THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL IN WARTIME
Basil Kybird lived in Harleston on the Norfolk/Suffolk border from 1936. His father was in the Norfolk Constabulary.
It must have been September, 1940 that I started at Bungay Grammar School. My father intended me to have a good education. Unfortunately I wasn’t bright enough to pass scholarships so he paid for me. What an ungrateful boy I was, I didn’t take school too seriously! The preparations for getting kitted out for this ‘better’ education was unbelievable; school uniform, cap, bag, books, sports gear, the list was endless. I was bought a tennis racket costing 12/6d from Denny’s shop and I believe the clothes came from Stacey’s. That summer I befriended Maxy M. He lived up Broad Street and was going to start at Bungay the same time as myself. He was of small build, a clever, well behaved boy not like me. I believe he finished up as a bank manager or similar. Alan started at Bungay the year after me. Someone arranged a football match on a meadow at Jays Green between we ‘Bungay-ites’ and those less fortunate. I suppose we were regarded as snobs!
We caught a double decker bus at Broad Street or the Market Place, I am not sure which. It was quite a walk at Bungay from the bus stop to the school, and there was a long driveway from the road across the playing fields up to the school building. Pupils entered the school by a door at the right end and just inside on the left were the cloakrooms and on the right was the Head Master’s study. Mr. Hewitt was very handy with the cane. I only got it once and that was for confusing a French word with a Latin word. He taught Latin! He was a rather short, pompous gentleman and stuck his prominent jaw out as he walked, perhaps to keep his mortar board on. He was like a fearsome ogre to us small fry. He was C.O. of Bungay Home Guard during the War so this no doubt made him very important.
To the left of the school building were small plots on which to teach us gardening. I don’t remember too much about the staff except for the voluptuous art mistress and the science teacher, Mr. Powell who were alright. There obviously were others but I do not remember them so I assume I was not over impressed. I do recall an occasion when we were taking part in a cricket match. It was a very hot day and so boring but in fairness I was never particularly sports minded. Not in outdoor sports anyway! On Founders Day (and it was founded in 16th century I think) I was in Throgmorton House (whoever he was) and the whole school had to march up to the church, St. Mary’s, in the main street for a boring memorial service, and march back again afterwards. I believe it is now a mixed school and termed a Science College.
We had a long wait afternoons before the bus arrived to take us home. One wet day Alan and I were at the far end of the long central corridor near the library and we were rolling a silver coloured Dinky car model of Bluebird. Mr. Hewitt came past, chin up, as if we didn’t exist. Small fry I suppose! Near the bus stop in the centre of town was a stationer’s shop which also sold books. I bought several Government publications about the war from there. Some I still have and no doubt worth a great deal more than what I paid at the time. At times the air raid sirens would sound and we had to file in an orderly fashion into the air-raid shelters. They were damp and smelly. We sometimes had lessons in them or sang war time songs like ‘Run rabbit, run, run, run’ or ‘Pack up your troubles’. There were many and we knew then all. They were designed to keep up morale in troubled times.
After I had started at Bungay Grammar I was allowed to go to Harleston cinema on Friday evenings with some of the other boys. The films were all black and white of course, the favourites being Bulldog Drummond, Sherlock Holmes, and perhaps Dracula. On the lighter side were films of Will Hay, Charlie Chaplin. There was a chip shop outside nearby but I can’t remember whether we had our chips before or after the shows. Probably before, because we sat on benches on the very front row and the usherette would spray disinfectant in our direction periodically. Rosemary W’s grandmother, Mrs. Saunders, owned the cinema and it was said that you could have a free seat if it was your birthday (but I never did).