July 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
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Growing Up in the 1950s and 1960s - A series of articles


Contents: The Front Page | Fiction | Fantasy & Science Fiction | Children's | Nonfiction | Nostalgia | The Silent Three | The Four Marys
Growing Up in the 1950s | Pen and Sword Books | Living with Skipper | Acker Bilk Album Sleeve Notes | The Back Page | Email

Growing up in the 1950s/1960s: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9 | Episode 10| Episode 11| Episode 12| Episode 13| Episode 14  | Episode 15

Editor's note: I've split the Growing Up page into several different chapters which you can access by clicking on the links in the list below. Previous "Growing Up" articles which you can access from the panel on the right:

The next update of this page will be in the August issue...

My teachers at Brockworth New County Primary School taught me to read and write, and to write creatively. Miss Paige and Mr Rossiter were the best teachers one could have had, they had compassion, love for their pupils, and a way of teaching that helped to develop my love for learning right from the start. They also taught me to do simple mathematics; as well as learning our "times tables", so that we could answer 9x11 instantly without even having to think about it, they taught us addition, subtraction and division, and the ability to do those simple calculations in our heads - mental writhmetic, they called it, and they made it fun to do. At break times, they would supervise us in the playground, and think of games we could all join in with so that no one was ever excluded. I can only remember three other boys in my class, and of those, only the names of two boys, Thomas Tullis, and Robert Gillow, who was the headmaster's son, and who was a bit of a bully. I often intervened when he was doing his bullying, and Thomas Tullis was a bit slow in the brains department, so I think I was fairly popular in the class. I was the youngest in the class, too, and at the age of ten, I was informed that I would be sitting the 11+ examination, the passing of which would gain me entrance to a grammar school of my choice.

There were two grammar schools in the City of Gloucester - Sir Thomas Rich's Boys' GRammar School, and the Crypt Grammar School, which was a few miles outside the city, and two bus rides away from Brockworth, my village. I chose the Crypt Grammar School because two of my couisins, Brian and Peter Kimber, attended the school and it was the practice in the 1950s for boys and girls to follow their family members to the same school wherever possible. Anyway, the Crypt Grammar School, which had been founded as far back as 1539, seemed to have the best reputation and heritage, and I preferred the school colours of maroon and gold to Sir Thomas Rich's pale blue. In the event, the whole class sat the 11+ examination in the Summer of 1957, and I and three girls were the only ones who passed and went on the Grammar School. The rest of the class were sent to the Secondary Modern Schools either in the nearby village of Churchdown, or the even nearer village of Hucclecote. I was as proud as Punch (though I didn't know who Punch was at that time - I found out at the Crypt) to have passed the 11+, especially at the age of ten.

When I eventually settled into my first form at the Crypt, there was one boy a few days younger than me, but in the fierce competition to be first in the form at the end of each term, there was no contest - I was always in the top three whilst he languished near the bottom every time, so that was OK. I had spent most of my primary school days learning to read and write, and to do adding, subtracting and dividing; creative writing was a big part of our curriculum, and before we left to go up to "big" school, we were asked to write a small book, either a work of nonfiction or a story, which would then be folded and bound into books which would be kept in the school archives in perpetuity. As I was well into Enid Blyton at that time, I chose to write a type of Famous Five type mystery. I don't know what happened to my "book", and Brockworth New County Primary School apparently no longer exists - at least under that name, because when I search for it on Google, the only reference to it that comes up seems to be to my writing about it in the pages of Books Monthly, which is a shame, because it was a fine school, with very happy memories for me. My leisure time was mostly spent reading - comics and books - although on high summer days I would set off across the fields for a ramble, wishing I had a dog with me, and relishing the times when I went round to Boverton Avenue to visit my Gran, who kept geese, chickens and dogs, and I was always allowed to play with and pet her dogs.

