If asked what were important moments in the period 11-19 I would say:
- passing the 11+ exam
- sport – cricket and rugby
- scraping through ‘O’ levels
- At New College, Jeff Carr (Biology), Peter Cardno (chemistry), Peter Clarkson (form master) and Mr Bielby (headmaster), who all saw something in me that I didn’t.
How on earth did we get to Grammar School, especially me?
Version 1 The 1944 Education Act, courtesy of tory Rab Butler, created a tripartite education system. Grammar, technical and secondary modern, selected by eleven plus examinations which assessed aptitude and ability. Most kids went to secondary moderns anyway as the number of grammar school places stayed the same. It allowed girls and working class children however to have a secondary education and thus an increased opportunity to go on to further education. Apparently it enhanced the awareness of the disadvantaged social position of the workers. So the official position. If you didn’t pass or didn’t pass high enough you felt cast out into the wilderness. Only New College or St James, Almondbury would do. Except if you were a catholic. That was St Gregory’s.
I remember going to Rawthorpe, a secondary modern school, three times to take these damn tests. If you passed, Miss Pattinson, the head, gave you the envelope. Even discrimination at the death. Made the ‘A’ stream at New College. Mum and dad tried to say it didn’t matter I’d not made the rapid stream, which older brother had been in. It didn’t matter.
Only in my later years have I become aware that passing was a future potential problem at university and the world of work. It was a paving stone across the social landscape and I was struggling as I was. I know older brother shares with me in this, though I think he dealt with it better. We didn’t choose great careers in this regard – academia and medicine. Looking at social classification. Jilly Cooper would describe us as spiritual meritocrats – people from working class or lower middle class backgrounds who gained an education at grammar school and university and have subsequently obtained professional or managerial jobs within companies or government. Jilly Cooper stated that we were more likely to move geographically, were less socially secure and spoke in a mixture of accents. She got that right then. Steve had elocution lessons.
Looking on the bright side, I succeeded in a vocational course and got a good job at the end of it. Something which is turning full circle and more kids are doing today. How would I have felt going to Rawthorpe; the failure that I half believed already?
Version 2 Three trips to Rawthorpe Secondary Modern on Saturday mornings with tons of other kids. All morning in a classroom doing sums and writing. Yawning early. Mum said “You’ve had a busy day,” and I remember and smile with butterflies in my tummy. I’ve forgotten all about it and we all have to go to the assembly hall, just the fourth yearers, before home time. Teachers are handing out brown envelopes. I don’t know why. Miss Pattinson gives me mine. She gives her pile out mostly to 4A. I get home before mum. It’s light. She works at my auntie Gladys’s shop in town. Kick some stones about for a bit. The road has a pavement but no road. It’s dusty and stony. Mum gets home and I give her the brown envelope. Well, she opens it and well. She clutches it to her chest and reads it again and grabs hold of me and cries. What’s all the fuss? I’ve passed the 11 plus to go to the college. I’m up to Fernside and I find out who hasn’t. Angry tears. Briscoe was going to go to the college with Lloyd Beaumont. He wasn’t. He was going to Royds Hall. So was Chris Burns who went to school just behind the brickworks. Most of 4A and 4B passed. But there was passing and passing. Alec Eales and Gordon Sibald hadn’t and went to Rawthorpe.
Sundays and girls
In 1953 we moved from Hillhouse to Waterloo. The new house was one of George Haigh’s. A semi with two bedrooms, bathroom, a large through lounge, a very small kitchen and a garden, front and back. It was similar to 5, Willow Lane. Only we never opened the front door and the back door was at the side. A gate and a front path out onto Beadon Avenue and steps up from the back garden. There was a cellar too, at the bottom of the steps. It was different. The kitchen was minute. We ate and sat and played in the room. Except for breakfast. Cornflakes and treacle butties on a put-up drop-leaf something-or-other table. Mum coughing, breathing her last. The weekly wash overtook the kitchen every Sunday morning. Floods, a boiler and a mangle and then a twin-tub. Shirts and pants and knickers anywhere they would dry. And then two-way family favourites, Sunday dinner and Billy Cotton. BFPO’s and bumper-bundles, a joint with veg’ and a fight over the rice-pudding skin. A joint was meat with a bone in it. Where was the join? Mum never doled out all the rice-pudding. There was always some left over. Then mum and dad turned the Sunday express inside out and fell asleep. They did the same to the Examiner every night, except Sunday.
