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[20] John (Jack) Wales: Jack takes control of Huntingdon Grammar school

Lad ringing the school bell

Ringing the school bell

John continues his story 1936 – 1940…..

In the first year every new boy went through an initiation of being thrown into a very large prickly bush (a Pyracantha)!
Wooden huts on the side of the playing field, left over from the first World War, housed forms 1A, B and C.
Across one end was the woodwork room under Mr Everitt, and at the other end the Physics lab under Mr Bill Barbanel(?).
When I first went there Mr Everitt and senior boys were building a Flying Flea aeroplane and the girls were sewing the canvas on the wings.
I remember it being pushed across the playing field, but the war came and it was never finished.
In the ‘Ones’ we did more advanced lessons than at the village school, like History, Geography and Biology.
We also collected frogspawn from a pond on the golf course and bred silkworms.
Margaret Knowles from Brampton, the daughter of Archdeacon Knowles, brought mulberry leaves to feed them on.

At twelve years old, after two years in forms 1A and 1B, I moved up to form 2B in the main school building.
On the first morning of the new term the headmaster Mr Norman Armstrong came into our room and asked all boys that had a watch to put up their hands.
Only about four of us did, as there were few watches about in those days, but I had my father’s large silver Ingersoll pocket watch on a long gold chain.

The old school bell

The old school bell

The headmaster said, ‘Right, Wales, you will be the bell-ringer for the year, here is a list of the period times’.
The bell was large, like a church bell mounted on a scaffold with a long rope attached, situated in a corner of the playing field in front of the main building.
So at twelve years old I controlled the running of the school of some 400 pupils!
I started them off at nine o’clock in the morning and signaled the end of every period through lunchtime until the last bell at four in the afternoon.
I had to pull it very hard so that it was heard from right up at the main street down through the many classrooms right through to the brook at the bottom of the playing field.
I broke the rope twice!
Later on, when the school moved to Brampton Road, electric bells were installed in all the classrooms and rung by the school secretary from her office.

On the opposite side of the playing field from the first year huts were three similar wooden huts housing the tuck shop run by Mr Jessop, a sports changing room and a small dining room.
Only about half-a-dozen or so pupils and some of the teachers had a hot dinner supplied by Mrs Jessop, the majority of us brought sandwiches.
Mine were always fried bacon in the winter months and cucumber in summer.
They were eaten out on the playing field with different groups having their own particular spot.
Only if it rained particularly hard were we allowed into a classroom to eat.

See all of John Wales‘ blog posts.

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