The Moseley School of Art Association
Roy David Dalton - Electrical Engineer and Designer
Attended Moseley School of Art 1959-62
My father was a self employed motor engineer, trading as Dalton Bros., Ravenhurst Street, Camp Hill, Birmingham. My mother spent her life looking after our family as a housewife. I have one brother who, at 18 years old started work at Electromagnets Ltd., Birmingham as a draughtsman.
I failed my 11 plus, and at the same time my family moved twice in as many years. From the age of 10- 12 years, I went from the Institute Road School, Kings Heath, to Colmore Farm, Rubery, where I took the 11 plus. I then moved to Crendon Road School at Warstock, where I received my failure notice. This meant that I would attend Wheelers Lane Senior School, where the opportunity to take the exam to attend Moseley School of Art was offered to me. I remember I had made a model of a swan in flight out of plasticine, and my mother felt that my general talent for making things and drawing etc. justified me taking the art school examination.My family were delighted when my pass was announced, and I started at Moseley in September 1959. My hopes and ambitions were not high at first, but I became very interested in commercial art soon after starting, and thoroughly enjoyed creating advertising posters etc.By the time I had started the art school, we had move again to Kings Heath, and my father always dropped me off at school as it was en route to his business premises. At other times I caught the 'bus home - 'bus nos. 48 or 50, but some days I would walk home with a girl called Katherine Jones, nicknamed "bubbles" by teacher Tom "Percy" Palmer.When I started at the school, the Head during the first year was Mr Adams, and when he retired, Mr. Dickie Davies took over.
The girls head was Miss "Ma" Squires, who I had seen many times after I left the school as she lived near me. She used to teach English Literature, and encourage pupils to give talks on weekend activities and holidays etc. I was always up for that. Mr. Jones used to teach Maths in the other half of the main hall, and he and Miss Squires always went to the New Inn pub, at lunch time, on the corner of Edward Road, and come back for the afternoon smelling of whisky.
Talking of smell there was always a smell in the air around the school, which is still there, and I experienced a flashback when smelling this familiar aroma at the 2003 reunion. It is a combination of the baths opposite, and the transfer company, Butcher's next door to the school.
Names of head boys and girls ? I cannot remember, as they really weren't that much influence, and the girls never used to mix with the boys at break times. The girls were always supervised by Miss Squires in the girls cloakroom, which I always felt was a bit of a short straw for them.
I shall never forget my first day at school as long as I live. I attended a pre-start meeting with my father to establish all of the things my parents needed to buy for me - uniform, brushes, art pads, and the good old dictionary. I think every childs fear was that you started a new school without something you needed. In my case, I was missing the lower part of my trousers! My father was a very Victorian sort of guy and believed boys should wear short trousers until they were 16.
To my relief there was one other boy in the new starters who had short trousers. Boy, was he my pal ! After school that day I begged my Mom to get me some long trousers, but Dad would have none of it. The other boy was obviously more successful with his powers of persuasion, as on Day Two, I was the only boy in the school in short trousers . . . Believe it or not, my Dad kept me in those short trousers for 3 months. Did I take some stick !
During that pre school evening with my father, I remember sitting in the hall being introduced to Miss Squires. We had a tour of the school and were given details of uniform, and of the other items needed. I think the uniform came from Dunn & Co. in the city. We had to have a satchel, and the caps were mid blue and gold, the jacket navy with gold heraldry, and the tie was navy with gold stripes. I remember the variety of blue sable brushes needed, together with compasses, set squares, protractors and rulers, a dictionary, (Collins pocket type), various pencils, and an Osmiroid wide italic nibbed fountain pen. All these came from a stationery shop in Paradise Street (a double barrelled name . . . ?)
My memory of lessons, were reasonably normal. I remember having to go to another school somewhere in town to do Painting and Decorating. I thought that this was a waste of time - hardly any work was done due to lack of supervision.