Aunties and Uncles came for tea on Sundays or we went there. So the room had to be clean. Dad always did the ‘vaccing’. Saturday or Sunday morning, either way best be scarce. Sunday tea was cold, a bit of ham and bread and salad, tinned peaches and carnation milk for afters. Cups of tea and cakes and buns. Mum and auntie would do the washing-up. Dad and uncle would sit in front of the fire and talk. It depended who it was. Uncle Bill smoked a pipe and talked about the war and India. Uncle George chain-smoked Senior Service talked about everything. He was a know-all. Uncle Ray just talked about Huddersfield Town and cricket. Then we might watch something. Sunday night at the London Palladium.
Going out for Sunday tea needed planning. Two trolley buses, the 73 into town and change for Crosland Moor, Sheepridge or Almondbury and get home for my bed-time. Uncle George had a dormobile. I asked him for a lift once about tea-time. He said yes. He wasn’t offering when it was time to go so I asked again. We got a lift and I got mum’s dirty look and an “Oh! David”. Well he had promised.
Sunday was a play day, as long as it was inside. I could read an Enid Blyton in a day, borrowed from Boots’ Library at the end of Victoria Lane. Auntie Gladys had a camera shop on Victoria Lane and bought me the library card for a birthday. You could take a book back the same day. You couldn’t do that at the public library.
The only way to get out on Sundays was to go to church. Sunday school at St. Michael and St. Helen’s. One of those modern places which had dances in them when god was hidden behind a folding door. I eventually joined the choir. I hadn’t a clue but big brother was in it. I got to ring the church bell, wear funny clothes and get given apples and bananas after harvest festival. I also got to get up very early. Mum was in the Mothers’ Union. Dad wasn’t in anything. He said he was an atheist until mum shut him up. We had Whit walks and new clothes and teas on tables in a field and sack races. Big brother had his pals from college and a girlfriend. I was part of the little brothers’ set. He wangled his way into playing football on Sunday afternoons and then so did I. Coats for goalposts and twenty-five a side. That field next to the church was the cricket pitch, the football pitch and ideal for spot of courting. It had a hill and hedges. A sledging track, cold achy hands and stiff wet jeans steaming in the kitchen. You had to go through it for a decent walk or meet your pals. George Haigh got hold of it eventually. It’s all houses now. The church is still there. I heard the vicar killed himself after his mother died. He’d never married.
Sundays got boring. I’d got into the college in 1958. I got fed up of aunties and uncles, grown-ups who talked and watched Sunday night TV. There was usually a good serial about five o’clock and that was it. When it was cold and nobody was coming, we’d pull the settee up to the fire and have our tea on our knees. Anyway this wore off and I got bored. I complained one Sunday night when mum and auntie Mary was washing up. They smiled, laughed. “Haven’t you got anything to do?” It didn’t help to say things.
Or it did. Gordon took me sailing at Redbrook reservoir with his girlfriend, Adrienne. She came from a posh family. Her mother had been a famous singer in the town and they had a swimming-pool in their back garden. Her father was called Redvers. Was that a name? Gordon and Adrienne smoked Kensitas and collected coupons. She had ginger hair, only they called it auburn. I thought she was great.
I went sailing a season or two. Spare pair of hands for crewing. Sore shins and bum from changing sides. Who did these pillocks steering think they were? Issue orders and then a bit more or out a bit with my piece of rope. I got to steer a few times. I came last. It was best on a windy day. There were two heavy club boats and I crewed for Horace when there was a bit of a blow. Excitement. Hanging out, way over the side, soaking and bailing. We grounded on a rocky beachy bit. Terrific. I never knew who Horace was. An odd-job guy who kept turning up.
Then I was old enough to find something to do on Sundays for myself. Another Church and Dalton St. Paul’s Methodist this time. The youth club was the attraction, but we had to go to chapel as well. A stone box with wooden seats and a wooden stage. Sit on the back row and pass notes to each other. Make too much noise. Dirty looks from the old farts at the front and from the vicar. He was different every week. No women. They must have been on a rota. One or two ranted and raved. At least they were loud. Most were totally boring. We had a scripture teacher at school. We had more than one but he stood out. His teeth crossed over somehow. I never could work out what he wanted. He came to the chapel one week as a lay-preacher. Tall and stiff in a grey suit, using words I couldn’t understand. And he told us off in the middle of his sermon. It wasn’t long after that I walked out a couple of times. I never went again.
