1955: A pivotal year.

I would soon be leaving primary school. My assumption was that I would go to the local secondary school with my friends and life would continue as normal. Then BANG. I passed my “11 Plus”. Homework and accountability were about to arrive. 

In September the great day came and off I went to grammar school. How small and insignificant I felt among the many pupils. The timetable was given out, and eventually I went to my first P.E. lesson. It was very different. The emphasis was on body-conditioning for sports. The playing fields were enormous and immaculate. For the boys they were set up for rugby, cricket, hockey and athletics. We also did cross-country running. This entailed running along paths through farmland and then under a railway bridge, round a lake and back to school. The wide boys would hide under the bridge, have a fag and wait until the runners came back from the lake. I was goody two shoes.

Above is the Gym/Assembly Hall where sports training sessions took place e.g circuit-training.

Running to train for more running is alien to me. Running to prepare for something such as a particular sport was my thing. I am a games player. The old gymnasium (Assembly Hall) was very well-designed for pain — especially apparatus work and circuit-training. I say “old” gym because in 1955 a new gymnasium was being built which would be ready for 1956. I did not particularly like circuit-training but it was and is very effective in improving overall performance. Being “fit” is a great feeling. I found that it can also improve your non-physical performance.

Swimming was taught in the first year at a pool in a nearby village. The water was cold and green but we sort of got used to it. At the end of the sessions we had the opportunity to buy a hot, Bovril-type drink before making our way home. It was much needed. I have always regarded swimming as a good general way of exercising. It can be modified to suit many of the requirements of various sports and can sometimes aid recovery from injury as the water supports the body and provides gentle resistance to movement.

Above is the 1956 Gym with Basketball court, changing rooms and showers.

That first year at grammar school was not easy for me as I had been so free at primary school. It was really one of observation, the development of personal discipline and general adjustment to secondary education. I did not do anything particularly significant in either sport or academic work and my school report shows this – or so I thought. I did not know it at the time but I was in for the long haul of 7 years at this school and my involvement with sport was going to increase greatly.

Sport under the “House” system was very intense and had been since the school began. “Esprit de corps” was actively encouraged by both peers and teaching staff. In Athletics lessons, every performance of significance was recorded. Sports Day records existed for every event on the programme and had been religiously maintained for decades.

The teaching staff of 1955-56 at the front of the school.

The teaching staff of 1955-56 at the front of the school. 

For me this was to become a wonderful school. The high standards of the grammar school stemmed from the two fantastic headmasters (1921-67) who were both dedicated polymaths and sportsmen.┬áMany of the above staff were involved with the various sporting activities of the school. As such, they were instrumental in the development of sports within the local community and the wider area. An example of this would be the “old boys” rugby club which originally met at the school, played at the school and socialised with the opposition at a local pub. In the Sixties I had many happy times with the club.

Sadly, my homework commitments meant that I no longer had the time to see my primary school friends. We lost touch more or less completely. The “avoidance of failure” had taken me over. Within a short time of being very active in the village, I had locked myself away to keep up with the work at school and to take stock of where I had found myself – and, at that time, I was not even involved in team sport at the school with its twice weekly training sessions and Saturday matches.

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