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The Highbury Estate in the 50s Part 11

Author: davidjoyce Published: 2nd March 2017 17:07



We weren't allowed to cycle to school during the first year at the Grammar and so a trip back and forth on the bus was the norm. Remember when Portsmouth had TROLLEY buses, what fool on the council got rid of them!
HEAVENS LIGHT OUR GUIDE the city coat of arms said (and still does I believe), not much guidance there was there - heaven HELP our guide more like! I just cannot understand eliminating the trolley bus system as the city, being an island, was perfect for it, just as it had been for trams beforehand and my grandmother couldn't understand why they had to get rid of THEM either. The trolley bus routes could take one down to Southsea via Copnor Road, and back via either Fratton Road and North End or, alternatively, by way of the Guildhall and Alexandra Park, and of course vice-versa was the norm as well. In 2017 such a system would be ideal for modern, clean, pollution-free transport, but then again idiot local government individuals could not see past the end of their nose - why we vote for people like that I cannot fathom ! It's no better in Doncaster by the way - where they've removed dual carriageways and replaced one general-use lane with empty bus-only routes (into town would you believe but not out) and a cycle-way which is never used as all the cyclists all pack the single car lane. What a shambles and extra pollution forcing all that traffic into one lane has caused!
Anyway, back to the glorious past - journeys on the trolley buses would have been the perfect 'chat-up' vessels for the grammar school girls, except that hardly any of those girls seemed to come from Cosham, in fact it was difficult to work out where they DID come from! It took almost all the first year to gain a chatting rapport with any of the girls next to us, those in year 1 always seemed to fancy lads from years 2-5 and there was absolutely NO chance of getting to know any girls from years 2 onwards. The only one I knew was Sandra Sealey (I was a pal of her brother, Alan), and she, quite rightly, wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with me. There was some consolation in getting to know one or two Court Lane School girls through my job at the Hallett's shop in Lonsdale Avenue, but girls from the Highbury Estate had little or nothing to do with anyone in our group of mates - nor us with them if the truth be known. I can only remember Susan Pink and Sandra Burkinshaw having anything to do with us lot. The other low point about year 1 at the Grammar was that we had to wear short trousers, the long variety not being acceptable until one entered year 2. At least the buses TO school started at Cosham bus terminal so one could board them fairly easily, but it was a different story after school and it was often a cold first winter at Copnor Road bus stops queuing for the bus home and then finding out it was full and having to wait for the next one. We often came home via North End where there was at least an option of Southdown buses to complement the Portsmouth City ones.

My mother never came to terms with my being at a Grammar School, a fact not helped by her visit to parents evening at the end of year 1.
I had already made a mark in the school at both cricket and football and, as the Head held sporting achievement in high esteem, he knew who I was. When mum and dad, together with Mr and Mrs Stafford went to parent's evening, the head greeted them. 'Ah ... Stafford' He remarked when introduced to Rodney's parents 'Hmmmm .... don't know him .. but THEN ...' He added for reassurance 'I only know those boys who always seem to be in trouble !'
When mum and dad introduced themselves 'Ha ... I know YOUR lad !' He observed instantly ... and mother immediately assumed I'd been a trouble maker .... and despite his reassurances that it was down to my sporting prowess, she never went near the place again !
In reality, she was totally uncomfortable with the fact that I'd gone to a Grammar school and was never at ease with going there herself. Once she was given the perfect reason not to re-visit the school, she took it!
'I can't even take my knitting to a place like THAT' She observed to me when I did enquire if she was going to attend a subsequent parents evening 'At least I can take it to your elder brother's school.' TRUE ... and I have a photograph to prove it!
Mother never had one positive observation about my being at a Grammar School, and was not, therefore any help at all when it came to parenting assistance. She dealt with day to day issues at home (including, unfortunately for me, school), and any time an issue there arose, all I ever got was 'You should never have gone to that Grammar School.'
There was not huge encouragement from Dad either. His family role was rather reserved (a legacy of being away from home so much on Naval service, I suppose), and he usually only stepped in when 'heavy' problems occurred (the frozen field was a good example), or when discipline was required. To have dad involved was seen by us three boys as a serious change in any given situation.
At 14 (in year 3), we were sent home to ask our parents about the facts of life. Perhaps I didn't put it quite right, and said to mother we'd been told to ask what sex was. She looked horrified and simply replied
'Sex .... David .... is a man's pleasure, and a woman's burden .... ask your father!'
So I did, and when I approached him on the subject and told him mum had insisted I ask him, he said
'What did your mother say?'
When I repeated what she had said, he just looked blank and replied
'Hmmmm ..... she's probably right son .... but I'm not sure about the mans pleasure bit - not in her case anyway'
I was left even more confused than ever .... so I found out for myself ... in a practical way ... with a lady customer of the Hallett's who took a fancy to me!
I delivered much more than groceries THERE .... AND did a lot more 'finding out for myself' during those Grammar School days.


