Some random memories of life at
Harrow County School for Boys
Newton Richard Huntley Myers
Im afraid this piece will be somewhat fragmented as memories come flooding back each triggering even more. I shall make some attempt to organize them as they flash into my mind.
BeginningsLike so many of my contemporaries I came to Harrow County from Priestmede.
This event took place in the Autumn of 1943 after having taken the necessary entrance exam which was then known as "The Scholarship", later known as the "11 plus". I needed some extra tuition in order to get through but obviously it worked.
The second year we moved up into the main building. At that time the then called "New Building" was just a shell and only about 30% built. This of course was due to all such building being suspended during the war. We had assembly in the what is now presumably called "The Old Hall". It was here that each morning we literally assembled, said prayers, sang a hymn or two, said the Lords prayer and were frequently harangued by the head about some current misdemeanor that we had performed. On high days and holidays we sang the School song, Virtus non Stemma - "Tis Worth not Birth be this our battle cry, stand up for truth, be honest always lie" At least that was the version we sang sotto voce. Mr. Thorn on the Grand piano and Randall Williams on the stage joining in lustily. Actually during my sojourn at HCS I experienced no less than 3 headmasters. The aforesaid Randall Williams, a stern but fair man, followed by Dr. Crowle Ellis, who was I believe just temporary and far too easy going, consequently very popular. Then came Dr. Simpson of whom I have no memories whatsoever.
It has to be said that I never really liked school and the well worn cliché of being "The Happiest days of your Life" certainly never applied to me. Going to school was something one had to do, like brushing your hair, cleaning your teeth or going to the dentist. A necessary evil. I believe that part of the problem was the masters that we had at the time. Please dont misunderstand me, they were all excellent in their own way, it was just that since it was wartime, several of them had either been called back from retirement or had not been allowed to retire when they should have done. In retrospect I firmly believe that some of them really resented being there. Consequently there seemed to be little enthusiasm for the task in hand. It should be remembered that 11 16 year old boys in those days were far less belligerent and more respectful of authority than perhaps they are today. Consequently discipline was fairly easily kept . There was, however, the odd master of whom we inevitably took advantage and misbehaved as much as we dared. I know there was one that we drove absolutely nuts and he eventually left. Thank goodness I cant remember his name.
Teachers that I do remember are:
Dr. "Twink" Bradley, English. He gained his nickname from his delight in using the phrase "Twinkle, twinkle little star" as an exercise in parsing. For example is the first "twinkle" an adjective, adverb, noun or what, blessed if I know even now! Twink had the most amazing gown, yes they all wore black gowns and frequently mortar boards in those days, it was so old that it hung in absolute tatters about his person. He could been seen hastening down the corridor from class to class with all the strands gathered together over one arm, a pile of books under the other. His prowess with the blackboard rubber has already been noted.
"Jimpy" Skillen arrived after the war or at least well towards the end of it. He taught French and I remember him as being a stern disciplinarian but excellent teacher. I learn with interest from somewhere else on this web site that he was involved in the "Enigma" decoding exercise so presumable he knew Alan Turing the leader of that team.
"Beaky" Fooks. He taught us to appreciate literature. I cannot recall him in detail but he is well documented elsewhere on this site.
The "Pander" Incident
I was walking through the basement area one lunchtime and came across a couple of boys feeding a tiny, mostly black with a little white, kitten. We did not have a cat at the time but I was (and still am) very much a cat person. I asked the boys whose it was and they said they thought it was a stray and if I wanted it I could have it. Now there was a problem! What to do with it until going home time and then how to get it home? I scooped up the tiny creature and went up to the secretarys office. Cyril Atkins was the secretary, a kindly man of ample proportions, with a withered left arm. I asked him if he would look after the as yet unnamed kitten until 4:00 pm at which time I intended to take it home. He replied that I could leave it in his office and if it was still there at home time I could take it. Needless to say it was still there, curled up in either his In or Out tray. Obviously Cyril had taken good care of it during the afternoon. We were living in Pinner by now, a 4 mile bicycle ride home. I tucked said kitten inside my blazer where it happily nestled during the ride home. I hope frantically that my step-mum would accept it and allow me to keep him. We named him Pander" a play on words since it was at the time of the great popularity of the giant Panda and of course we knew we would pander to him. Some 20 years later he finally departed for the great pussy heaven not until he had had several accidents and other operations.
