School Days, 1940's


Life in the Parish

Bill Stephens, Gail ?; J. Mosman, OPC

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I went to the County School for Boys in 1941 and left the Grammar School for Boys in 1948. (Butler Education Act 1944). I can still smell the hops and the smoke billowing from the Hicks brewery chimney.

The early years were wartime: most of the male teachers were in HM Forces to be replaced by lady teachers, some of whom were the wives of those called up. Some teachers were called out of retirement: I remember Papa Lodge who taught Math. Sadly his son was killed in the RAF, and from time to time we heard of the deaths of former pupils killed in action. I remember talking to a chap called Bradley one day in the school corridor. He was in naval uniform and a few days later he had been killed in action. Very moving to me a teenager.

We also had teachers from 'up the country' who had been evacuated, and with them evacuees from London and elsewhere. Plymouth Sutton School also used some of the premises. One boy was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.

We were familiar with wartime shortages, air-raid sirens, and Anderson shelters in the playground. Sometimes the night sky was lit up by raids on Plymouth and Falmouth, and once the night sky was lit by tracer bullets fired at the Mevagissey fishing fleet. We even had a bomb at the back of London Apprentice where we lived.

Someone mentioned Miss Husband. In fact there were two sisters from St. Dennis: Margaret in the Girls' school and Joan in the Boys'. Other teachers were Len Martin (history), Tommy Richardson affectionately known as Dickie Rich (geography), "Challenge" Julian (science, chess and esparanto), Tessa Ebbutt (french), Snoop Adams (PE), Miss EFA Phillips (later Mrs Clyma), "Tusker" Irlam (english) and "Dutchy" Holland (english), Mr. Hobba - "I'll shake you up in a few minutes, boy!" - and he did by grabbing your labels in each hand, and staring in your face! The headmaster was W.V. Barritt, to be succeeded by Mr. Brinkworth.

All this was over 60 years ago. How everything has changed! There were real characters then. I am still in touch with a couple of my contemporaries, from Mount Charles Junior School (1937-1941) and then the County School. I notice sadly that another, David Michael, died last year.

Hope this may be of interest: it is part of the past of some of us, still alive.

(Bill Stephens, old Austellian, living in leafy Bucks)
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Hello Bill,

Like others I found your account of the war years at St Austell Grammar School very moving. It seems we still haven't learnt to stop sending our youngest and best off to die for their country. I was born in 1945 and therefore the war only had weeks or months to run and I have no recollection of it. I do, however, remember my parents talking of being able to see the glow in the sky of Plymouth on fire and of something at Falmouth being hit. Was it a fuel store of some kind? Oil or gas maybe? Perhaps one of our Falmouth listers can fill us in on that one.

My dad was a fitter and turner at the time and was in a reserved occupation as foreman at Charlestown Foundry, where, if memory serves, they were making parts for guns. In his free time he like others had to be a part of "Dad's Army" - in other words the Home Guard. When I was first born, my mother used to put me in the pram and walk from Tregonissey down to Charlestown to bring him his lunch! (Often a hot pasty). I suspect this was not down to romance but to a desire to get away from her mother-in-law who lived with them! They say the Brits were never so fit as during the war and one can see why. How fortunate that little Charlestown - a wee Regency jewel and now a conservation area - survived intact.

Back to school; teachers were hard cases in those days. The attitude seemed to be "break their spirit then they will kow-tow". Some were not so bad and one who was reasonably OK was the Margaret Husband whom Bill mentions in his letter. How odd that you should have known the Husband girls as youngsters and that Elizabeth, Steve and I should have known her as a teacher. She became Deputy Head. I also recall Dickie Rich whose wife taught Geography in the Girls' School. He had a little Corgi dog who used to come to school with him and walked at his heels carrying his master's gloves in his mouth! Cutest thing you ever saw. Mrs Clymo(a?) taught me Latin until the schools amalgamated.

My abiding memory of the school is mainly sitting dreaming in the corner of the Library. If you sat by one of the windows you could gaze out over the expanse of St Austell Bay plus you could keep an eye on anyone walking up Poltair Road. Perhaps I could have got better grades in my A levels if there had been no fumes from the hops and not such a good view from the window!


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This was in a series of messages to the Cornish List on Rootsweb; included with thanks to Bill Stephens.               
Link to the War Memorial.


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