The Moseley School of Art Association
William Richard Hall
Attended Moseley School of Art 1956-59
My family's home address was 16 Hillside Road, Erdington, Birmingham 23 (off Slade Road by Railway). Our telephone number was EASt 2177
My father’s Occupation was Pharmaceutical Chemist with his own shop as a dispensing chemist at 20 Gravelly Hill, Erdington (between Tyburn Road and Minstead Road). This was demolished when the island for Spaghetti Junction was built.
My mother won a scholarship to Witney Grammar School and trained for nursing at Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. Went into pharmacy. Did bookkeeping / ordering / invoices etc. for "the shop" and on occasion helped behind the counter if her varicose veins and thrombosis permitted.
My Younger Brother passed for grammar school year I passed for Moseley Art School, but he was sent to Lordswood Technical School "because he wouldn't be able to do French".
Preparing for Moseley Exams
Having twice failed the 11 plus exam, I had been put in for Moseley as a last resort by my parents, while attending Slade Road Senior School.
Throughout my entire school life and beyond, handwriting had been the bane of my life. Being left handed I was forcibly made to change to right hand. When I broke me left arm playing superman off the henhouse roof in my first week at infant school, they really went to town. I was thrashed if my left hand was even put on the desk to hold my slate or later book to stop it slipping. My arm was tied up my back and wrenched upward and I was shouted at and hit repeatedly. The school was almost as bad. For every teacher I rewrote every book at least once, often more.
Efforts on my writing were redoubled knowing I would be taking Moseley entrance exam. Holding a pen correctly was repeatedly addressed squeezing my fingers and thumb onto the pen in the "correct" position. My mother's thumb nail was pressed into the base of my thumb nail so often I had a blood blister under the nail. Special writing books were obtained with rows of letters and words to copy below. Not having come up to standard greaseproof paper had to be placed over the page and the letter traced time after time. I had to copy Long fellows poem "Hiawatha" and then keep writing it over and over again. Posture then had to be corrected so that I sat up straight when writing and I was forbidden to put my left hand onto the paper to steady it. I was caught in the act and the edge of a ruler Tepeatedly applied across my finger nails. I was told not to be a baby snivelling. Being caught again my mother who was a powerful woman pinned me to the table face down and cut my left hand nails short with nail clippers so that they bled. This was repeated every week until after the exam. Slade Road School asked why my finger nails were so short and bleeding. My mother said that I bit my nails and had been told to stop and she would continue to clip them until I stopped biting them. The school agreed with her and I was caned for biting my finger nails. Pity they never examined my right hand. I developed a facial twitch and was told by Dr Roper-Hall I was neurotic and attention seeking.
After my parents died I found, placed in the family photographs a school report from Slade Road School saying I was careless. My mother had endorsed on it she would help the school overcome this and my father left me instructions how to hold a pen properly and how to form letters. "Coaching" for the exam also took place by way of "intelligence tests" which had to be done time and again and then rewritten.
Reaction of family to Passing for Moseley Art School
My parents showed slightest relief that I had passed, scraped in! My grandmother sent me by registered post her Queen Victoria half sovereign. I know this was one ofher very special treasures. My grandfather sent me the remnants ofhis woodcarving tools and was delighted. He was a master woodcarver who experienced terrible poverty in the 1920's and 30's after breaking both his knees falling off his bike. He had to sell most of his tools to survive, so they were very special. These few tools must have been a magnificent gesture from him and all of his hopes passed onward to me with them. His father was Stephen Webb, the Royal sculptor, and his uncle was the architect Sir Aston Webb. There followed chilly disapproval from my parents of favouritism by my grandparents.
A new pair of short grey trousers was purchased amid much protest by myself. We sat on the front row right in front of the desk where C Harry Adams, Headmaster was to address the meeting. Mother wore an enormous pink and white hat. I was the only one present in short trousers, several others present sniggered and commented.
With a change of school I just wanted not to be bullied any more. My mother told other kids at Slade Road I was a pacifist and mustn't fight. Several of the teachers lived very close by and any misdemeanour reached home before me where a thrashing would be waiting. The result was, I became the school punchbag, caned by the teachers and then again at home. I had no ambitions on arrival at Moseley. School up till then was an ongoing treadmill. Heraldry, modelling and metalwork lessons taught at Moseley were a beacon through the gloom. My hopes rose. I was going to enjoy Moseley.
Travelling - to school and back
Living just off Slade Road Erdington was on the 65 bus route and also convenient for Gravelly Hill railway station. Traffic along the Lichfield Road into Birmingham was grim. The No 50 bus from Albert Street or No 49 from th rear of New Street Station then took me to Moseley Road and the school.
