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Farnborough Grammar School

Prospect Avenue, Farnborough, Hampshire

Telephone : Farnborough 539

Chris Jenner (Memories) - 1961 to 1968

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Having read through your site I would like to relate a few anecdotes of my own and in particular take the opportunity to note for posterity my own (entirely reasonable) prejudices against Joseph Thomas who today would face dismissal for what he did to young boys in the 1960s. A vile inadequate man who took his intellectual inferiority out on several generations of vulnerable schoolboys.

Corporal punishment was banned by Prod but J.T. took little notice of that with his plimsoll and naked young boys in the Shower Room. I don’t consider myself particularly vindictive but must make an exception in his case and admit to thinking while under that cold shower, that the world would be a better place without him. The passage of time hasn’t convinced me I was wrong. I am, however, surprised at the bile cast at Prod. He never seemed that unreasonable or unpleasant to me and I did have one major run-in with him (see below). My memory is that he entirely disliked Jo Thomas and continually thwarted that sadist’s attempts to physically punish and bully pupils where he could.

Despite my run-in, Prod was always pleasant to me - I suspect for two reasons. Firstly my mother was the Lab. Assistant in the Physics Lab. (Betty; still going strong in her mid 80’s) during the mid late 60s and secondly, my father was a member at Prod’s golf course, North Hants at Fleet, as indeed was I. I did get to play several times with Jab and remember he used to slash at the ball, a real round-the-potbelly swing. He treated me as any other golfing partner when on the course, although I still called him “Sir”. He did however drive an entirely covetable dark green Jaguar saloon and his tastes were not therefore overly suspect!

Prod also had little time for the C.C.F. and that means he went right up in my estimation - all that pathetic playing at tin soldiers. I seem to recall that it was mainly the less academically gifted who became under-officers prior to joining H.M. Armed Forces. But I do recall Blackwell from our year went on to lead the Red Arrows Display Team. I must also mention Mr. Holley, naturally known as “Buddy”. He replaced Little Dick in the R.K. Department and promptly transformed it. I s’pose he was some kind of humanist as scripture and bible reading as such went out the window. His lessons were the nearest thing I ever got at school to being taught about society and relating to other people and touching on sex education.

We in Holley’s Sod Squad were delighted that a fellow detester of Jo Thomas allowed us to abandon him and his damn silly Friday afternoon poncing about to go and help local pensioners with chores they found increasingly difficult to cope with. Shopping and gardening but most of the time just sitting and chatting over a cup of tea. Bringing a smile to their faces seemed far more useful and of course enjoyable to us.

Being the 60s and a much more robust era, Duke, a disabled master was given a hard time. We mocked his afflictions which were legion. Cruel in retrospect, it was typically schoolboy. We loudly enjoyed his arrival one morning when he drove his car into the wall of the school buildings. Doubts about his integrity abounded until one night after a film society screening, a member of our immediate circle decided to express his feelings on this matter on the wall of the Junior Quad in chalk letters at least a foot high casting aspersions as to his proclivities. This caused a sensation in the days that followed with mass investigations and interrogations going on until the culprits were exposed.

Whilst not the actual wielder of the chalk, I was er, ‘around’ at the time of the inscription and was punished by a week in detention and a large blot on my copy book. The offender got away much more lightly - he got a week’s suspension - lucky blighter. The follow-up was that others on the periphery of this calumny were detailed to remove the offending suggestions with wire brushes. Being somewhat miffed at being tarred (er, chalked surely) with the same brush as well as somewhat mischievous, they did indeed remove the letters - by very carefully using the wire brushes only on the chalk itself and following exactly the imprint of the letters. Well, that certainly got rid of the chalk but left the inscription even more engrained - much to the amusement of our form master Basil Spence who, on walking past this, burst out in loud laughter and kept nodding his head in agreement for days after. As my mother was employed at the school at the time, it was all rather awkward but I survived it.

Wally Cotgreave, the Deputy Head at the time, obviously forgave me - he taught me for the first time in the Lower VI th (Additional Maths) and when I passed both that and ‘A’ Level Pure, he came up to me and said, whistling through his teeth as usual “Aaw, you’re not such a bad lad after all!”