I remember the old Annexe which was used before the new class rooms were built on the waste land opposite the main school. We used to use the waste land as a playground. The Annexe housed the sports hall, and one class room on the first floor, where Stan used to teach. I remember on one occasion that fighting was quite fashionable in the playground, and "Percy" Palmer sorting it by inviting all participants to take part in boxing contests in the sports hall during our lunch time, with boxing gloves and a referee. Anybody who wanted to watch was charged a penny to get in.
It was a regular thing to see the owners of the local tuck shops coming round the class rooms to do identity checks . . . I think that fags were probably the primary source of the problem.
Most of the art materials were provided by the school, but we were encouraged to provide our own paint pots, and we could fill them with poster paint from the school stock. Wet modelling clay was provided, as was wood, leather cutting, metal for metalwork (usually copper), and drawing paper. We never had a live model, but it did happen in the school.
My best-remembered piece of work was a turned two tone standard lamp base. This was the base for a modern design standard lamp that I designed. It had three different-length stainless steel 12mm rods coming from the wooden base at different degrees which I bought from an ironmongers in Edward Road, and three lamp shades that I bought from Woolworth's. I won an award for that, and shortly afterwards they became very fashionable. It stayed in my family for several years, and my Dad gave it away to a friend of his who had always admired it. I was extremely p*****d off.
Timetables seemed to normally focus on General Education subjects in the mornings, and Art classes in the afternoon. During the first year 50% of the curriculum was devoted to general subjects, reducing during the 2nd year to 40% and in the third year it dropped to 25%. The rest of the curriculum was devoted to arts and crafts tuition.
The Sports played were Cricket in the summer and Rugby in the winter. We used to play our Cricket at Billesley Common, and Rugby at Dawberry Playing Fields, both in Kings Heath. I was good at Cricket, but hated Rugby. I was actually recommended for school boy trials at Edgbaston, but due to ilness I was prevented from attending.
I remember one school trip, as "Julius Caesar" was part of our English Lit programme, we went to see "Ben Hur" at the West End Cinema in Hurst Street.
I'm not sure whether I was just caught up in a bad group, but I do remember that discipline was not as good as it should have been. There were some very hard and bad lads in my class, and teachers had great difficulty in controlling some of the lads and even some of the girls. One teacher had to leave. He was an Australian - only a little guy, he used to dish out beatings, but some lads wouldn’t accept the violence and retaliated. I can't remember his name, but we nicknamed him Hiram Holliday. He took us in the needle work room. It was quite a regular occurrence for the Head, Mr. Adams to cane people in Assembly. "Percy" Palmer also had his fair share at the end of playtime line ups. I remember he used to line the nine classes up before going back into school. Years 1, 2, and 3 all at ease . . . "1A, Attention", "Forward March" and so on. When he got to 2b, I shouted "or not to be - that is the question". I, like everyone else thought it was hilarious. “Bend down boy” . . . two strokes of the cane across the arse soon took the smile off my face.
Smoking was a big trend, in and out of class, until the perpetrators were caught. I never smoked after trying a "Strand" on the way back from Rugby . . . and turned green.
The main fashions while I was at the school were white macs, winklepicker shoes and drainpipe trousers, as was the Bouffant hair style for the girls.
The music of the time ? Bobby Vee, Elvis, Cliff, the Beatles, Del Shannon, Ricky Nelson, and Frank Sinatra . . . the list goes on and on.
I really only had one girlfriend at the school - Katherine Jones, who lived in Tyseley . . . mentioned above. I also had a tremendous crush on ***** ******. She was gorgeous - cracking legs, and a voluptuous figure. She was, of course, unapproachable due to the dominant figures among the lads. One afternoon, during Mr. Ashby's art class ( in the room on the left of the stairs as you ascend from the front entrance ) I spent the whole lesson building up the courage to let her know in some way that I fancied her. As we left the class room, I actually made a rather direct gesture . . . She looked at me and said "Oh, Roy . . . ". She always had a smile for me from then on, which was resented by the other lads.
The area surrounding the school hasn't changed much to this day . . . I have mentioned the waste ground which since leaving had the extra classrooms built on it. The gulley at the bottom of Lime Grove linking into Clifton Road has gone, as have the house and Annexe that used to be living accommodation areas. The cast iron public convenience in Clifton Road used to be a useful stop. It's nice to see that the Public Baths and library opposite the school are still in use.