The railway line had just been equipped with 6 car diesel multiple units. They were warm, comfy and so popular that it was often standing room only from Gravelly Hill until people got off at Aston or Vauxhall & Duddeston. If I caught the 8.12 I could nip round various platforms at New Street Station train spotting and knew I had to leg it for the 49 bus when the 8.21 pulled into platform 4. Railway accountants soon devastated passenger numbers with ticket restrictions and pricing, making Lichfield Road even worse - often an hour each way by bus. If I got off at the Leopold Street stop it saved 1/2p and I could look in A J Reeves & Co model engineers suppliers window. There was a 3 1/2 gauge Britannia live steam loco (3/4" = 1'.0" scale) built by no less than "LBSC" I found out. His articles and designs were to playa big part in my life many years later. Then I could only dream in awe.
In the second and third years I was at the peripheral craft school centres up to 3 mornings a week. At the School of Furniture Design in New John Street, Aston (also now much to my surprise known as Elkington Street), I could have a later start and went on the 65 bus. It was with disbelief they heard me announce that Buddy Holly was dead as I had just heard the news as I left home.
Travel to the School of Decorating at Adderley Street, off High Street, Deritend was by bus from the Bull Ring. We sometimes had to keep clear as cattle drovers took bullocks from the railway cattle sidings of Bordesley Station down to Deritend to the abattoir behind Digbeth bus station. There was also a pork butcher near Ansells Brewery at Aston Cross and another next to Deritend Police Station. They slaughtered their own pigs and occasionally they made a break for it through the traffic. We used to try and look into the cold stores just below the Bull Ring. The story went that there was a loaded revolver on the table because snakes came in with the bananas.
During the 3rd year I was allowed to use my bicycle on occasion, usually Wednesday. After finishing at New John Street I would cut across to Deritend being the lesser hill to the top of Moseley Road. The Camp Hill Flyover had just been constructed and many a time I raced a bus up and over. No way could it overtake me as it was single track. It was a very long time before I noticed two postcard size signs at its start telling cyclist to go round and not use the flyover. Your mind is on other things than reading at times like that.
Names of Teachers and Head
Recollections of first day at school
Within minutes a really good rebuff by "Ma" Squires - looked as though she had a bad smell up her nose. Mutual instant dislike. We were all told to use first year "bogs". There was no drinking water in the bogs. I met Dave Walton who I knew from swimming lessons at Woodstock Street Baths before passing for Moseley. Also Roy Rowlands, Keith Parrott, Dave Newnham, Malcolm Waddel, John Evans and Max Henshall. All super lads.
School dinner on my first day at school- inedible mutton and sour plums
Items to Purchase before Starting at the School
Usual sports kit. I already had a leather school satchel. Specific water colour box, poster paints and brushes, craft aprons. 6B - 6H Venus pencils, eraser, water pot and mixer pallet, school tie, blazer badge and that remarkable blue and yellow cap.
Lessons and what Happened During Them
Mr. Jonah Jones:
onah's English lessons leave no impressions whatsoever apart from his heart attack. We all sat there quietly talking and the noise level slowly rose. "Ma" flung the partition door open. There was dead silence. After a cursory question she exited at speed and we saw no more teachers until after break. She and Jonah always went to the New Inn on the corner of Edward Road almost opposite the school for lunch.
Subject - Musical Appreciation. We always had to do a short write-up and put an illustration in pencil alongside. End of year he had not convinced us, nor did we claim to understand classical music, but he invited us to bring in a record to play and see if he liked it. A classical piece was played to a quiet class. No we did not understand it or go for it. A rock record was then played to our great enjoyment. Being asked if we understood it there was a resounding "YES". This class was in the annexe upstairs room.
If you sat on the left side of the room and played it right when the goods trains came down the embankment, it was possible to lean down onto the desktop and "cop" the loco on its way past. I used to enter them in my Ian Allen reference book. One day Bunny copped me and confiscated my ref. Words cannot describe such a disaster. At the end of the lesson he placed it back in my hand without comment. He went up a few points in my estimation. I always wrote numbers on a scrap of paper after that. One of the very few lessons I learnt at any school.
Mr. "Merlin" Merriman: ( Subject - Maths.)
I rewrote everything twice for him before he gave up. He used a very broad pen nib and I could not read his comments wriggle.
Ms. "Ma" Squires: (Subjects - English Literature and Geography)
Rewrote. Not the slightest interest and always on a no win. Who wants to know about the timber belt or John Gilpin galloping? After rewriting Hiawatha several times before meeting "Ma", she could only perform the Literature coup de grace. We were subjected to "Merchant of Venice" and I was allowed to stay up late and listen to it on the radio as a special "treat" as it was after my 9pm bed time.
