First day at LGS - September 14, 1948
[by Tony Dakin, 1948-1953]
Kegworth Primary School's eleven-plus results were announced in the assembly hall half way through the morning sometime during May 1948. The Headmaster told us that four out of 20 had won places to Loughborough Grammar School - Don Storer, Bas Hardy, Brian Griffin and myself. I was sitting next to Jim Webster who immediately burst into tears because he hadn't won a place either to LGS or to the technical college. Ten minutes later old Gaffer Roberts returned from his office to say that he'd made a mistake and Jim Webster had a place after all.
When I rushed home at lunch time to tell Mum and Dad the good news their only reaction was to wonder how they were going to pay for the new school uniform and the many extras. Several weeks later the school sent the official list recommending that we buy it all from Colemans in Loughborough, just about the most expensive shop in town. Much to my embarrassment my parents decided to buy everything from the Long Eaton Co-op where they could get credit and benefit from the 'Co-op Divi' which meant getting coupons to the value of 2 per cent of what was spent. Many types of clothing were still on ration in 1948 and, as far as I can recall, most of the family's clothing allowance went on me. They bought me a new grey suit, two grey shirts and a hard, beautifully made leather satchel which cost seven-and-sixpence but which had such small straps that it was never able to hold all my books as well as my sandwiches. We went to Coleman's for the cap and tie.
My memories of that first day at LGS are still fairly vivid. I'd arranged with Don Storer, who lived almost opposite our house, that we meet up and walk together [it wasn't more than 50 yards away] to Barton's double-decker bus which stopped at the Kegworth depot en route from Long Eaton where it had picked up about a dozen LGS boys and Loughborough High school girls from outlying villages such as Chilwell and Beeston. Then it took another half an hour picking up a few others in Sutton Bonington and Hathern. Apart from a few Loughborough College students who got off at The Rushes, we were all dropped off at the northern end of Burton walks. Then it was a quick 100-yard dash along this splendid avenue of towering horse-chestnut and lime trees. A few minutes later we were walking to the eastern edge of a huge quadrangle at the end of which was a towered building with a Westminster clock chiming nine. Once inside we were ushered into a high-ceilinged, dark wood-panelled assembly room, pushed by 17 and 18-year-old prefects into ranks alongside 90 other nail-biting youngsters and told to stand to attention. A few minutes later a long line of black-robed men, and one tiny, wizened old woman, filed past us up onto a stage where they took their seats with all the pomp and ceremony of Church of England grandees. Three of the cloaked figures were at an old wooden refectory table in the centre while the half or dozen or so others sat on dark brown dining chairs either side. In the middle was a weak-looking, emaciated, grey-faced and lined old man with a mortarboard on his head and a pair of thin National Health Service glasses pushed right back against his eyes. He looked a bit like Clement Attlee 15 years after leaving Downing Street - huge bags under his eyes and totally worn out. Just two years later as he ordered me to bend over in his study for some paltry misdemeanour, I was to have first-hand experience that he wasn't nearly as fragile and weak as he looked.
Sydney Russell Pullinger greeted us in his very precise diction and then either a secretary or one of the other masters detailed which classes and which 'houses' we were in. The classes were 3A, B and C ; the names of the houses, which showed about as much creative flair as one later came to expect of a largely scientific establishment, were North, South, East and West. I was 3C and West, the other four from Kegworth were all in 3B. At the time I thought the selection of classes was arbitrary. Only later did it occur to me that this positioning was based on the 11-plus results which meant that I had just scraped into the bottom third.
After the 'cloaks' filed out we were chaperoned back through the quadrangle and along to our new classrooms which were little more than badly-built nissen huts with asbestos roofs and rotting windows. The first thing that struck me about our form teacher, C. P. Tivey, was the extraordinarily careful way he took to enunciate his words, constantly showing a full set of teeth and a very strong jaw line in the process. Later he also showed us how handy he was with a ruler particularly as a means of helping us to decline our French verbs. Introductions over, we filed down to B block on the north side of the quadrangle where we were given a pile of text and exercise books from the first-floor store-room to keep us busy for the next twelve months.
I remember another little incident from that day. It was at lunch in the dining room which, rather surprisingly since it too was a nissen hut [albeit an extra large one], also served as the music room. At the time there were about 650 at the school, 150 of whom were boarders. Lunch was taken in two sittings. There were long lines of tables, probably 15 in all and each seating about 24. At the head of each table there was a sixth-form prefect who was there to keep order, issue 'punishment' lists where appropriate and to decide who had second helpings. That first day I sat at the end of one of the tables with Bas Hardy. The main course was minced meat and cabbage and Bas' first forkful disturbed a caterpillar which crawled to the side of his plate. Bas didn't put his hand up for a second helping and the episode put me off cabbage until I was well into my 30s !