Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Wondering about Michael, Philip and the cocoa factory on Kender Street

I wonder what happened to Michael Tickner, Philip Broome and Paul Driver.

They along with Jimmy O’Donnell, and John Cox were part of the class of ‘61 which started at Samuel Pepys in the September of that year.

There were 180 of us, drawn from a selection of junior schools and despite the diversity of our back grounds we all failed the 11 plus, that gold standard of excellence which guaranteed some a grammar school education and the rest of us something else.

I have never quite lost that sense of being judged second best and when I began teaching in the mid 1970s I was the only one from a Secondary Modern.

And for a time I was very hard on Samuel Pepys judging it against Crown Woods in Eltham where I went at 16.

Looking back that was unfair because like many other Secondary Moderns it did its best to offer us as good an education as the grammar school next door putting some of us in for “O” levels while recognising that for some their interests, skills and aptitudes lay elsewhere.

So I do wonder what happened to that cohort of ’61 partly because I am curious but also to prove that the 11 plus gold standard was not the fine measure of who we were or what we could become.

But if I am honest it is also because I am curious.

Some took the option and left at the end of the 4th year and more in the Christmas of my last year.

By then I think from memory the year group had shrunk from seven forms down to two and fewer still stayed on for the sixth form.

For me the die had been cast in the March of 1963 when we left Lausanne Road for Eltham and slowly the familiar ebbed away and sometime around the beginning of 1965 the place I had grown up in just became a place to visit for school.

I guess that is pretty much how it is for all of us who move away.  In most cases the decades roll by with little thought of where it all started and when you do finally go back the landscape has altered out of all recognition.  

At best a few familiar old places still exist but even these look smaller and less inviting.

All of which makes me think about the people I knew. 

Most of the adults I have long forgotten although Mr Rhodes, Mr Payne, Mr Vaughan and Mr Twigg from Samuel Pepys still surface from time to time, as does Miss Prentice and Miss Reeves from Edmund Waller.

But with that passage of time I now do wonder about the lads I sat in class with.  Lads like Phillip Broome the class joker and Paul Driver who fell in the pool after a swimming lesson fully dressed and was for ever known as “Dribble.”

And then there was Michael who for a while at least none of us were kind to and for which I remain ashamed.

Of my closest friends I did make contact with Jimmy a few years ago.  He did fine, got married, raised a family and retired to the West Country.

Others like John I lost touch with and at least one from Edmund Waller I came across on a family history site just a few years ago and I am sorry to say he had lost none of the vain boasting which accompanied his time in Miss Reeves’s class.

I suppose most of when we think back that half century or more think of the buildings and the familiar places which time, the developer and the Council’s plans have done for and less of the friends and acquaintances we passed our youth with.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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