was appropriate. Bullock repeatedly pulled his hand away from the descending weapon while the red faced Griggs rage steadily increased. Eventually Bullock fled the scene and leapt the concrete flight of stairs just outside Griggs office and the aggressor got his just deserts attempting to emulate the escapee. All three boys escaped their caning from what Lin calls a horrible man. Despite Griggs unpopularity with many pupils and not a few parents he was able to park his Ford Consul in the school playground daily and no one ever vandalised it.
A Miss Hankin was my teacher for some of my time at either infants or junior school but I cannot remember where she fitted in to my time there.
Return to Cove Junior Index