Memories of Rainham - MEMORIES OF RAINHAM SCHOOL FOR BOYS
In reply to Michael Croucher’s article on Rainham Secondary School for Boys in December 2000 AF, like many old Rainham boys, my brother and I attended the old Orchard Street School, now St Margaret’s Junior School. I started there in September 1945, leaving in December 1949 as a prefect. I was somewhat surprised that Mr Croucher didn’t mention the backbone senior staff, namely Harry Thomas (Science) and Bert Newell (Art). Both were on the staff before the war along with others like Mr Sargeant. The names of others, after more than half a century, I sadly can't recall. Mr Smith I can recall, however, was headmaster when my brother Frank and I began there; although short in stature he ruled with a rod of iron. During our second and third year Mr Smith retired, to be replaced by Mr Bacon, who I recollect swept down the hall for his ﬁrst assembly complete in black gown to the amusement and sniggers of all us boys sat as normal cross-legged on the ﬂoor.
Other staff I can call to mind with respect are Bill Taylor, my old form master, whose old Morris car I have helped to start with a push with the help of other lads on cold nights after school. Teachers with cars were a rarity in the 40s and 50s. Harry Thomas did own an ageing pre-war Austin Six I remember. Mr Sargeant I remember well with great respect; he taught woodwork and TD. Sadly he died during my ﬁnal year. I recollect all of us prefects led by (Bomber) Ronald Ware, headboy, attending his funeral at Rainham Church. Mr Smith taught us metalwork assisted by Mr Clark who came to the school on interview in his Royal Naval Chief's uniform. Mr Johns taught us history, I have him to thank for my interest in the subject which has lasted a lifetime. Like Mr Croucher I too have been on the receiving end of Mr Brown’s size 12, assisted by an overweight Mr Morris, who also took us for music before the arrival of Alf Springate.
Maths was taught by Billy Bones as we called him. Mr Bowden was his real name — he had an amusing habit of rhyming a boy's name to what might happen if he didn’t stop talking. A great friend of mine was Alan Barrett Danes. Mr Bowden would recite ‘I’ll give you such pains Danes’. Mr Patterson taught us how to grow spuds in a straight line in the school garden, when all we were really interested in was looking at the girls in the school next door, namely Rainham Girls. Although both schools occupied what was in reality one building divided into two schools, the consequence if caught eyeing one of the girls while in the building was a fate too dire to mention; however, in the school garden it was permissible, resulting in rows of spuds far from straight and a l great interest in gardening or rural science as it later became.
The school in Orchard Street in 2003, now St Margaret's Infants and Junior School
Careers education was almost non-existent in those initial post-war years, apart from the odd school outing or a visit from some heavily ringed naval ofﬁcer from the Dockyard. I can call to mind going only on one visit to a building site which today is Damson Way, being told as we clambered in and out of unﬁnished houses (no hard hats in those days) that many building trades would be taught to us if we became apprentices. The foreman emphasised that the building site language would come naturally. This was said in response to a barrage of newly acquired grammar from young apprentices who only the previous term had been our fellow pupils at Orchard Street. The late Harry Thomas, and especially the late Herbert Newell gave me the push and the incentive I needed to take the ﬁrst initial steps towards teacher training and qualifying as an art teacher in 1957.
Over the intervening years Bert became a good friend I was privileged to be invited to Mr Bacon’s retirement function at the newly built Howard School. After 42 years in the job I enjoyed I too am now retired and have a lot to look back on thanks to Rainham Boys’ at Orchard Street.
(Howard School below)
John K. Austin