One very hot day "Ma" asked what we did at weekends. Having gone round most of the class surprisingly I was asked. "I cook the dinner and do the ironing and go to church three times and Sunday School", I replied to her disbelief. "What else do you do?" I was asked. "Three hours handwriting practice on Saturday" I replied. After a suitably scornful remark I was told to explain how I cooked Sunday dinner. I described preparation, cooking times for vegetables, working out the time for cooking the meat, making custard etc and then how to scour a saucepan with wire wool pads and put pleats in trousers. The bell then went for break and she gave me an outstanding look even by her standards. Several others had been given stars for their answers ... me?. ... nothing.
C. Harry Adams: (Headmaster) (Subject - Lettering)
"Zak", as he was known, took classes in the school canteen which was in the basement.
There was always a lingering "school dinner" smell.
Fred Fox: (Subjects - Modelling and Heraldry)
Dedicated to basement room. We were taught basic heraldry colours, divisions and symbols and I was fascinated.
Thoroughly enjoyed clay modelling. Devastated when told by parents would not be able to do either in years 2 and 3. The story goes that a couple of boys hid in the clay bin room during break and urinated in the clay which later went "high" and had to be changed.
"Zeek" Hardwick: (Subject - Metalwork)
Gave me reference M39. We made a circular box and lid. I had found my media and loved it. Zeek explained how he had made a pattern for his special hammers to raise and planish finish metal, cast and polish them himself. Care of their polished faces, working height for your elbow, preparing for and carrying out soldering of different temperatures. I was in heaven. We saw some wire drawn through the reducing plate using a heavy leather strap which we were told "would hold an elephant". Metal was provided and a nominal charge made at the end of the year if you took your box home. We used hammers regularly and one lesson we all fell into the same rhythm so that it sounded as one strike. Miss Sutton came down from the girls' drawing room above and requested "we break step".
Price had a pet frog which died. He brought it into metalwork class in a large matchbox with daisies laid around the frog. It was solemnly cremated on the big hearth and its ashes committed to the waves in the acid bath. A very touching and tasteful occasion.
In the metalwork room was a muffler furnace for enamelling and tempering. The trick was to blowout the pilot light on a gas blow torch and fill the muffler with gas. Blow torch was then re-ignited and flame shot into the muffler which went "woomph". On one occasion we were all working away when there was an incredible bang. Heavy wooden benches jumped, dust cascaded off the extract cowls and one small pupil who was the only one at the hearth stood holding the gas torch by his work looking very surprised. "Zak" Adams and several teachers appeared in a flash. A little voice said "I only turned it on". No disciplinary action was taken. "Zeek" retired at the end of that academic year. This was neck and neck with modelling as my favourite subject. I was gutted when told by my parents I would not do it in my 2nd and 3rd year. I appealed to Harry Adams at the start of Year two and was told I was not good enough for either subject.
At the school reunion I spoke to "Moggy" Mason who took over from "Zeek" and said how much I had wanted to do silversmithing and jewellery. He replied that perhaps he did not want me in his class. Moggy is the only teacher throughout my education for whom I had true respect as a person and held in esteem.
My box was promptly confiscated when I got home and I did not see it again for over forty years when it was denied that I had made it.
"Moggy" Mason and "Butch" Taylor (Subjects - Art & Drawing)
These subjects were taught in the boys' Drawing Room. I cannot after this length of time recall exact division between teachers but enjoyed drawing and painting. Watercolour I never really mastered and it always came out "wishy washy" to my mind. Poster paint had more body to it but wasn't what I wanted to achieve. Difficult to explain. It wasn't until 50 years later I tried oils and what a revelation that was. Again it was an instance of finding the right media. We were taught to apply a water colour wash on a fair sized sheet of paper starting with crimson lake and changing colour to finish opposite side in ultramarine without any sudden colour change or dry edge marks. Also a pencil control exercise which stood me in good stead. There was a curtain pelmet across the room and using only one hardness of pencil we had to draw the folds full room width. I used these colour wash techniques many times on architectural drawings for the City of Birmingham Housing Committee presentations. Crayon highlighting and line depth were used in many ways in later years.
One drawing exercise was branches from a bush with small leaves and flower clusters. It was a hot afternoon and after break there had been a noticeable change in the subject where it was standing in water and had revived. We each had a sprig and this was the only occasion of favourable comment I recall from a member of staff.
