1917- 1922


I HAVE given quite a bit of thought to the request that as an old boy of the School I might provide some interesting anecdotes for inclusion in the jubilee book. I feel that no particular story or legend is sufficiently good to single out, but looking back over the span of thirty-three years, I think that I can give an impression of the School and its tone, or feeling perhaps, in those days.

The Aura of World War I

The years of 1917-22, during which I was at the old Secondary School, were years of emergence from the First World War. The glories of the School were vested in the immediate past. The scholars were the heirs of those who had distinguished themselves in the war. We heard quite a bit about them, and although most names are lost to me, I remember the youthful thrill of a certain Mogford V.C., an honour we doubtfully shared, as he was only an evening school student, I believe. The old Cadet Corps was dying a natural death. I think we numbered seventeen, and I absolutely hated it, but felt that I had to join in my capacity as head boy and head prefect. Most of our interest in it revolved around an old boy known as "Inky" Parsons, who seemed to share the control with Mr. E. D. Griffiths. "Inky" had seen service and always could tell a tale.

Fabulous Names

The masters, too, were the heirs to a pedagogy which acclaimed Titans who had spread their wings. Mr. E. T. Andrews was but a recently advanced Junior English Master compared with the shade of Mr. R. J. Done, who had been appointed to the headmastership of Wakefield Central School; and the School still positively reverberated with the impact of Drs. Dunstan and Thole, who were running the war somewhere while Mr. E. D. Griffiths assumed charge of the Chemistry Department. I believe I saw the fabulous doctors sometimes on fleeting, hurried visits, and I always felt that the glory of the School could never equal that of the days of my brother, who, the four years preceding mine, had actually been taught by them. Further, Mr. T. Franklin expounded geography from books actually written by himself, and although yet still at the helm, this set him apart. Mr. W. T. Clough, the Vice-Principal, also lectured from his own works what time he was able to spare from mysterious dabblings in an adjoining Physics laboratory. And so I could go on. But the impression I always had was of a glorious past.

The personalities of my years among the pupils were few, and no doubt many old boys will write reminding you that a certain Archie Hull played for West Ham United Football Club and that a certain Eileen Garson (of course, boys and girls shared the old School premises) became Greer Garson; and, rapidly descending the scale of fame, not a few old boys and girls appear as the present headmasters and headmistresses of East Ham schools. I am also told that a Tubby Tyte - a junior to me and so somewhat out of my ken in so far as schoolboy values go - became Dr. Tite, first assistant to Sir somebody Penney, who plays around with atom bombs, etc - but no doubt you will see that these leave me as cold in the present as they probably will do in the future!

The chief event that punctuated my school years was a Grand Bazaar and Conversazione which lasted a week I believe, and parents enjoyed the run of the School, and most engaging activities were presented for their benefit. You will recall that such thing, as Open Day, and Parents' Committees and any contact with masters and parents were almost unknown, although only such a relatively short time ago. Otherwise the usual Prize Givings (not yet honoured with the title Speech Day) with the exciting gymnastic display actually on the Town Hall stage, complete the list of events, I recall.

Sport was also a very minor adjunct of the old Secondary School. A sort of press-gang athletic meeting was held; some minor competition existed to obtain a position in the football team, which played a series of monotonous "friendlies" with only - and only - other Secondary School, (here I must state that certain degree of snobbery was rife); and the cricket team was recruited purely from those who already could exhibit some prowess in that direction. Tuition in any branch of sport was absolutely nil.

Scholastically the only interest in a boy was if he intended to launch him into the scientific field, and bring honour to the School in that direction. I recall a family of Hunters who were held before us all as worthy examples; and finally, I must mention the infallible advice by the principal - W. H. Barker - of going into dentistry. I cannot recall that anyone did - oh, yes - Aubrey Ball!