Memories of Billericay School Teachers - 1959 - 1964
At least memories of my teachers
In 2014, I tracked down and interviewed Len Rosslyn and Stan Elias. Both must be about 90 years of age. Len lives in Kent and is suffering from dementia and kept recalling his experiences in a Japanese POW camp in WW2. He was very pleased to see me and wanted to apologise for being so strict at school! He certainly knew how to use the cane but he was bit of a softy underneath. My only gripe is that he was inclined to spend too much time outside the classroom during our physics lessons.
Stan Elias lives near me at Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood. A good humoured man still retaining his strong welsh accent. He married the cookery teacher, Mrs Beddingfield. When he was married to his 1st wife he lived opposite me in Chantry Way. I was amazed at how much he remembered and he told me some amusing stories about other members of staff.
‘Chopper’ Jones taught maths and I maintain he suffered from SMS (short man syndrome). A good teacher and his classes achieved impressive ‘O’ level results but he taught through fear and could be rather vindictive if you crossed him. He was a staunch trade unionist and he never awarded any house points no matter how well you did in the tests he set. I found that he was someone you couldn’t warm to unlike some other teachers.
Eric Huggett was our form teacher for the first 2 years in 1959/60/61, which were 1B1 & 2B1. I don’t know if he was an atheist or not but he completely eschewed any teaching of RE, which was on the timetable, until a week or so before the exam. He had a fascination with letters, words and alphabets and together with his chess playing, I thought he might have been involved in cryptography during WW2, but apparently he was incarcerated in a salt mine which caused the twitch he had in one eye. I remember his exact words when a rather dopey lad called Ronald Lee wanted to excuse himself from a lesson in 2B1 so he could practice his bugle when the peripatetic arrived. Mr Huggett said “ if I was a big an oaf as you, I would want to learn more no less”.
Mr Drage was the only music teacher I remember. He was kind and generous man and I think that some of his eccentricity must be attributed to the horrors he suffered in a Japanese POW camp. The story goes that he once got into such a heated altercation with a pupil about dropping the atom bomb on Japan, that he passed out and had to resuscitated by laying him out over 3 desk tops. During the time I was there, he mass produced his own ‘music points’ on a Banda machine which completely undermined and competed with the established house point system. I don’t know why the Head never intervened and stopped it.
Nobby Butler was my form teacher in 5F. An innocuous and friendly man who kept his bike in the science prep room. Yes he did parachute out of a Lancaster which qualified him to belong to ‘The Caterpillar Club’. (look on Google) Then there was Mr Legg. My goodness, couldn’t he shout! During a lesson we had once entitled ‘woodwork theory’, he was teaching us about trees and seasoning timber, when a clown called Roger Huckel put his hand up and asked “Please sir, do they season lolly sticks?” We all smiled with amusement, but Mr Legg went incandescent with rage and just shouted “Get out”.
There were 2 Mr Robinsons. Bill Robinson taught woodwork and had endless patience showing us to how use sharp tools properly. A thorough gentleman and he helped build the school swimming pool. Eric Robinson supposedly taught art and I found his lessons a complete waste of time.
Betty Simpson was our ‘O’ level English teacher. She was Scottish, had red hair and a gold front tooth. A dedicated teacher who gave up her free time after school to give us extra tuition. I had great respect for her. We received a good grounding in grammar, sentence construction, letter and essay writing etc. How many kids get that these days? Mr Thomas who taught us French in 1B1 and drove the Morris Bulldog. For some reason we had to bring small mirrors to French lessons in that year presumably to watch ourselves getting our tongues round some difficult French words. However most of us used them to shine reflections around the room! One day when Lutkin was being lippy, Mr Thomas got out of his chair and smacked him over the head with a text book. Brilliant!
Basil Parfitt taught us French in the 2nd year. He was quite authoritarian and he rode to school on a motorbike and side car. I attended the after school French Club where we could watch grainy B & W films of French high speed trains. During lunch times we were allowed to play boules on the grass in the quadrangle. Sadly, there is not much grass left now as it is mostly built over. At Easter Mr Parfitt left and went to a school in Rayleigh. For the next term we were given a young French woman who just stood in front of the class and really hadn’t got much idea of how or what to teach. It was rather embarrassing for both her and us. We just got on with our homework for other subjects. Good job there were no Ofsted inspectors around in those days.
‘Zillah’ Westwood taught us maths in the 3rd year. She was young, strict and quite dishy. She was married to a curate who later became a prison chaplain in South London.
Lastly, Monica Garton was deputy head, a well travelled and clever lady. She gave me a lift once when she saw me waiting at a bus stop and in our final year of Metalwork, when we could make whatever we liked, I knocked up a brass bangle and sold it to her for 3/6d! One day she had a row with the new Head Mr Lingard and she went home in tears. Next morning her husband arrived at school, in an intoxicated state and brandishing a knife to seek revenge. However, he was intercepted by Chopper Jones and Len Roslyn. You couldn’t make it up!
By prior appointment, I visited the school some time ago, as an ‘old boy’ and was shown around the original quadrangle building by a member of the office staff. When I recalled some of the classrooms I once occupied, she would open the door and introduce me to the teacher and children inside. I even pointed out where I used to sit and the pupil at that desk was asked to lift the lid and see if I had scratched my initials on the underside! A wonderful day with bags of nostalgia.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. I look forward to some of the classmates of that era adding their recollections and memoirs. By the way, this is me climbing on the 02 dome roof at Greenwich – just one of the things you have to do before reaching 70!