Another exercise was five or six of us had to do a group mural where everyone had to match their edges to those alongside. Subject was a building site. Some of our group did classical style figure composition with pickaxes swinging, muscles prominent and absolute carnage if in real life. I did a muddy site with barrows being pushed, trenches dug on a realistic building site landscape approach. This was severely criticised to the class as an example of how it should not be done while the figure composition was a beacon to follow. Had I missed something being out placed at cabinet making or not understood? Several times I was told I was trying to be photographic and should follow then fashionable trends such as stretched necks, distortion and blocks. My attempt at such was ridiculed so I switched off. We had a lino cut exercise. Dave Newnham produced a man sitting by a window and light shining on the wall behind. I was so impressed by its effect and simplicity that I kept a scrap copy from the bin. My effort was a house and garden in cut lines. This actually made it onto the wall display. Alas it was upside down.
One of "Moggy"s lessons we had to draw a car. Mine began to be a cartoon with semi derelict state and bits dropping off. Quite a crowd gathered round and uproar when I put Moggys registration FOK 220? After break, someone had pinned "moon mad Hall" across the drawing.
"Moggy" had been a Hurricane pilot during the Battle of Britain and a couple of times we managed to get an odd snippet from him, like the time he was out of ammunition and had perfect position on a (Heinkel) bomber. All he could do was take a very nice picture of it. He also told us of another pilot named Shakespeare who had an amazing gift of being able to sit and look at a large steel sheet, then walk towards it and mark out in chalk a compound curve for a ship's plate far quicker than it could be geometrically set out. We handed our work in and I was the last. Moggy began to chat with me. Sunlight was coming through the window and he wistfully told me he and Shakespeare were mates and of sitting on the airfield hut steps. Shakespeare was an only son and as he peeled an orange said he didn't know what his parents would do if anything happened to him. Moggy chivvied him along and told him not to be daft.
"Prango" Price (Subjects - History and Biology, Judo an optional extra)
Lists of Greek dates had absolutely no interest. We were told if we worked hard through this part we would do American History. Everyone went for it but we never did what we were eager to do. I really enjoyed Biology and even managed to come second on one occasion.
Judo was an addition to the curriculum for anyone who wished to do it. Prango had blue belt then and was set on black belt as a personal target. My parents were aghast when I said I wanted to do Judo. You're a pacifist etc. Being told it was a defence and sport not a warlike thing they very reluctantly consented. Somehow or other I located a second hand judo suit and attended Prango's class in the Annexe. Hanson, head boy 1957/8 attended and Ann Stokes from my class. I was fat, unfit and not very good.
When I was partnered with Ann I had to grasp her jacket front. This was the nearest I had ever been to a girl's blouse and she was very understanding. I can still see the brown jumper she wore under the jacket as the floor suddenly hit me. After a couple of lessons my judo trousers had shrunk and were incredibly tight. 3rd lesson impossible to put on. My mother said that someone had swapped them, which I knew to be incorrect. I insisted on continuing and was presented with sewn up striped pyjama trousers and top to use if I wanted to attend as they would not buy another judo suit. The thick judo jacket had somehow been badly ripped so only had the belt left. I continued to attend and was thrown all over the mat and sometimes off it as well. Prango remembered me instantly for this outfit.
Having to walk home from Gravelly Hill railway station only had one possible way, down Hillaries Road. Here a gang from Slade Road Senior School regularly intercepted me, snatched my satchel, emptied it onto the road and duffed me up. One day I didn't care anymore and made a move. I caught the ringleader a treat and sent him over my head onto a hedge and low fence which hurt his back. Then an arm lock as an instant follow up and let him have it. I swung round and hit another one in the eye so hard it needed hospital treatment and there was concern for several weeks. This was the last time I hit anyone in anger. From then on I only had the odd thump when surrounded and a lot of verbals. Prango . . . thank you.
On the last day we had a lesson with Prango. He read out our full names from the register. One of us replied "Yes, Ernie".
Mr. Humphries (and Mr. Sergeant): (Subject - Painting and Decorating)
Attended one morning a week in second year.
The School of Decorating was at Adderley Street, off High Street Deritend on the top floor. I had bad hay fever and turpentine in the paint started me off from the front door. We went up a cast iron staircase which had cubes of end grain wood blocks set in the treads. There were racks of work boards about double elephant size (AI or AO) These we had to scrub to ultra smooth using wet soda blocks for the third year use. When all these were prepared we went onto cleaning oil paint out of dozens of brushes stood in turps before each school holiday and half term using turps and soap.
