My Junior School catered for up to 11 year olds, and was 100 yards from home. It was staffed by all male teachers in an all male pupil school. The girls’ school was next door and never the twain shall meet. The teachers monitored the playground, being careful in the winter to avoid the slippery ‘slide’ which ran from the gates right down to the primitive toilets. In the playground, generally, it was a case of letting off steam, playing tag etc, or playing ‘mounty kitty’. This consisted of two teams of about 7 boys each; team A made a back of the man in front until they looked like a very wobbly centipede. Team B would charge down and jump as far forward as they could on the ones who were bending over, until they were all on. Then they would shout “mounty kitty, mounty kitty 1, 2, 3.” If team A survived, it was their turn to become the riders on the other team, which then made their form horse. If team A collapsed, they had to bend down again.

We were at this school until we were 11 years old, when we all had to take the 11+ for entry into the A.J. Dawson Grammar School at Wellfield.  From my class, I was the only one to be given a place and had to tell the rest of the class about the various chemistry, physics laboratories etc, playing fields and tennis courts. My parents did not expect otherwise as my two elder brothers were already attending the Grammar School.  There was a suspicion in the area that some miners did not approve of their families going to ‘a posh School’. They would have had to pay for expensive uniforms and their sports equipment etc. The Grammar School was 2 miles away. I had to be up by 7 o clock in the morning when my eldest sister would give me breakfast and a packed lunch. Those affluent scholars or those who lived at least 3 miles used a G&B bus and probably paid for School dinners.

Hail, rain or shine it was on foot! My elder brothers by now had cycles, to be handed to me at a later date. It was down the main street past the homes of the miners, past the colliery and the pithead with the pulleys working the cage up and down. (I was later taken to the top of the shaft and hazardously looked down into this black hole of thousands of feet. Terrifying!) It was then past the lines of trucks, some full, some waiting to be filled, shunting backwards and forwards before being dispatched to a main line. Eventually it was to a fork in the road where I was joined by Joe, from the next village. We trudged up past the Slack, day after day to be joined a year later by my younger brother, after he had passed the Eleven Plus examination.

In 1937, we had a School photograph taken. I am sitting cross legged in the front row as part of the first form. My elder brothers were further back in the fifth and sixth form rows. It must have been the only photograph in which there were 3 brothers. A year later, my younger brother would have been on it, but my elder brother would have left for university. No more photographs were taken as the war was shortly to be upon us and by which time I would have been in the third form. The Henry Smith’s Grammar School at West Hartlepool was in a vulnerable area for German bombs, so we had to share schools, we A.J. Dawson boys having the morning period and they having the afternoons.

The third form meant sport and although I was the youngest in my form, I was deemed robust enough to play rugby, so it was off to the local co-op for a pair of rugby boots. The lightweight, light coloured ones like today? You must be joking! These were brown, solid and heavy. Can you waggle your toes? ‘Yes, I replied’ of course I could, they were too big but ‘you will grow into them’. I was still wearing two pairs of extra stockings many years later.

Our sports master was semi-portly and wore spectacles as all the proper sports masters were now PTI’s in the Forces. If he knew anything about rugby, it was not imparted to me. I was thrown in at the deep end as the ‘hooker’ for the Dawson House. Shin pads were old exercise books, gum shields – ‘what are they?’

The only occasion that comes to mind was when the third form played the fourth. As the last man standing, when the eldest of the fourth came at me, I thought I had been hit by a train. But I was told later that I had stopped a certain try. What amazed me most, as I sat bemused on the grass, was the arts master shouting ‘come on, English, you’re alright’. I thought, how did he know my name? When I knew more about the game, I did manage to play for HMS Fieldfare many years later.

The problem you have with Grammar School is the HOMEWORK. It is so restrictive on other activities; e.g. the cinema.

The Nimmo ‘hotel’ had many windows, each displaying a bill showing the current film at the cinemas in the area, of which there were five. Each one changed twice a week. So there were ample free passes and it was a major problem to fit them all in. Homework had to be finished by 6pm so we could get to the first house.

Was it to be Gary Cooper in the Plainsman or Warner Oland in Charlie Chan, Hopalong Cassidy or Tarzan – decisions, decisions! They were not quite D W Griffiths, Cecil B de Mile, or Mary Pickford but still, very early Hollywood.

Little did I realise, at seeing King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building, that one day courtesy of Sir Frank Whittle, of jet engine fame, that I would go there myself. It reminds me that my King Kong jigsaw puzzle disappeared in the clear out when my father died, whilst I was away in the Forces.

My friend at School was ‘Ted’, one of the affluent ones who went to School on the bus. However, as my eldest brother had now gone to university, I inherited a marvellous Hercules cycle with Sturmey Archer 3 speed gears to be tended with loving care. Ted’s father was an ‘official’ at the mine, and his mother and grandparents ran a fried fish shop. As an only son he lacked for nothing. As we were about the same fair size, we sat at the back of the class and he is in fact, sitting next to me in the aforementioned photograph. As chance would have it, he was responsible for my future career.

The cycles were well used to visit school friends to play cards etc, and I was in big demand on Sunday afternoons to play snooker on one of the tables upstairs. Ted and I both bred rabbits. They were Flemish Giants which needed regular feeding and this meant there was much searching for dandelion leaves etc for food. He used his garden shed and mine were brought up in the extensive pigeon lofts. They were a useful addition to the meagre wartime meat rations.

The end product of a Grammar School education was the Joint Matriculation School Certificate Examination which we all had to sit. To obtain the results, we went to the School and were given a slip of paper, with the certificate to be sent later. After all my non-academic activities of cards, snooker, cinema and rabbits, I was greatly surprised to have matriculated in a number of very good, credits and passes in 9 subjects.

What next? Advice from the Careers Master?no such person. My eldest brother was away at university, second eldest was away in the RAF and my parents didn’t have a clue. It was mooted that I go to the local colliery or a bus ride to the nearest shipyard – in wartime! So I asked my friend Ted: ‘What are you going to do?’ He said he was sending off for some application forms to be a police cadet. We were both much the same size, so I said ‘alright, get me some as well’. In due course therefore I joined the Police Force as a Cadet.