School Certificate and all that stuff
HCS set the University of London School Certificate exam for us when we reached the required age of 16. Actually some of us were "streamed" to take it a year early and had to enter a "mock matric" in order to qualify. I was streamed" but didnt pass the mock exam so it was in Spring 1948 that I sat for School Cert. If you were truly brilliant you actually got Matriculation Exemption, I didnt!! But I did pass School Cert and much to my surprise got a credit in English Literature. The Shakespeare was Macbeth that year, the prose was a delightful book of really interesting essays that were easy to assimilate and the poetry I dont remember. I also got a credit in Maths and Physics/Chemistry. The rest were just plain vanilla passes. I do remember that I "cut history for the final term and didnt take the exam also Geography was a disaster, the 2.1/2 hour paper took me just 45 minutes to complete and needless to say I failed it. Somewhere Ive still got the original certificate to prove that I actually took and passed the exam.
A Girls Boarding School in Switzerland
Situated halfway between Vevey and Montreux is an English type boarding school for girls called St. Georges. http://www.st-georges.ch/en/1a.html
It was to this delightful location that HCS took us 5th formers in the summer of 48 for two weeks holiday. I cant remember what it cost us, or rather our parents but the figure of £44.00 sounds familiar. We traveled by rail and boat the whole journey taking best part of a day. During our stay there we had trips to Berne, Basle, Zurich, up the Jungfrau mountain, a visit to the Nestlés chocolate factory and sundry other delights. To us recently war-bound teenagers Switzerland was a wonderland of full stores, rich food and utter cleanliness. The visit that sticks out in my mind was that to Nestlés. We were given the grand tour of the entire process of chocolate making and then at the end "let loose" in a room laid out with a table absolutely crammed full of every conceivable type of chocolate and encouraged to eat our fill. This we did with enthusiasm, remember sweets were still rationed in England at that time. Of course the end result of this chocolate orgy was a queue for the toilets during the night as our unaccustomed stomachs revolted mightily. Every cubicle, washbasin and available utensil was called into use. The next day was the trip to Basle and our lunch was large helpings of White German Sausage and Sauerkraut, needless to say our appetites were strictly limited. Most evenings we wandered down to the town to watch the night life passing by, altogether a memorable trip.
Elsewhere on this site there is a very nostalgic photo of the "Old Quadrangle" During the 40s winters this somehow had large patches of frost on it. These were quickly converted into slides by the pupils. We must have considerably added to wear and tear on our shoe leather when sliding along these improvised, but very satisfactory, slides.
In the as yet unfinished new buildings there was one particular room which was totally enclosed by walls except for its doorway. As a result it was totally dark inside. No daylight ever penetrated into its depths. Those of us who were brave enough would gingerly make our way to the back wall in total darkness and then enjoy the effect of our voices on passers by who we could see clearly through the open and unfinished doorway but who couldnt see us.
I cant remember if the school provided lunches or "School dinners" as they were known. Whether they were available or not, I and my cronies (wish I could remember some of their names!) normally lunched at Joe Lyons opposite the Harrow Coliseum theatre. This was a self service restaurant and famous for their Welsh rarebits and cups of strong Lyons Tea. After a frugal lunch we would visit the local bakery and buy "sticky buns" . Of course in those days bread was rationed so we had to use BU coupons (Bread Units) Fortunately the ration for these was very generous and the bakers assistants didnt pay too much attention to numbers.
Armed with our buns we used to "follow" the girls from Heathfield School. We never, ever spoke to them of course, nor they to us. We just walked behind them at a respectful distance until it was time for them and/or us to go back to school. I do actually remember the name of one of these Heathfield girls, Eileen Grieve. She lived in Kenton just behind the main shops. Eventually I took to following her home on my bicycle, again we never spoke.
HCS was one of the few local schools that had its own swimming pool. Situated at the far end of the playing fields it seemed that its water temperature never ever rose above about 60 degrees. We were forced to enter this freezing pool at regular intervals. I eventually managed to get a doctors note on some pretext or other and was permanently excused swimming. The pool itself was quite small probably not much bigger than those found in many North American backyards today. Heating the water was of course out of the question, after all there was a war on! I also doubt whether there were any facilities for heating anyway, we were a Spartan race in those days!
In the summer of 1948 my father suggested "what you need my lad, is a girl friend. Thatll smarten you up a bit". I must admit I was something of a scruff in those days and in any case he was absolutely correct, I did need a girl friend. A ready made one lived just up the road and eventually she became my first wife and mother of my two daughters. I had also started making a Model Railway in my parents garage by this time. My weekly pocket money of 5 shillings (25p) did go very far in supporting these two hobbies (Railway and Girl friend) So in early November I unilaterally made the decision to leave school and get a job. One Thursday morning I walked into the Physics lab, put my books on the bench, went out ostensibly to go to the toilet but instead hopped on my bike and pedaled home. Thus ended my 5 years at Harrow County School for Boys.
For more about me etc go to http://members.home.net/fourletr
Copyright © 2000 Newton Richard Huntley Myers
a.k.a. Richard Myers
Nicknames while at HCS Tadpole/Taddy