The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Memories
Memories of Cottesmore School 1951-55

from Ted Marriott

PIPEWOOD CAMP 1952 - Pete Bradley, Johnny Smithson and Robin Britton
attended the same month. I missed out, as there was a full camp and had to
go the following month.

1951 was ending and after the Christmas holiday, the time had come when we were to move up to the senior school. This was to be the Cottesmore Secondary Modern School for Boys that was further up the boulevard and opposite the Raleigh Cycle works. It was the equivalent to a comprehensive school and thankfully within walking distance and we could still go home for dinner.

All the gang moved up together so we were never just the new kid in school on our own. What really worried us was the 'initiation' we were to get if a senior caught us. This was a painful experience that happened to us all, no matter where we hid. The rock garden that ran the length of the building between the classrooms and the playground had a few shrubs with tiny thorns and berries on them. These were infamously known as the PRICKLY BUSHES, into which we were ceremoniously threw with a'leg and a wing'. Teachers frowned on the practice but it didn't stop.

The headmaster, Mr Leaming, died either just before we started the school or just after. I can't ever remember seeing him at school. With us being in the first year, a few of us were picked to sing in the choir at his funeral service at Holy Trinity Lenton Parish church.

The headmaster I remember was a Mr Skilbeck. He used to administer the cane for more serious misdemeanours. Pete Bradley and I were both sent before him and received three strokes each. He was correct when he said we would remember this all our lives, but the trouble is I can't remember why we got them! I think it was for fighting outside school.

Barring the corporal punishment (which everyone accepted as being deserved) I must say I enjoyed my time at this school. The teachers were friendly but strict and the only teacher that could not control us, (when we were in the 5th year) was a new one we called 'Baby face'. This was due to him being the youngest teacher we had and his face would go crimson in frustration when we got too noisy. It only took a passing teacher to look into the room to immediately restore silence and calm to the class. Baby face didn't stay long at 'Cotto' (Cottesmore).

We also had an exchange teacher from America. He was a Mr Bennett from New York and was a complete waste of time. During his term, a sea disaster occurred when a ship named The Flying Enterprise foundered in heavy seas. The captain, a Swede opted to go down with his ship but was plucked from the sea by lifeboat crews. As a lesson we had to write or bring newspapers and cut out pictures and stick them into our books. HE, would sit either reading the New York Tribune with his feet on the desk, or type letters on his noisy typewriter. That term we all suffered in our English exams, a subject I usually did ok at.

Mr Files the P.T. teacher was one to keep the better side of. His method of punishment was to slipper you with one of his plimsolls He would make you bend over then take a run at you and whack the rubber soled shoe across your rump, usually just to the side, making your eyes run as you hopped around the gym or sports ground in agony. It only had to happen to one pupil to keep perfect discipline for the whole class for the whole lesson. Believe stung. But I still didn't learn and sampled it twice.

Mr Gallagher, a Scot, taught English and maths. His classroom was the first as you entered the quadrangle, and woe betides anyone arriving late. Unless a perfect excuse was given, the victim was punished with his leather strap, which he named Charlie. Everyone in school was scared of Charlie.

My lasting memory of Mr Gallagher was at a school concert. Access to the assembly room cum gym, was down a long tunnel. It was in this tunnel that he marched down and back playing his faithful bagpipes .On this occasion he played 'The Skye Boat Song' and in the echoing tunnel it sounded just great.

Mr Gill was the art teacher. He was a well-liked and he was a trumpet player in a jazz band. He would give us a blast at Christmas concerts, but this jazz, never rang my bell. Fifty years later I would read about him in a paper called Bygones, that he had fell over (drunk I think) and damaged his lip ending his musical career.

Mr Fox ran the woodwork class and Mr Everett ran the metalwork class. We had the option of which class to take after we had tried both for a few weeks. I opted for woodwork, as it took too long to see a result of finished work in metalwork. 'Foxy' always cooked a hot meal on the glue pot gas ring. He'd peel spuds, cut up cauliflower and shell peas, and put all in the saucepan.

