Your Memories 3   

One night there was enough by Jon Wexler 1940-1947

I remember an ‘Alan Parnell’ in the Sixth Form around 1947 who had a motor bike and used it to get to school. One summer around that time a crowd of us went camping somewhere along the Thames. Alan took me along as his pillion passenger. Scary. One night there was enough. Does this ring bells with anyone?


“The start it gave me in life” by Raymond Hardway 1940-1947

How vast the amount we owe to “that school”! I never cease to wonder at the start it gave me in life.

Ed: Who else concurs with Raymond’s statement? Send in your thoughts.

“I was scared to death of him!” by Kathleen Wilson 1952-1954

I was at Hemel Grammar from January 1952 till July 1954 having moved to the new town from London and I remember Mr. Evans (Taffy) more clearly than any of my other teachers. I was scared to death of him. He would come into the classroom with a pile of our homework books, slam them onto the table and say: "This is pathetic!" He would then stand there and throw our books to us. On a warm summer's day he miscalculated and the book went flying out through the open window. I particularly recall one lesson when we were trying to translate a poem, he got very frustrated with our efforts and said we needed to translate more freely. Thus:

            Here I sit with idle fingers

            Lost in a wonderful dream

            Watching the perishing fishes

            Swim up the flipping stream.

By the time I reached the 5th form, with a bit more maturity, I realised what a delightful man he really was. It was he who taught us how to do the Daily Telegraph cryptic crosswords. He lived in Adeyfield Road, on the hill, near the field. I did hear quite some time ago that he had died.

The Happiest Days? Bah!  by Ray Clinton 1944-1949

Unlike others, who seem to have been supplied with rose-tinted glasses, I did not enjoy life at HHGS. It was too repressive. You were not expected to have any social life, and if seen by staff out in the evening were likely to have your homework severely criticised. This prevented me from joining the Hemel Hempstead Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.

Apart from the obligatory interview I knew little about the place except that it was enormous, compared to the two classrooms at George Street School, and that the teacher to avoid, known as "Taffy" Evans, was sarcastic and critical. I made a complete mess of my first day, possibly through nerves. Some of us were sent up to the hall's gallery while the headmaster read out the names of the intake and where they should go. Upon hearing my name I raced the full length of the upper and then the lower corridor, by which time nobody was in sight and I had forgotten my appointed classroom. Tentatively I opened a door at random and met the full wrath of "Taffy" Evans. In the afternoon I mistook the starting time and arrived to an empty playground. In confusion I went home but my father accompanied me back, ascertained from the Secretary where I should be and pushed me in. A Horrible Day!

The staff fell into two camps, those with humanity and enthusiasm and those without whose lessons were an endless drudge. The more likeable ones, under whom I actually benefitted, included Mr. Boucher, Mr. Woolf, Mr. Bundy, Mrs. Thacker, the physics master(?) and Miss Duncan, who liked me because I had a good go at a proper French accent. (My first French lesson was actually in the Apsley Methodist Hall, to which we were 'crocodiled', presumably because of classroom shortage.)

The repressive atmosphere stemmed from the Headmaster, Mr. Screeton ("Old Scats") a humourless disciplinarian, who seemed as strict with the staff as the pupils. The Physics master demonstrated harmonics on the hall's piano. Screeton passed through and reprimanded him for leaving the classroom. Mr. Woolf recorded a talk for the BBC Schools programme and the headmaster refused permission to have a radio in to hear it. I was asked to bring in some records to play in the interval at a Christmas dance. I put on The Devil's Gallop, a light orchestral piece, which aroused the Headmaster to a fury, demanding that I take it off, presumably because it was the signature tune to Dick Barton, listening to which was a VERY BAD THING TO DO!

Needless to say the sexes were strictly segregated; you couldn't even talk to each other on the playing field. I was in love with Nancy Langston, but from a discreet distance. All the more surprising, then, that there was a Christmas Dance for which, under very strict supervision, we had a few tentative dance lessons, working out where to put our hands.

A few random memories:

- Mr. Woolf inscribing FFBL on your sketches of plants (Firm Fine Black Lines).

- Asking Mr. Harrison what the indecipherable scrawl was that he had put on my essay. Apparently it said "I can't read your writing"!

- The annual mad lady cellist who waved arms, legs and underwear about and played everything from one sheet of paper, turned over repeatedly.

- Asking a master why it was all right for girls to miss swimming sometimes.