What you wore was crucial on Sundays. Different but the same as others. It was a mark of how much your parents could afford. I had green cavalry twills and a black blazer for a while. We all wore fawn slacks one summer. Then there was sports coats and sun-glasses. But the suit was the key. Three-piece, 17 inch bottoms, dark blue with a pattern. Me and dad fought over the trouser bottom size. He wore 21 inch things, imagine? Ballooning out in the wind and urrgh! Tight trousers showed the shape of your leg and only teddy boys wore them. I wanted 16’s and got 17. We are in the tailor’s shop. Stomach in a knot, waiting. “What width do you want your trousers bottoms?” “17 inch.” Before dad could say anything. “They always know that, don’t they?” says the measuring man. Smug bastard.
We used to parade up and down parks on summer Sunday evenings. Walk or get the bus. Trying out smoking cigarettes and pipes. Play a bit of football, in waist-coats, suit jackets carefully stacked. Eye up the talent. One or two had long-term girlfriends, but we liked each other’s company. Short term girlfriends between long periods of thinking about girls and what was underneath blouses and bras. I used to ache about big brother’s girlfriend, Pat. My first girlfriend was Leslie Newton. She’d fallen out with a pansy called Massie who’s dad was a policeman. Massie acted like a pansy but he didn’t play football like one, for King James’. “Will you go out with us?” “Who’s us?” Me was always us and to go with someone was to fancy them. If they went though, that was different. That was finding out about for real about blouses and bras. Soft cuddly bits, aching and stiff other places. Leslie Newton’s dad was in the same mess as my dad. “Your lad ‘s got his hands on my daughter.” Treacle buttie time, following morning. “How’s Leslie?” Muddled and guilty. Six weeks walking out and going to the Waterloo pictures on Saturday nights. God, it was hard, learning what you’re supposed to do. I know what I wanted to do. It was a while before I did that. Six weeks was my record. I think she’d’ave gone, but I didn’t dare. If you tried owt you were dirty-minded. Well I was, but I didn’t. We all were, but we didn’t let on to them. I actually believed for a long time thet they didn’t want to do it. What a waste of time. I could’ve got on with it years sooner. Pamela Bradbury let me into her top half – wonderful, at parties and behind the air-raid shelter at the bottom of her road. Her big sister fancied me. She said so. We went on a camping holiday in Jugoslavia. She saw me changing in a tent by the shadow of a torch on the tent wall. She told me the shape. God, what was I doing, or not doing. I could’ve had the whole family. But you just didn’t go out with older girls. After Chapel, “Come back to us, mum and dad’s out.” More lost opportunities.
Anyway Sundays. I finished at chapel when I managed to make the sixth form. I nearly didn’t. Five remove for a week. Only got six o-levels with average marks. Dad wrote a letter to ‘slimy’ the headmaster, and I’m in lower sixth science. Sundays was a work day. Measured in hours and compared, lied about, frightened and frightening them. I worked in a fitted wardrobe, followed big brother. Dad made a table and a lamp. Big brother went away to university when I was twelve. So I had plenty of time in the wardrobe, but it only became serious in the sixth form. We were a group of five or six pals, doing sciences. We’d visit each other’s houses on Sunday nights, whether mums and dads were away or not. Talk and play bridge. We made my bedroom into a bedsit, big brother’s bed a settee with cushions, expensive wallpaper and an Elizabethan tape-recorder. Record the new releases from Pick-of-the-Pops every Sunday. Head-phones so as not to make too much noise. It was the only way to hear what you were recording.
And then Sundays was for serious courting when mum and dad was out or going for tea when her mum and dad were in. But that’s another story.