Mr Dixon took the French class. He used to get you to read passages out of a textbook while he poked inside his ears with a pin stuck in the end of a pencil. He would lean back in his chair with eyes closed and I'm sure sometimes he nodded off. Just before the end of lesson he would wipe his pin over the paper on his desk, pick it up then blow the wax or whatever he redeemed from the depths of his ear hole, over the poor pupil sitting at the front desk...'Sacre Bleu!!!

'Pop' Mason took English and R.E. He must have been the oldest teacher there. He also had a pot leg that he used to tap with the blackboard rubber. That was if he wasn't throwing it at someone.

On a spelling competition/test on Goose Fair Friday (we always had that Friday afternoon off) the class was whittled down to just to lads. The prize was to be 6d from 'Pop's' own pocket to spend at the fair. I was one of the final two, but after we kept tying, he decided to give us 3d each. It would pay for one ride at the fair. I can even remember the last two words we had to spell. 'Paraffin' and 'sheriff'. We both answered wrong as we put two R's instead of two F's

Mr Hodgson (Gammy) taught English and had a deformed wrist, over which he hung a leather strap. One afternoon he called me to the front of the class. I thought he was going to praise me for being top of the class in our English exam, but I was painfully mistaken. He strapped me because I had inkblots and smudges over one page in my exercise book. Bastard!

Mr Davidson was a strict disciplinarian. He used to wear leather gaiters and looked a right twit. But we all made sure he didn't see us smirking behind his back. One time he called out my cousin Trevor to the front of the class. He tilted Trevor's chin up and gave him two of the most vicious hard slaps across his face I have ever seen. ALL the class gasped in disbelief. Trevor's face became swollen and a note was written to the headmaster from his mum. I don't know what the outcome was, but if it happened in today's society, the teacher would have been charged with assault and fired. Today, I believe in corporal punishment, but that was beyond reason. He was a sadist.

There were many other teachers of course, but these were just a few that will always be remembered.

One event that sticks in my mind as being funny now, but not at the time, was when 'Big Nobby' Whitehead asked to leave the room. Permission was granted and he walked to the door and the teacher turned his back and began to write on the blackboard. As Nobby reached the door he threw a piece of chalk at the teacher narrowly missing him. He shot through the door as the teacher turned angrily glaring at us as we sniggered behind cupped hands. He threw the book he was teaching from on his desk and demanded to know who threw the chalk. Silence reigned over the class. Three times he asked us then told us we were all getting detention immediately. A few minutes later Nobby walked back in and feigned surprise at the silence in the class.

"It's all right Whitehead, you were out of the room so you can go home now," said the teacher. "Until the culprit owns up, the class will stay behind."

Nobby turned and left the room and as he passed the window gave us a cheery wave, a big grin on his face. The next day he was duly thrown into the PRICKLY BUSHES and vengeance was wreaked.

One scheme that we did enjoy in 1952 was the Pipewood School Camp. This was an experience as we would be away from home for four weeks and the cost was only 25/- or £1:25p in today's money.

It came at the right time too, as for some reason or other Jim had hit me a couple of times and put a lump on my temple and knocked my thumb back, painfully spraining it as I tried to protect myself. As usual I can't remember why I was hit, but I do remember being struck so hard as to send me flying over the coalscuttle and collapsing in a heap in the corner. I was ready for some time away from him. Looking back, I think mum thought so too, although I wouldn't put it passed Jim to think the same way and ship me off. I went at the end of September and I remember it was the first time I had missed the Goose Fair back home

I heard there was swimming pool there and looked forward to using it. Upon arrival the first thing we were told was that the pool was now off limits, as it was getting chilly now that the summer was at its end and autumn was approaching. The camp consisted of four dormitories, a row of classrooms and a dining hall. The dormitories had names, Chetwynd, Hartsmere, Brackenhurst and Ravenshaw. Each end was either north or south. I was in Chetwynd South and each dorm would compete for the best kept, using a point system on daily inspection

I can't remember any of my mates being with me at this camp, yet we all went. We must have gone on separate occasions due to a full attendance at camp for August. The only two I remember were Gerald Stevenson, my old neighbour and a classmate Gordon Drage.

