Fond memories of glory days at Midhurst Secondary Modern in the 1950s

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As the old saying goes, your school days are supposed to be the best days of your life. 
They were certainly memorable for Colin Greetham, who attended Midhurst Secondary Modern between 1951 and 1955. 
He found himself in Midhurst again recently as he drove home to Petersfield from Gatwick Airport. 
Parked opposite Midhurst Rother College as he waited for his wife to return from a shopping trip, his mind drifted back to his schooldays of the early 1950s. 
Mr Greetham said he would be happy to hear from old school friends who may want to share memories of those glory days. 
Anyone who went to Midhurst Secondary Modern between 1951 and 1955 can write to him at 14 Holt Down, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU31 4PQ.
He wrote the following account of his time at Midhurst.
“It was a great shock for me to attend this big new school with over 300 pupils after going to Harting School, where you knew all 60 children there.

The Midhurst school covered a very large area, from Camelsdale and Northchapel in the north, to Cocking and Grafham in the south, Petworth in the east and across to Harting and Rogate in the west.

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It was the first time for many of the children catching the coach to school. It was always the same few who conveniently missed the bus in those first few months.

One of my earliest memories was when the Royal Sussex county show came to Cowdray Park and our class was chosen to give a country dancing display in the main arena, followed by a sword dance with wooden sticks. I led the dancers into the arena with my partner, Wendy Baigent, from Easebourne.

I was in Mr Rogers’ class and every Friday morning three of us were excused assembly and had to go and pick vegetables from the school gardens to make up the orders the teachers had put in.

It seemed like a perk at first but then the novelty began to wear off when the frosty mornings of winter came.

I recall dinner-times and that we seemed to have chunky squares of beetroot at every meal and watery semolina with a blob of jam in it.

Colin Greetham

Does anyone remember going potato-picking at Elsted? About 35 or so went on a bus to the farm. I don’t think we ever got paid but it was great being away from the school.

I remember lots of pupils being reprimanded for jumping down the two flights of stairs from the cloakrooms and toilets to the main part of the school. The school windows seemed very large and I remember we were told off many times for looking out of them and not paying attention.

I recall dinner-times and that we seemed to have chunky squares of beetroot at every meal and watery semolina with a blob of jam in it. We had table monitors that had to clear the table of plates etc.

During the summer term I remember the teachers getting the boys to bowl at them during cricket. They put sixpence on the stumps and, if any of the boys managed to hit the stumps, they got the sixpence.

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At the end of term, the boys used to play the masters at football and there were a few scores to settle, judging by the force behind the boys’ tackles.

The painful memory of trying to play the recorder and those silly little triangles we had to hit with a small stick.

At the end of the day there was a mad scramble to get the seats at the back of the bus on the way home.

I still remember the names of the new friends I made more than 60 years ago and wonder how they are and what they are doing now.

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Here are a few of their names: Bill Steer, Roy Humphries, Brian Standing, Peter Wadey, Ann Sadler, Norman Andrews, Frank Dodd, Peter and Will Larby, Tony Fordom, Stan Cobbold, Colin Drummer, Ted Muller, Brian ‘Sticky’ Glue, Ken Mullard, Brian Lloyd, Ernie Randal, Roy Chandler, Janet and Ann Poat, Brian Mason, Ivan East, Ann Speed, Mary Trussler, Ann Ayling, Bernard Hill, the Sharp boys, Derek Christmas, Ann Webber, Susan Gillam, Dennis Coles, Bobby Dadswell, Willy Poste, David Boswell, Andrew Bathup, Ted Carter and Peter Haslop.

Some of the staff were: Jack Smith (sport), Mr Burns, Mr Harris, Mr Benson, Miss Kent, Mr Rogers, Mr Hall, Mr Stirling, Miss Rush, Miss Martin, Miss Beaumont (who seemed to be very popular with the boys and masters alike) and Mr Buckle (headmaster).

I kept in touch with Mr Bill Rogers for many years at Midhurst cricket and rugby clubs. He called me ‘Greetham’ and I always replied ‘Mr Rogers’. I am not sure why – I expect just out of respect for him.

Sadly, some of my friends from those days have passed away: Frank Simpson, who represented our school and Sussex in the All England Athletics Championships in Newcastle at 100-yard and 200-yard sprint; John Lemon, from Harting School; Colin Stemp; and also a close friend of mine – Peter Hopkinson – from Camelsdale.

All the children were divided into four houses – Arundel, Goodwood, Cowdray and Parham, which they represented in many activities, the main one being the annual sports day, where parents were invited to attend. Another first for the boys was the annual school cross-country run around the outskirts of Midhurst. About 20 per cent took it very seriously; for the rest it was a slow jog or even a walk in the fresh air.

Some of the players from the school’s first football team went for trials to West Tarring School, near Worthing, and went on to play for West Sussex schools.

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For certain lessons, the boys and girls got split up – the girls doing needlework and cooking and the boys doing metal and woodwork classes. If you achieved a high standard in sport or academic studies or school activities, you could be awarded your school colours, in the form of a badge.

The school prefects’ duties included patrolling the corridors to make sure the pupils walked around in an orderly manner. This often resulted in a lot of pushing and shoving from your friends.

I stayed at school an extra year, not for academic reasons, but for all the sport you could play. You could do that in those days.

I am still playing lots of sport now, at the age of 76. I play indoor bowls in the winter and golf and cricket in the summer. I play cricket for Hampshire over-70s, which keeps me on my toes.

I really enjoyed my schooldays, and reliving the memories and remembering my old friends has been very enjoyable.

I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. If I have, I apologise.

The school amalgamated with Midhurst Grammar in 1966 and then, in 2009, it became Midhurst Rother College, for students aged 11-19.

If anyone would like to relive some old memories with me, I now live in Petersfield and would be happy to hear from you.

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