Cricket, girls and New College
The new house at Waterloo had a front and back garden. They were neat and you’d to watch out. No short cuts across the borders, not seen anyway. And walls. We couldn’t afford bricks, so George brought this concrete brick-maker, like an ice-cream wafer maker. We had cornets and lollies, grown-ups had wafers. He came most Sundays for ages making concrete bricks and dad built walls. The front’s was curved. Mum wanted it that way. The back garden was long and narrow, grass at the top, finishing at a wall, and allotment at the bottom. We played lots of cricket, the ball and the bloody borders. You can’t have plants and play cricket. It was the thing dad and me did together. It was better in the park and on the beach. All the family joined in once on Southport beach. Where was the sea? Big brother was about to do important exams, he was brainy. Mum said you didn’t revise the day before. Everybody else did. Off we went in the dormobile, changed into a bus. I had a long innings. Adrienne had to change out of her swimming costume in the dormobile. Accidentally on purpose I missed anything worth looking at. She laughed. I went red, looked at the sand. God, what was she like underneath?
Another match on the Cayton Bay beach at Scarborough. Every summer we went to Filey or Scarborough. Last week of the school holidays. Dad was in Nalgo, a holiday camp owner. Either there or in a caravan at Wallis’s or Butlins. Mum and dad were great dancers, but they could never get out because of me. Big brother babysat me at Wallis’s. They said they wouldn’t go but they did. I learned to ride a two-wheeler and on a rainy day Mum taught me the St. Bernard’s waltz. Big brother then stopped coming with us. Mum and dad got his results by telegram. She’d cried when the bus left Huddersfield, big brother walking away up Kirkgate.
Nalgo holiday camp was OK. Plenty of pals all with nicknames. I was Corky. Dad said one of the other campers might be a boss so you’d not know if we all had nicknames. We were either red or blue and we had competitions like tug of war and cricket. Dad was big by then and was the anchor man. Slipping and falling over. We lost. We sang songs a lot, one for getting up and one for going to bed. There was a long walk down to the beach, but we went most days until I preferred table-tennis. There was a camp-fire in the woods one of the nights. They had a bit for people who were in the war. Or wars. One year two old men in berets and medals stood up straight and saluted when the Boer war was announced.
The cricket match and twenty-five a side, all men, well lads and men. Proper stumps and everything and a tennis-ball. On the beach. Some grown-up caught me at square leg. Didn’t he know to give us a chance? Fielding and short of a bowler. “Bring on Corky,” shouts dad to the captain. Batter misses and I get his shin. “Ow’s that?” “Out,” says the umpire, lovely man. You only had one over though. The captain wore a kilt, played the bagpipes and spoke funny.
The back garden wasn’t always for cricket. Across the road were the Sandersons. He was a painter and decorator and he used to appear at the back door, stand and talk in the kitchen, without being asked. Big brother worked for him in the summer holidays when he was home from university, became quite a dab hand at painting and plastering. Mum and dad said they went to play cards on Saturday nights at the Sanderson’s house, but it was a waste of time. Dad was always coming over to see if I was alright. They had a daughter Barbara. We used to play in my tent in the back garden. She used to let me take her clothes off, what sights and smells. She wanted to take my clothes off, but I wouldn’t let her. Dad found us at it one afternoon. I said we were playing doctors and nurses. Barbara stopped coming over after that. She was thirteen, I was about nine or ten.
At the new college we played with a hard ball and pads in nets, still in short trousers. And then hand-me-down flannels from uncle Ray. Colin had worn them. Somebody famous had them before him. Ron Capper with a woodbine and his trousers tucked into his socks. Games lessons. The pitch right next to Longwood edge. A double period to fight it out with the ‘r’ stream and John Beaumont. I loved smacking him over long on, cocky sod. Picked for the school U14’s when I’m twelve. I’m big for my age. Playing with the likes of Frank Taylor. Same for soccer with Rick Thom. Thom had a detention off big brother when I first got to the college. Not good when you’re walking through Almondbury on your own. I was tall on the outside, but it ended there. I collapsed in the middle of the old army camp. Even Thom didn’t have the heart to put the boot in. “Soft as shit!” He was right too. I managed centre-half, Thom at right half and Taylor on the left. I stopped it and passed it to one of them. Not so easy at cricket though. They don’t speak to me. The third yearers. Grunt if I ask something. A catch drops just in front of me. Mutterings and whisperings. I get a duck. Desperate for something. “That turned.” Frank Taylor looks at me unsmiling, “It were a straight ball.” I didn’t play again. Jimmy Dakers, who picked the team, fancied himself that he understood boys. He’d had time off to do psychology.