We were told of the colour wheel and drew it freehand in pencil. In the last few weeks we were given our own board to flatten down and shown how to apply a gloss coat evenly.. Signwriters cartoons and squares on it for enlarging were explained. We had about two lessons at the end of year to gloss our boards and start to paint a subject such as signwriting a pub sign. I managed a mosquito aircraft front silhouette.
In the next room were standing boards with edge mouldings onto which wallpaper and borders were hung. I was asked by Humph to continue in 3rd year but declined as my nose was always raw by the end of lesson and plastic shop fronts were just coming into their own. My highest Art achievement at Moseley was therefore a coat of magnolia.
Students using the ground floor had a different break time to us and regularly played football. We used to water bomb them with plastic bags which didn't burst on impact and laid the recipient out cold.
I attended the School at New John Street, Aston one morning a week in Year Two, and three mornings a week during Year Three. I hated it.
I still feel hatred and revulsion if going through where that room stood on the dual carriageway to Dartmouth Circus. While I can produce a good piece of work it is not my material and hay fever makes using wood most miserable and unpleasant. Fine dust was everywhere though everything was always swept up at the end of lessons and very tidy. I was not allowed to work left handed. In the second year I made a bathroom cabinet and was already familiar with various dovetails, mortice and tenon, halving and scalfjoints etc. as I had already made a stool and testjoints at Slade Road Senior School. I had also been in the Slade Road Canoe Club where I built a two-seater wood and canvas canoe to Percy Bamford PKB2O design. The teachers then converted one into a fibreglass mould. Fibreglass was a new material then and the manufacturers provided the school with various fibreglass mats and fibres to test and we produced the world's first fibre glass canoes with their technical support. New John Street was pretty tame after this.
We were again taught how to sharpen tools, saw out pieces of wood and plane them accurately. All the time my nose was running and I had sinus problems which prompted visits to the Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, antihistamines and talk of nasal washouts involving breaking the bone in my nose to enlarge sinus apertures. Allergy tests gave best results for distilled water control, paint thinners and house dust. No one listened to me about wood and soap powder. They said I was trying to get out of Cabinet Making. Bathroom cabinet was made out of lime with veneered door having walnut lipping. I was not allowed to glue and place veneer but had to watch.
There was a wood turning lathe covered with thick dust in one corner of the room. I asked to do wood turning and was absolutely forbidden to go near it. At the end of my sentence that lathe was still coated in dust. I bought a small plastic handle for the door and you have never heard such criticism from both teachers.
During the 3rd year we were supposed to make a coffee table to our own design in Sapele timber. This timber is infamous for its irritant properties when worked and is now covered by COSHH regulations. ( This is confirmed by Graeme Collins, President, who had an identical experience with Sapele which resulted in him being sent home on two separate occasions ) I refused to use it and would not make a coffee table because my mother would have caught her varicose veins on it. There was hell of a row and I told the teacher how much I disliked the subject. He relented, agreed to lime and I drew and made a projector cabinet to store my father's slide projector, slide boxes and be the right height for standing on a table with the projector on top for shining onto the screen. On the last morning there I had to take it with my apron and satchel to Moseley Road and then all the way back home on the bus which was very awkward. On the way home on the 65 bus from Steelhouse Lane I sat downstairs precariously holding them and people were standing. A great smack across the back of the head and a big burly bloke told me to get up and give my seat to a lady who was standing. Another smack was given to speed me up. As I struggled to hold everything and stand the driver hit his brakes and I went flying to everyone's amusement. Someone else gave me one for bumping into them. I stood for the best part of an hour . That cow never thanked me for giving her my seat. Both cabinets I made were heavily criticised by my parents and stuck up in the roofspace. They were unused until the day they died.
Occasionally there was a broken window and it would be repaired. Someone had drawn in crayons on one high window and it looked just like a broken pane. When the glazier came to repair it we all watched as he put his hammer through it much to his surprise.
In the 3rd year there was a delivery of hardwood. Great planks came which had to be carried into the store area and stacked to season. One of the 2nd year had a plank drop on his big toe and squash it. We all gathered round and admired the tomato which was floppy if touched. Large woodworm were found in one plank and we dug them out. They were lined up on the end of the bench for a race. The losers were cellulosed.
A long-retired man came in and wet-ground plane blades etc. We had a good rapport with him and he would grind various things we brought in such as carving knives, scout knives and bayonets, all for sharpening our pencils. Another but forbidden pastime was to put a thin crossgrain waste piece in the vice and tighten up. The piece would bend and then shoot out with a bang when it broke. One of mine bounced off the circular saw blade with a super "boing" which echoed round the room.
