The Moseley School of Art Association
Kenneth C. Massey
Attended Moseley School of Art 1945-48 and now lives in Houston, Texas
At the time I attended the school, my home address was 28 Fernley Rd. Sparkhill, Birmingham 11.
I was the elder of two sons. My brother, Peter attended Formans Rd. School, Tyseley.
My family was delighted at my acceptance into the school, so was my teacher at Formans Rd. School, Miss Cutts, who encouraged me to sit the entrance exam and was very supportive of my efforts.
We were the first intake after the end of World War 2, and they were still times of great austerity. We had plain navy blue blazers and caps with the school badges sewn on, but we did have the blue and gold striped ties. It was mandatory to wear the school cap and carried detention if you were caught without going to and from school. Of course, as soon as we were a safe distance away off came the caps.
There was a certain rivalry in those days between students of Moseley (Moslems) and students of Vittoria St. (Vits). Vittoria St. Art School had been bombed and destroyed during the war and we all attended Moseley Rd. certainly for general subjects.
I walked to school each day summer and winter alike and by today’s standards it was quite a walk. Sparkhill to Moseley is about 2 miles, through some of the dreariest streets in the city. I had two companions on my walk, the Hadley brothers, Wilf who was a year ahead of me and Maurice who was a year behind me. They had a much longer journey to school than I did, because when we met up on the Stratford Rd. at Baker St. they had already travelled by bus from Hall Green. Whilst it would be an exaggeration to say that I enjoyed it, I certainly did not see as being particularly onerous.
I have very fond memories of collecting my comic books from a shop on the way to Moseley, where I had a regular order. It was the Wizard and the Rover on Tuesdays and the Hotspur and the Adventure on Thursdays, 2d. each, but I had a part time job at the local Chemist that paid 6 shillings weekly so money was no problem.
The Head Master during my years at MSA was Mr. C. Harry Adams - a rather quiet unassuming man. He was off-set by the personality–plus of Mr. Jenkins ("Pa" Jenkins, a big blustering man who was said to have played Rugby for Wales in his youth) . I don’t ever remember him giving out a detention or any other form of punishment, as you simply did not cross "Pa" Jenkins. He took us for Maths and History. My class mates used to get me to challenge him on current affairs and politics so he would not make the lessons too tough or perhaps forget to give homework. I was pretty well up on current affairs in those days and used to press him hard on some of his extremist views. I remember on one occasion when he was ranting on about some protesting students who he had encountered at Cairo University. He went on that "as soon as a BRITISH Armoured Car with machine guns showed up they scuttled away like the cowards they were". I said that it seemed like a pretty prudent response to me !!! You could hear the sharp intake of breath from the rest of the class at this impudence. But I found him to be always fair and never took advantage of my youthful over-exuberance.
Other members of the general subjects staff were, Miss Scott (a bit snooty), Mrs Melhuish (Welsh, I think and nice) and Mr . Medwin (he was a very kindly man, but wasn’t firm enough even in those days. He would have no chance of teaching in the classrooms of today).
For Cabinet Making lessons we had to go away from Moseley Rd. initially to the Art College in Margaret St. but very soon afterwards to Elkington St , Aston (not at all conducive to art or creativity), but we were the first intake into the school after the Second World War and in times of severe austerity. The teacher that instructed us was a Mr. Kington, who was a mature man who had children of his own and he was kindness and understanding personified. He had an assistant, a Mr. Hartshorn, who was a young man, probably not long out of college himself. I dreaded the occasions when he was let loose without the restraining hand of Mr. Kington - sarcasm was his weapon of choice. I think he left before we had completed the course. We also had occasional involvement with another older man, Mr. Brandon, who was as kindly as Mr. Kington, however he was a stickler for tool sharpening and made us stick to that rather onerous task until he was completely satisfied.