- Presenting a full Rough Book to Miss Carpenter for replacement and being reprimanded for wasting paper during wartime with drawings of aeroplanes and friends and noughts and crosses.

- Mr. Boucher returning from the war to find that the female teachers had "sharpened" all his chisels by grinding down both sides!

- Fun and games in the dark in Geography when the blinds were closed to use the Epidiascope.

- Forming a semi-circle for the camera to sweep round for the annual group photos. (One lad would always race from end to end and be included twice.)

- The play Pygmalion with a pupil/staff cast that included Josephine Tewson of Ronnie Barker and Keeping Up Appearances fame.

- Miss Duncan shouting "En Francais Monsieur, s'il vous plait." to an unsuspecting master who came to borrow the blackboard cleaner.

Rather to my surprise, and despite an appalling mark for History, I achieved a School Certificate. Every morning at Assembly the Headmaster played a record of 'classical' music, fairly often "Steppeland Wide Steppeland", and there was a tradition for leavers to add to the collection. I entered the sanctum with my offering, Da Falla's Ritual Fire Dance, surely a classical piece. Screeton glanced at the title, sneered and said "I suppose it might come in at a dance or party" thus cementing my opinion of him.

As a final gesture, on the last day, several of us marched down to the canal bridge and tossed our notebooks in.

(PS. For Derek Smith's benefit Bayley Mead, a small close of three houses next to the Boxmoor Playhouse [which used to be called St. John’s Hall], stands on the site of the old Boxmoor School).

Fountain pens by Heather Palmer

Does anyone recall the fuss about us all having to use fountain pens instead of the old dip-in an inkwell ones? I think we were in the second form and it was one of headmaster Mr. Robinson's new ideas. There was quite a fuss at the time and the story even made it to Cassandra's column in the Daily Mirror. 

My father and the Kindertransport movement by Jon Wexler

My father was involved in the movement to help Jewish refugee children who came to the United Kingdom prior to World War Two. During the 1930s the Jewish community world-wide was in a state of alarm about what Hitler was doing. The communities in German, Austrian, and other occupied European states were seeing street beatings, confiscations and imprisonments. Exterminations came a couple of years later. The Parents, facing doom themselves, did what they could to get their children to safe environments. The British set up agencies to facilitate that process, which included on-the-spot people taking registration details of the distressed kids. Through 1938, up to some point in '39, the Germans allowed the children to emigrate. There was a 'Guarantee' arrangement; I'm guessing that was of British, not German instigation.

Meanwhile in the UK the community (with government approval) set up regional reception committees for processing an anticipated influx. The aforesaid agencies set about procuring sea transport to evacuate the children. One well-used route was Hook of Holland to Harwich. The British wanted guarantees that domicile would be provided for all who came, and none would be left indigent without a roof. (I should mention that the Jewish kids over military age were actually interned in camps pending clearance from any Nazi infiltration risks. After clearance nearly all jumped at chance to join up and fight payback.)

My father was Head of Chemistry at Hackney Technical Institute. He steered many older kids into study there. When the war came, and the school evacuated, he took all the refugees with him and organised billets for them amongst the local population in Downham Market, Norfolk. You can imagine the complications that had to be dealt with, including bed-wetting.

Anyway, that's my potted version of events. Plenty of other stuff has been written about these events. More detailed literature or internet searching will no doubt give a more detailed history.

First Day by Dianne Martin

First day September 1954. Assembly in back playground. Parents meeting each other and all of us new pupils being roll-called to our forms and led away to class. Names of girls I remember most from that day are Pauline Moody Smith, Valerie Adams, Jane Burtenshaw, Linda Gristwood, Jacqueline Horn, Ann Hughes, Ann Relf. Found myself in 1G Dacorum House, Yellow, and issued with a desk and most importantly a rough book! Every page to be completed or not another issued. Thus spake Miss Carpenter! Very afraid we were! Soon learnt what to do and what not to do. First lesson . . . quelle horreur!  Miss Duncan! Names I remember from the Sixth Form are: Susan Pickerell, Jennifer Evans, Ann Bailey, Julia Lindsay, Dianne Hathaway, Pauline Moody-Smith, Jill Brinsden, Marian White, Pauline Keen, Theresa ?. Other names I remember from school are: Keith Treadaway, Ian Cook, Peter Holt, Margaret (Miggy) Mittins, Jenny Stanners, Valerie Adams.

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