Dear Diary – Page 37 (Late 1950’s – King’s School)

The trip back to England from Jersey was a little more interesting as the sea was quite rough. The ship’s crew had roped off the access to the bow as waves were breaking over it, and the ship was rolling very badly.

I spent most of the time up on deck just watching the ship’s antics as she coped with every challenge that the sea threw at her, but eventually it was meal time and we all went down to the restaurant.

Dad’s war time experiences crossing the Atlantic came in really useful and he suggested that, in view of the rather sickening motion of the ship, we do not have any greasy food but rather we select a salad. We sat there eating our salads as our fellow passengers were eating their fish and chips and, one by one, they would each look very odd before dashing for the door and up onto the deck. When I finished my salad, I too went up on deck, to watch the waves again, and was amazed at the amount of people that were being sick!

When we disembarked at Southampton, we had to go through Customs in order to declare any purchases. Dad gave Valerie some of his LP’s as I think he knew that he was well over the allowable tax free value limit. A Customs officer challenged her with the usual “Do you have anything to declare” and Valerie said “Only these LP’s.” They were not interested and let her go through.

Dad had a rather different experience! When asked if he had anything to declare, he gave an indignant “No”. This prompted an “OK …. open your cases”. He became quite angry at them and made some derogatory remarks about the Government which, of course, did not help his situation and he was charged full taxes on everything he had bought!


The Kings Grammar School for Boys (my school) and Deacons Grammar School for Boys (Patrick’s* school) always had the perception of being in competition with each other. I never understood it, but the reality was that the students from each school did not socialize with each other. Pat and I kept in touch for a few years with train spotting holding us together but as we progressed through the school years, our respective lives took different paths.

The new school was a culture shock in that there were Prefects (senior students) who had the responsibility of routine disciplining. Punishment by a Prefect would be a slipper across your rear! The teachers would punish by detention (going to school Saturday morning) or, in extreme cases, by caning.

The school was around 600 years old; had a long affiliation with Peterborough Cathedral, and was therefore expected to be revered by all students. The original school buildings were constructed around a quadrangle (affectionately known as the “quad”), and there were some prefabricated classrooms, presumably to accommodate increased needs, which overlooked a sports field.

In the original school building there was a Tuck Shop which sold cream buns and sweets (candies) at break time. These had to be eaten in the “quad” where the school also placed crates of small bottles of milk (provided free of charge by the Government in order to ensure that all children had their daily milk in post war Britain).

The King’s School streamed their pupils according to a perceived ability level assessed for the initial year (possibly from the 11+ Examination results), and based on test results for the rest of the time. The streams were simply A, B and C of which I was put in the B stream group. Much to my pleasure, I stayed in the B stream! The A stream kids not only had to learn Latin (as did I), but they also had to learn ancient Greek! From my perspective, one dead language was more than enough!

*See Post “Dear Diary – Page 23” – July 16, 2015

9 thoughts on “Dear Diary – Page 37 (Late 1950’s – King’s School)

  1. My experience when returning to the States from wherever is that you always say you have something to declare. I bought this gum; or I bought these postcards–nice aren’t they? Saying “no” is an invitation to a cavity search!

    PS what is with the British school system and its fixation on Greek and Latin?


    • Latin I can understand to a degree in that is a strong component of the medical profession but, more importantly, it is the origin of English and a number of other European languages. Latin was taught through translations of Ceasar’s Gallic Wars so, if one places a value on learning about history, then Latin was a convenient addition to such learning.

      Ancient Greek is a bit of a mystery to me however, I did question it a long time ago and one suggestion was that it was a discipline subject (as was Latin in some respects). Given that, as adults, we would often be expected to do things that may not be of our choosing, learning Latin and Ancient Greek could be viewed as real life training! Does that help?


  2. Your dad was obviously an interesting guy. My dad also saw war service on the Atlantic. Ah yes … tuck shops. Memories. Wagon Wheels the size of wagon wheels. No cream buns though! My school was run by an order of teaching monks. Some were a bit vicious. Others were an inspiration.
    Never did Greek. I now live there. Well modern Greece anyway. Did do Latin for a few years. It was useful. We had a saying …
    Latin is a dead language
    As dead as dead can be
    At first it killed the Romans
    And now it’s killing me.

    Hey … all the best. Really enjoy your posts. Kris.

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