An unusual mixture
Barry Jelfs was an accredited teacher of both PE and English, an unusual mixture. For indoor PE and non-competitive outdoor activities we had to wear all whites including white plimsolls, and the latter had to be coated with proprietary whitener till they were immaculate. Any boy turning up with soiled plimsolls would be “slippered”, ie. politely asked to remove one of his plimsolls with which Mr Jelfs would deliver two hefty whacks across his backside. It couldn’t happen today. However, Mr Jelfs also had a caring side; as an English teacher he quite reasonably objected to my spidery and illegible handwriting, and improved it forcibly by making me stay behind after school and copy out passages from “David Copperfield” every week until my writing was nearly copperplate. It worked within about six weeks or so. (It’s reverted to the original state nowadays, or worse, but it doesn’t matter: I’ve got a computer.)
Mr PR James (“Dim Jim”) had a unique way of ensuring his maths pupils learned the proofs of geometrical theorems. Each week we were charged with learning the proof of a new theorem, which we then had to write out in the next lesson from memory. Failure to produce the correct solution led to a Thursday afternoon detention which meant missing house games. I failed to memorise Pythagoras (the long geometric proof, not the brief trigonometric one) and duly paid the price. However, Mr James took my maths from being my weakest subject to producing my best O-Level grade, thence to an A-level and an Engineering degree, so I owe him a debt of gratitude.
The universal pursuit at morning break and lunchtime was playground football, played on the lower playground with a tennis ball. These would invariably end up lodged in the roof guttering of the school’s three-storey west wing. Once a year a contractor with a very long ladder was engaged to climb up and chuck dozens of soggy, decomposing tennis balls down on to the playground. The younger boys would eagerly collect below to recover the best ones, ignoring the spray of slime that came off them as they fell.
Sixth form common room
Shortly before I graduated to the Sixth Form the school gained a Sixth Form Common Room, and therein we partook of endless rubbers of that most civilised card game, contract bridge, whilst drinking coffee and listening to the latest Beatles LP played on an old Dansette. This was considered quite acceptable and proper by the authorities. By contrast, the three CCF sections shared a prefab concrete hut in a corner of the school playing field, and although this was kept locked whenever not in official use it had a faulty window which wouldn’t lock. Members of the RAF Section (including yours truly) discovered this and used it to set up an illicit solo whist school in the hut, occasionally played for monetary gain and sometimes accompanied by the smoking of cigarettes. This went on for most of two terms, until the powers-that-were became aware of the transgression and mounted a “raid”. Fortunately I was not present at that particular session, but those who were received the full due sanction of the law. The hut is still there today, although now derelict and well graffitised.
A few nicknames: “Hoss” Ryder (Maths), “Toby” Turl (French, named for the contemporary strip cartoon character Toby Twirl), “Pug” Wilkins (CCF adjutant – he looked like, and might have been, an ex-boxer) and “Deadeye Doris” Carpenter, head cook, who ruled the school kitchen with a will of iron and was actually even more scary than “Killer” Reeves. She had one wall-eye but could turn a boy to stone at ten paces with a basilisk stare from the other if he incurred her displeasure in the canteen by, for example, not separating used cutlery into the correct boxes.
BHASVIC has a comprehensive website at www.bhasvic.ac.uk which includes some stuff about the “Grammar” and its history, and also details of the Past And Present Association which is open to ex-pupils of both BHASVIC and the “Grammar” itself.