We went to Bradford to see Yorkshire and Australia on a bus paid for by school. Bobby Simpson got a lot of wickets, but our lads carted him around a bit. He got the best clap though. It rained a bit. I kept score in the house score-book.
House matches were great. All ages, all in it together. What a slip-catch off Taylor to get rid of Berry. Mr. Wilson umpired and taught English. Next lesson over he comes. Head down, pretend you haven’t done anything. “Good catch,” he whispers, a bit loud. I didn’t know he’d seen it. Just a bloke at one end to shout “over” and sort out the leg befores.
We had some good players. Currie, Hellawell, Roblin, Beaumont and many others. We were in different houses and played against each other in night matches. Ainsty got the junior cricket cup the year I was captain. We got Hellawell cheaply against Merton and batted Currie out for a draw with Stratford. John Currie had a super windmill action as a swing bowler, but boy was he skinny. He and Hellawell lived at Netherton. We’d played them at soccer when we were at Dalton and lost away from home. Currie lived in a square and his dad ate Park Drive cigarettes. Hellawell lived on the main road just up from the Meltham railway. We played cricket under the railway bridge down the back. Hellawell taught me how to tickle trout. Mum and dad couldn’t believe it when I brought trout home for tea. Mum cooked it though. Netherton youth club was good. It had a pool table. I biked up a few times to get to see Ann Shaw. It didn’t do any good. She ignored me. Michael Brook always had the women. He went on to be policeman. Currie left to join a bank. Roblin sells second-hand books. John Currie and his dad were the only ones to sus out why I was late for school when I had to go to juvenile court. Got caught chucking stones at George Haigh’s roof tiles. We’d done more damage than that to his houses over the years, god knows why. Anyway a policeman was sent to patrol the buiding site, probably to stop thieving. Instead he got us. Booked us, me and Chris Burns. Had to go to court, but no one knew who the tiles belonged to. Waste of time. But I was late for school. Dad rehearsed me in what to say to the form master, Doc Harley. “My dad says I don’t have to say where I’ve been.” And that was that, except Currie and his dad knew. Read it in the examiner and put two and two together. George Haigh’s building site was banned after that. Not that I took any notice. I would’ve been the only one not to meet up there. It took over from the fields as the place to play and meet. He was actually building on our’s.
That’s where we met the girls. Sheila Sykes, Maureen Bailey and Ann Shaw. Sheila Sykes’ dad told me dirty jokes on the bus. They lived up the road from us, on my paper round. I delivered her paper, and Janet Raby’s. Her dad had the men’s hairdresser at Waterloo, across the road from the pictures and Baraclough’s paper shop. I went with Ann Shaw, but I never did. No courage, even in the big concrete pipe in the quarry at Ellis’s brick works. They thought I might’ve though. It muddled me a bit. What was right. Mum and dad didn’t help much. I left out the bit about what I really wanted to do and couldn’t, touch and things. What was wrong with me? None of us got off with the girls. We just walked and talked about it. And sat on buses next to each other, the closest you got. Until Whitwham. He took Sheila Sykes to the pictures and held hands in public. Didn’t last long, he said he’d had an outside feel. Things we dreamed about. We drifted away after that. I asked Janet Raby out once but she was doing her hair. Tried to hold her hand too. She must’ve thought I was daft.
I carried on playing cricket for Frank Taylor but not much else. He was house cricket captain. Didn’t do much of anything else. Not much work. More mooning about thinking about women. Going to the youth club and the Naldred sisters. Their father was a policeman and they live in a police house on the main road. He asked me if I had a license for my pipe. He smoked one. I said no I didn’t. I didn’t twig for a good bit. I must’ve bragged about how I was doing with Ann. It got round. “What was that about being dirty-minded with me?” I’d no answer and no girl and no tits or whatever we called them. We had loads of names for them, and you know. She went out with Kenyon after that. We went on a long club walk over the moors and we held hands. “What about Kenyon?” “I’m not finishing with him, if that’s what you mean.” I couldn’t speak to her after that. Her older sister was called Elizabeth. She was gorgeous, I thought so. I ached, too far too good looking for me. We’d kissed and stuff when you play sardines at parties. I’d even kissed Sheila Sykes in sardines. Soft , nylony and sweet – marvellous. Daren’t do anything else. Something inside stopped you, or them. I wrote a letter to Liz. f she wanted to go with me, come to the Friday club. She didn’t. I spent the night watching the door.
