Memories of the 1920s
[by Peter R. Brookman, 1921-29]
Relatively recently , idly scanning a bric-a-brac stall in Loughborough market, I chanced on a Kennedy's 'The First Latin Primer'. When I was at the School in the twenties, this was holy writ, rivalled only by Freddie's [Freddy Gray] Chemy sheets. I willingly paid the 50p demanded. I deemed it poetic justice that, for a mere trifle, I could gain untrammelled dominion over one of the objects which, as I saw it, epitomised the sadistic torment of my youth.
I graduated to the first form of LGS in 1921, from the kindergarten at the High School, Fairfield was then still a residence. The mistress was a Miss B. Smith who subsequently married to become Mrs Ryland. The Grammar School was contained, with one exception, within the main site. All the class rooms were in the tower block, with the science labs and the Sloyd [woodwork] room to the right and the reading room to the left. The Barrow block was added whilst I was at the school. The exception was the use, by the first form, of the school room attached to the Victoria Street chapel. After morning assembly, the first form pupils would all shamble off to Victoria Street. We returned to the main school now and then for one or two subjects, such as Sloyd and P. T., but for the most part that was our school.
All the other sites around were then undeveloped, most were vegetable allotments - the aftermath of the 1914-18 war. Sport - football and cricket - were played on the First Eleven and on the L-shaped field on the right when entering the Walks. The Ten Acre was acquired during my sojourn. Prior to this what is now the car park behind Hodson Hall was pressed into service. Access was via a specially constructed footbridge over the brook which flanks the western extremity of the Walks.
The science block comprised the physics lab and the chemy lab, with a third, the lecture room. The chemy lab was ruled over by the redoubtable Freddie Gray. In fact he had an influence over the whole block, indeed over the entire school. He was an absolute martinet. He brooked no indiscipline. He entered the names of miscreants in a little note book from which they were never erased until retribution had been exacted. But he was a most excellent teacher. He had precised the substance of elementary chemistry on foolscap sheets, one per element. These had to be committed to memory and woe betide if you were not word perfect - hence the fame and notoriety of 'Freddie's sheets'.
Kennedy's Latin primer on the other hand was a slim hard back publication. Latin was taught from the third form on, in my case by Ernie Foxon. He was also a harsh disciplinarian, but not so effective. Between the twin stones of Freddie's sheets and Kennedy's primer we were ground exceeding small.
By comparison other subjects came more easily, although Foggo also had charge of English. I started French in the second form under Pip Phelps and Pal Imrie. Pip was quite impossible ; he had a touch of madness about him. Pal was a good teacher but had his idiosyncracies. He was a bachelor and lived permanently at the Great Central Hotel, which gave him ready access to a cellar. Often his first period after lunch would evoke what could have been called 'a charged atmosphere'. Crabby Orchard taught mathematics - arithmetic, algebra and geometry. His nickname was a pun on the apple tree of the orchard. he was far from crabby in demeanour, rather he was haughty, a tall handsome man with a magnificent head of auburn wavy hair. He left to join the Royal Air Force to which access at the time was given only to the most talented. His place was taken by Bill Trowbridge. He must have been a very young man when he revealed to me the secrets of calculus.
The swimming pool was added in my time. As originally built it was an open air unheated unfiltered pool bereft of changing accommodation. The cost was, however, raised almost entirely by efforts within the School.
The Twenties are said to have spawned the motorcar, flappers and the Charleston. The occasional car would be seen at LGS, but not the other two.