1957 Simon Maddison
Halcyon Days?

In 1957 I passed the 11+, I lived near Sissinghurst so I went to Cranbrook School as a day boy since it was the local Grammar School. My father worked in a bank but a year later Day joined as a day boy and it was the cause of much comment as he was the son of the one of local dustmen. His father “Stibby” Day regularly emptied the school bins into the dustcart. Class snobbery was a distinctive feature of the school at that time as was corporal punishment, both helped make me a lifelong socialist.

We were always known by our surnames, I was Maddison, there was a Wood IV and a V, latin numerals of course as we were listed in the Grey Book.

Corporal punishment was mostly administered by older boys who were Prefects, I was never beaten by a Master. Depending on whether they were a House prefect or a School prefect they could use a cane or a gym-shoe. The Head boy used a cane and could administer “6 of the best”, seemingly at will, in his study and often as a punishment for “being cheeky”. The hierarchy of prefects was shown by the wearing of different colour ties (or ridiculous cravats in the summer), waistcoats and double breasted jackets. Having your jacket undone or your hands in your pockets was a punishable offence if you were not a prefect. I had a long and reasonable conversation with Mr Russell-Scott the Headmaster to whom I was sent because rather than write “lines” in detention I wrote a piece against beatings. I’m sure I was sent to him to be beaten.

Prefects of course had fags, that is junior boys from the first year who ran errands for the prefects, cleaned their sports kit, tended the fire in their studies. I imagine in the boarding houses there was a lot more that fags had to do.

Masters (the word teacher was never used) wore their academic gowns when teaching and their desk at the front of the class room was raised on a little wooden dais. At break time they disappeared to the staffroom in wooden huts behind Big School. All except Mr (Beefy) Searle the geography master who ran the secondhand uniform shop above the tuck shop in a roadside cottage almost opposite Crowden House. The other adult who was never in the staffroom was Reg (Tarzan) Downing who was appointed in charge of the new Rootes gymnasium to introduce real PE and basketball. He had retired from the army as a Regimental Sergeant Major, as a NCO he was never invited to join the officers in the staffroom, indeed on the front quad when the Combined Cadet Force paraded he was outranked by the Head-boy who was an underofficer.

Joining the CCF was compulsory for all unless your parents were conscientious objectors, none were to my knowledge. On the parade ground we were led by Major Lampard, Captain Fox-Linton and for the RAF Flt Lt (Percy - get it) Vere. We all wore peaked caps, Tarzan only wore a beret. After passing basic training the skivers like me joined the RAF section so we could sit in classrooms and learn about the theory of flight rather than crawl through obstacle courses in the cold. There were day long field exercises when we map read ourselves round Cranbook with six blanks per person for our rifles. I went for a week to RAF Chivenor near Barnstaple where we all went in Sea Rescue helicopters and got to fly dual control Chipmunks. My brother got a full gliding licence during his time in the school RAF.

Mr (Tweed) Hatton the chemistry master was a heavy smoker. He would be puffing away at his desk as we entered the classroom/laboratory for a lesson, when the last boy was seated he would cut the lit end off the half smoked cigarette with his pen knife and put it in his box of matches. You could tell how long it was before the end of the lesson (when corridor bells sounded) as he would take the stub out a couple of minutes before the bell, then take out a match which he struck exactly as the bell rang. Chemistry lessons were often “double periods” to allow time for experiments, Tweed would disappear into the little room at the back of the lab for a smoke midway through the 90 minutes. We had bottles of sulphuric acid and other dangerous chemicals lined up in front of each desk, there was no eye protection during experiments and the smell of bad eggs regularly pervaded the whole teaching block.

The school week was 6 days with half day sport on Wednesday and Saturday. If you did not play in a team it was compulsory to attend and cheer for the First Team on Big Field at any home match and prefects would walk up and down the touchline ensuring that you did. Sport was also squeezed in immediately after lunch in the winter on three other afternoons before it got dark, we then showered and returned for two lessons leaving school at 5.30pm. The sixth afternoon was CCF.

Reverend (Josh) Westrup taught divinity and also gave the “Facts of Life” talk to new boys. Most of us were completely ignorant of the Facts and just sniggered in embarrassment. He was a tall kind man who also took morning assembly, where Roman Catholics stayed outside in the top lobby before coming in just for school secular announcements. His two daughters were thought rather scandalous as they were deemed “arty”.

In the early 1960s a new Headmaster, Kendal-Carpenter and new younger masters like Thorton for Geography and Baines for Art brought some fresh air and new ideas. I and my contemporaries in Horsley were being influenced by life outside school, we went to see the Rolling Stones in January 1964 at Maidstone Granada (a 20 minute set on a bill headed by the Ronettes) and in April on Hastings Pier. As we did our A levels none of us wanted to be prefects, beat anyone or have fags, our 6th form study was the room in Barham House now the Head’s office, here we planned trips to Brands Hatch and raids on private girls schools around Goudhurst. Now that was fun, halcyon even. With three very average grade A Levels I got a place to read Social Science at York (one of the new Russell Universities) and graduated in 1968 with a 2.1 Hons in Sociology.

Simon Maddison
6. 11. 2019
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