Getting physical

Kenton School was initially built as two Secondary Modern Schools in a mirror image, one for boys, the other girls. It actually opened in 1961 as a larger co-educational Comprehensive and the buildings were joined together shortly afterwards.By the time I went in 1969, there was a brand new Lower School for the 1st & 2nd formers but we were segregated and visited the old school for Physical education.

PE was probably the least interesting subject I did at school, as I wasn’t any good at it. As Mr. Blyth, Head of Boys PE wrote on my 1LN end of year report:-

Grade: D Ian has no aptitude for sport, but he tries hard.

Our very first lesson, we didn’t actually do anything physical, we were just talked to. Then at the end of it, we were told that after every lesson we would be taking a communual shower so as we had all brought our towels, we may as well do it today as a practice so we all traipsed into the big shower (which had about twenty shower heads). Oh, and by the way boys, the valve is faulty so I’m afraid we can only have a cold shower this time!

We did all sorts of sport although I recall rugby, cross-country runs (across Cowgate moor in the snow, we had to break the ice on the horse trough to have a drink), athletics, vaulting trampoline and cricket. The one thing that struck me though when I walked into the Gym was Pirates, the annual near-Christmas game where all the kit was put out and we had to take ourselves around the Gym, not touching the floor, whilst being chased by whoever was “it”. When we were tagged (or fouled) then we went up on to the balcony to cheer the others on.

One year, climbing to the top of the ropes then crawling along the RSJ Girders was declared out of bounds. (With good reason!)

Three other memories surfaced from there, not entirely pleasant. The first one was what a freak show some of us boys were naked in the changing rooms, with odd deformities, unexpected dints, hair in strange places and webbed toes. The second one was being slippered by one of the teachers whilst I was tying my lace, presenting my bum in the direction of the staff room. The teacher immediately apologised, saying he just couldn’t resist it. The third memory was pumping and following through during a fairly energetic game of 5 a side. I went and hid in the toilets until everyone had left…

The boys gym looked pretty much the same, other than florry lights replacing the original tungsten ones and the cork floor being replaced with a more regular semi-polished timber one.

The Girls Gym was always lighter and this is still the case. The only time I ever came in here was for dancing lessons before our Christmas parties, which we all pretended to hate but liked really. Here we learned how to do the March of the Mods, the Dashing White Sergeant and various Dosi Dohs.

Notice that the safety elf has been visiting, cutting off the ropes in the process.

One aspect that I did enjoy was swimming lessons. We had our own six lane pool that was heavily used, including for canoe lessons and the like. (Not that I did any of that.) It was looked after by a little gadgie who tended to the boilers and was very broad Geordie. I don’t recall his name now, but he was known as 84, because whenever you asked him how warm the pool was he always said “atey-Forwer” (& we asked him a lot just to hear him say it).

Our first swimming lesson was fairly unremarkable, except that we got the hygiene talk. No verrucas, no open sores, no elastoplasts, no infectious skin conditions otherwise no swimming. He also didn’t want anyone to leave anything in the pool, especially that substance with chemical formula “Ess aitch one Tee”. On a subsequent occasion I can also remember him commenting that he didn’t want us to do submarine impressions whilst doing the backstroke. When we looked at him blankly, he said “you know, up periscope”. (We were adolescent boys, of course…)

The pool wasn’t open for the inspection, although I did take a snapshot out of the window. The lower block with the roof domes is the changing room block, boys to the left, girls to the right. The plant room was at the far end and the caretaker cottages are by the trees.

Talking of caretakers, I bumped into the site manager and asked him about Mr. Earnshaw. He was called Cliff (I had forgotten that) and went on long term sick in ’75, dying a year later. I asked him about the “Chicken Knocker” rumour and was advised that it was indeed true.

As they say in Yorkshire, Nowt so queer as folk…

The old school tie

We went to the Kenton School last lesson yesterday, along with hundreds of others. It was an upbeat occasion, very professionally organised and full of smiles. All over the building there were shrieks of recognition, as ad-hoc mini reunions happened. Even people who didn’t know each other were sharing recollections.

The evening performance was also very good, but it didn’t flow as well as it could due to overlong breaks between some of the numbers whilst the stage management happened. In the interval there was wine and strawberries & the VI Formers were selling off old school ties for £1 each. I still have my own VI form one at home (which has a red Prefect stripe) but David was happy to wear one loosely.

Lots more to come…