Knowing I had used a scraper blade to finish veneer on the cupboard door, my mother insisted I scraper our heavy oak dining table which had two extension leaves and all six chairs, then re-polish them. It took weeks. My thumbs were blistered and ached from the friction heat and pressing on the scraper blade. My nose was raw inside and often bled spontaneously.
We had to draw some pieces of furniture as part of the cabinet making course. I measured our sideboard, oak dining table and a chair. These drawings were shown at my job interview. They were alright but printing left an enormous lot to be desired. I got the job and spent many Saturday mornings doing printing practice.
Sports and Games
Our sessions took place on Wednesday afternoons.
We played rugby, although pupils made representations for many years to play football. Playing field was off Pineapple Road. Year two went on a charter corporation bus. When taking a tight right turn in Kings Road, we all leapt to one side upstairs to make the bus rock if the driver had an uninterrupted run at the junction. Year 3 had plastic bus tokens. Sometimes we would walk and so release our homeward bus fares money towards some chips. A railway embankment was near the playing field and they had some rare locos go past on goods trains, such as ex Somerset & Dorset 2-8-0's. Not being a sports person, overweight, unfit and always last in, I went along with it best I could. When the ground was very wet it became very slippery and soft. One such day the scrum collapsed and Mulcock was underneath. He left a very good impression of his face in the mud to our amusement and he played along with it by pulling his face back into shape.
Brown had short legs and was fast. Once he had the ball he was impossible to stop when underway. Take your arms out of their sockets he would. I saw the ball go to him from a scrum and was just in the right place so I leapt at him and tackled a treat. The breath came out of him and we regained the ball. Another occasion the ref s whistle went and the ball rolled towards me. I scooped it up near the half way line and went for it. Made the line and touched down. Silence. Everyone was just standing and staring. "Moggy" called across "That was the halftime whistle - we've changed ends and you have just scored an own try".
There was a grass fire by the changing rooms and quite a few field mice were caught for taking into class. Teachers twigged what was going on and we had to release them. Carrying woodwork apron and games kit was quite a bulk. Home was half way round the Outer Circle bus route. One summer afternoon we were all walked down to Edgbaston Cricket Ground and told we were going to watch the match. When there, we had to pay. I protested long and loud that I only had my bus fare. I had to pay and spent an entirely disinterested afternoon until released at the usual school time. Having no money I then had to walk all the way beyond Spaghetti Junction carrying games kit and apron. I got home very late to be met by a furious mother. My tea was spoiled - what had I been doing? Without chance to explain I was grabbed and there was loud sniffing round my neck and shoulders. "You 've been with a girl you wretch" and her hand went high to take a swipe at me. I brought my arm up to protect myself and her arm hit my elbow sending me flying to the sound of an almighty scream. "You struck your mother!" and she went sobbing into the back room. Next night when I came in I was grabbed from behind and flung into the wall. My mother was standing there and the Headmaster of Great Barr Boys School who lived up the road had grabbed me. "You hit your mother" he shouted and threw me from one wall to the other and into the back room "Look at her arm where you hit her". I was given the option of my mother thrashing me or the police sergeant who lived two doors up with his leather belt. I prevaricated that I hadn't hit her but was hurled against the table and held down while my mother hit me with a large pink wooden hair brush until I passed out.
From then on I went to the sports field on my bike. I had been saving and my parents coughed up the balance. The bike was bought from Halfords in Erdington High Street where Dave Newsham's dad was manager. Several of us went on bikes. We had chains with a combination lock and soon learnt how to undo each others and swop them onto someone elses bike. The year the Mini came out I visited a church youth club friend in Quinton. We went down Mucklow Hill. Pedal bike like mad to get going then head down for streamlining. I closed on this Mini and was slowly passing. I could see the speedo just on 50mph. The driver looked surprisingly up at me and put his foot down.
After that cricket match I had to travel to Harborne on Saturdays to Farquhar Road where a Quaker bachelor retired Head / owner of a private boys school lived with Matron and a strange chap who dressed in jeans and a loud check shirt and thought he was a real red Indian. He was told to keep away from me. Henry Whittaker wore short trousers, tweed jacket without a collar, wire rimmed spectacles and drank vinegar which he thought was good for you. There were two vintage Bentleys on the drive. He was converting his huge greenhouses into homes for the homeless and I had to kneel on the yard as penance for striking my mother and break up bricks to make concrete lintels. I had to wear tight short trousers and not use my left hand for anything. My knees were raw and a cane was shown to remind me not to use my left hand. He had an old hammer head which he put onto a new shaft for me and showed me how to do that. He was under instruction not to pay me but gave me the hammer as a gesture. I have used this throughout the years and it is one of my prized possessions. Henry Whittaker lost everything in a court case with the local authority planners. He appeared in the local Birmingham paper several times and ended his days at Summer Hill Old Mens Home. Luxury flats were built on Whetstone House and its grounds.
