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Short Trousers Haircuts The Annex
Dr Who Radio Luxembourg Pocket Money
Mars Bars Hello World! The Gymnasium Fire

Short Trousers

One of my first memories of the school was the Open House at the school before I started as a fresh 1st year in 1968 and waiting behind after the presentations in the large Sports Hall so that my parents could speak to the warden, then Mr Metcalfe. As a result of this discussion I believe I was the first 1st year student to attend the school to be allowed to wear long trousers. We had already gone to Bonds, the official supplier of the school uniform, in Norwich to try to get me fitted out. When we asked an assistant to try some jackets and coats we were immediately shown the sixth form Barethea style jackets as it was assumed from my height to be the most appropriate. My father then had to explain that I was only starting the 1st year so they had to go looking further. Finding a pair of shorts, however, was not possible hence the conference with the warden.



In the early years haircuts had to keep to the required standard for the boys at least. Anything touching the collar or over the ear was too much and had to be cut. There was a barber who came to the college two or three evenings a week and set up shop in one of the block huts near what is now Lincoln Hall. In Durham House the duty of policing haircuts fell to Mr Taylor. He would quietly walk around while we were busy in the dining room doing the evening 'prep' work and carefully note the name of those in need of haircuts and a couple of days later the list would be posted on the notice board. Then at the appointed time each boy would be excused to visit the barber.

The facilities were basic and the choice of style non-existent. You just waited in line until it was your turn and then accepted the cut that was given. It only cost a few pennies for the haircut and to be honest that was all it was worth. Many attempts were made to gain favourable consideration and not just the regulation style. If the barber was in a good mood and you paid him a few extra pennies in advance the result may be a bit more stylish. Unfortunately if the line was long or he was in a bad mood you just got the standard treatment anyway and no amount of extra payment would get favoured treatment.

Once mixed halls were introduced the haircut policy relaxed completely. It was left to each individual to get a haircut during school holidays. This can clearly be seem in any school photos from the 72-73 school year onwards, just check the Sport page on these site.


The Annex

In some of the boy's houses there were too many boys and therefore not enough beds. This was mainly due to the influx of new thirds each year. This meant that a handful of boys had to find accommodation elsewhere. This responsibility fell on the second form and a small group of us were sent off to the annex. This was a nissan hut next to the sick bay that was still maintained as a dormitory. We would still eat all meals in the house but when it came to be time to go to bed we would have to go to the annex. The second form in Durham House we would be rotated between a regular dorm in the house and the annex each term. I spent two terms there.

The annex was run like a regular dormitory. It had a matron in charge and bathrooms in the hallway but the main room itself was simply a two line of beds down each side of the nissan hut and lino floors polished smooth by the years of use. Probably just like it was when these were the only dormitories in the school.

The main thing I remember about the annex was the mayhem that occurred on the matron's evening off. Supervision was left to Mr "Wobbly" Wood but his room was in the next hut and that was some distance away. Once the coast was clear it would be time for blanket races. This involved taking a blanket from one of the beds and with one person sat on the blanket others would pull him as fast as possible down the fore mentioned polished floor. Some great speeds and spectacular crashes could be achieved by this sport.

The other thing I remember was the matron's pet whippet. This would follow the matron around but the problems started when it tried to run. The first problem would occur immediately that it set off just attempting to get traction on the polished floor. Even when it did manage to get up to running speed there was then the opposite problem of stopping. It is amazing how little friction there is when the floor is so smooth. The poor animal would often run out of track before it lost enough speed and would regularly crash into the doors or furniture.


Dr Who

Although each house had one television the opportunities for viewing were limited. During the week there was a short while available between the end of school and the evening meal and a bit longer at weekends. This was all assuming you could get to see the television anyway. As a junior you rarely got one of the limited seats by the television set and seniors dictated the choice of channel anyway.

The most popular programme in the early years was Dr Who. This used to be on shortly after 6 o'clock on Saturday evenings. Normally the evening meal would be served between ten to six and quarter past or twenty past six. This would have meant missing the first half of the programme. So to resolve this problem the seniors at the heads of each table would force the pace and try to get the meals served and tables cleared within fifteen minutes or less. As a junior you just had to make sure you eat up as quickly a possible or it would be cleared away before you had a chance to finish. Often it would be the staff table that would keep the room waiting. On occasions they even gave in and dismissed everyone else and just stayed at their table alone in the dining room until they had finished.


Radio Luxembourg

Radios were not allowed at Wymondham for many years. Any radio that was discovered would be confiscated immediately. Even with this there were still many radios around. Kept hidden in dormitories and listened to quietly under pillows at night or using earpieces. As with many other things this rule was relaxed when we moved to New Hall but they still had to remain in rooms and the could not be taken outside.

During the prohibition years the best nighttime listening was Radio Luxembourg. This was in the days of Medium Wave frequencies ( now known as AM ) and the best pop music was from Luxembourg. The best evening was when the new top twenty charts were announced, if you could stay awake long enough. Would it be Slade or T-Rex or Gary Glitter at the top? There would be much kudos for anyone who could name the top artists the next morning. Unfortunately Radio Luxembourg has now gone from the airwaves.

