Article reproduced from the 1998 OPA magazine (with permission from the author- Phil Smith)
I don't agree with the saying that "School days are the best days of your life." For me they were some of the easiest and although life has become increasingly complex, it gets better and better.
I very much enjoy reading the Newsletter and I was going to write something for it in a few years' time when maybe a few more "post-war pupils" will be in the association. However, I may not be here in a few year's time and maybe there are others out there waiting to take the plunge and write of their memories of school. I also write in the hope that some old friends of mine whom I have neither seen nor heard of since 1966 will get in touch either by phone, letter or through the Newsletter.
So here goes. It was a shock to come to the 'Muni' as none of my friends from my Primary School, St Jude's came. On the first day it seemed to be a tradition for the second years to try to lord it over the 'fags' as we were known and so on my first day before school started I was in a fight with a second year pupil. What a start!
I was in lB. I can't remember who the form teacher was, but I do remember that a certain girl prefect (known as 'it') used to try and control us before registration. I lost count of the number of prefects' detentions that year and writing lines seemed to be never-ending. That all ended when Mr Parsons came into the detention two weeks in a row and recognised me and gave me a roasting for being a naughty boy. My appearances in detention showed a very sharp decline after that. I mostly remember Mr Cleeton who took us for Maths. His favourite expression when we did something wrong was "You fools" and in most cases he was right! He also names a mathematical device for factoring after me; he called them "Smith's blocks".
At the end of the year I scraped into the B stream only because the art marks weren't taken into consideration and arrived in 2B (the same class as the Bash Street Kids as I recall - though we were never as bad as that) and we had 'Daisy' as our form teacher. Daisy taught Latin and I must admit I never really appreciated it at the time. In those days languages were a bit of a sissy- subject and my main recollection was the Latin exam where we passed a dictionary around and also exchanged answer papers so that we could see what other people had put. We also had a short lived Form News which appeared on the notice board and for which I had been nominated the 'cartoonist', presumably because of my sense of humour, despite the fact that I cannot draw.
3B was the last time I studied Biology. Mr Askew (whom I occasionally beat at chess at the end of terms) put on my report when I came 3lst/31 I 'He does as little 'work' as possible". I never fancied cutting up things anyway and I still can't watch operations on TV!
4B was brilliant. I remember being brought to the front (with Barry Phillips I think) by Frau and three occasions come to mind. One was someone putting up a row of desk lids and running down the aisle knocking them down so they made a noise like a machine gun (and getting caught) and the other was throwing a piece of soap round the classroom and someone deliberately letting it go past and straight through a glass panel in the door. I also remember being kept outside the classroom before an exam started for messing about. I also remember the romance of the year, David Gough and Brenda Allerton. I came top of the class for at least one of the terms and even top in German in the exams, which the teacher Frau) could not believe. I also recall cheating in French by copying a homework that Mr Dudley set us from a friend, Bruce Wassel, who was in the year above me. However, I made mistakes in copying and only got 7/10 which for me was horrendous, so I decided to do 'all my own work' in future.
In 5B our form tutor was Brian (I think) who taught German and therefore not me. However, he did coach volleyball and I played in the odd games we played against other schools. I also played in the school chess team. I can remember a couple of the girls fighting in the classroom which was far worse than I'd ever seen boys do!
The best thing about school was my friends. Most of them were sporting 'heroes'. The great sprint individuals and relay team of Alan Jones, Michael Potter, John Bennett and Ralph Banthorpe; other athletes like Bob Evans and Phil Evans (not related). The rugby players like David Gough, John Keenan, Phil Ward and cricketers like David Gough and Ian Hemsley. I didn't like rugby too much after someone nearly broke my neck with a high tackle in the first year. I loved the summer days when we would play football every lunch time over the West Park. I also liked the rest of the year when we would play cards for pence every break time and lunch hour in various locations. I remember poker, pontoon, Bismarck, brag. What an education. (I never gamble now!) I also recall playing table tennis in the library using books as the net.
6th Form. Although my best results were on the arts side I did sciences because all my friends were doing the sciences. (The only boy from 5B who did the arts in the 6th form was Bill Griffiths, and he was excellent at languages). I recall being sent out of an 'A' level Physics class by Terry Langford for messing about. Was this a first for a 6th former? I also remember that a manometer (a 'U' tube with coloured water in it for measuring low gas pressures) was set up in our class room and I decided to blow into the end of it. I didn't realise someone had their finger over the other end of the tube and when they released it the coloured water sprayed all over the bench. Jack Darby had us all in the Chemistry lab to find out who did it and I owned up afterwards (I think).
Between the upper and lower 6th 1 went on the skiing trip to Adelboden in Switzerland. I well remember doing the recommended ankle and other exercises for months before to make my joints supple so that they wouldn't break or sprain. We travelled on the overnight train. It was brilliant as no-one slept and we chatted up the girls all night. I was in the 'beginner' beginners class and remember that the only way I learned to stop was to fall over in front of a barbed wire fence which prevented you from going over a cliff. The narrowest escape I had was when I was travelling along and someone else who couldn't ski went over the back of my skis!
I well remember going off to universities to see what they were like. I went to Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and Swansea. I chose Swansea because all the other campuses were in the middle of horrible cities and Swansea's campus was over the road from the beach. While I was away on one of these 'expeditions' a teacher enquired where I was and was told. He remarked that it was a waste of time me going as I had no chance of getting in. Imagine his shock (and a lot of other teachers!) when I turned in two Bs and a C. I had a great time in Swansea. I chose Metallurgy because I didn't like the Maths, Physics and Chemistry I had studied at 'A' level. (I got a B.Sc. from Swansea and a Ph.D. from Birmingham University).
My favourite teacher was Des Pearce. I used to love his lessons and the things he ran, the Debating Society, the History Society and the Film Club which Mike ('Bogs') Potter and I ran in the upper 6th. Des was fair, firm and reasonable and an excellent teacher. Almost all our class passed History '0' level in the 4th year and I well remember Des's favourite expression to chastise a miscreant "I'll do you".
I really enjoyed life at the 'Muni'. The girls I fancied didn't fancy me and I didn't fancy the ones who fancied me, which was probably just as well. If I had to live my life again I would have done arts subjects at 'A' level and participated in more debates. I'd also have worked a lot harder at 'A' level and played a lot less cards. I'd also have tried to keep better track of my old pals from school - where are you today and what are you doing?
My wife, Helen & I have ten children (so far!), four boys and six girls who are all healthy and bright. I am the chairman of a national franchising company called 'ChemDry'- we clean carpets, upholstery and curtains and deal with fire and flood damage. In my spare time I am president of the East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Stake (diocese) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I still love steam engines and I was a fireman only the other week.
Philip Smith (1959-66)
(Article written in 1998)