On Wednesday, October 22nd, 1958, England were due to play Russia in an international match at Wembley. As was the norm in those years, when shops had half-day closing on Wednesdays, the game was to kick off at 3pm, and was also being televised live. My classmate, Arthur and I concocted a plan to enable us to watch the game.

First lesson after morning break (at 10.30) was a double period of Chemistry, during which we always carried out experiments. I can't remember what chemicals we were using, but we had been forewarned, in a previous lesson, that the experiment we were to conduct that day would involve a fainting risk, if any inhalation took place and that students should, therefore, work in pairs (modern health & safety rules did not exist in the 1950s).
The plan was that Arthur and I would work together and, at some point during the experiment, I would pretend to faint, As witness to what had happened, he would then have to accompany me along to casualty, where I would be examined, then given the rest of the day off and we could go to Arthur's house and see the game.
What a great plan, we thought, so making sure we told no-one else about the idea (as there was always some sneak who'd give us away), we started the experiment. I gave it a few moments and put the plan into practice.
Unfortunately, I did such a good job of collapsing onto the floor that I banged my head on a stool on the way down .... and knocked myself out!
An Ambulance was duly called, and Arthur and I, still only semi-conscious, were dispatched to St Marys Hospital, Casualty Department. After ensuring I did not have concussion, a number of tests were carried out for inhalation poisoning, one of which involved a needle going into my arm to remove some blood, an action that almost caused me to faint for real. Eventually, we were released from hospital ....... at 4.20 in the afternoon, TEN MINUTES after school normally finished (there were NO waiting time targets in the 1950s)!
We never saw ANY of the football, and to make matters even worse, England had won 5-0.
Another good plan gone amiss!
To cap it all, when I told my mum why I was late home, she was so cross I got to sent to my room for the evening and ended up also missing the match highlights when they were shown later!
Arthur had seen them and told me next day it was a great game .... and my favourite player of those days, Johnny Haynes had scored a hat-trick .... not much consolation that!

A year after I'd left school, when Tony and I both worked at Woking, we amazingly bumped into one of our old Grammar School teachers, Mr Whiting on the train home one evening and, amidst a happy journey in the buffet car (with more than one gin & tonic), I told him about the chemistry escapade. He almost fell off his stool with laughter 'David Joyce, you're priceless!' he said 'Just wait 'til I recount THAT story in the staff-room tomorrow, they'll love it!'

I often wonder if he did tell them!


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At 14:24 on 3rd March 2017, djr commented:
Hi David, What a great read. Dave Rees.
Melvyn Griffiths
At 17:43 on 4th March 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Some good writing there David. I think my Mum was very much like your Mum as I also have the distinction that neither my Mum nor my Dad never went to the school I attended ( CL & MC ) in 5 years. Probably not a bad thing really. lol
richard t
At 16:16 on 8th March 2017, richard t commented:
Great yet again David. Keep up the good work. You should publish all these articles as a book.


Richard T
dave h
At 19:39 on 8th March 2017, dave h commented:
HI Dave
I remember that game well because unlike you i did get to watch it.As i went home for dinners my plan was to feign sickness (a little less complicated than yours) Not really sure mum believed me but it worked.Although watching the game in the afternoon when i should be at school seemed a bit surreal.

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