During my final year in New Hall I still had a radio in my room but now it was legal and plugged in to a time clock as a radio alarm. I had also started to experiment with electrical circuits and had rigged up some elaborate wiring with a microswitch under my bed. The idea was that if I sat on my bed the radio would come on. This worked great but was not very popular with the cleaners. I had posted some signs on the wall next to my bed to stop them from moving the bed and breaking the connections. However, they complained to Mr Garrard, the House Master, and I had to remove it.


Pocket Money

Although most of the time at Wymondham College there was no great need for money there were a few things for which cash was needed. Usually when returning to school we would bring a couple of pounds that would be "banked" with the House Master. In Durham House this was Mr Worral. This money would be needed for such things as paying for the weekly laundry bills, Saturday evening film shows that cost a few pennies to attend and a few other special fees for events like school plays or socials.

The money could be drawn from the account once a week. We would all line up outside Mr Worral's office and file in one at a time to get our money. On his desk he would have a small stack of coins and we would ask for the amount we wanted, usually only a shilling or maybe one and six and he would record our debits in his account book.

If this money were budgeted correctly there would still be a few pennies left each week to go to the Tuck Shop.


Mars Bars

Anything edible we a luxury commodity. All meals were provided but especially for the lower forms the portions were meager. There were a few ways of making up for this shortage.

First there was the Tuck Shop, really just a room in the nissan hut next to Durham House, in Peel Hall, and customers were served through one of the outside windows. Various luxury items and in particular sweets where sold here. This was run like many other such shops outside school but was only open for a few minutes each day after school was over. Anyone wishing to buy anything had to like up outside the window for their turn to buy with whatever pocket money they had available. The sweets where mostly sold loose from large glass jars and weighed into paper bags. One of my favourites was Kola Cubes.

Another source of supplement was tuck parcels. Supplies sent from home to a few lucky recipients by mail. Those who did get sent such delights, unfortunately not myself, usually attracted a lot of attention while the supplies lasted.

Mars Bar

One of the most sought after items was Mars Bars. These were worth their weight in gold almost. They could be traded or sold for many times their normal price. Anyone who could afford to bring whole box of Mars Bars to school at the beginning of term could run a good business selling them.


Hello World!

It was during my time at Wymondham that I was to encounter computers for the first time. In the corridor to room 27A (I think), beyond the piano practice rooms, was a small side room in which there was a computer terminal. This was a noisy teletype terminal connected by a modem to a large computer somewhere but using this we were able to learn how to write BASIC computer programs. It was here that I wrote my first "Hello World" program. Little did I know back then that I would be here, more than 25 years later, working with computers and writing computer programs every day for a profession.

For those who do not know about "Hello World" programs, it is a simple short program, usually with just one line of code, that prints out some simple greeting when it is executed. Typical it would say just Hello, Hello World or whatever else the new programmer could quickly type. The following is an example of such a program, this one is written in Javascript rather than BASIC, but it shows the principle. Just press the button and see it run.

Now wasn't that fun. Once you get this far then things can only go up. The next lesson learned is how to program loops. Here is another simple program that does just that, but don't forget that I now live in Southern California.


The Gymnasium Fire

Wherever you go at some time you will have to go through a fire drill. Every year each hall would have to go through at least one full evacuation drill. It may be during the day or in the evening but at some point we had to be roused by either bells or later very loud sirens installed in the courtyards of each of the hall of residence. We would then all have to file out of the building and gather in our designated assembly areas until permitted to return.

Then one night for New Hall it all had to happen for real. It was the middle of the night this time so this was not just a drill. It was not until we got outside that it became clear what was happening. The gymnasium, in the centre of the Sports Hall, just over the road from New Hall was well ablaze and flames were breaking through the roof. We had been evacuated as a precaution but really we were in no danger. The girls were taken to one of the other halls to wait for the all clear to return but us boys were just left standing outside in our pyjamas and dressing gowns. Only when the fire was knocked down we were able to go back inside.

The investigation that followed revealed the cause. Someone had got into the building and apparently used piles of clothing and other materials in several places and set the fire deliberately. Only the one in the gymnasium had taken hold but it had done the damage. In the days that followed there was a full police investigation and every student and member of staff was questioned and fingerprinted so they could be eliminated from the inquiries. I don't believe the culprit was every caught though.

The whole Sports Hall was out of bounds for a while but a couple of days after the fire a small group of seniors from New Hall were allowed to briefly tour the damaged area before it was cleared. The gymnasium was a total loss. All that remained was burned timbers and even the roof was completely gone. From the gymnasium the fire had spread to the storage area through to the main sports hall. I doing so the intensity of the fire had caused the aluminium shutters that divided the two areas to melt. All that remained of then were heaps of metal on the floor. Most other areas had been spared and the only other difference was that the swimming pool was mostly empty. It had been used by the Fire Brigade as a source of water to battle the fire.

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Wymondham College Remembered