Clive Keen – 1959 – 1966
Old Boys’ Stories are rather a delight as the years pass when memories of what we did over the last five decades become less vivid than our escapades of six decades ago. Such tales might even be appreciated by others who were there at the time, so here’s some of mine of CVTS in the early 1960s.
It’s 7:50 am, so it must be time to get up in a rush to catch Route 51 or 229 and get to school on time. Must avoid having to sign in late at the Principal’s Office, a fate worse than death. (7:50 am has been imprinted on my brain ever since. I’ve been retired for a dozen years, but whenever I wake up, I look at my watch and find it’s 7:50 to the minute. Don’t let anyone tell you that schooldays don’t affect you forever.)
Having got to school, Form IN in my case – Auger, Basham, Bates, Beer, Benn, Berwick, Cobb, Collier, Coppard, etc – I can still chant it all – I have to figure out all those timetables. As a result, I’m always in some degree or other of confusion, probably due to the fact that the school has windows. Sensible schools have long since bricked them up, so that people like me don’t spend their time looking outside, leading them to get heavily whacked by Cowell’s blackboard rubber. He has just asked a question on something he was writing out, and my answer, “How should I know?” didn’t appeal to him, producing a spirited response neither of us expected. Someone, not me, had an anger issue, which I suspect could have led to him being sacked if I’d said anything to a Tall Person. But he was conciliatory for weeks. Ah, happy days.
I rather liked most of the masters, actually. Wee Willy Wedlock, who beguiled us with charm and Milligan’s verse. Yogi, the Maths teacher, who didn’t need disciplinary measures because we liked him. Some poor RI teachers who needed those measures in spades and didn’t deserve the misery we gave them. Various female French teachers who tried to teach us French accents but made us speechless instead. “She doesn’t wear a bra!” someone whispered, leaving us all cross-eyed. And fortunately, Reg Mayo was always there, a Rock of Gibraltar, giving us an inkling of what we were supposed to act like if we ever managed to grow up. I got slippered, in a thoroughly civilised way, by Reg Mayo whenever I was out of line, and always felt that I should salute and say “Thank you Sir!” at each conclusion.
I can’t pretend that I ever took schoolwork all that seriously – that was for nerds – but against all my expectations, I really liked both Maths and English. Economics was my third A-level choice, and it was a shame that Mr Brooks didn’t much approve of me, because his dictated study notes were actually very good and interesting, and got me an A at A-level. He might have been too good a teacher. Economics seemed too easy; too much like common sense, so I went for Philosophy at university and took a while to get the hang of it.
Reg Mayo, I’m told, complained to the authorities because I didn’t get an A at English A-level, but I was entirely content with my B. A reasonable excuse was a certain Doug Berwick, who didn’t wake up for the A-level English exam and had to be rescued by me, who knew where he lived, and another brave examinee, who had a car and could drive us there. We retrieved the sleepy Berwick, rescuing his future in High Finance, and got back late and sweaty to the exam, where a grade A was no longer on the cards. I could blame Doug, but actually, the problem was the awful question about Wuthering Heights. I blew it. It’s a fair cop, guv, and I fully accept the B. Doug, you’re guiltless.
Leaving CVTS, on a quiet day with no ceremony, was a strange anticlimax. It had been home for seven pivotal years, and we’d grown into it, and it into us. Perhaps it takes six decades to make it clear just how much those years mattered. For some strange reason, I’m still trying to show that it wasn’t all wasted on a peon like me. That maybe Reg Mayo is still around somewhere, reading this essay and gently explaining where I didn’t get things quite right. An A-minus from him right now would be heavenly.
Prince George, British Columbia