My end-of term reports were crap. “You know the adverts better than your lessons,” dad said. Mum quiet. I wasn’t doing well, at anything. Physics was OK. Had to do better at school. Had to buck up generally. Got ninth in the class the year before O-levels. I worked it out so’s I’d know where I was, and how it would be at home. Had Harlock down as bottom and him in my face at break time. He did come last though. He was six foot and had a moustache in the first form. Snappy dresser and squint. He could only see out of one eye. Good runner and a bully at rugby. He ran for Huddersfield. His balls dropped first and his knob was immense. I was second. Fatty Hirst, bully-boy from the third form. “You’ve got big balls for second nearer.” And then the Capstan full-strength took over. Pink sick packets. I tried one on the top of the bus back from Halifax after rugby on a Saturday morning. In a cold sweat. Did I need to get some fresh air when I got off at the bottom of town? Dad gave me a funny look when I got in. Warlock carried on smoking them. Breathless and last to the line-out, stayed on the floor after I’d smacked him with a hand-off. Lost his way.
Six O-levels. No English Language. Surprise really with my best grade in literature. Mr. Wilson spotted the questions and I liked A Tale of Two Cities. Bernard Daly didn’t enter me for Latin. Waste of the fee. That Vicar who stood in for a year was useless. And Henry Strachan, a joke, an idiot. Butterflies, sinking feelings when we got him for form master. A paddy every Monday morning when the dinner money didn’t add up. Half-crowns chucked at us and board-rubbers. When he really got mad he’d push his desk forward into ours. Desks, tables and boys all over the place. He supervised the school mag. Missed master-bating one year. In the scouts. He looked a right pillock in shorts. Hours of boring scotch Ovid.
French was the same. Two years of Gilbert Gowans after George Redmonds. We kept empty milk bottles in one of the desks. “It’s all about washing, you know, gentlemen,” says Gowans. Somebody opens the desk-top. He jumps up and down a fair bit for a French teacher. Serve him right for being rubbish. You needed French to go to University. Big brother got German and French and this and that in four years instead of five. I wasn’t disappointed when I was in the ‘A’ stream. Mum said it would be for best. He didn’t get into Oxford, Brasenose. Is that a college? Weekends away taking exams and nothing to show. Mum supported Cambridge in the boat-race after that. I wasn’t glad. I wasn’t sad either, but I think he was.
I volunteered to sort out the second eleven in upper sixth. So I picked it, captained it and so on. Sports masters had an easy time of it. Had all my pals on the team. Not bad cricketers. And the odd ringer that didn’t want to play in the first team. Linsell, a child prodigy of a spin bowler turned into medium pace with swing. Crowther, the big rugby forward, a decent batter. Huff and puff, left arm over, Waddington. A few wides and a few wickets. Oates at stumper. Never caught anything. Summer Saturday afternoons. Caught the train to Wheelwrights in Dewsbury. I’m last in with Clark. Five to win and we’re batting OK, and he goes and gives a soft caught-and-bowled. Smashing day out to King Ted’s in Sheffield with a tree on the square. I declare too early. So Archenold says. Big German physics teacher who pronounced Descartes in English. Poor bloke didn’t half get the bird from the snooty arty lot. And Roundhay. Their captain got shirty about Linsell just keeping them outside off stump. He couldn’t bat, that was his problem. I hole out at long on after their fast bowler gets me in the midriff. Clarkson umpires. King James’, good win. We’re all round the bat in their last over. Heady days.
Mum and dad and me went to Sheffield. Sat behind one of those things you lean on at football matches. Yorkshire and the West Indians. Richard Hutton and Sobers. Sobers scored a hundred. We saw it all. ust got it in before the finish. He lifted a ball for six right to us. We were at square leg. He hardly moved.
I get picked for the master’s match. Real honour. All the school watching. They go home at ten past four and we’re still battling. I’m last man again, but easier somehow. Last ball and we run. Good throw and I just make the crease, grass stained trousers. Mum’l complain. Horrible little Mr. Haigh makes yet another sarcastic remark. I laugh, walk away. They hadn’t won had they?
I left school a few days later. Just walked away.