Friday, 9 March 2012

More oddballs

The other day I introduced you to Mr Wilson, my one-time music teacher, and promised (or should that be threatened?) to tell you about the other oddballs who were teaching at my school.

The deputy head was a Welshman named Parsons. He had a catch-phrase - "I'll have you trotting along as sure as a couple of eggs" - by which he meant that he was threatening to send you to the head, the only teacher to administer corporal punishment. In those days it was the cane on the backside. Mr Parsons seldom took a class but he did cover for sick teachers from time to time. When he did, he had a habit of addressing boys, whose names he rarely if ever knew, as "tomato" or something similar. I recall the occasion when he took my class and, for some reason, called one pupil to the front of the class. "And what's your name, bacon?" he asked.

Truthfully, the pupil replied, "Gammon, sir".

Mr Parsons did not see the funny side.

"Ozzie" Ford would never get away with it nowadays but nobody thought anything of it nearly 60 years ago. A large man who could, like so many large men, creep about completely unheard, he taught maths. If, during a lesson, he caught a pupil not doing whatever work had been set, he took one of two courses of action. He would sometimes just grip the short hairs above the pupils ear and twist hard or he would lift the lid of the desk, push the pupil's head down and bring down the lid of the desk on the pupil's head. I understand that both punishments were painful but as I was never taught by Ozzie I never found out from personal experience.

"Hoppy" Hargreaves taught French. He earned his nickname though having one leg shorter than the other by several inches. He also looked as though he had forgotten to put his teeth in - his mouth appeared to be somewhat sunken - and his speech was slightly affected, almost as though he had a cleft palate. His bête noir was waste - or, as he wrote, woste. We were allowed to use only the narrowest of margins in our exercise books and every line had to be written on. None of the "leave a spare line at the end of an exercise, rule across the page, leave another line and then start the next exercise" for him. Should he spot an infraction of his rule he would scrawl across the page, "Don't woste space" - for some reason the "a" in "waste" was never correctly formed.

But these counted as normal when compared with Mr Bell, about whom tomorrow.


Stephen Hayes said...

Can't wait to hear about Mr. Bell.

Buck said...

We have heard stories... and LOTS of 'em... about British boys schools in the '50s. My father threatened to send me to one when we were first stationed in England; I was only eight years old and the thought terrified me. But I was let off the hook when he received an unexpected posting to Paris... three months after we arrived in London.