Learning The Hard Way!
A severe response to walking across a grass verge in WGC
By Richard Bailey
“You boy, come here”, came a booming voice from nowhere. I was startled at first and then I saw a man walking towards me, he didn’t look very happy. What do you think you are doing boy, he said very angrily. Nothing I said, feeling slightly scared. I saw you, he said, you walked across the corner of that grass verge and that is not allowed in this town. What is your name he demanded? I know which school you go to as I recognise your uniform, but I want to report you to the Headmaster. I duly gave him my name, thinking he would do nothing and continued on my journey to the “Stores”. Imagine my total disbelief, when next morning at the end of School Assembly, my name was called out and I was told to go and wait outside the Heads office as I had committed a serious offence that needed a suitable punishment. Everyone stared at me wondering what I had done to warrant this humiliation and I was totally unable to think of anything. I duly left the school hall and went and stood outside the Head’s office, much to the amusement of other pupils as they passed me on their way to the first lesson of the day. The Head eventually arrived and ushered me into his room and began to tell me what it was all about. It was that man who shouted at me the day before, he had reported me as he threatened to do. Right said the Head, it’s “six of the best” for you my boy and perhaps you will learn how to behave when you are walking about the town in future. Fortunately the Head was not that strong and his canings were reasonably bearable, but I was fuming about the man who had reported me, who did he think he was, it was only a footstep on the grass after all. I went off to my first lesson and everyone wanted to know all about the situation I had landed myself in, many of them laughing when I recalled the story to them. Thank goodness it wasn’t the Deputy Head giving the punishment, a tough, ex Army man and when he caned you, you really knew it.
So I came to know the “preciousness” of the Garden City the hard way, but possibly an overreaction by my Head Master who did not want to be seen to be seen failing in his duties, but that is how many residents acted in those days, the Town was treated with so much respect and reverence. This would have been around 1956 and my school was the newly opened Howard Secondary Modern School in Oaken Grove. I am not quite sure how I ended up there as I had passed my 11+ and was due to attend the Grammar School in Lemsford Lane. It transpired that another pupil had taken my place and she had not even passed her 11+ exam! I was fobbed off with the excuse that I was not suitable material for the Grammar School as I was not “assertive” enough and would not reflect the desired image of a Grammar School pupil. My Father nearly exploded when he read the letter the school had sent him and unbeknown to me, set about trying to find out just what was going on with the County Education Department. Also unbeknown to me until very recently, was the fact that many people knew about this matter, but still nothing was done to reinstate my lost place. My Father met with several people in an attempt to find out how this situation could happen, but despite his protestations, nothing could change the decision. Makes you wonder, even in those days, that it probably was who you knew, not what you actually were capable of.