Dear Diary – Page 29 (Late 1950’s – My New Bike)

In 1958 I was due for my 11+ examination. This was an examination that was intended to determine whether you went to a Secondary School, or a Grammar School. 

A Secondary School covered a similar program to a Grammar School except that it took an additional year (6 years total) to complete. The Secondary School program also tended to include practical subjects like metal work, auto mechanics and kitchen skills. A Grammar School covered the same basic program in 5 years however, it included French and Latin as compulsory subjects and, in some instances, even ancient Greek. The reality of that time was that if you came from a Grammar School and were applying for work, you would (depending on the skills required) generally have an advantage over competition from a Secondary School.

University applications would, all other things being equal, also be treated with the same preferential treatment. Dad recognized the significance of this point in my life as he had gone through a Grammar School program himself.

As noted earlier, I was also promised a new bicycle of my choice if I passed. In retrospect, I cannot honestly say that I worked any harder because of the lure of the new bike. In fact, being only 11, I doubt if there was even a syllabus from which the examination questions were based. I rather suspect that it was merely an aptitude test with some emphasis on the Junior School programs at that time however, I passed!

Mum took me into town to get my bike which was a red Hercules Courier with straight handlebars, a hub dynamo in the front wheel and 3-speed hub gears in the rear wheel. 1958 Hercules CourierAs it was determined that this bike would have to last me a long time, it was bought slightly on the large size for me but (creativity at its best) the shop put wooden blocks on the pedals so that I could reach them. Riding home with Mum must have been really uneventful (thank goodness) because when we turned into Warwick Road, we both realized that I could not reach the ground so how was I going to stop? In a stroke of sheer genius, Mum decided that I should pedal as slow as I could without falling off while she got to our house as fast as she could. The plan was that she would be able to get onto the road and catch me as I went by. It worked!

9 thoughts on “Dear Diary – Page 29 (Late 1950’s – My New Bike)

  1. Awww, i actually never knew there waa a difference between secondary and grammar schools. Back in Nigeria, we use both names simultaneously. It was great to see you passed the test and got the promised bike too.

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  2. Grammar for me was ‘divisions’ for some subjects, so although I was in Div 1 for Maths, Arts and Crafts were a 3, French was a 4 (spoke it with a Dorset accent) and German a non starter. English, Domestic Science (needlework and cookery which I hated), Music and the sciences were all as a class.

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  3. Bliley … well done on the 11-plus. Brilliant looking bike as well. I didn’t pass mine. 4 streams in my junior school. Only A and B streams took it. I was in the C stream. Got put in the A stream the term before the exam. I may as well have been on Mars!
    All the very best. Kris.

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