During my time at the school, the old Clifton Cinema, on the corner of Clifton Road and next to butchers, showed only Indian films. The tuck shop by the bus stop on the Moseley Road was a favourite, as was the chippy opposite, next to the pub. Along the Moseley Road towards the town on the same side as the school ( I think it was next to the coffin factory ) there was a record shop, a very tatty place. I remember buying “Save the Last Dance for Me “ by the Drifters from there.
I have memories of many pupils, and when I look at the school photos, I remember the names as if it were just yesterday . . . My best friends were Bob Gardner, who I still see today, and John Salisbury. The three of us saw each other regularly for several years after we left. During courting periods we saw less of each other, and I totally lost contact with John. Bob and I have tried to find him through internet and by others means over the years, but have never been successful. John was a red head, and fanatical about the Beatles. Out of school he would wear Beatle clothes, and adopted the distinctive Beatle hair style. Nice lad, shame we lost him.
I have memories of all of the teachers - some were easier than others to get on with. I actually got on very well with Miss Squires, and continued to do so after I left, as I mentioned earlier. How could anyone fail to get on with "Moggy" Mason, or "Percy" Palmer ? All of the teachers were very pleasant, some more strict than others, but all very professional in their attitude to teaching.
The Rockin' Berries left the school prior to my starting at the school, so the only person I knew while at the school who achieved fame was Roy Wood (The Wizzard, The Move, E.L.O. etc. ). A very quiet, shy chap, he was the last person you would think would become a "rock star". I remember our Leaving Party in 1962 - on the night, Roy brought his red guitar to school, and played a song on stage. He is still in touch with a very close friend of mine, who was also a bass guitarist with "The Idol Race" with Roy in the '60's, and of course Jeff Lynn who went on to mega stardom, but alas never went to MSA. I gave my friend the details of the MSAA ex pupils association, and asked him to pass it on to Roy. He's done this, so there is every chance that he may be in touch.
It was a commonly claimed achievement by the school that up until the time that I left, no pupil had ever left the school without a work placement being found. I think I may have been the first. My first choice was commercial design, but I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn't good enough. I then chose the alternative of signwriting, but was told that this was a dying trade. My third choice was "something to do with electricity". I was offered an interview at Crabtree Electrical Ltd. assembling electrical plug tops. I might as well have been assigned to assembling batteries.
I have always had a flair for Art, although I don’t currently take an active part part in any of the Arts, probably because of the lack of available time. I could, though, quite easily pick up a pencil at any time and start sketching.
I don’t think that we had the option of doing things differently - once you went to MSA, you had to fit in with the agenda. I took an electrician apprenticeship with a national company based, ironically, just across the road from our school, although there was no connection with the school.
It is very hard to imagine a better or worse scenario . . . There were down sides to going to MSA - my general education suffered greatly, to the point that when I went to college to do my City and Guilds courses, I had to go to night school to keep up with the maths and general science aspects of the course.
My experience of attending the Moseley School of Art has made me a better person, with a strong sense of free expression. I have never been one to hold back on any project, and started my own business at 25 years old which I still successfully run today. The elements of design and creativity have continued to play a large role in my business products, and I still hold a patent, now 13 years old. My trade is decorative lighting, with a national sales operation.
Maybe that standard lamp I made in "Moggy" Mason's class was the most important creation I ever made during my time at the Moseley School of Art.
You can visit Roy's website at www.lightsaver.co.uk
Roy may be contacted via this website
The Moseley School of Art Association is an association formed to:
- promote and maintain, through exhibitions, reunions and other means personal contact between all former pupils and staff members of the Moseley Secondary School of Art, Moseley Road, Birmingham 12 England
- promote the restoration and continued maintenance of the Moseley School of Art building, and
- to promote the activities of members who are active in any of the fields of art and the crafts, by means of publicity, sponsorship and procurement of artist materials at discount rates
© Graeme Collins 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
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