On the west side of the main playing field, beyond the end of the bike sheds and behind the sandpit for the high jump, there was a fenced off cottage and garden encroaching on to the main playing field and out of bounds to us erks. In said garden were apple trees which were scrumped regularly. A good friend and form mate had had the good fortune to develop strong muscles a year or two earlier than than the rest of us and acted as our guardian in the event of older boys trying to ‘dun us’. However bright - and he was, extremely - he totally lacked common sense. One evening, and with an immensely strong arm, he hurled the remains of an apple in the general direction of A.C.H.S. girls recently alighted from the buses. As ill-luck would have it, it was Jo Thomas’s daughter that he hit square on the head… More grief! Lots of it!

Speaking of girls and muscles my apple throwing friend acquired - around the 5th form era - a girl friend who lived on the Hawley Estate which lay at the back of the school. To suggest she was common would be unfair but she was certainly obliging! He used to cycle round to ‘visit’ her over the lunch break, which I remember as an hour and a half, and return ‘drained’. Naughties were totally deniable until one day he cycled back and came into school having forgotten to re-zip his fly.

Someone asks who Fat Nat was. Well, he was certainly a large man but we only ever called him Nat but he was Mr. Wiseman, the Geography Master - another blackboard duster hurler with a considerable arm. Incidentally my generation always called Mr. Attree ‘Fred’.

Someone also asks what Foster the Art Teacher was nicknamed. We always called him Eddie (not to his face naturally!). He very quickly cottoned on to my total lack of artistic ability and took me to one side, explained gently how lacking in talent I was and how he didn’t see any point in my messing up his tutoring of more able Art pupils. Then he asked if there was anything I thought I’d like to try within his gift. I told him I quite fancied book binding and having found me a quiet corner of the Art Room, placed me there with the admonition to effectively do my own thing and keep it quiet. For the next three years I did just that - the lack of pressure was refreshing compared with the rest of my week!

I have never been back to the school since leaving it. The day I left my life began and I got happier. At last I was in the real world where one was no longer treated as a child. However, the education I received in academic terms was good enough to get me through my professional exams first shot and to set up an acceptable lifestyle which (touch wood) will continue into my dotage.

I should also mention that I too went through Cove Infants and Cove Junior Schools. Grigg was another vile sadist and he was matched by Miss Hankin who taught Form 2. She got her come uppance one day when after refusing to listen to a pupil’s desperate request for permission to visit the loo got a bladder full deposited over the floor of her classroom! Good old John Tovey.

Chris Jenner : February 2010

Chris is particularly virulent about Jo Thomas which has caused me to again consider the hurt that may be inflicted on the families of those criticised in these pages. However Jo Thomas is also remembered as a uniquely cruel individual by all my other correspondents who have deigned to mention him. There has never been the slightest indication of any mitigating circumstances from any quarter. No one suggests that he was anything other than thoroughly unpleasant and sometimes violent and in the face of such universal condemnation I see no reason to stifle comment. The phone book at bt.com still shows a J. Thomas O.B.E. at Napoleon Avenue. O.B.E.? What a joke; for services to maliciously terrorising thousands of young boys presumably. It should however be noted that the Friends’ Reunited website includes a report that J.T. died in February 2009.

Bourne on the other hand is not universally criticised. I had only one close encounter with him when the school’s widely despised caretaker, Frost, sent me to the headmaster’s study for walking on his newly swept floor with muddy shoes. Bourne dismissed the charges and pointed out it was a wet day and I had been sent to fetch something from the carpentry workshop situated in the aptly named ‘jungle’. So why don’t I tone down the criticism? Because he expelled one of my friends just a week or two before he was due to sit his ‘A’ Levels and for something of which he was entirely innocent. Bourne was determined to nail someone - anyone would do. What effect that had on the rest of my friend’s life I do not know, but for that act of spite and malice Bourne will get no mercy from me.

For the record, I have no bad memories of Miss Hankin at Cove Junior though I do recall two similar bladder incidents under another teacher there. But I think we have enough teacher criticism on this page without me adding to the tally of names.

Malcolm Knight

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