Quite a few of us went swimming at the baths opposite school during lunch time. Several learned to swim there by jumping off the boards towards the sides and grabbing hold of the rail. Bombing was perfected with vertical columns of water erupting. The sidewalk would often be awash. One occasion the attendant hid our trousers and there was a right panic.
Coming back from cabinet making one lunch time there was a group at the front steps and Harry Adams was with them. "Er, Hall. Why aren't you ready?" Utterly bemused I mumbled something along the lines of "Don't know what you are talking about. "Er, It was announced in assembly. There is a swimming race and you are representing the school". Not being in school I was not in assembly. One of our regular foursome was unavailable so a very confident second year was deputising. I had no swimming togs so the school fitted me up with City of Birmingham trunks and towel from the baths pay desk. Harry Adams saw us to the school front steps and wished us well. "Don't come back if you don't win". It was a four-person two length relay. I did my two and it was finger tip close. Ann Stokes was watching by the steps and said "Well done, Hall". These were the only words of praise I recall at Moseley.
Our second year substitute took the finishing stage and dived in with a resounding plop. We instantly knew that that was that and sure enough, a gap opened up amid much splashing and widened. Disappointment was mixed with ecstasy. "Zak" had said not to go back if we lost. Release at last! The others insisted I return and this was the second time I entered through the front door. I have no idea who put my name forward for this event but a big thank you whoever you are. I also swam a mile and was given a certificate by the school which I treasure. "Zak" handed it to me in his office.
Ongoing knee problems playing rugby resulted in my having two elasticated knee supports. One occasion when we had to run round the pitch perimeter my heartbeat suddenly went so fast it couldn't be counted. I could only stand there and was helped to sit down until it subsided. This happened several times and I was told to stop putting it on.
Each summer holiday we had to do three (?) pieces of work and hand them in at the start of September term. These were a repugnant chore. Whatever I did was decreed not good enough by my mother who would proceed to gouge on it with a hard pencil several times over in the same place to show me how whatever should have been done and then re-do it usually more than once then dad would do the same. Last year at Moseley there was a far Eastern lady and her son handing work to "Zak" in front of me and I was invited to see her exquisite embroidery of a dragon which had been slightly raised by padding. When handing my work to "Zak" I asked if craft work would be acceptable as vacation work as well as art. He said "yes" and would be pleased to see any items. I told him of the two seater wood and canvas canoe I had built on the lawn, carrying a 8x4 sheet of marine ply from Sheffield Road by Chester Road Station to home, then parana pine strips, single handed. Also of the embroidered school badge on my swimming trunks and making "Frog" 1/9d model aircraft balsa and tissue kits. Also scraping and polishing the table and chairs and repainting the outside of the house. Zak would see model aircraft and swimming trunks.
These were duly delivered and collected that evening. The Chipmunk rubber powered aircraft was test flown on the waste ground opposite before going home. Mother saw me come in and asked what I was doing with the aircraft. I reiterated. She snatched it from me, crunched it up and stuck it on the fire where I watched it burn. At the same time I was told never to take the canoe to the local park or canal. It only needed half a dozen screws into the cockpit edging to finish. Years later I swapped it, unused for a climbing frame/swing for my children. Those screws were never put in by me.
Acne struck severely about the time I went to Moseley. Parents provided "NEKO" soap which was blue and contained mercury. A tube of foul sulphur-smelling brownish cover up cosmetic cream was presented. Wet dreams were almost nightly and I was told to stop it. "Animals aren't allowed to do it and if you don't stop them something will be done about it ... think on".
The weasel faced spinster deaconess of All Saints' Gravelly Hill Church, who had an adopted daughter, subjected me to morality lectures. Two spinsters with adopted daughters who helped at Sunday School took me to one side at Sunday School. I was told I had acne because I was dirty and was evil and because I was left handed and I should repent. Mother more than once forced my head into the wash basin and used a scrubbing brush until my face bled. Don't waste your seed and other Bible extracts were quoted at me. When I refused to read the Pope's Episcopal on "the pill", I was thrashed and confined to my room for a week with a chamber pot and given bread and water. The Scouts Promise and Kipling's "If" were put on my bedroom wall for me to learn. I refused despite the consequences and Mr. Edge again appeared.