The camp was situated just outside Rugley, in Staffordshire and if you missed the bus it was a three-mile walk into town. I went by bus once but had to walk another time. I never bothered again. We all enjoyed the outdoor life playing in the woods or going on nature walks with the teachers, but I can't remember doing any other lessons. We probably didn't, in fact I can't think of any outstanding memory of the place other than being made embarrassed at morning inspection time. After we had washed and had our breakfast in the nearby hall, we were to return to the dormitory to hear the results of the inspection .We stood by our beds and I found that my bed sheet and blankets were pulled back to the bottom of the bed revealing a large wet area on the mattress. The teacher asked me why I had not reported my bedwetting incident. I told him I hadn't, but he picked up my damp pyjamas and shook his head telling me not to be embarrassed. How could I not be embarrassed when about forty kids are watching you and giggling? I started to cry and the teacher dismissed the class and put his arm around my shoulder and told me not to worry. He issued me with a blow-up mattress and I remade my bed with fresh sheets, cursing whoever had poured water into my bed while I was at breakfast. I couldn't care less about the points we lost on inspection.

That night I had a bad night's sleep. I used to sleepwalk a lot at home and that night I did in the dormitory. In the pitch-blackness I stumbled into someone's bunk bed post and must have woken myself up. I felt along the bed and shook the lad to ask him where my bed was. I must have frightened him witless as I felt him sit up with a squeal and he threw a wild punch that caught me on my sore temple. He also threw some choice expletives telling me p*** off.

I backed away to the opposite wall and crouched down. About ten minutes later I saw the toilet door open and a light come on across the room. Rushing across I met a lad from my class at Cotto' named Gordon Drage. I told him my problem and he led me back to my bed next to his. I lay back in my warm bed and curled up knowing I was now safe.

I awoke that morning feeling stiff and aching. Rolling over I felt the hard metal lattice springs through my rubber mattress. Jumping out of bed I saw that air in the mattress had been let out. I blew it up again and got back into bed only to be roused again about ten minutes later by the alarm clock. At breakfast I heard giggling behind my back, but when I turned I could not see who they were. I was told on my last day that the older lads from the north end of the dormitory had poured water into my bed so that our dormitory would lose points at inspection time. The rubber mattress was let down by the older lads in my dormitory as a lesson to me for bedwetting. I was now ready for going home to mum, as was missing her.

That evening we watched the film '1,000,000 YEARS B.C' on the camps film projector, starring Victor Mature (famous for playing Samson, in SAMSON AND DELILAH) He was the 'Rambo' of our times. I think I nodded off a couple of times during the film.

Just before lights out, one particular teacher used to let us listen to his wireless. He would plug it in and rig some kind of ariel to it and tune in to Luxemburg. This was everyone's favourite station and we would listen to Guy Mitchell singing The Roving Kind or Frankie Laine singing one of his many hit songs. The 1950s were the best years for these singers and Frankie Laine would sing many theme songs for film and TV.

The pain in my thumb had finally eased and as we were waiting by our bunks for the bus, Gerald Stevenson offered out his hand .I reached out to shake it but he grabbed my thumb and bent it backwards. I screamed and fell to the floor crying in pain. I must have shocked Gerald, as he was full of apologies. I told him I already had had a sprained thumb, now he had done it again. I was glad when I got home.

Although I can never remember the reasons for the backhanders and threats from Jim, something must have happened previous to the occasion one lunchtime. I walked in the house feeling really miserable at having to face him over the dinner table, I saw him sitting there and just blurted out, "Oh no...not you", and I sat down in a chair and waited for the slap. Mum wasn't happy at my attitude and later that evening told me to say sorry to Jim as I had hurt his feelings...Bloody hell.... the man had got feelings? That evening I begrudgingly said that I was sorry and went to my room out of the way till teatime.

The next morning mum gave me a note to give to my teacher. At break time I was summoned to the staff room to meet Mr Happer a geography teacher and careers officer. He was a friendly teacher respected by everyone and I was puzzled at why I had to see 'Harry', as we called him (out of ear shot though.) Offering me a chair, we sat in the corner away from the other teachers. I was still puzzled when he pulled out the note from mum. He then started to tell me about other dads who had not come back from the war and how life had to go on. His gentle attitude got to me and I couldn't hold back the tears. I know he asked about Jim but I cannot recall anything else about our conversation. At home time he gave me a note for mum. I don't know what it said and mum never told me.

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