The Cabinet Makers of our year were a generally friendly bunch and we all got on pretty well together. The names that stick in my mind were as follows -
Other than my friends, the Cabinet Makers, Brian Noden stands out because he was an excellent footballer and made the school team when he was still a first year (I believe he signed for Walsall). I was reminded some years ago of another of my contemporaries, when I received a very nice birthday card that depicted an old Bentley racing car resplendent in British Racing Green. It was the work of the Birmingham Artist, Keith Tovey, who I remember as quite a big blond headed fellow.
I always enjoyed sports days, which were held on Wednesday afternoons. At first the sports ground was on the Pineapple estate in Kings Norton. Later it was sold off for a housing estate and we moved to a ground in Raddle Barn Rd., Selly Oak. Besides both being a considerable distance from the school, there was a group of us who used to walk there but I always travelled most of the way home on the famous No.11 Bus. "Pa" Jenkins was a keen sportsman and made sure that everybody attended sports day. There were always the non-sportsmen who would try to bunk off, but as I said earlier, try to cross "Pa" Jenkins and you would live to regret it! The top football coach was Mr Fisher, who was the senior Metalwork Teacher.
There were occasions when had school trips to the Theatre, mainly the Old Rep in Station St. I also remember a trip to a saw mill to see how wood was prepared from the cut trees, and a trip to Aston Hall to study the furniture there. We also attended what must have been the first exhibition after World War 2 of the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh - that was at the Birmingham Art Gallery.
I was offered the opportunity to attend the Teacher training course during the last year at Moseley, but it was a preparation for a further course at the Art College for two or more years and I did not relish the prospect. Although I enjoyed being at Moseley where I met some very interesting and talented people, with much more artistic ability than myself, I have never regretted my decision to leave at the end of the third year and go out into the working world.
After leaving school I went on to a Draughtsman apprenticeship at the Birmingham Guild, who were very fine artistic metalworkers. They designed and made all sorts of ornamental metalwork, including the Thwaite Gates at Warwickshire County cricket ground. I was very happy working there and met some very fine people, including people who had also attended Moseley many years before me. I learned a great deal about art and metalwork and my lettering improved by leaps and bounds. I stayed there until I went to do my National Service in the Royal Signals, and believe or not the trade that I was assigned to was Draughtsman.
After National Service which was spent in Germany, I returned to the Birmingham Guild, but found that I could not settle there. Like so many others of my generation, that period of being away from home and in an entirely different environment made us restless. In my case I decided that construction engineering was what I wanted to, so I went to Technical College part time and got an ONC in that subject. It was certainly more financially rewarding than working at the Birmingham Guild and I was happy doing it. One of the many good fortunes that I have enjoyed over the years is being happy at work. This change in career eventually led to my moving to work London, but not before getting married and having the first of my two children. We lived in Harlow New Town, Essex and I commuted to London each day by train, after having a journey time to work of about ½ hour when in Birmingham I found the commute to Liverpool St station pretty tough, I can’t say that I enjoyed that. Working in London led to my joining various American companies. This was the swinging 60’s and America, with its offices in London dominated the process plant construction industry. They were virtually the only places in the world we this work was being carried out and getting a well paid job was fairly easy. However, as the years went by other countries wanted to be independent of America and its rising costs. They wanted to design and build their own process plants, so the work slowly but surely dried up and so did the well paid jobs. The company that I was working for at the time decided to close its UK offices and concentrate all its work in the Head Office in Houston, Texas. Along with various other selected people I was offered the opportunity to move to Houston and work there. I was very reluctant to make the move at first, but decided that prospects in UK were not good at that time, so my wife, Margaret and I took the plunge and accepted the offer. By this time my Son and Daughter were grown and had their own careers, so they did not come with us. However, after my Son had married he and his wife decided that they too would give Houston a try, and they live here now. So I have my Son with his two children living here and my Daughter with her two children still living in the Midlands at Wythall.
We love to travel back “Home” and do so about once each year. The move to America has been a great success in many ways, but my wife and I still agree that we both miss England and our family and many friends especially in the Midlands.
Ken 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 Llewellyn Collins 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
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The Moseley School of Art Association 2003