When the adopted daughter of the couple who ran Sunday School became pregnant I was pounced on as I came home and was thrashed with the pink hairbrush. I asked what was that for. I said I hadn't seen her for a long time, let alone met her. That didn't matter, boys are all the same and someone had to be punished. Every Lent the little sideboard cupboard where I kept my toys and treasures was emptied and they were never seen again "because it was good for me".
My Scout uniform was given to the kids up the road the night before I was due to go to camp. I had already packed and told by Dad "you can't go without a uniform can you?" When I started to go to Carr's Lane Youth Club, there was a monthly Saturday afternoon ramble and then tea at someone's house. I was allowed to go on these instead of breaking up bricks at Henry Whitakers, but as always on Saturday I had to go to Dad's shop and restack all the soap powder shelves from stock in the basement, squeezing up the narrow stairs. At the end of this I was sneezing profusely which further reduced my chances with the girls.
One Saturday I was told there was a Saturday job sweeping up in the small engineering factory behind Brown's Newsagents at Salford Bridge. "Take along an apron and old shoes, they are expecting you and if you don't start today then carry on for the ramble". There was no job and they had not heard of me. Dreams evaporated and I carried those things all over the Lickey Hills. One of the older girls had just lost her father, and her mother had died previously. I asked that, as she was alone for Christmas dinner could she come to us. "Yes" . . .
We helped with the old folks Christmas morning breakfast at Carr' s Lane Church and were dropped off at my home. Soon as we opened the door I knew something was not right. Mother sat us all down at the table and said Christmas dinner would be later and there was just something to keep us going. There was a bucketful of lentil soup each followed by a heap of bubble and squeak (fried up cold vegetables ). Mother followed her to the toilet and asked her if she wanted Tampax. When Christmas dinner was served, no one could eat it because of being so full. This was by no means the worst Christmas I have had. At least no handwriting practice just for once.
"Teds" were the height of fashion with crepes and drains (crepe soled shoes and drainpipe trousers), fluorescent pink or green socks came in, and jeans. I was entrusted to go and buy some trousers and came home with some jeans in a bag and wearing florescent pink socks. The cat took one look and didn't reappear for three days. Parents went berserk. Immoral, suggestive, being tight etc but as the other kids had them I could wear them on the youth club walk next week-end. I pressed them and put in knife creases before putting them away. Next day the socks had gone forever.
Come Saturday I went to put on the jeans to find they had been starched and ironed flat seam to seam so they stuck out sideways and flapped together as I walked. Impossible to go out looking like that. I was told I had done them that way. They, too disappeared. All through the last summer holiday at Moseley, I was told that as I was to be a prefect and gold braid would be fitted around my blazer despite my frantically repeating that only girl prefects had gold braid. Still, they wanted daughters and had made me play with dolls as a child.
Finding a Job
I was probably the last to get a job that year. An architect, who had already taken on a Moseley pupil from my year, wanted "someone who could draw". At that time I didn't know what I wanted to do. Previous to this I had applied for a job with the Forestry Commission and British Rail (Wolverhampton) Surveyors Department. I was told they wouldn't send a form to anyone with writing as bad as mine. Later I found that the application forms had been intercepted !
In the last few days at Moseley, Moggy came over to me and said that he understood I had a job. I replied "yes". That was my only careers advice. I sighed with relief when leaving full-time education but with a tinge of something on leaving Moseley and fellow pupils.
I started on £2/-/- for a 44 hour week which was increased to £2/10/- on the second week because there was not much left after stamp deductions. Within days Mr. Edge had re-appeared having made special arrangements for me to go to his school in Great Barr for GCE's as I had no qualifications on leaving Moseley. Upon being told that I had a job and having no intention of going to his school, enormous pressure was put on me by both Mr. Edge and then my mother. Still I refused and took all that came my way for defiance and disobedience. My employer then had repeated demands both in person and by telephone to give me an apprenticeship. This was refused for a number of years.
When going into the corridor from the playground at our first reunion, not much appeared to have changed. I looked wistfully into the metalwork room. I half closed my eyes. Were those buffet tables the workbenches and were my mates still waiting for me ?
Bill Hall 2007ving left Moseley Art, Bill obtained a degree by part-time study and later became a Member of the Royal Society and Member of two chartered insitutes. His main interest these days is railway modelling - those who have attended our exhibitions will have seen Bill's 5" gauge steam loco and wagons (pictured below displayed at Kidderminster Railway Museum).
|Bill has retained his love of trains - some of his collection is pictured (left), including the large-scale steam loco he built himself.|
Bill 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
No part of this website may be reproduced, transmitted or stored in a file retrieval system without obtaining prior explicit permission from the author, who retains intellectual copyright..