Friday, October 14, 2016

Further Rushmoor School Memories

As I've discussed elsewhere in earlier posts on this blog, my time at Rushmoor School was anything but happy. I can't understand my dear parents spent good money on sending me there. I can't really say I remember learning anything of any real use in my later life. Some really odd sporting events I recall, one called a Milling Contest. It's no good me attempting to describe this odd event, which was held annually and in the green corrugated iron gym. This 'sport' was vaguely boxing and you were thrown into the 'ring'and your opponent or opponents punched the living daylights out of you. Me, being a somewhat quiet and reserved individual, wasn't exactly ideal material for this type of thing, as you might imagine. I cannot to this day think what the point of this barbaric 'sport' was (in fact, I can't see what the point of a great many sports are, but I expect I'm in the minority regarding that.) You would end up punched senselessly and covered in black and blue bruises. How on earth you could allow you child to be subjected to this barbaric carry-on I cannot think. I think by today's standards you might class it as some sort of child abuse. I'm not sure how long this 'event' went on after I left Rushmoor, which is well over 50 years ago now. My memories of that gym at Rushmoor was of a really foul smell which greeted you whenever you entered, I think produced by having a cupboard full of ancient gym shoes, which smelt of sweaty feet and that horrible rubbery smell. Also, the gym was also used for carpentry lessons and as part of lessons we used glue which was heated in a pot on a gas ring. The smell of glue size pervaded the air. Later, in my time working in stage management with a wide variety of rep companies across the United Kingdom, that smell of glue size was again familiar as it was used in the workshops in the construction of flats which were used to build sets for the plays I was involved with.

I recall being taken on walks when at Rushmoor. Usually in the afternoon and out into the country. Sometimes walking along Clapham Road and across the golf course. One clever individual managed to pick up lost golf balls and I think he sold them back to the golf club. A few years ago I stayed with someone I was at Rushmoor With and we spent some time talking about our time at school. He mentioned these walks we were taken on, and he made the comment, whether correct or not, I don't know, that we were taken out of the school on these occasions as it was a way of saving on heating, which sounds as if it might be true. As a child you don't think of this sort of thing, but as the school was run as a profit-making business I suppose it makes sense. So, what were our parents doing paying good money out for our education there? Surely a percentage of the fees must have gone towards heating the place.

A couple of reasonably good things I can say came out of my time at Rushmoor. I learned to swim. We went to the Modern School swimming baths in Clarendon Street once a week. Although I wasn't a particularly strong swimmer, I did manage to get my 'pass.' I think it was a couple of lengths of the pool. As my father owned boats, which he sailed on the Ouse at Cardington Mill, we weren't allowed on these boats until we were competent swimmers. Unfortunately, my confidence was completely lost when some little idiot decided to jump on top of me when I was in the pool and pushed my head under water. Not a very nice experience and it took some while before I regained my confidence. The second thing we did was have singing lessons, given by Mr. Eden, the music teacher. I think being able to sing properly is a great skill and helps with such things as voice production, being able to breathe properly when you sing is quite important. We were put forward to be entered for the annual Bedford Music Festival, which was held in the Corn Exchange, although I think at the last minute we withdrew for whatever reason I can't remember, come to think of it. I think I was in the school choir. You didn't have a choice as to whether you were or you weren't. There was an annual carol service at St Martin's church in Clapham Road and I think I was involved. I can't be sure exactly as it was at least fifty years ago. Mr Crutchley, one of the teachers, had a tape-recorder and recorded the service and I have an idea it was put on record and sold. We never had a decent record player so I never got a copy, which is a pity as I'd love to have heard it. As a result of Crutchley's tape recorder, which intrigued me, I became interested in sound recording, which later became quite a useful skill to have when I worked in stage management and often was a sound operator on some of the shows I was involved in. 
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