The marked absence of a grandfather never puzzled me - she kept house for my two uncles, John and Ernie, both of whom I adored, but I never thought to ask what happened to my maternal grandfather, and it never occurred to me to ask my Dad about his Mum and Dad either. It was only during the last ten years, when we became interested in discovering our ancestors, that I found out about my paternal grandparents. I have yet to find out about my maternal Granddad, although I think he served in WW2. That research is ongoing. I had plenty of other uncles, cousins, aunts etc., and sometimes at Christmas, the whole family would gather together in our Boverton Drive House for a good old knees-up. Mum or Jean would play the piano, Dad would play the mandolin banjo, everyone would sing, and in later years, as I approached puberty, I would join in on the guitar, which I had found in an upstairs cupboard, along with a selection of gas marks and other paraphernalia from bygone years.

In early September 1957, a week or so before my eleventh birthday, I turned up in the foyer of the Crypt Grammar School, Gloucester for my first day, wearing the shorts I usualy wore to Primary School, a white shirt and Crypt tie, a maroon blazer emblazoned with the Crypt badge, a new school satchel, and a Crypt cap. I was immediately dismayed to see that almost every new boy was wearing long trousers - it was like a scene from a Greyfriars School novel, there was no other way to describe it. And I was also the only boy wearing a school cap, too, even though our letters of introduction had made it perfectly clear that we were all to turn up wearing one. I hurruedly removed my cap and shoved it into my satchel. I was also dismayed to see that virtually every boy carried a rucksack over their shoulder. Talk about standing out from the crowd...

However, as the day wore on, a couple of new boys who were also wearing caps (at first), but long trousers, latched onto me and we started chatting about who we were and which school/village we were from. James Harding was also from Brockworth, although he had just moved there, and had passed the 11+ exam in his previous village. He now lived in one of the council estate houses up near the Cheltenham road. David Farmer lived in Hucclecote, in the same road where my Uncle Leslie lived with the lot of children that would eventually make up his tally of seven, including one set of twins. James, whom we immediately called Jim, and David, and I shared the same interests, we read the same comics and books (they introduced me to the Saint), we weren't particularly interested in sport, although we did sometimes listen to the football results in case our Dads had won a fortune on the pools. We liked the same music and radio programmes, in particular the Goon Show, and we were all at the same level when it came to schooling.

There were boys there from different parts of the city who had done French at Primary school, but I soon overtook them to become top in French in my first year at the Crypt. Being obsessed with Greyfriars School, which I had discovered courtesy of Knockout Comic, which I inherited from Uncle Leslie along with all those American comics, plus titles like Film Fun and Radio Fun, I set about identifying boys in my class who would be the main characters - the other Famous Five. There was myself, who I fancied as being Harry Wharton, Paul Gough who was Frank Cherry, no one was Hurree Ramset Jam SIngh, because there were no Asian boys at the Crypt Grammar School during my seven years at the school. There was one boy who was larger (fatter) than the rest of us, and he was a good candidate for Billy Bunter.

But as time went by, it seemed that I was the only one who was familiar with Greyfriars. After one escapade, I collared Paul Gough, and said to him "we're just like the Famous FIve" and he thought I meant Enid Blyton's Famous Five - he had never heard of Billy Bunter or Greyfriars School, and that went for most of the boys in my form. 1957 was a year when there was a proliferation of boys' comics to be had, and although they were only 3d or 4d each week, most of us could only afford to buy one comic with our pocket money, and by the time we started getting into our proper school stuff at the Crypt, most boys stopped reading comics. Not me, though. I looked forward to going along the road to Hucclecote to visit Uncle Leslie and Aunt Grace and their seven children, taking a bag full of stuff which Mum had sent, because she knew  probably that they woukld be struggling to make ends meet with all those children; and we would always come away with a bag full of comics, American comics, English comics. I have no idea how Uncle Les acquired all those titles - but he never let us down, there was always a huge pile of comics to read when I got home.

To be continued in the August issue...

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me

here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.