School Years#3/1

I described Harehills Secondary Modern as anything but modern in School Years #2 and as it was built in 1897 it hadn’t changed much or should I say no improvements had been made when I attended from 1951 to 1956. That included the toilets which were at the top of the school yard, the urinals in the open air with no roof. A visit during class time meant going down three flights of stairs and up the yard – in all weathers – so was to be avoided unless it was an emergency.

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Entrance marked as “Girls”

There were no girls toilets because there were no girls it was an all boys school although there were two entrances one with “girls” engraved in stone and the other with “boys”. Circa the late forties it was previously known as Gipton Board School and perhaps there were girls then.

Consequently I had no contact with girls during my early teenage years. I didn’t know of any youth clubs in the area and the only girls I knew lived across the road from home and the only contact with them was some mild flirting with scribbled notes. I don’t remember any face to face contact. This must have been a huge disadvantage for my generation in socialising with the opposite sex. On the other hand such things when at school were somewhat in the background which must have been a benefit for learning. I do believe that sexual matters these days take up a lot of time with young people.

As for the school itself the furniture was very old .The desks were original from 1897 and incorporated a narrow uncomfortable bench seat. The surface of the desks were uneven because the wood grain had had become raised up

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Harehills Secondary Modern

over the years and inkwells were stuffed full of rubbish because by now we either used ball point pens or fountain pens of our own. The underneath parts were covered with generations of old chewing gum.

The central hall, on the top floor, was surrounded by classrooms separated from the hall by class partitions walls. As the hall was used for PT lessons which could be quite noisy the classrooms were not the place for serious study.

The only warm memory I have of the school is assembly in the hall on Friday afternoons just before the end of the school week. Mr Benfield, the headmaster, usually led the assemblies which were religious, Christian, in nature. The hymns sung on those Friday afternoons are the ones that ring a bell with me. Just shows how keen I was for the end of the school week.

When I first arrived at the school in September 1951 they will have used feedback from the junior school. As I hadn’t taken my 11 plus it would have been hard to place me in the correct stream. The top stream was designated with an “F” i.e. 1F, 2F etc. The “F” meant that French was taught. I don’t know which stream I was placed in but it wasn’t 1F. That meant the injustice done to me by Talbot Road C.P. continued.

However I wasn’t as thick as Miss Day from Talbot Road C.P. tried to label me (to provide an alibi for their quasi criminal actions)  because I was beginning to show my real self by improving my position in class so by the time I was 12 or 13 I was top of the class in most subjects. Consequently I was moved up a notch or two to the “F” stream. As I had missed a year or two of French lessons I was excluded and spent the time doing homework with a couple of other upgraded pupils.

The school had recently become involved in tutoring for the GCE – in the “F” stream only  – so in that school we were the cream. As I had missed out in maths whilst in the junior school my parents engaged the services of Mr Goddard,  who used to be my teacher at the junior school, to give me private lessons. I remember he was appalled at what happened to me at Talbot Road C.P.

He taught me long division and multiplication but I don’t remember what else. In the event I still missed out in maths because as I wasn’t in the top stream for the first year or two I still missed something – probably algebra and elements of geometry, so maths was the only subject I didn’t do well in but even in the top stream I was up there with a couple of others in most subjects including English, General Science, Geography etc. Chemistry was also a hobby with me so that was probably my best subject, unfortunately part of General Science.

When it came to sports in the school yard or Soldiers Field the school was not dedicated. I didn’t know the rules because they never taught us – it was assumed we knew already. We had the occasional game of cricket on the hard surface of the school yard but I was turned off when a hard cricket ball hit me full in the face. I refused to have anything to do with cricket from then on. I still have not the slightest interest in cricket.

They used to transport us to the playing fields by bus on fair Wednesday afternoons when soccer was the norm. As I wasn’t interested I wasn’t picked for a team and used to do and think other things on the sidelines with a couple of like minded friends. The name Kenneth Holroyd springs to mind.

As for swimming forget it. In the early years at the school I only remember going to Cooke Street baths a couple of times. If we didn’t like dunking ourselves underwater during the first “lesson” that was it, we were ignored, bypassed. That was something that was prevalent in that school and they got away with it.

Continued in School Years#3/2

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This entry was posted in 1950's, education, just a boy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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