Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Britain in 1965 : a South London School called 'Eltham Green Comprehensive' and the confidence of youth


The events I am about to unfold took place in the summer of 1965 at a huge secondary school, built to house 2,500 post Second World War, South London, baby boomers, called Eltham Green Comprehensive School.

My reporting is reliable, because the story was told to me by Frank, one of the participants.

A kind of tradition had started to grow up that, the Sixth Form school leavers would do something to disrupt the Head Master's speech in the school hall, the occasion being : 'Farewell to the Sixth Formers' in front of the  thousand pupils in attendance and relayed by the tanoi broadcasting system to the rest of the school, seated in their form rooms.
It had all been fairly mediocre stuff in the past, like planting alarm clocks in cupboards in the hall, timed to go off when the Old Man was into his speech or chaining the exit doors, so no one could get out.

This year would be in a different league and memorable.

The night before this Leavers' Service, 5 of the lads in the sixth form : Jim, Frank, Bill, George and Mick had a drink in the local Yorkshire Grey pub and, after closing time, and dressed in dark clothing, climbed over the school gates and made their way to the hall, where, by chance, they found a door open.

Once inside the darkened hall the tick of the clock startled them. They put their plan into effect. Bill stood on tables and chairs and placed an old fashioned loud speaker, out of sight, on the wooden sounding board, way up above the stage. A single wire was then run from the speaker, down the wall, through the door opening and along the corner of the floor of the corridor behind the hall and into one of the small music rooms. The wire was fed into an old fashioned reel-to reel tape recorder. A spooled tape was placed on the deck and connected to a blank spool. The lads then made their exit from the school.

After lunch the next day, the hall began to fill up. First the younger kids downstairs and then the Sixth Form in the balcony. It was at this point that Frank had been delegated to make his way to the music room to switch on the tape, which George had spent hours searching to record from a pirate radio station on the radio, was timed to play blank for 20 minutes. He noticed that the indicator light was on and so placed the leather bag of one music teachers against it and a tray of glasses on top for good measure. He then made his exit and went to the balcony.

The Old Man was well into his speech with the usual stuff about 'torch bearers' when the first blast of music came out of the hidden speaker :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5ya_Gq8d4Q

The Headmaster sat down angry and perplexed. Teachers ran around like blue-arsed flies, trying to find from where the blast of music was coming and were unsuccessful. The kids were collapsed in laughter.
Two and a half minutes later Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's "Goodbye" finished. It was then that the Old Man made his big mistake. He got to his feet and resumed his speech saying that the perpetrators would be found out.

Unbeknown to him or anyone in hall or school, except the lads on the balcony, the tape played blank for another few minutes and then :

Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm,
Catch us if you can, mmmm-mm-mm,
Time to get a move on, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can ......

Now we gotta run, mmmm-mm-mm,
No more time for fun, mmmm-mm-mm,
When we're gettin' angry, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can .....

Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm,
Catch us if you can, mmmm-mm-mm,
Time to get a move on, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJYgNqOFBLk

With no guarantee of protection from unending interruptions, the Headmaster left the stage. He got the police in, but they could find nothing, since the lads had not forced an entry and caused no damage to school property.

The story of the lads' ruse spread to all South London school kids year and doubtless teachers, that year. Somehow they were doing what youth and the Dave Clark Five did in the 1960s when they shouted :

                           "We will yell with all of our might."
Our Sixth Form tutor seated with the sixth form on the balcony, Mr Callum, had said to Jim : "Nine out of ten 'Wilson'".

He was wrong, it was "10 out of 10".

The Headmaster got the police in, but they could find nothing, since the lads had not forced an entry.

Sadly, George, the mastermind behind the single wire and tape died in a motor accident just a few years after he played his role in this brilliant exploit.


The real story of that day in the summer of '65 :


Thursday, 20 September 2018
Britain is a country where old men, once lads, remember a summer's afternoon in 1965, in a school called Eltham Green and "We will yell with all of our might"

https://britainisnocountryforoldmen.blogspot.com/2018/09/britain-is-country-where-old-men-once.html

20 comments:

  1. Found this site by accident! I remember this as if it were yesterday - where I put my specs today is more of a problem. Am in touch with a few ex -students from this time and we are trying to contact more so we can do big reunion before we get too old/grumpy!
    Madeleine ( nee Lainchbury) Bardell

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    1. Any dates let me know ..Alan Waddell (Wadsy)

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  2. I remember Madeleine Lainchbury, you and I were in the same year. I've lost contact with all, except Frank Hickman. Let me know about any reunion. You might remember me as Joe Cooper.

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  3. I was the only black pupil in the school when it opened in 1956. I survived and is just writing up my experiences in my family history. Would like to hear from anyone who remembered Shirley Baker.

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    1. Hi Shirley I remember you and have lots of memories from 1957 I would love to share. If you read this and contact me through the site I will post an email address

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    2. Hi Paula. I've just found your entry and would love to catch up with you through email. I now live in Greenwich.

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  4. I was also there and I was known as "Aggy"

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  5. I was there when it was mr Davies, headmaster/ dr leering deputy head / mrs Betts headmistress, anyone else remember them ?

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    1. I remember Mr Davis, tall north country gentleman. I also remember the maths master Mr Murphy and the English master Mr Maynard for my class when I joined the school in 1957 - best wishes Paula Gore

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    2. Yes I remember them well. Mrs Betts was kind to me after she originally gave me a place at the school with some trepidation suspect!

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    3. I remembeted Mr Murphy very well.He used to send me out in the corridor when I giggled too much from nervousness but he wouldn't know that would be?

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  6. I was also there at the same time. I left for University in 1965

    Regards,
    Devendra (Aggy) Agrawal

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  7. I remember Shirley Baker. When I joined the school in 1957 there were two black girls, I remember one lived off the Lee High Road and wondered if this is Shirley

    Regards,
    paula Gore

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    Replies
    1. Yes I lived in Dacre Park that ran from Lee High Road at the bottom to Lee Terrace at the top! It would be good to meet. I now live in Greenwich.

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    2. Hi Shirley it would indeed be great to meet. I am at the other end of the Jubilee line so no problem to meet up somewhere in South London, where I have not been for many years apart from visiting the 02! Would love to hear further from you on paulafgore@yahoo.co.uk. Best wishes. Paula

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  8. Does anyone remember Mr Bousefield an excellent physics teacher and Mr Beechcroft Chemistry teacher who used to come to school on a push bike and wear an dirty old mens trench coat

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  9. Ha ha, yes I remember the 'Peter Cook and Dudley Moore plus Catch Us If You Can ... event. Think I had one more year to go. Robert Corke was in the same year (sadly passed away some years ago) George Goble, Paul Jackson and Monica Croasdale to name but a few others.

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  10. I was in the lower 6th at the time and knew George and Monica and Robert. Other names that come to mind are Robert Carr, Peter Prekopp, Chris Ward.
    Jim E.

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  11. Also think that the Animals song "We've got to get out of this place" was also included. Brilliant laugh.
    Jim E

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